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Sunday July 01st, 2007

Colombo calls New Delhi
A high powered government delegation will visit India shortly to invite the Indian government to actively participate in the Sri Lankan peace process alongside the Co-Chairs, US, EU, Japan and Norway.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa is due to make a special statement on July 26, which marks the anniversary of the Mavil Aru operation. The President will speak about the government’s plan for a negotiated settlement to the ethnic problem.
Highly placed government sources said that the President is very keen to get India involved in the process. Sri Lanka is expected to invite India formally to play a major role in solving the ethnic crisis.

SLFP at odds over invitation to CBK
The Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) is sharply divided over a decision to invite former head of state Chandrika Kumaratunga for the forthcoming national convention scheduled for July 22.
The convention will be chaired by President Mahinda Rajapaksa and around 2,500 participants are expected to be present.


Opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe observes a religious ritual with UNP general secretary Tissa Attanayake and treasurer Thilak Karunaratne to mark Poson Poya at the Maligakanda Mahabodhi Viharaya yesterday morning. (Pic by Ishara S. Kodikara)

Projects not getting off ground under Rajapaksa – World Bank
A group of visiting World Bank (WB) officials has disclosed that no projects were getting off ground under the President Mahinda Rajapaksa led regime. During an informal meeting with opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe on Friday...

Ten new monitors for SLMM
The Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) has been given a manpower boost with ten new monitors being flown into the country from Norway and Iceland thereby increasing the number...




Heavy lobbying for aid freeze ease
The Sri Lankan government is engaged in heavy lobbying for the easing of the aid freeze imposed by several countries, The Nation learns.
Minister of Public Administration and Home Affairs, Karu Jayasuriya is currently negotiating with Germany’s Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier for a lifting of the aid freeze, while Professor G.L. Peiris is currently in Washington DC, meeting with US State Department officials.
Professor Peiris has told the Washington Times newspaper that an aid freeze should not be used against a democratic government grappling with terrorism. He told the American newspaper that none of these restraints were being used against the terrorist group. Sri Lanka has already seen a loss of assistance from the US and a dip in its Millenium Challenge Cooperation.
As an immediate step towards releasing aid to Sri Lanka, the French government has decided to reactivate a highway project in the east covering 141 km of the A15 road connecting the Batticaloa and Trincomalee Districts. The government will also launch three new projects to construct bridges across Verugal, Puppu Aru and Gange, The Nation learns.

Forces on the lookout for more explosive laden lorries
The security forces were on high alert after the discovery of another explosive laden lorry in Trincomalee on Friday. This was the second such lorry detected by the security forces within the month of June. The Navy acting on a tip off apprehended a freezer truck which was transporting fish from Trincomalee to Colombo.
The lorry was laden with C-4 high explosives weighing over 1,000 kilograms. The driver of the vehicle, a resident of Point Pedro, Jaffna was apprehended and handed over to the Criminal Investigations Department for further interrogation while the owner of the lorry is believed to have fled to India according to police sources.
A similar detention was made by Police at Kotavehera in Kurunegala on June 1. The lorry detained in Kurunagala was also packed with over 1000 kilograms of C-4 explosives.
The quantity of explosives packed into each of these two lorries were nearly as double as to the amount used by the LTTE in the Central Bank bombing in 1996, which devastated the commercial hub of Colombo.

Bus owners threaten strike over one rupee
Private bus owners have warned of a possible trade union action if the government objects to their request to increase bus fares by one rupee.
“We want to increase the shortest distance bus fare (first stage) from Rs. 5 to Rs. 6, as around 50% passengers in and around Colombo travel under this category, which is called the ‘stepping fare, and a profit can be gained only by increasing the ‘stepping fare.’ But the government is refusing to grant us this request. Though the second and the third stages will be increased by Rs. 2 following government approval, we cannot cover the cost with that,” President, Lanka Private Bus Owners Association, Gamini Wijeratne told The Nation.
The trade union board will be meeting today to discuss the issue further. “We would take necessary action if the government fails to consider this favourably,” he warned.

Commission commences probe into Muttur slaying
The Presidential Commission of inquiry to investigate and inquire into serious violations of human rights has commenced investigations into the slaying of the 17 aid workers in Muttur, who were attached to the Action Against Hunger.
All police officers including the Magistrate who conducted the Magisterial inquiry into the deaths of the persons were summoned by the commission and recorded their statements.
Chairman of the commission, Justice N. K. Udalagama told The Nation that the commission has established a witness protection unit and all the witnesses have made their appearance through this unit to give evidence.

Judge sidelines request of accused
The case against Sudath Rohana Wettasinghe, an Army Major of the volunteer force attached to the Ariyalai camp in Jaffna, commenced before the Mount Lavinia additional district judge Mrs. Chrisanthi A. Dodangoda.
The Army Major is charged with criminal intimidation for giving threatening calls to a lawyer on his mobile phone. At the trial it was revealed that the lawyer filed a land case against the mother-in-law of the accused on behalf his client who is a senior judicial officer.
When summons were served against the mother-in-law over the land case, the accused had given a telephone call to the lawyer’s mobile phone threatening to harm him and his client, the judicial officer.
According to evidence given by the lawyer at the trial, the accused had come to know of the lawyer’s mobile telephone number from the letter of demand sent to the mother-in-law.
The lawyer made complaints to the Mount Lavinia Police, Bar Association, and to the military police that the accused had threatened to harm him and his client. On June 14 when the case came up lawyers appearing for the accused made an application and requested the court to postpone the case on grounds that the accused wanted to retain President’s Counsel Daya Perera.

Major funding blow for LTTE
Canada, which has increasingly become a fertile ground for supplying funds for the LTTE has announced new laws to combat money laundering and financing terrorist activities.
“Canada’s government will be relentless in its efforts to prevent money laundering and terrorist” funding, said Jim Flaherty, the country’s Finance Minister announcing the new regulations to fight terrorism.
The LTTE, an organization that flourished under the former Liberal government of Canada is a proscribed terrorist organization under the new conservative government but the LTTE is allegedly funding and engaging in money laundering for Sri Lanka‘s terrorism, operating under varied front organizations. The new regulations are expected to combat, the LTTE, Al-Queda and other terrorist organizations banned under Canadian law.
“We are taking an international leadership role to combat money laundering and terrorist financing by devoting substantial new funding to bolster our analytic, investigative and prosecution resources,” the Finance Minister further added.

Mangala, Sripathi will be lost in political wilderness– JVP
Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) leader Somawansa Amarasinghe has declared that one time Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) frontliners and former Ministers Mangala Samaraweera and Sripathi Sooriyarachchi will have absolutely no political future if they align with the country’s main opposition United National Party (UNP) led by Ranil Wickremesinghe. These sentiments were expressed at the party’s polit bureau meeting on Wednesday evening.
The JVP is meanwhile expected to meet the two former Ministers this week in what appeared to be a move to persuade them to join the proposed JVP led alliance and disregard any possible working relationship with the UNP.
“The country will not have a future under the UNP, and the SLFP-Mahajana Wing formed by Samaraweera and Sooriyarachchi must not be duped by the assurances given to them by the UNP leadership,” the JVP leader had said.





Shifting loyalties to suit agendas
Sri Lanka, the resplendent isle that it is, and now fighting a decline in tourism must surely advertise its latest attraction-the never ending political circus that continues to perform to the amusement of the country’s long suffering millions who must be weary after decades of war and years of economic downturn.
This week saw another act in this never ending show-the meeting between ex-minister Mangala Samaraweera and Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe at the latter’s office, under the full glare of the television cameras. Obviously, both parties were keen to publicise the event to the maximum.
All that was said at the conclusion of the meeting was that both parties would explore the possibilities of working together with Samaraweera saying rather optimistically that there was more to agree with the United National Party (UNP) than to disagree, a statement which he cannot make about his own Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) right now.
It is in many ways ironical that Samaraweera has to go knocking on Wickremesinghe’s door for political support. Even Sri Lankans who are renowned for their short memories are likely to remember Samaraweera as the man who as Media Minister- in the Chandrika Kumaratunga era- painted Wickremesinghe as the villain of local politics, at great cost to the latter.

Lightning within the political scene but no thunder
Many questions are now being raised on the new political alliance envisaged by former Minister Mangala Samaraweera to sustain his political viability in the Sri Lankan political landscape.
The first question so asked is as to whether UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe could work with Samaraweera. Samaraweera being one of the most bitter political enemies of the UNP leader some UNP insiders entertain doubts about an alliance between the two. But others say this is quite possible citing the example of UNP National Organiser S.B.Dissanayake.
S.B, as he is known among the political circles, was also an arch political rival of Wickremesinghe. S.B finally fell in line with the Wickremesinghe thinking, after he fell out with President Chandrika Kumaratunga.
He led a team along with Professor G.L.Peiris and others to push the Kumaratunga government in to the opposition in the year 2001, while accepting the leadership of Ranil Wickremesinghe in the newly formed United National Front (UNF).
Wickremesinghe sorted out all his differences with SB. The two joined hands in a common front to defeat Kumaratunga’s SLFP in the Parliamentary General Elections that followed.
Wickremesinghe knew where to draw the line with SB. He did not bother too much when SB was jailed by the Supreme Court on a matter of contempt of court over some utterance made by him (SB) at a function held in Habaraduwa.


Eelam War IV: Act Two
This month, the undeclared Eelam War IV will enter its second year. In the first year, the military approached it, from both offensive and defensive stances.
In the actual theatre of war, the military has virtually uprooted the LTTE in the east, with the last battle at the Toppigala base.
The military has strategically been taking on the Tigers, sector by sector, flushing them out. Depending on the operations, the air force and the navy have been put to good use. The modus operandi has been a judicious mix of jungle warfare coupled with set pieces of conventional war. As we said before, the military comprising the army, navy and air force have been able to dictate the location of the battle on most occasions during this year of war. The navy has been able to largely cut off Tiger supplies and reinforcements from the Mullaitivu to the east, along the coast, as well as curb arms and ammunition supplies across the high seas.
But, the military operations conducted so far did displace and unsettle civilians. This column deals with the four sectors of resettlement of civilians displaced by these military operations in the east in a separate box story. This is also a part of the larger strategy to keep the civilians with the military, rather than losing them and losing the war.
On the defensive stance of the government, it must be said that it was carried out at the forward defence lines (FDLs) along the Kilali-Muhamalai-Nagarkovil axis in the north and also in the Wanni, along the FDLs right up to Weli Oya, where a new division was created last week.
There has been a lull in operations in the Wanni, after a temporary setback, towards west of Omanthai three weeks back.

The Bench, Bar and You (Legal)
Limiting the powers of President
In no other democratic country in the world, perhaps have so much of powers been concentrated on one individual, as in the case of the President of Sri Lanka. When our President expelled three Ministers with just one stroke of the pen recently, this theme once again became the talk of the town and the dust has hardly settled.
However, ever since the powers of the President was provided for in the 1978 Constitution, there have been quite a few judgments delivered by our Supreme Court indicating restrictions and limitations on presidential powers. The case of M.N.D. Perera vs. Balapatabendi, Secretary to the President, reported in 1 SLR (2005) is just one of them.
One will recall that at the December 05, 2001 general election, the country witnessed a situation which we had never experienced before. There was an unprecedented case of the President belonging to one political party, while the Premier came from another political party.
The President at the time, Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, appointed Ranil Wickremesinghe as Premier as she was mandated to do under Article 43 (3). She further fixed his swearing in for December 9, 2001 to be conducted at the President’s House.

Port project makes waves before setting sail

The largest infrastructure development project in Sri Lanka, since the conclusion of the Mahaweli scheme, has got off to a stormy start, even before the commencement of work.
The expansion of the Colombo Port has been cited by the Government and the private sector, as the flagship development venture for the next decade, to give Colombo a competitive edge over other regional ports.
The project is now at a crucial stage. Two contractors, each tasked to build a 5-km breakwater and the first of four container terminals, is to be selected in the near future. However, The Nation reliably learns of irregularities within the Tender evaluation process, raising questions regarding the transparency and the credibility of the whole project. It is learnt that influential and interested parties are manipulating the Technical Evaluation Committee (TEC) tasked with assessing the bidders of the first phase of this mammoth venture.



CR favourites, but Kandy SC has the fire power
A thrilling game of rugby is in store for rugby fans in Colombo when the defending league champions Kandy Sports Club meet CR & FC in their first round inter-club Caltex trophy rugby game which will kick off at 4.45 pm today.
Both teams are unbeaten, and have an equal number of points, but Kandy SC is heading the table on their overall scores.
This season’s achievements of both teams go to make this grand game an attractive one with both teams packed with the country’s top players.  The big question now is will Kandy SC repeat their last year’s performance?
The outcome of this encounter should be anyone’s guess but before that there’s much more to relish from a rugby fanatic’s belief.  But then again who would know even pundits could be proved wrong.  Going by the capabilities of both sides almost anything can happen. Too much emphasis cannot be placed on past results when assessing the game between these two sides or for that matter any two sides as any team can be a different entity when they play against their arch rivals.  It is hoped that conditions will permit the two teams to indulge in the brand of fast open rugby for which they are well-known. 

Raninda going great guns for Wesley
Raninda Sooriyakumara, a 14-year-old cricketer from Wesley College rewrote his school record books with a blistering innings against Lumbini last Tuesday in an Astra Trophy under 15 tournament match when he blasted 204 not out off just 192 balls. His marathon innings included 23 fours and seven sixes which made the Lumbini bowling attack helpless. It is said to be the first double century in junior cricket by a Wesleyite and also the first score over 200 by a Wesley cricketer after Farveez Maharoof’s 243 against Richmond in 2002.
Having started his cricket at 11 years, Sooriyakumara is a capable all-rounder. With his stroke-making ability he is a dependable right-hand opening batsman for his team and when it comes to bowling his off-spin is an asset to them.
Sooriyakumara had many things to say of that memorable innings. “To be honest I never thought that I could reach a double century. I’m really happy with my performance,” he said.

Pathana rugby kicks off again
After almost two months of enforced hibernation the Isipathana first XV rugby team is entitled to participate in the schools tournament again. No doubt the set-back they faced will motivate them to prove their class and regain their rightful place in the schools rugby arena.
Isipathana, who emerged as a real power in schools rugby during the late eighties has established their own distinctive brand of the game. In 1997 they bagged the league championship, President’s trophy, the Sevens and the Western Province 10’s. They repeated the feat in 1999. This is a feat that no other school has achieved to-date.
During their heyday in rugby this high profile school had many renowned captains like Selwyn Sallay, who is also their Rugby Committee Chairman this year. He captained the side...


“Abductions and killings are taking place” – Rambukwella
Q: The law and order situation in the country has, by all appearances, gone completely out of control. What is preventing the government from arresting this situation?
We cannot say the law and order situation has completely gone out of control. To a certain degree, yes. However, the government, I must say, has not turned a blind eye to this and is well aware of this phenomenon. What is happening here is that everybody is trying to take advantage of this situation.
A couple of days ago rumours spread like wildfire that rich Muslims were being abducted for ransom. Some big names were dropped. In fact, some people did not even go to mosques due to this fear.
There is an email and SMS campaign going on, trying to tarnish the image of the government. Whoever is behind this is trying to unleash a fear psychosis among the people. All this could be traced back to people who are politically disgruntled and are trying to find their way to power through this kind of disgusting mechanism.
Of course, by saying this, the government cannot shirk its responsibility and say nothing can be done about it. The President has given the IGP and the defence authorities clear instructions to crack down on this. I must confess, the fact that abductions and killings are taking place is not false. But the government is aware of this and is acting positively to avert this situation. For instance, even an airman has been taken into custody in this regard.
Q: The culture of impunity will continue if no action is taken to establish independent commissions. Even some foreign countries have raised concerns about this new trend. Why can’t the government establish independent commissions fast?
Well, when the President was the Prime Minister, he sent his nominee without any delay. But the Opposition Leader did not send his nominee. Therefore it got delayed.

CJ vs. AG battle over language
Bhagwati insists on Independent Counsel and not State Counsel for Commission
Q: Attorney General C.R. de Silva says you have misunderstood the role of the AG and his officers and that you have made unfounded and unwarranted allegations against himself and his officers. Your response, please.
I always welcome dissent. I welcome criticism. But, the language used is not proper and does not befit the office of Attorney General. If I am wrong, the Attorney General could very well point it out and I am willing to accept it. But it should be done in courteous language.
Q: The AG (on behalf of the Government) expressed his objections to the contents of the first and second public statements, claiming it would prejudice the ongoing and scheduled investigations. What is your response? Have you responded in writing?
That is his right to clarify matters. I am not against the contents but that has to be done in respectful language. I may not agree with his observations and he may not agree with mine. But, such correspondence has to be couched in decent language. I will be writing to the Attorney General and the President of Sri Lanka shortly.
Q: Mr. De Silva rejects as totally unfounded the objection raised by you that the AG’s department has been involved in investigations and hence it was undesirable to function as counsel at the commission. Do you maintain your original stance?
I still maintain that there should be independent Counsel to conduct the proceedings before the Commission of Inquiry instead of officers from the Attorney General’s Department. Independent lawyers should be free to decide what material should be placed before the commission of inquiry, and what is relevant or irrelevant and whether further investigations should be done to arrive at the truth.





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