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Sunday June 17th, 2007

Travel embargo on Gota
Western diplomats keep records of persons involved in HR violations
Sri Lanka’s controversial defence secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa is facing a travel embargo along with other officials for allegedly committing human rights violations and abductions in the country.
Rajapaksa also faces the threat of being turned back at international airports in some Western countries....

Rajapaksa ticks off US
The US Embassy in Colombo is reported to be very displeased by the comments made by Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa during an interview with Reuters and the BBC last week.
“The embassy is very displeased by the remarks, but they also realise that he is famous for making such unguarded statements,” one official said.


Nation salutes the brave

An emotional mother looks down as her little daughter plants a kiss on her arm which was bitten off by a crocodile. The victim’s husband who saved her from the crocodile received an award at Thursday’s National Civilian Bravery Awards held at the BMICH ( Pic by Nissanka Wijeratne)

‘Bring LTTE to the table,’ President tells Solheim in Geneva
President Mahinda Rajapaksa met with Norwegian Minister of Foreign Development Eric Solheim, Special Peace Envoy Hanssen Bauer and three other Norwegians on the sidelines of a series of meetings in Geneva last week.
It was the President’s first meeting with Solheim in about one year.




Soon BIA to be open at night
The government has decided to reopen the Bandaranaike International Airport at night, after the delivery of sophisticated defence equipment to prevent LTTE air strikes in the future.
The defence establishment will soon take delivery of 3D radars which will be able to detect low-flying Tiger craft, The Nation learns.
The radars are to arrive in Sri Lanka shortly, after which the international airport will be open for air traffic at night.
BIA was closed between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. following an LTTE air strike on Colombo on April 28 this year.

PSD clips veteran pilot’s wings
The Presidential Security Division (PSD) yesterday prevented an experienced SriLankan Airlines pilot from flying President Mahinda Rajapaksa back to Colombo after his visit to Geneva, The Nation learns.
The PSD insisted that Head of SriLankan’s Ground and Air Safety Unit and pilot with 14 years experience, Sri Segaram, could not fly President Rajapaksa because he did not have ‘security clearance’.
Sri Segaram, a former air force pilot with clearance to fly VVIP passengers, has flown both Presidents J.R. Jayewardene and Ranasinghe Premadasa during their stints in office.
The President who went to Geneva to address an ILO summit returned to Colombo yesterday, via London.

JVP to take COPE culprits to courts
The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) is set to take legal action against the alleged fraudsters including present government ministers and public officials who were named in the Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) report which revealed misappropriation of public funds amounting to a whopping Rs. 150 billion in 26 state institutions.
A JVP spokesman told The Nation that his party will shortly file a court case in the hope of bringing the perpetrators to book.
“Despite the COPE report disclosing that Ministers and other officials in state institutions were part of a massive fraud, the government has failed to take any punitive action against these ministers and other officials. Rs. 150 billion is a big amount, not even the Samurdhi or the health sector has such an amount of money to spend. So we asked President Mahinda Rajapaksa to take action against the culprits, but the government is doing nothing. So we are going to the courts,” he said. Adding that legal action will be filed by his party against whom the JVP has sufficient evidence to prove them guilty.

Red Cross wants foreign investigators over killings
The Sri Lanka Red Cross (SLRC) is likely to request President Mahinda Rajapaksa to bring in foreign investigators to inquire into the killing of their two workers whose bodies were found in Ratnapura recently.
Tomorrow (18) would mark two weeks since officials from the Sri Lankan Red Cross (SRC) met with the President who gave his assurance in finding the culprits behind the killing.
“Two weeks are officially going to be over as of Monday and we are concerned. If the police have made no breakthrough, we would like to have foreign investigators involved to bring justice to the case,” Neville Nanayakkara, Director General of the SLRC told The Nation yesterday.
“We are currently waiting the President’s return from Geneva and would like to meet with him again soon to discuss this matter,” he added.

Suspects in fake gold coin scam remanded
Three suspects of an organized gang who were involved in a massive fraud in collecting money by pawning fake gold chains to state banks and other private pawning centers were remanded till June 25 by the Colombo Chief Magistrate and Additional District Judge Namal Bandara Balalle.
The Slave Island police producing the suspects before court said that they were able to bust the fraud by questioning one suspect who was arrested while he was trying to pawn a gold plated chain at a state bank in Slave Island.
The fraud has been planned and operated by a couple Shivathambi Raj and Sathasivam Manjula who were lodging at Kotahena and they were supported by another person called Shivalingam Maheshwaran who was also lodging at the same place though he is from Pussellawa area.

Who threatened whom?
Details of a mobile phone that has been used to threaten Gampola district UNP MP, A. R. M. Cadar mysteriously bears the name and address of the MP himself, according to the police.
The Kollupitiya police along with the Gampola police commenced investigation into the alleged threats to the Member of Parliament after Cadar told Parliament last week that his life was under threat.
The latest investigations have revealed that the details of the phone that has been used by the anonymous caller to threaten the MP, bore the name, address and including the number of the MP himself.
According to Cadar, he has received two death threats, on April 16 and May 22 respectively.
The callers he said have threatened to kill him. He further said he strongly suspected Muslims to be behind this.
“From the voice I knew that Muslims were behind this,” he told The Nation yesterday.
He said however he was shocked to see the police producing to him details of his own number and address in the activity report gathered from the telephone company after the initial investigation conducted by them.
He said he has never used phones with Hutch connection but added strangely what the police have discovered had his number registered with the phone that had Hutch connection.

Presidential Commission suspends inquiries into vital killings
Inquiries in to 16 incidents including the assassination of former Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar, the slaying of 17 aid workers in Muttur, the killing of 68 persons at Kebethigollawa and the assassination of TNA MP N. Raviraj will be suspended temporarily for want of a system to provide assistance and protection to victims and witnesses wishing to provide relevant information.
Chairman of the Legal Aid Commission, S. Wijeratna who is also a member of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry to Investigate and Inquire into Serious Violations of Human Rights disclosed this during a recent discussion with Non Governmental Orgnizations at the BMICH.
Mrs. Manori Muthtetuwegama, Mrs. Jazeema Ismail, Dr. D. Nesiah, Javeed Yousuf and Douglas Premaratna also...





Rajapaksa Govt. loses credibility
Is the government losing credibility? This is the pertinent question being asked in every nook and corner of the country today.
Everybody seems to be concerned about the developing trend that the government, which was elected by the popular vote of the people, is fast losing credibility due to the short-sightedness of its leaders.
The interview given by Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa to the BBC and Reuters is a pathetic disposition of his ability to grasp things in the right spirit. In fact, the background to the interview granted to Reuters and the BBC was nothing if not pure coincidence, pointing to a significant lack of foresight on the part of the Defence Secretary.
On Monday, Reuters Bureau Chief Simon Gardner and BBC Correspondent Roland Buerk went to the Defence Ministry to obtain permission to travel to the LTTE-controlled Kilinochchi. Unable to meet Secretary Rajapaksa, the two journalists went back the next day.
The meeting got off to a bad start with Rajapaksa claiming that the international media was behind the negative propaganda Sri Lanka was getting overseas. Rajapaksa had charged that the government was not given a voice in international media reports. It was then that Gardner and Buerk offered to give him an opportunity to grant an interview. The rest of course is now history.

Political theatrics; the rage
Political theatrics are in fashion these days. In the immediate aftermath of the lodge controversy, there has been no shortage of regrets followed by regrets over the expression of regrets, leaving everyone in doubt as to what the real government thinking was behind the incident where Tamil civilians were evicted from lodges in the city and forcibly transported to Vavuniya 10 days ago.
Last Monday, no less than Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake, the government’s chief representative in parliament and the man who is supposed to command the confidence of the House, called the event a “mistake” and unequivocally expressed his regrets. It would not happen again, he assured.
Just when the numerous opposition parties, human rights organisations and media were about to heave a collective sigh of relief, believing all’s well that ends well, Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa sprang into the limelight, justifying what was done and launching....


Deduru Oya: Diversion to disaster
Sunil is not a happy man. He wished his parents had sent him to school, even though they were very poor. His wife Kusumawathie asks him not to curse his dead parents. Sunil looks desperate.
“In a few days, we will have to leave this village. How will we survive? We know nothing about farming,” he says.
Sunil is a brick builder. He fears for his livelihood and his family, when they are evicted from the area, because the land in which they are to be resettled, is not suited for brick building – the only way Sunil knows to eke out a living to feed his wife and two daughters.
It is not only Sunil’s family of four but, 700 families in the Kurunegala District would have to suffer the same plight, because of the Deduru Oya Irrigation Project. It is not only the farmers but, all those whose livelihoods depend wholly on their traditional lands that will be severely affected by the displacement. This was why the villagers directed their wrath on Chamal Rajapaksa when he visited the area.
These families of about 3500 people in all, are being forced to vacate their land in Walpaluwa, Pothuwewa, Thambarawa, Kithulwehera and Malangane areas within the Wariyapola Divisional Secretariat, as a result of the project.
In bygone times this project area was a strict nature reserve called the “Queen’s Forest”, where elephants roamed quite freely, according to an elder personage in the village. With the government acquiring lands, vis-a-vis the 1972 Constitution, these villagers settled here, making agriculture their livelihood. Even today, the village is still very verdant and rustic.
In the 1970s they started cultivating paddy, vegetable and coconut.

The Bench, Bar and You
‘Attorney General is not partial’

Q: The International Independent Group of Eminent Persons (IIGEP) has issued their first public statement. What are your reactions to the observations on the lack of independence of the commission and inadequate witness protection in keeping with international standards?
A: We have finances to hire private counsel. State counsels from the Attorney General’s Department are also paid some percentage of their salary for work done for the commission. That is the tradition in the country and there is legal provision for it.
Our commission consists of seven members. They are very qualified and possess experience. For example, one of the commissioners, Mr. Douglas Premaratna has more than 25 years of experience and has served as Solicitor General. I have over 35 years experience in judicial service. Mr. S.S. Wijeratna, a lawyer served in the United Nations for about 20 years in various capacities. He is at present the Chairman of the Legal Aid Commission. Mr. Javed Yousuf a former state counsel and diplomat, Mrs. Manori Muththettuwegama very experienced lawyer and human rights activist, Mrs. Jeezima Ismail, well known...

Military dictates theatre of battle
Following a stormy week at the hands of the international community following the eviction of Tamil lodgers, and in view of the Commander in Chief, President Mahinda Rajapaksa, taking wing to Geneva, the National Security Council did not meet this week.
Instead, Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, who ran into a storm over the eviction of lodgers and a hard hitting interview with an international news agency, met some of the commanders on Wednesday.
On Friday, the Defence Secretary met IGP Victor Perera who had offered to resign but later, reversed his decision. It was President Rajapaksa who ordered...



“Don’t devalue Test cricket” - Madugalle
International Cricket Council’s (ICC) chief match referee Ranjan Madugalle called upon the cricket nations not to devalue the standard of Test cricket.
“We should concentrate on improving the quality of cricket rather than the quantity of cricket. We must also ensure that Test cricket which is your icon product should not be compromised in terms of standards. Test cricket is really the jewel in your crown,” said Madugalle.
“Whatever we do we must ensure that every Test match that one plays is competed by the best and you see the high standards of cricket being played. That is something as a cricketer and as an administrator and a love of the game I’d like to see,” Madugalle told The Nation when asked for his views on the present state of cricket.

Lankan trio at FIFA Congress
Sri Lanka Football represented by Hurley Silvera, president, Hafiz Marikar, secretary and Lakshman Hewapana, treasurer attended the 57th FIFA Congress in Zurich.
At this conference 207 countries represented by nearly 1500 delegates elected Sepp Blatter president uncontested for another four-year term.
Soon after the Confederation the Sri Lanka delegation met several football promoters from other countries and discussed ways and means to promote Sri Lanka football.
They met the Crown Prince of Saudi and also had a discussion with the AFC President Bin Hamam.
From there they visited London, on an invitation and met several football lovers, who have given their willingness to help Sri Lanka football.

Batting will be the key to Bangladesh’s success
Bangladesh considered the minnows of Test cricket will be with us today when they arrive for a series of three Tests and three One-day Internationals. This will be Bangladesh’s third Test tour of Sri Lanka having previously come in 2002 and again in 2005-6. What has been Bangladesh’s greatest downfall is there batting which has failed on both occasions and let them down so badly that they have lost both series by 0-2 margins.
Their Test record since being admitted a full member of the ICC in 2000 does not make good reading – 46 Tests producing just a solitary win and 40 losses with five draws. Their last Test series against India at home last month saw them crushed by an innings and 239 runs in the second Test at Dhaka after the first had been drawn at Chittagong largely due to rain.
On this occasion Bangladesh has been given an additional Test and unless they show some improvement in their batting to counter the Sri Lankan bowling spearheaded by the indomitable Muttiah Muralitharan the series is in great danger of following its predecessors.

Tournament or friendlies?
Is it high time to bring the curtain down on the schools rugby league tournament? With the unpleasant episodes that have occurred mid-way in the season no one will be surprised if the majority stands in the affirmative. Several issues have risen over the disciplinary levels of players with the old boys playing a big role in schools rugby more than the players.
With the above plights most of the rugby officials in the local schools have started to give hints of their interest for friendly fixtures. Perhaps it may be ironical because it was really the schools that backed up this tournament during the inception. Most of the masters in charge at leading rugby playing schools when contacted stated that they want to see a change in the manner the tournament is held.


“I have committed no crime”
Q: How would you distinguish between the military campaign being conducted now and that of previous Eelam wars?
A: The biggest difference I see here is that the President is handing down the security strategy to his officials, but the military strategy is a matter for the armed forces. I have given this freedom to the forces. Working out the military strategy is completely dependent on the chief of defence staff and the commanders of the three forces.
Immediately after the President was elected, we did a complete study of the situation and worked out a strategy. I can assure you, there are no politics involved in the military strategy. We have given the military complete independence. Handling of the forces is done by the tri-force commanders and we have achieved good results. For the first time we have three commanders who as junior officers were involved in almost all the previous operations.
Take for instance the Army Commander. Even as a senior captain, he was commanding a company and was involved in major operations. From the very junior level he was involved in military strategy, whereas most previous commanders got involved in operations at a very late stage, when they reached a senior level in the military structure.
For instance, the present Army Commander has commandeered a company, battalions, brigades, and a division and was in charge of security forces in the north.
The commanders are well versed in the operational side, they know the enemy point of view, they know their men very well and have worked with them and they read the battles well because of their previous experience.

“The government is a set of jokers!”
Q: You filed action in court against the sale of NTT shares to a Malaysian company and there are allegations that a member of the government stood to earn a massive commission from this deal. Could you name this government member?
A: The Public Enterprise Reforms Commission came under me when I was Skills and Enterprise Development Minister. At the time there were about seven interested parties. After I was removed from the cabinet Mr. Basil Rajapaksa went to Japan with Mr. Ralph Marshall from this Malaysian company. Therefore this allegation – especially made by Mr. Wimal Weerawansa in parliament – you can guess who he was referring to. At the same time though it is called a US $ 10 million deal, my assessment is that the total deal amounts to about Rs $ 280 million. At the same time NTT share values have gone up over the last few weeks because they have obtained TV Radio 3G and other licenses and duty free concessions for five years – Telecom has got all this,..















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