Saturday, March 13, 2010

UN Hands off Sri Lanka

On March 12, 2010 a large number of Sri Lankan expatriates in New York gathered outside the UN Headquarters amidst a steady downpour and freezing temperatures to protest against UNSG Ban Ki-moon's announced intention of establishing a Panel of Experts to look into alleged human rights violations in Sri Lanka.

The protestors who represented the consortium of Sri Lankan Associations in New York held placards which carried slogans demanding "UN Hands off Sri Lanka", "UN refrain from selective approaches", "Sri Lanka does not need unsolicited advice" etc. The protestors distributed handbills to the large crowds that thronged the Dag Hammarskjold Park opposite the UN Headquarters where the demonstration took place. There was a visible presence of the international media.

A representative of the protestors handed over a memorandum to a representative of the UN Secretary-General's Office of the UN Headquarters and engaged in a conversation with UN officials. The protestors carried Sri Lankan flags and banners and chanted slogans for several hours gaining attention of UN delegations and the large number of tourists that daily visit the UN Headquarters.
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Sri Lanka budget airline says no longer making losses

Sri Lanka's state-owned budget airline, Mihin Lanka, whose losses have been subsidized by government, said it has begun making monthly profits after breaking even last August.
However, the controversial airline, which stopped operating in 2008 after losing over three billion rupees and leaving bad loans at two state banks and a fuel supplier, has yet to recoup past losses.

"We're making a small profit but we still need to recoup previous losses," said Kapila Chandrasena, chief executive of Mihin Lanka. "But we're going in the right direction."

The airline's income had gone up while it has managed to cut costs, he told a news conference.

The airline aims to reduce costs further by hiring pilots from the air force, now that the ethnic war is over, and also aims to lure tourists who now visit Buddhist sites in India via Bangkok.

The carrier made losses in the first eight months since it was re-launched last year, broke even in August 2009 and has been making monthly profits since December.

Chandrasena said the airline was maximizing earnings on its sole aircraft, operating at about 80 percent capacity, and hopes to lease a second one soon.

The aircraft is maintained and flown by pilots from the national carrier, Sri Lankan Airlines.
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Friday, March 12, 2010

President believes in improvement of the quality of education

ImagePresident Mahinda Rajapaksa has emphasized that the Government’s next target is to improve the education of children.

The President said assuring a better education and a future for the children of Sri Lanka is the responsibility of everyone. It is the school which should be responsible for grooming them as good citizens.

He said he believed that the improvement of a school lies on the staff members including the Principal, the Parents as well as the past pupils. It is of no use simply having buildings. He believed in an improvement which is quality-wise. He said he is inclined towards to assuring such quality education and strengthening it.

The President undertook a sudden tour of the Helena Wijeyawardena Balika Vidyalaya in Kelaniya. He did so after visiting the Rajamaha Vihara in Kelaniya and the environs. The President had a discussion with the Chief Incumbent of the Vihara, the Ven. Prof. Kollupitiye Mahinda Sangharakkitha thera.

Thereafter, he paid a courtesy call on the Ven. Welamitiyawe Kusaladhamma thera, the Chief at the Vidyalankara Pirivena in Peliyagoda.

The President also opened the Uthpala-Warna Sri Vishnu Deva Mandiraya at Bulugaha Junction in Kelaniya where the Uthpala-Warna statue brought from India is placed. The Deva Mandiraya was built following the mediation of Minister Mervyn Silva. The President also planted a sapling at the premises.

The President met the people of the Kiribathgoda Junction and the Thorana Junction and had cordial discussions. Political representatives of the area including Minister Mervyn Silva were present.
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NAM flays Ban's move on Lanka

By Jamila Najmuddin

The Non Aligned Movement (NAM) has expressed concerns over moves by UN Secretary General Ban ki-moon to appoint a panel of experts to advice on accountability issues on Sri Lanka.

The Chair of the NAM Coordinating Bureau in New York, in a letter to the UN Chief, has said that the appointment comes without taking into consideration the domestic situation in Sri Lanka and without consulting the government of Sri Lanka.

NAM recalls that President Rajapaksa has already confirmed in public his intention to appoint a domestic mechanism to address accountability issues voluntarily and that the UN has no mandate to intervene in domestic matters of a State.

"The Non Aligned Movement strongly condemns selective targeting of individual countries which it deems contrary to the founding principles of the movement and the United Nations Charter," the NAM Coordinating Bureau said.

NAM says the move by the UN Chief could do more harm than good to the country's ongoing and relentless efforts aimed at reinforcing reconciliation and national unity and as such Sri Lanka should be given room to complete its domestic process.

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Sri Lanka garners support against U.N. probe: Report

UNITED NATIONS (IPS): Sri Lanka, which won a grueling decades-long battle against one of the world's most ferocious terrorist organisations last May, has scored a diplomatic victory in its ongoing war of words with the United Nations.

The largest single political coalition has, in a rare rebuke, lambasted Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for his decision to appoint a panel of experts to advise him on "accountability issues" relating to post-conflict Sri Lanka, where the country's military has been accused of human rights violations and alleged war crimes.

The 118-member Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), currently chaired by Egypt, has expressed "deep concern" over Ban's unilateral decision to create the proposed panel, and accused him of two serious charges: attempting to violate the U.N. charter and trying to interfere in the domestic affairs of a member state.

The decision to establish a panel of experts was made over the strong objections of the government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, which claimed a decisive victory over the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) battling for a separate nation state in northern Sri Lanka.
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Thursday, March 11, 2010

Over 182,000 IDPs released and resettled

The Government has released and resettled a total number of 182,005 IDPs as at March 4, 2010, stated the Ministry of Disaster Management and Human Rights in its latest report.

Accordingly, the government has completed resettling 144,804 IDPs from Vavuniya, Mannar and Trincomalee to various Districts including Galle, Kandy, Kegalle and Matale as at March 04. Another 27,393 IDPs are released on humanitarian grounds. 9,808 IDPS were resettled and released from Jaffna to various Districts.

As at March 08, 2010, there are 62,640 IDPs at 6 IDP centers in Vavuniya. The Ministry reported that 24,292 are on free movement. 4,918 IDPs have not reported back on date indicated by IDPs. In addition, there are 1,347 IDPs at 2 IDP centers in Jaffna as at Feb 05, 2010.

The Government is continuing assistance such as health and water sanitation as well as education and livelihood support to those resettled. Banks, postal and other services are also functioning in those areas.

Resettled farmers in Kilinochchi District were given seeds for 13 types of crops, land assistance and livestock support such as cattle, one-day old chicks, poultry, milk sales outlets, etc. Approximately 7,000 beneficiaries have received assistance for farming in both the Karachchi and Poonekary.

7,331 resettled families in Mannar District are engaged in the fishing industry. Thus, a total of 769,059 kg of fish was produced in the month of January 2010. The ban on night-fishing and trawler fishing has been lifted encouraging youth to engage in fishing activities and earn a higher income.

It has been proposed to undertake cultivation under the Giant Tank project to benefit Mannar farmers. A sum of Rs.385 million has been allocated for the rehabilitation of the Giant Tank.

Resettled families in the Jaffna District are being provided with cattle, poultry and other types of livestock while agri-based families are provided with seed paddy, tractors and other necessary equipment.

Steps are being taken to resettle IDPs with the progress of the de-mining programme. The Ministry of Nation Building and Estate Infrastructure Development /IMSMA database states that between the period of 01 January to 31 December 2009, a total of 897.4 square km of mine clearance has taken place in the districts of Anuradhapura, Jaffna, Kilinochchi, Mannar, Mullaitivu, Polonnaruwa, Trincomalee and Vavuniya. Accumulative area of 1,320.6 square km has been cleared from 2002 to 2009.
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Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Some officers were penalized personally by Fonseka - Hulugalla

VIDEO: Some officers were penalized personally by Fonseka - Hulugalla

When Rtd. Gen. Sarath Fonseka was the Commander of the Army he had brought many officers under Court Martial and some of them were penalized personally by him, MCNS Director General Lakshman Hulugalla told in an exclusive interview with Ada Derana.

He added that many of those officers had no allegations against them but were kept in a cell for months without any investigations.

Now he is asking for various benefits through his wife but the government or the forces are not committed to give them, Hulugalla said. Addding that Fonseka has to understand that he is a suspect today.

Whatever the Government is doing is a benefit to him, Hulugalla surmised.

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Ban voices concern about lack of progress on key issues in Sri Lanka

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today expressed concerns about the lack of progress on political reconciliation, the treatment of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and the setting up of an accountability process in Sri Lankasince the United Nations signed a joint statement with the Government last year in the wake of the end of its civil war with separatist Tamil rebels.

Mr. Ban told reporters that he had "a frank and honest exchange of views" last Thursday about these subjects during a telephone conversation with President Mahinda Rajapaksa of Sri Lanka, where the runner-up candidate in January's presidential elections, General Sarath Fonseka, was subsequently arrested for alleged "military offences" and the parliament was dissolved.

The Secretary-General and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay have both voiced concern about the situation in the island nation, and Mr. Ban said last month that the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs B. Lynn Pascoe will soon head to the island nation for talks with senior Government officials.

Speaking at UN Headquarters, Mr. Ban said today that he was "concerned with the lack of progress of the joint statement," particularly political reconciliation, the condition of IDPs and the need for an accountability process.

Government forces defeated the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in May last year, ending a civil war that had flared on and off for more than two decades. The conflict left hundreds of thousands of civilians displaced.

"I made clear to President Rajapaksa that I intend to move forward on a group of experts which will advise me on setting the broad parameters and standards on the way ahead on establishing accountability concerning Sri Lanka," Mr. Ban said.

That accountability concerns possible breaches of international humanitarian law or abuses of human rights carried out during the conflict.
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Monday, March 8, 2010

Govt. 'to abolish or reform' Executive Presidency

The Sri Lankagovernment says it will abolish or reform executive presidency if elected with two thirds majority at the forthcoming election. Constitutional Affairs Minister DEW Gunasekara told the BBC that the government is also planning to introduce a fresh constitution in the new parliament.

"There is an opinion in the country that the executive presidency should be abolished or reformed," he told BBC Sinhala service.

He however said there is no time frame for a new constitution to be introduced.

"If the opposition says that they vote for the abolition tomorrow, we would not have this problem," he said.

Political solution

The main opposition coalition that contested the 26 January presidential election has vowed to abolish the very powerful executive presidency.

Main opposition parties in the south, including the UNP and the JVP, and Muslim and Tamil nationalist parties were members of the coalition.

The minister added that a political solution aimed at minority Tamil community's grievances may also be included in the new constitution after consultations with other parties.

"The solution might include the devolution of power," Minister Gunasekara said.

The much-talked about All Party Representative Committee (APRC) will be re-convened to discuss the proposals.
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Fonseka threatens hunger strike

Defeated presidential candidate Rtd. Gen. Sarath Fonseka has threatened to go on a hunger strike to protest against his detention, his wife said Sunday. Fonseka will begin his fast unless allowed to telephone their two daughters studying in the United States, Anoma Fonseka told reporters in Colombo.

"He told the senior-most naval officer guarding him that he will start his death fast from Sunday," she said.

Fonseka, 59, has been held at a naval detention centre since his arrest on February 8, two weeks after he was defeated in elections by President Mahinda Rajapakse.

The government has yet to specify the charges Fonseka will face, but Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapakse -- the president's brother -- has said he plotted a military coup while in the army.
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