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Sunday July 08th, 2007

Moragoda off to US on dual mission
US Congress wants Bush to actively intervene in conflict
Tourism Minister Milinda Moragoda left yesterday for the United States on a dual mission to participate in the committee meeting of the High-level Commission on Legal Empowerment of the Poor and to present Sri Lanka’s case to the new heads of the World Bank (WB) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

SLMM sounds warning bells
Nordic monitors have sounded warning bells declaring that Sri Lanka’s nearly three decade long armed conflict may never see the light of day if the ongoing trend between the government and the LTTE continues.
The statement comes just days after the Sri Lanka...


Lion King

Mahendra Amarasuriya, one of Sri Lanka’s leading business leaders was elected as the President of Lions International at its 90th annual session held in Chicago. On July 4, the American Independence Day, Amarasuriya, flying the flag of Sri Lanka along with his wife Kushlani and about 750 Sri Lankan expatriates took part in a parade along the streets of Chicago, which brought together thousands of Lions club members from all over the world.

Muslims, Tamils in a rare show of solidarity?
Leading minority political parties in the All Party Representative Committee (APRC) are likely to reach a common stand in the coming weeks in a bid to safeguard...

Death threats on bombshell MP
Bombshell MP Lakshman Senewiratne has received a string of death threats after he revealed a list of names including...




Major union showdown against government soon
The date for the impending country-wide general strike will be taken on Wednesday, trade union leader and parliamentarian K.D. Lalkantha told The Nation.
The JVP sponsored National Trade Union Centre (NTUC) led by Lalkantha summoned a meeting of representatives of a wide spectrum of trade unions in the private, estate and public sectors last Wednesday to discuss the major problems faced by the workers.
“Some 254 unions affiliated to the NTUC as well as 110 unions affiliated to the UNP, SLFP and independent unions attended the meeting. They unanimously decided to launch a general strike in the private, state and estate sectors in view of the failure by the government to meet the demands put forward by the unions in the respective sectors,” Lalkantha noted.
He added that during last week’s meeting, the action committee appointed by these unions had taken a decision to meet this Wednesday to decide on a date to launch the general strike.
“The trade unions had earlier planned to launch a major strike but decided to suspend it in view of the assurance made by President Rajapaksa and the Government that the grievances and problems they have spotlighted would be attended to. But now the workers have lost patience over the Government’s failure to honour the pledges given to the working population,” he said.
The JVP MP alleged that the government continues to heap great burdens on the people but continues to waste public money by maintaining over 100 Ministers, providing perks and privileges to high-ups and condoning corruption and fraud plundering the states resources.
The trade union demands include the implementation of the 2005 Budget proposal for the grant of Rs. 2.50 for every point of increase in the cost of living index. Though a total of Rs. 1250 had to be paid per month only two installments of Rs. 375 was paid. The unions demand that the full cost of living be paid along with the arrears due for the past years.

East election on the cards
Plans are afoot to hold elections in the eastern province, reliable government sources said.
According to the sources the Elections Department would be soon directed by President Mahinda Rajapaksa to call for fresh nominations.
The nominations previously sent would be cancelled by the elections commissioner, the sources said.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa is expected to inform the public on the government’s position regarding the impending election in the east during the SLFP annual convention scheduled for July 22, sources said.
The government has held a series of discussions on holding elections in the east, sources confirmed.
However, according to the sources the military has still not given the green light to hold an election in the east.
The military have advised that it would not be possible to hold an election immediately, given the present ground situation, sources further said
They have also informed the government that they could not guarantee the security of the candidates if an election was to be held at present.

JVP rejects Mangala’s invitation
The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) had flatly refused an invitation extended to them by the Mangala Samaraweera led Sri Lanka Freedom Party (Mahajana Wing) to participate at the forthcoming rally on July 26 against the government saying that such a move would only benefit the main opposition United National Party (UNP).
“The UNP is very much responsible for the state that the country is in today. The government’s behaviour should change and a correct leadership should be provided. But the UNP cannot provide that leadership,” JVP general secretary Tilvin Silva told former Ministers Samaraweera and Sripathi Sooriyarachchi during a meeting on Wednesday at the JVP head office.
He further said that the decision by the two ex-ministers to leave the government was the correct move, but now by uniting with the UNP, their decision has been undermined.
“In our view supporting and working together with the UNP is not the best possible way to solve problems,” Mr. Silva had further added.
The Mahajana Wing was also represented by former Airport and Aviation Chief Tiran Alles while JVP leader Somawansa Amarasinghe, propaganda secretary Wimal Weerawansa and MP Anura Kumara Dissanayake also participated at the discussion.

Police blind to illicit trade despite complaints
Angoda police has been accused of turning a blind eye against a group which has openly flaunted laws by selling illicit liquor and marijuana throughout the year even on poya days.
A group of youth who had organized a manioc dansela on Poson poya day down Pethiyagoda Road, Angoda was allegedly attacked by the group carrying out the illegal trade after the youths had gone to the police and complained about the illegal trade which was being carried out on Poya day.
Sanjeewa Kannangara, an organizer of the Ranamayura Tharuna Samithiya which organized the dansela told The Nation that, “We have been doing this manioc dansela with the help of young men in the area during every Poson poya for the last 38 years. We provide 1200 kg of manioc for the dansela. This other group is carrying out their illicit trade just 100m away from our dansela. The authorities are silent. I personally know that Angoda police is supporting these sellers. One youth from our group was hospitalized after he was attacked by those carrying out the illegal trade. Another culprit tried to stab one of us but fortunately he missed the target,” he said. Police even take money from these illicit traders it was alleged
Kannangara also claimed that despite continuous complains against the culprits following the incident the police have so far failed to take any action against the group carrying out the illegal operation.

Commission of inquiry to grill Colombo Mayor
Colombo Mayor Mohamed Imthiaz will face the commission of inquiry headed by retired judge Dr. Chandradasa Nanayakkara on Tuesday July 10.
The inquiry will take place at the chief minister’s office at 10. 00 a.m.
For the first time the Mayor would be forced to face retired judge of the court of appeal Dr. Chandradasa Nanayakkara who has been called upon to inquire into ten charges leveled against the Mayor.
Though the Mayor sent his reply in April itself, the commission was not satisfied with the answers, hence the inquiry on Tuesday.
The Commission was appointed under Section 2 (2) of the statute of the authority of supervision of administration of local bodies number 4 of 91 of the western provincial council by the chief minister.
One of the principal charges against the Mayor is the financial violation in regard to the extension of contract on solid waste for a period of two years without the sanction of the finance committee.
Among the other charges is the supply of food parcels during the recent floods in May.
Accordingly the council has paid a sum of rupees eight million for 102, 174 food parcels also without the approval of the council.
The Nation reliably learns that though the money was paid to the council members, not all of them had actually distributed food parcels to the flood victims.
This payment was done pending council approval. But when it came before the council the council rejected this.

Brattskar to bid adieu soon
Norwegian Ambassador to Sri Lanka Hans Brattskar is completing his term in August this year and will return to Oslo.
The outgoing Ambassador is scheduled to visit Hambantota, Sigiriya and Kilinochchi before his departure from Colombo.
Diplomatic sources told The Nation that he wants to inspect projects undertaken by Norway and Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD) in these areas before he bids adieu.
Brattskar who met with President Mahinda Rajapaksa recently had dismissed media reports that Norwegian special peace envoy Jon Hanssen-Bauer is planning to visit Sri Lanka.

Man who injected poison arrested
Nawagamuwa police on Friday arrested a suspect believed to be involved in killing a man after injecting him with poison.
The suspect H. Manjula Priyankara was produced before Kaduwela Magistrate Lakmal Wickramasuriya who ordered the suspect to be remanded.
According to police, the victim, L. A. D. Amarasena from Hewagama, Kaduwela was killed after injecting him with poison.
The suspect had been arrested by the police following a statement given by the victim before he died.
Earlier when the case was taken up at the Colombo Chief Magistrate Court, Nawagamuwa police informed the Court that they are conducting investigations to apprehend the other suspects who were involved in killing.
Additional Magistrate Manjula Thilakaratne directed the Colombo Chief Judicial Medical Officer to conduct a special post mortem over the death of the victim.
Nawagamuwa police appearing for the complainant told the Court that they were able to take the syringe into custody which was allegedly used for the killing. The police informed the Court that they have forwarded the syringe to the Government Analyst for a comprehensive report.





When the tough gets going
When ex-Minister Mangala Samaraweera called on the leaders of the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) this week to explain his new political agenda, his delegation was apparently kept waiting. And indeed, the JVP as a party now seems to keep the major parties waiting with bated breath for their next political move. It has, in a sense, come of age and is now the ‘third force’ in the country.
Amidst the general political mayhem that surrounds us with crossovers and counter crossovers, the leftist-oriented JVP has been walking warily both within Parliament and without and this is an opportune moment as any to examine their current strategies in the context of unfolding events.
Since entering the democratic mainstream after the ill-fated insurrection of the late eighties, the JVP has adopted a clever strategy to remain a potent political force, a philosophy captured in a nutshell by its firebrand orator Wimal Weerawansa who said they hoped to be the ‘remote control’ in governance.
At the general elections held in 2000, the JVP secured 10 seats in Parliament with a 6.1% slice of the overall vote. A year later at the general elections that followed when the United National Front (UNF) won the poll, the JVP increased its share to 9.1% and 16 seats in Parliament.
These results would have awakened the JVP hierarchy to the obvious: although JVP could muster around 10% of the vote, that would never be enough to call the shots in government because they would always be a party with less than 20 seats in Parliament. So, when the next opportunity presented itself, they did something different-with spectacular results.
At the general elections in 2004, they joined the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) in a Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) led coalition.

Govt feels heat after attempts to muzzle media backfire
President Mahinda Rajapaksa, understandably, has his own grievances against the Sri Lankan media, like any other leader in the past.
Usually politicians become media friendly when they are in the opposition, waiting in the wings and aspiring for high office.
Once gaining power they tend to dictate terms to the media and scribes who do not fall in line with their thinking. They then label these scribes villains in the media and accuse them of being part of a media mafia that is affiliated to the opposition.
For any government the honeymoon with the press does not last long. It happens within the political landscape of any democratic form of government. This is a phenomenon that will continue to happen in the future too, as long as the norms of good governance are adhered to. It is a common phenomenon all over the world, where democratic principles are part and parcel of governance.
President Rajapaksa is no exception to the rule. He has encountered problems with scribes and is facing an onslaught from the media over his government’s short-sighted policies over military excesses, human rights abuses and corruption which are among a host of other issues.
Instead of taking corrective action, it is natural that any government would react in a startling manner, find fault with the media and tighten the screws so as to muffle the media as much as possible.
However, the media lobby in Sri Lanka, unlike in the past, is quite powerful with international support forthcoming. Thus they have withstood government pressure that came from various quarters during recent times. Action by the media against the government has always been with good reason and with corroborative evidence as back-up.
However, there have been isolated instances where sections of the media too have gone to extreme measures when furthering their cause – due to political agendas and various political leanings.
In this backdrop, the question arises as to whether President Rajapaksa is a victim of media excesses.


The Bench, Bar & You
Making law better: A comparative perspective

If we reflect a moment on the basics, we see that lawmaking is indeed the collective responsibility of the people. New laws should be passed when necessary to deal with problems confronting society, with the broad agreement of the people. The only reason that Parliament is chosen to be the body enacting law is that it is supposed to represent the will of the people.
Last year in Sri Lanka 54 statutes were enacted. Of those 23 were amendments to existing laws. Several of these laws were of narrow interest, dealing with particular institutions such as trusts. But the others covered such diverse areas as money laundering, banking, VAT, human trafficking and employment of children. Do people know that these laws were passed? Are they aware of the impact these changes could have on their lives? Who was consulted in the preparation of these pieces of legislation, and was the consultation wide-ranging or selective? These are questions which must concern us all as members of the public who entrusted the lawmakers with this momentous power to make law.
This article will highlight some aspects of the lawmaking process in Sri Lanka which perhaps need revisiting. It will also look at the practices adopted by the UK to make lawmaking more transparent and efficient, and which may usefully be applied in the Sri Lankan context.
Laws in Sri Lanka, as in many countries, emanate from a number of sources. They include election manifesto commitments of a government, the need to respond to sudden events or an emerging social problem (such as financing for terrorism), law reform initiatives which government departments have been working on, and recommendations of the Law Commission.

Govt made to eat ‘parippu’/ Open season for Govt bashing
Lakshman firing on all fronts
Directing another barrage at the government, Badulla District UNP MP Lakshman Seneviratne rocked Parliament last week, when the House took up the emergency debate on Thursday.
Using colourful remarks, Seneviratne did not spare even the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) members, when he accused government ministers and all those who are party to the government, for letting the country slide further into the dregs of international disgrace.
Govt meandering along
The recurrent question he posted to the government benches was “where is the country heading to?”
He entered into the debate, reminding the House of his previous fusillade, when he divulged three names linked to the spate of abductions and killings taking place in the country last month.
“Honourable Speaker, I remember when the Emergency was taken up for debate last month, I divulged certain information before this honourable House. That was on June 6,” he said, warming up for the attack.
Choosing his words with care, Seneviratne then said that a certain minister in the government made a joke out of Prime Minister Rathnasiri Wickramanayake. “By June 9, the honourable Prime Minister agreed with what I had divulged before this House. He also expressed regret over the Tamils’ eviction from Colombo lodges and sent back to the North-East. That was a very indecent act. Hardly 24-hours lapsed, before a minister made a totally...

Mahendra, the Lion King
The newly elected International President of the Lions Club, Mahendra Amarasuriya said in Chicago that he was prepared to eradicate preventable eye diseases from the Indian subcontinent, his native Sri Lanka and Africa as a priority project through an internally changed Lions organization that would be made “a dynamic vibrant 21st century organization.”
“At the end of my term as the International President I am determined to raise 200 million US dollars for these projects and prevent blindness and bring light to thousands,” said Amarasuriya in an interview with The Nation.
The Colombo’s Commercial Bank and Pelawatte and Sevanagala Plantations Chairman who had been the first Vice President of the international service club for the last one year was formally elected to the prestigious position of President on July 6 during the 90th Annual sessions of the Lions at the McCormick Convention Center in Chicago, Illinois. This city is on the edge of the great Lake Michigan where cold winds cause havoc but had unusually fair weather during the day of the sessions. Representatives from all world capitals of 203 nations converged on Chicago for the election and discussed about other business matters of the club. The 1.3 million members strong service club is the world’s largest such organization and is enjoying a consultative status with the United Nations. There are 45,000 branches of the club all over the world.
Speaking of his native Sri Lanka Amarasuriya, a philanthropist for the Buddhist education in Sri Lanka, said that there were 3000 patients who needed to be operated on for cataract and part of the money would go for that. As President, Amarasuriya would direct the organization’s leading project, ‘The Sight First program’ that aims to rid the world of preventable and reversible blindness.



Venus eyes fourth title
Three-time champion Venus Williams will take on outsider Marion Bartoli in the Wimbledon final.
The pair will meet for the first time after France’s Bartoli caused a huge upset by beating top seed Justine Henin in the semi-finals on Friday.
Williams, seeded 23rd, will try to add to her titles of 2000, 2001 and 2005 in her sixth Wimbledon final.
The match is scheduled for 1400 BST, although it could be delayed as it follows a men’s semi-final.
With five years’ more experience, 31 more career titles and five more Wimbledon finals under her belt, Williams is the strongest of favourites.
One or both of Venus or her sister Serena appeared in every Wimbledon final for six years in a row until last year, when Henin lost to Amelie Mauresmo.
Venus has won three times and finished runner-up twice to her sister, meaning she is preparing for a sixth final.
“It’s so exciting,” said the 27-year-old. “I’ve had so many great times here. It’s really an amazing stat.
“I guess I’m feeling proud of myself for that stat, but I don’t want to take anything for granted going into the final.
“I’ve been counted out so many times and it’s OK with me. I’ve been unlucky with injuries - that happens - but I think that I’ve had a little spell now where I felt good.
“I’ve had a chance to get ready. It’s all coming together.”
And Williams paid tribute to her large following of family and friends that has supported her in a year interrupted by injuries.

SL Cricket Academy champs in India
The Sri Lankan Cricket Academy emerged champions of the Maharashtra challenge trophy cricket tournament which was conducted in Chennai, India from the June 25 to July 1 with an unbeaten record.
Three teams participated in this tournament, Maharashtra President’s X1, Tamil Nadu and SL Academy. Each team played two matches which were played over two days.
The SL Academy remained unbeaten on tour. They first beat Tamil Nadu on first innings and then convincingly beat Maharashtra President’s X1 outright inside two days and were declared champions.
The weather was not hot in Madras, but the skies were overcast and play was possible with a few interruptions. The pitches took turn and helped the spinners from day one. The SL Academy had a few noteworthy performances during these two matches.
Tharanga Paranavithana scored two half centuries in the two games, while Angelo Mathew and Chanaka Wijesinghe were amongst the runs. Left-arm spinner Chanaka Komasaru bowled well to pick up 11 wickets in the two games while the pitches was conducive to spin bowling.
Fast bowler Shaminda Eranga was most impressive with his pace on slow pitches and was a handfull to the Indian batsman.

Point Blank
Power of the press
Seldom do cricket journos in this country make a loud noise or for that matter take issues to the highest level. Whatever issues there had been in the past have been sorted out amicably without much fuss.
What greeted them at the P. Saravanamuttu Stadium on the opening day of the second cricket Test match between Sri Lanka and New Zealand was a sight to behold. The media box was in shambles. Nothing was in place - the tables, the chairs, the power points, fans etc. you could go on and on. Even the wooden boards that were hired to give those sitting at the back row were at fault because it did not provide the proper elevation. Journos sitting at this row complained they could see only half the playing field.
With less than an hour for the start of the Test match things were not properly in place and in the rush to put things in order power lines and telephone lines were quickly assembled but at the grave risk of someone getting electrocuted or entangling their legs in some of the wires and bringing forth verbal abuse from journos who would find that their telephone connection or power lines have been disconnected in the midst of sending a copy or typing out one.
There was chaos everywhere and when one of the Bangladeshi journalists confided that the worst media box in Bangladesh was better than the one at the Saravanamuttu Stadium he could not have been far from the truth.
The journos time on the first day was spent more on trying to sort out their power and telephone supply lines than concentrate on the cricket in the middle. Then to add more fuel to the already existing fire there was a constant break in power due to overloads, bringing forth further curses under their breath.
At the butt end of all the verbal abuse was Sri Lanka Cricket’s amiable media manager Samantha Algama. He was apologetic and was able to pacify the journos that it was not his fault for this sad state of affairs but the Tamil Union club authorities who had been notified a month ahead of time what the requirements for the media were. At the end of the day however his designation as media manager had been somewhat altered to that of ‘media damager’ ...


Mervyn S. incapable of wrongdoing. Those slinging mud at him, do so out of envy
Labour Minister (non Cabinet) Mervyn Silva is a unique character. He has carved out a niche for himself in today’s politics, through his utterances in public and his choice of words when doing so. The unparliamentary language he enjoys using within Parliament, has given him an inimitable place within society. He is tough to those who are tough. His association with political leaders on the one hand and with underworld elements on the other hand, has made Silva infamous. He is fearless. He takes on his opponents with facts concerning their private lives. Claiming to be a descendant of King Dutugemunu, he says he could prove his lineage. In a wide ranging and exclusive interview with The Nation, the minister said that it was none of anybody’s business to know how many cars he owned or, how he managed to purchase them. He accused the JVP of trying to obtain details of his vehicles, to inform the LTTE. A vociferous minister, who also said that he would shoot and kill anyone with his own pistol, if they support the LTTE.
Following are excerpts:
Q: There is so much uncertainty in today’s politics with crossovers by MPs, according to their whims and fancies. How do you see the cross over of former ministers Mangala Samaraweera and Sripathi Sooriarachchi?
When an affluent person imports a vehicle, a pickpocket takes his purse, in search of valuables. Finds nothing. Purse is empty. That is what has happened to the UNP today. The UNP thought these two members could bring riches with them. They found none. Talking of the UNPers who crossed over to the government, they are the cream of the UNP. So I think this is a huge loss to the UNP. We have not lost anything. All who came to our party are giants, while the two who went to the other side were just two pebbles. UNP is no more a United National Party.
Q: JVP’s Anura Kumara Dissanayake has accused you of concealing details of your vehicles. Why are you keeping them secret?
During the height of the JVP insurrection in 1989, three members of my family were killed. My younger brother who was in the Navy, my pregnant younger sister and her husband, were all killed by the JVP, leaving her two children orphaned. Even today, I look after them. During this time, the UNP MP for Dehiwela was also killed. I was also shot on my foot. Fortunately, my son was in the St. Thomas’ College hostel. If not, he too, would have lost his head. This is what the JVP was up to at that time. Today, these fellows are asking me how many vehicles I have and how much rent I pay. Was it fair to ask? These people have an agenda and I say this without fear. These people are exposing vehicle numbers and names of our bodyguards and especially of politicians whom they dislike, to the LTTE. I tell this with responsibility. When there are so many problems in the country, why are they asking for these details? Whom are they targeting? It is the President, Basil Rajapaksa, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa and me as well. I came from the village. I was not born in a Walauwa. My father was a merchant in the village. I may not be important to the JVP. But, I am important to myself and to my family. This is why I refused to give details. I won’t reveal further details. But, if anybody proves that I have paid a rental in excess of Rs. 39,000, I will resign from Parliament.
Q: Certain remarks you made in Parliament against Anura Kumara Dissanayake were expunged from the Hansard. What were they?
I never said anything indecent. I only said certain things that the respective member was not supposed to do in society. I cannot say this in public. It is unfair. In society there are things that are taboo. It is an accepted norm that one does not marry the relatives of one’s father. But, in today’s newspapers, we read of fathers sleeping with their daughters. I am not like this. My record is straight. Although society tried to sling mud at me, the same society will know who I am, in time to come.





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