Friday, September 18, 2009

Mihin Lanka gets earning lift off

The Ministry of Ports and Aviation announced yesterday that one of the its business undertakings, Mihin Lanka Airlines has achieved break-even point.

The Aviation Ministry in a statement issued to media said that the booking rate for the Airline had increased significantly in August and is expected to rise further in the next three months.

According to the Ministry, at the beginning of the year, Mihin Air carried a total of 3,400 passengers January. In August, the number of passengers carried carried had increased to a total of 13,988. The Ministry also said that the airline is already 20% over booked until the year 2010.

The ministry also said that Mihin Air’s main destination to Dubai the airline carried a total of 2608 passengers and was increased by 86% in the month of August. In its second most popular destination Buddagaya India the ministry said that passenger traffic also increased from 26% to 60% .The passengers traveling to Kuwait also increased from 77% to 94%.

The ministry also said in the month of January the airline maged to earn US$ 522,026 as revenue and was increased to US$1,888,167 in the month of August.

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You have better story than is getting out today – Pascoe to President

"UN must understand our problems, I understand the SG's"
"De-mining won't take 16 years as in Croatia"
"Journalist's offences include being agent of LTTE"
"Sri Lanka is an equal member of the UN"
"If big countries bully us we will bring it to the UN"
- President Rajapaksa

Sri Lanka has a better story than is getting out to the world on matters of concern to the United Nations such as Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), Human rights and Post Conflict Development was the view of B. Lynn Pascoe, United Nations Under Secretary General for Political Affairs, following his meeting with President Mahinda Rajapaksa earlier today.

Mr. Pascoe met the President after visiting Vavuniya and other areas of the North to get a first hand view ongoing de-mining, resettlement of IDPs and the IDP relief villages of Menik Farm.

He expressed satisfaction at the progress being made on de-mining especially with the use of new imported equipments to speed up the process and assured of more UN assistance in this regard.

He said that while the many assurances given by the President regarding the resettlement of the IDPs were very helpful, there was concern about the uncertainty of the government's plans and the need to make sure the genuine assurances of the President would be implemented.

President Rajapaksa said that it's necessary to understand the both Sri Lanka and the UN were eager the get thing done. "I understand the pressure and constraints on the Secretary General. However you must also understand the problems we face", he said.

The President said that more than two hundred thousand people had come to the government side in just 24 hours and the government is now feeding, clothing, providing health care and looking after them properly, while proceeding with plans for their resettlement.

Responding to Mr. Pascoe's observation that International Community has concerns when it hears that resettlement will be done after de-mining is completed, President said resettlement did depend on the de-mining process. He mentioned that sixteen years after its war, Croatia had still not finished de-mining. "We do not intend taking so much time. I have laid down an initial target of 180 days to resettle at least 70% of the IDPs". With the new equipment in use, and hopefully more to come, he expected the entire resettlement to be completed by the end of next January. We have identified areas for resettlement and the people will be sent back no sooner they are cleared, he said.

On the question of IDPs moving to live with relations outside, the President explained that the government had already published advertisements in the media, calling for applications from persons seeking such resettlement. However, only 2000 applications had been received. These notices would be published again and also displayed prominently at the welfare villages.

With regard to the freedom of movement outside the relief centers the President said that arrangements are already being made to issue day passes for IDPs who wish to go and work outside each day.

Mr. Basil Rajapaksa, Senior Advisor to the President said that with the experience of 2000 applicants for re-union with relations, and the limited numbers of jobs in the area, it is likely that there will be only few takers for these day passes.

Recalling President Rajapaksa's earlier commendable record on Human Rights, Mr. Pascoe said he would appreciate the need to bring about necessary changes to the role of the security, forces especially after a very long war. President Rajapaksa said the UN must be aware of the changes that had already being initiated at a very early stage after the war.

On concerns about a journalist being given a 20 year prison sentence, the President said neither he nor the government could interfere or be involved with the judiciary. The sentence, was imposed by a court of law. The problem was with the defense, not seeking a reduced sentence. The Attorney General had not asked for a maximum sentence. He said he did not expect the Attorney General to oppose a shorter sentence when the case came in appeal.

President Rajapaksa however stressed that the journalist concerned was not sentenced for what he wrote, but for obtaining funds from the LTTE and being an agent of the LTTE, a known terrorist organization. There was very little publicity given to this aspect of the case, he said. He suggested that the UN personnel study the court report of this case for better understanding.

With regard to Sri Lankan's employed by the UN found in LTTE held areas, against whom charges had not being filed; the President said that charges against these drivers would be filed next week. He stressed that although steps such as deportation could be taken about foreigners involved in LTTE activities, legal action was required against Sri Lankans identified with actions that violated the law.

Considering the understanding that existed between the UN and Sri Lanka, President Rajapaksa said he did not expect the UN to pacify any members, big or small, about the situation in Sri Lanka. "Whether it is the US, China, Britain or any country we are all members of the UN. When the UN says anything about us we take it seriously. Similarly if big countries, try to bully us we will come to the UN about such matters." Mr. Pascoe concluded telling President Rajapaksa "You have a better story than is getting out today."
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Foreign hand in move to force regime change – Govt

by Shamindra Ferdinando
The government yesterday said a section of the Opposition was conspiring with the international community to destabilise the country to pave the way for a regime change.
Top UPFA spokesman Minister Dallas Alahapperuma yesterday said that ‘the enemy’ was seeking a regime change though the government had effectively neutralised the military challenge posed by the LTTE. Addressing a press conference at Mahaweli Centre, he said that enemies of the State were in the process of building a case against on the basis of war crimes and human rights violations.

He said that two politicians and one or two ex-members of the Sri Lanka Foreign Service, too, had been involved in the conspiracy. According to him, international pressure was being directed at the government with attacks on the army’s conduct during the war against the LTTE.

Alahapperuma said the ‘Channel 4 canard’ was a despicable move aimed at helping scrap Sri Lanka’s GSP plus facility and discrediting Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa and General Sarath Fonseka.
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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Keep watch for LTTE funding lines - Indian Security Advisor

The LTTE leadership may have been wiped out in a massive offensive by the Sri Lankan army, but the threat from the dreaded terror outfit is far from over. There was need to keep a watch for any such development and be prepared for any eventuality, said the Indian National Security Advisor MK Narayanan in his address to DGP/IGP conference in New Delhi.
According to the 'The Economic Times', India, he warned that with the pro-LTTE groups, which was the main source of funding for LTTE, spread far and wide, the threat of the outfit raising its head once again could not be ruled out.

Mr. Narayanan had also said that the funding lines of LTTE were still intact and there was always a possibility that disgruntled elements in the pro-LTTE groups across the globe could get together to help the terror outfit regroup and rearm.
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Only country with school exams for IDP kids

Sri Lanka must be the only country in the world that conducted a public examination, the ‘O’ Levels, having provided teaching for this in preceding months even in the midst of conflict, and parents made sure that many children took the exam despite efforts by the LTTE to promote a boycott, said Secretary to the Ministry of Disaster Management and Human Rights Prof Rajiva Wijesinha.

Responding to the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, he said that happily senior UN officials in Sri Lanka now are working positively with the Sri Lankan government to overcome this scourge of child soldiers: UNICEF has been promoting the release and rehabilitation of all child soldiers, while ILO is working with our Ministry to produce a framework for the rehabilitation of ex-combatants.

Rehabilitation programmes will be implemented by the new Commissioner General for Rehabilitation, who will work under the Ministry of Justice, he added.
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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

UK retailers urge EU caution over Sri Lanka

UK retailers are calling on the European Commission not to penalize Sri Lankan workers or British shoppers in a human rights row.
The British Retail Consortium has warned that a threat to remove special tax-free arrangements for cheap, good-quality clothes imported from Sri Lanka could hit flourishing businesses and jobs in the country and put up customer prices, reported the UK website,

Sri Lanka has until Thursday to deliver to Brussels its response to charges of human rights abuses during the country’s civil war earlier this year. If human rights complaints are upheld by a Commission investigation, Sri Lanka could lose its special trade access to EU markets, the report stated.
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Exotic and Vibrant on Staten Island

STATEN ISLAND had the highest percentage of Italian-Americans of any United States county in the 2000 census (37.7 percent). It’s home to scores of old-time red sauce joints, trendy trattorias and legendary pizza parlors, many justifiably beloved.

But amid the pasta and pies, there’s a growing variety of dining choices, not surprising given that it’s the city’s most rapidly diversifying borough, according to the city’s Human Rights Commission. Staten Island’s Mexican population grew more than fourfold between the 1990 and 2000 censuses and helped transform the once-rundown Port Richmond Avenue on the North Shore into a vibrant dining strip.

There is a slightly greater percentage of Asians on Staten Island than in the city as a whole and it has more than a third of New York’s Sri Lankan population, which has created a fascinating eating and food-shopping district in Tompkinsville.
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Monday, September 14, 2009

Reflections on “The New Sri Lanka”

Article by Ven. Udagama Sumangala, Los Angeles, California
As a Buddhist monk engaged in various dhammaduta activities, I have lived primarily in the United States for the past eleven years, and before that I was living in Japan. I always return to Sri Lanka each year, and I recently returned to Los Angeles from a two-month visit, where I had the opportunity to observe first-hand many of the changes that are taking place in our post-war country. My life abroad has given me a different perspective on my motherland, and I would like to share some reflections on what I am now calling “The New Sri Lanka.”

The world economy is in turmoil at the moment, and this past year alone hundreds of thousands of jobs have been lost in the US, Japan, and elsewhere. In America people are losing their homes in foreclosure, and the legions of homeless are struggling to survive on the streets of nearly all major cities. During these dark times people in the US and Japan find it hard to be optimistic about their futures, and there is genuine concern if they will ever be able to recover the lives they once had.

In Sri Lanka, on the other hand, I felt a new wave of optimism for the future; the people seemed to be very happy with the direction the country is going since President Mahinda Rajapakse defeated the terrorists this past May. We should all be grateful for his wise leadership, and for his and Defence Secretary Gotabaye Rajapakse’s firm resolve to drive out Sri Lanka’s terrorists – even though the US is still not able to put an end to threats from Al Quaeda. This is truly a bright moment in our history, and we should be grateful for the finest Chief Executive we have ever had.

Under the President’s direction, many large-scale re-development projects have been placed on the fast-track, and they are sure to transform Sri Lanka into the new Asian power in a very short time. This is the projected destiny that was forfeited during the past thirty years of war, but Sri Lanka’s karma seems to be on the up-swing at the moment, and success seems imminent in the very near future.

As Sri Lankans, therefore, it is our duty to help President Rajapakse rebuild our country in every way we can. He did his job, and now we have to do ours; change always starts on the individual level, and we have to readily adopt the consciousness of the emerging “New Sri Lanka.” The President has recently declared a war against government corruption, underworld criminals, and drugs; we need to assist him in fighting this war so the children of our land can truly grow up to be clean, free, and prosperous – as is their birthright.

I noticed, however, that there are still many people in Sri Lanka who are trapped in the old model, the antiquated mode of thinking, which is motivated entirely by greed and self-interest. Some individuals are actually trying to interfere with the President’s forward-looking policies, and they work to deter progress and economic growth in the country. These misguided people need to wake up and realize that it is in their own long-term best interests to put aside selfish personal and political ambitions, and get behind the President as he guides us in the upward direction. They will surely derive more benefit from wholesome activities in this regard than from the unwholesome activities of the old school.

Another thing I became acutely aware of during my recent visit is the dire need for private universities in Sri Lanka. The Government pays for all education in State-owned schools and universities, but there is often no room for all who deserve to matriculate to higher institutions. Those who don’t make the cut are usually forced to go to other countries for their educations, which creates a drain on our foreign currency. With private institutions they wouldn’t have to leave their homeland, and as we all know, once they leave they rarely return. This negatively-impactful brain drain could be stopped, and we could even attract foreign students to study in Sri Lanka – reversing the financial drain as well. I strongly urge the Government to reconsider its policy on private universities, and allow their creation for the future benefit of all.

I had the opportunity to visit many parts of our beautiful island during the past two months, and it is plain to see that tourism development could solve many of our economic problems. Transportation, however, is often difficult while traveling from one place to another – and the beaches are eroding in many areas. A Japanese visitor said to me: “Venerable, you need to make a highway all around the perimeter of the island – this way people could see the whole thing. You also need to build some jetties – and protect your beaches from drifting away.” I think we should take this gentleman’s advice, so proper authorities – please take notice.

In the villages around my temple near Mathugama I noticed that most of the people buy their fruits and vegetables at the market – even though they have ample space to grow their own. I strongly urge the Government to introduce programs that encourage our villagers to learn to be self-sufficient in terms of producing their own food supply. In the US and Japan high premiums are paid for organic fruits and vegetables, and it would take very little for our people to sustain themselves in this regard; all they need is a little training and motivation.

In conclusion, I am very happy about current conditions in my homeland. I returned to the US with a renewed sense of appreciation for my country, “The New Sri Lanka,” and a new sense of dedication to our great President Mahinda Rajapakse. May he live long – and forever have the Blessings of the Triple Gem.

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Sri Lanka poised for greater economic growth - World Bank

'Gemi Diriya' achieving goals
Sri Lanka is leading to a surge in optimism for stronger economic growth and poverty reduction. Even with the conflict, Sri Lanka has posted strong growth rates, putting the country on track to achieve most Millennium Development Goals by 2015, a report by The World Bank said.
According to the report during the last five years, poverty has declined rapidly. For example, the poorest Southern Province has cut poverty in half, from 28% in 2002 to 14% in 2006/7. However, significant challenges loom large, not least addressing reconstruction in the North and East of the country. >> Full Story