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Sunday July 22nd, 2007

President prepares to poach
President Mahinda Rajapaksa is engaged in a dual political role trying to woo senior UNP members while stopping defections from his own party at the same time, The Nation learns.
Soon after UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe signed an agreement with the SLFP (Mahajana Wing) on Thursday, President Rajapaksa sprang into action and started calling up senior UNPers in a bid to woo them.
He cited certain clauses in the agreement signed by the UNP...

Symbol crisis plagues new alliance
With the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (Mahajana Wing) standing firm over their refusal to use the ‘elephant symbol’ in any future elections when contesting together with the United National Party (UNP), senior UNP stalwarts, The Nation learns is taking an equally stronger stand on the issue.


“There, he is watching us”

UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe cracks a joke with his new lieutenant and once arch enemy Mangala Samaraweera after the signing of a MoU between the main opposition and the SLFP Mahajana Wing in parliament on Thursday. Under the terms of the agreement, Samaraweera will be deputy to Wickremesinghe if the latter becomes Prime Minister under a new UNP led government of the future (Pic by Ishara S. Kodikara)


Internet censorship takes a new twist
Internet censorship in Sri Lanka took a new twist recently when a newly launched website of a registered Tamil political party was hacked into and all information related to the human rights situation in the country....

CBK snubbed at SLFP convention
Political circles were a buzz about the apparent snub on former President Chandrika Kumaratunge at the...




Only fools will complain to CB ­­— Sripathi
Complaining to the Central Bank’s Financial Unit tasked with probing issues related to financing terrorism would only serve to ensure that the government has ways and means to drag the investigation into President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s alleged pre-election pact with the LTTE, former Minister Sripathi Sooriyarachchi told The Nation yesterday.
The Central Bank’s Financial Intelligence Unit, a special office set up to counter terrorist finance and money laundering, is reported to have said on Friday that neither of the two sacked ministers making the allegation about the secret pact with the Tigers had made an official complaint to the unit, which would allow them to commence investigations.
However, Sooriyarachchi who is also the Chief Co-ordinator of the SLFP breakaway faction, known as the Mahajana Wing, scoffed at the claims saying that it would be fruitless to make a complaint to a unit attached to the Central Bank, which is being run according to the whims and fancies of the government in power.
“We know what the Central Bank would do with such a complaint. They would just want to drag it on. We’re not fools,” Sooriyarachchi said adding that in any event, the Central Bank unit could only investigate transactions that have taken place between banks and bank accounts.
“There was no bank involved in this deal. An individual closely connected to the SLFP only carried bags and bags of money to be handed over to the LTTE,” the firebrand MP charged.

Govt. to stop military offensives in the north?
The government has decided to stop all offensives in the north in order to facilitate peace moves.
The government will only engage in military exercises if there is an attack by the LTTE.
Highly placed government sources said that the government is in touch with the Norwegian facilitators to kick start the stalled peace efforts.
The government top brass is now in the process of meeting with constituent parties individually in a bid to surmount the stalemate situation.
Senior officials attached to the Presidential Secretariat have recently met All Party Representative Committee Chairman Tissa Vitarana to explore possibilities of making way for peace.
So far, the government has met with small time Muslim parties and was scheduled to meet with the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress last evening.
They have also spoken to the Ceylon Workers Congress in unofficial terms and would meet with them next week to elaborate discussions on how to get about the peace process.

MR feels political pulse in Matara
President Rajapaksa yesterday met with members of the Matara Municipal Council (MC) and members of the Matara Pradeshiya Sabha (PS) to get a first hand feel about the pulse of the people in the district.
The President wanted to check the political situation in Matara after the SLFP Matara District Leader Mangala Samaraweera ditched the party and formed the SLFP (Mahajana Wing) alleging that the government was corrupt.
Reports reaching Colombo said that a majority of the Matara MC and PS members attended the meeting.

No breakthrough over Chief Secy. slaying
The Criminal Investigations Department (CID) and Police have so far failed to make any headway despite it being nearly a week since the Chief Secretary of the Eastern Provincial Council and senior government servant H.B. Herath Abeyweera was gunned down by an unidentified gunman in Trincomalee last Monday.
“We handed over the case to the CID yesterday. Earlier we arrested ten suspects on suspicion and questioned them in this regard”, Trincomalee Division SSP Kithsiri Dayananda told The Nation yesterday.
He however refused to elaborate, but sources claimed that despite the initial arrests the police have drawn a blank.
However police have not ruled out an LTTE hand in the incident.
Abeyweera was the first Sinhalese officer who was appointed to the post so far while all the other Chief Secretaries have been Tamils in the past.

Finger pointed at military over Batticaloa gruesome killing
The Honk Kong based Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) yesterday alleged that a group dressed in military uniform had stabbed a 27-year old woman to death in Paduwankarai, Batticaloa early this month.
“The AHRC has received information about the gruesome stabbing of a 27-year-old woman allegedly by army personnel or members of the Special Task Force (STF) in Paduwankarai, Batticaloa. Accordingly, on July 7, several personnel in military uniform had come to the house she was staying and shouted her name. When she failed to respond they stormed inside, and escorted her out. There, they had brutally stabbed her about 12 times in the presence of her mother. The victim succumbed to her injuries shortly,” the commission said in a release.
On July 7, Balasuntharam Thavamani, her mother and about 20 other persons displaced by the ongoing armed conflict were seeking refuge in a single house at Paduwankarai, Batticaloa. This area has been a stronghold of the LTTE until last week when state security forces wrested the area from the rebels.
Around 9:30 p.m. that night, several men in military uniform suddenly stormed into the house and shouted for the victim by her name. As the victim failed to respond due to intense fear, the personnel entered the house and forcibly escorted her out.
When the victim’s mother followed them wailing and shouting, they stabbed the young woman in the presence of her mother—a distance of about 100 metres from the house. She succumbed to her death on the spot after being stabbed about 12 times.
Subsequent to this killing about 35 families in the village, fearing for their lives, fled the village and went to a nearby area. Thereafter they related the ordeal to Batticaloa MP P. Ariyanenthran. They are reluctant to report the incident to the authorities due to fear of reprisals.

LTTE regional leader dies in confrontation with STF
Five LTTE cadres including a regional leader were killed yesterday morning in a confrontation with the police Special Task Force. Fighting broke out between the STF personnel and the LTTE at Neriyakanatte in Kanchikudichiaru, west of Batticaloa. STF personnel on a clearing operation were confronted by a group of Tiger cadres lying in ambush. According to STF sources a LTTE regional leader identified as Ravindran was killed in the fighting along with five others.
A haul of weapons including four anti personnel mines, five T-56 assault rifles and 56 Magazines were discovered by the STF personnel. “The STF did not suffer any casualties in the confrontation,” stated a news release by the police elite commandos.
Meanwhile, an army foot patrol was caught up in a claymore mine explosion yesterday morning at 11 along the Mannar-Vavuniya main road. Two soldiers injured in the incident were later..

Ranil marks 30 years in politics
UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe will attend a ceremony to mark 30 years in politics in Kahawatte today.
The celebrations have been organised by the UNP organiser for Nivitigala Talatha Athukorala.
Wickremesinghe entered Parliament in 1977 as the member for Biyagama under the leadership of J. R. Jayewardene.

Sripathi appeals for more security
Deposed Minister Sripathi Sooriyarachchi has again appealed for more protection on grounds that his life continued to be under threat by ‘powerful elements’.
The ex-Minister who now represents the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (Mahajana Wing) levelled allegations of a conspiracy against him by President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his brothers including Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa.
“Ever since I was sacked, there were many attempts on my life. Gotabaya Rajapaksa and the President removed all my security. I narrowly escaped a claymore mine explosion in the Kadawatha area and there were times when two or three white vans trailed my vehicle. Some even tried to kill me when I was in the prison. They are after my life,” he alleged.
He went on to add that since he is provided with minimal security it might be only a matter of time that an attempt on his life would succeed. “I only have limited security. I’m not sure what will happen. But I’m not going to stop my struggle.”
Sooriyarachchi said that although the state was doing nothing to protect him, the people will. “People know if I am killed President Rajapaksa is responsible. And the President knows that the public is aware that the Rajapaksa family wants me dead. So he won’t attack me directly,” he claimed.
“What I want is proper security. Not only for me but for others whose lives are in danger” he said. “It is the responsibility of the state to protect its citizens but this government is doing a pretty bad job of it,” Sooriyarachchi added.





Ranil-Mangala alliance on a long trek to stardom
The coming weeks will see a realignment of political forces in the country as the United National Party (UNP), arguably the party with the largest support base, aligns with the self-proclaimed ‘Mahajana’ faction of its’ arch rival, the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP).
Proponents of the move claim this will lead to the dawn of a new era in Sri Lankan politics but is this alliance worth the posters and slogans it is spouting? More importantly, will it mean better governance to the average Sri Lankan?
A few issues, we daresay, must be noted at the outset. Ex-Minister Mangala Samaraweera is doing what he is doing only because he was sidelined by President Mahinda Rajapaksa who gave him the ‘karapincha’ treatment after utilising him to the utmost during the last presidential poll. Had Samaraweera been given a better deal, one could bet one’s last two thousand rupee note that we would be seeing none of this.
On the other hand, make no mistake, the UNP is also playing opportunistic politics here. If its’ leader Ranil Wickremesinghe does not suffer from amnesia of spectacular proportions, he will know that it was Mangala Samaraweera who was former President Chandrika Kumaratunge’s Man Friday in all her attempts to vilify and ridicule Wickremesinghe in the eyes of the Sri Lankan electorate. To Kumaratunge, Samaraweera was what Felix R. Dias Bandaranaike was to her mother, Sirima Bandaranaike.
That Wickremesinghe is able to forget, if not forgive, all that is because he senses opportunity here-an opportunity that might not come his way again for the next ten years, if Mahinda Rajapaksa strengthens his stranglehold on the Presidency.
Spare a thought for Wickremesinghe: his tenure as Leader of the Opposition has been a crown of thorns. He has been Prime Minister twice-first by default when President Ranasinghe Premadasa was assassinated; then under a Kumaratunge Presidency where the lady was behaving like a woman scorned.

MR goes into Premadasa mode as UNP readies for battle
July 19 marks a day of dual importance for Sri Lankans, especially those who yearn for a better Sri Lanka.
This is mainly because the government celebrated the capture of the entire east from the clutches of the LTTE, and secondly because the UNP signed an agreement with the rebel SLFPers in a bid to get rid of the present government, which it claims is corrupt and moving on a fast track towards anarchy.
The government celebrated the capture of the east with much fanfare where the service chiefs handed over a parchment to President Mahinda Rajapaksa proclaiming that the Eastern Province was fully under the writ of the Sri Lankan Government.
However, the response from the general public to the call by the government to hoist Lion flags as a mark of respect for the security forces was poor since most people in Colombo and elsewhere chose to ignore it.
Grand celebrations
For many people, the capture of Thoppigala was not a matter of high significance in the backdrop of the economic hardships they are going through. The cost of living has gone through the roof and what the people earn through their respective vocations is hardly enough to eke out a living.
Be that as it may, the government did not adopt a low-key stance in celebrating the victory and chose to go all out with the celebrations. The grand celebrations at Independence Square brought city life to a stand still, with fighter jets booming over the skies intermittently.
What was more significant was the speech made by President Rajapaksa at the occasion, where he articulated his point of view with finesse. It went down very well with the people when he said he and his family could bear up all kinds of insults hurled at them by the opposition but pleaded with the opposition not to vilify the security forces at a time when they have achieved something significant.
He also pleaded with the opposition not to betray the country at international fora by portraying it as a country of barbarians or hooligans.
Memorable speech
Under normal circumstances, the President is not an impressive platform speaker but on Thursday he turned the tables on this belief and made a significant impact on the masses with his speech. His words flowed tirelessly, and evocated memories of late President Ranasinghe Premadasa.
Some were of the opinion that Rajapaksa had gone into the mode of Premadasa, who made a similar plea to the people soon after the death of DUNF Leader Lalith Athulathmudali.


Mediation the civilised option
Following are excerpts of the interview
Q: Could you explain the method of settling disputes by mediation?
The method for the settlement of disputes cordially could be called mediation. The settlement of disputes in a cordial manner in Sri Lanka, has a very long history. Earlier, there were Consolation Boards whose members were selected on the recommendation of members of parliament in the area.
Due to this reason, the concept of conciliation did not succeed and it was abolished. Thereafter, in 1988, the Mediation Board Act No 72 was enacted, and the Mediation Boards Commission (MBC) comprising of five members, was appointed. Three members are retired judges of the Supreme Court or Court of Appeal, while the other two are respected educationists or retired public servants.
Q:Who are the present members and who appoints them?
The President appoints them. The chairman is retired judge of the Court of Appeal, Justice D. Jayawickrama. The other two members are also retired judges of the Court of Appeal, Justice P.H.K. Kulatilaka and Justice ……… Edirisooriya., retired Director of Education Dr. K.A. Lankachandra and retired Deputy General Manager, Bank of Ceylon, Ranjani Manualpillai are the other two members. The first schedule of the MBC Act states that panels of Mediation Boards should be appointed after calling for nominations of persons, bodies, organizations or institutions, not of a political nature. Nominations could be sent to the Government Agent of the area. The MBC publishes a Gazette notice calling for nominations from recognized voluntary organizations in the relevant Divisional Secretariat and from the village chiefs. Of the nominations received, 12 to 30 persons are selected and referred for training by trainers attached to the Ministry of Justice.
After five days of training, the selected persons have to sit for an exam. Mediators with the highest marks, are appointed chairmen of the mediation panel of each Division.
Each panel for a Division area comprises of 12 to 30 members. Presently there are 286 Panels in the country, including in Jaffna.
There are 7000 mediators appointed to these 286 Panels. In making appointments, the Commission tries to strike a balance between women, young persons and races.

Voice of the people
“I think the signing of the MOU is crazy. What is the point of signing an MOU? I see it as clutching at straws when you’re drowning. J.R. Jayewardene appointed three people. The two seniors are both dead now, Athulathmudli and Gamini. Only the least experienced and the youngest, Ranil, remains, and he is creating a carnival.
“What the government is doing is right. When those soldiers left they left everything, families, homes and everything that belonged to them. They were ready to give their lives for the county. When they march to the battle field, they are ready to face death. Will any of us do that? You and I for that matter? Can we do it? No. So, they should be given strength and motivation, which is what the government is doing.
I cannot agree with the ceremony. This is not the right time to celebrate. If we have won everything, then it is something that we should celebrate. But today, everything is being done for political advantages. The government is trying to cover their weaknesses by having such tamashas, it is a trick played by the government.
MOU’s are being signed regularly in this country. Let’s see how things turn out. We hope that something better will come out of this MOU. But we do not have such faith in it, because we have seen many MOU’s getting signed but ending up with nothing.
I see the ceremony as something the government did to earn publicity. If the whole country was freed of terrorism, then we can celebrate. But it is not so.



SYDNEY, (AFP) Andrew Symonds on Saturday urged Australian cricket fans not to taunt Sri Lankan spinner Muttiah Muralitharan if he passes Shane Warne’s Test wicket world record while touring Down Under this year.
Australian crowds have regularly abused “Murali” since he was twice called for throwing, with even Prime Minister John Howard labelling him a chucker.
There are fears the harrassment, which led to the spinner boycotting a tour Down Under in 2004, will intensify if he eclipses Shane Warne’s 708 Test wicket haul on Australian soil later this year.
Australian all-rounder Symonds, Muralitharan’s former teammate at English county side Lancashire, said he would be embarassed if the Australian crowds failed to acknowledge his achievement.
“I just hope the beer drinkers in the sun don’t give him a hard time and late one afternoon if he breaks the record they start on him,” Symonds told Australian Associated Press.
“I hope that doesn’t happen, I hope people can stand up and actually applaud him for what he is -- a legend.”
Muralitharan has 700 Test wickets and is likely to overtake Warne’s 708 in one of the two Tests between Sri Lanka and home side Australia in November.
Symonds said if Murali snared the record, he did not want the Australian crowd to sour the moment.
“Definitely it would be embarrassing for us as a team if they didn’t (applaud him),” Symonds told AAP.
“We respect him for his skills and for what he has done and I think it would be rude, straight out rude, if they didn’t sort of respect him and give him the pat on the back he deserves.”
Controversy over the bowler’s action exploded publicly on Boxing Day 1995 when Australian umpire Darrell Hair called Murali seven times for throwing, creating a furore.
He was subsequently called during a one-day series in Australia, which almost prompted Sri Lanka to walk off midway through a one-day match in Adelaide four years later.
Murali refused to tour Australia in 2004 because of his treatment by Australians, including Prime Minister and cricket fan John Howard.

Point Blank
Giving the devil its due
You’ve got to give the devil its due. The sight that greeted both local and foreign journos when they turned up at the P. Saravanamuttu Stadium on Friday to cover the first one-day international between Sri Lanka and Bangladesh was something to behold.
It was in stark contrast to what they experienced a fortnight back when they arrived to cover the second Test between the two countries. A complete transformation had taken place to the media centre housing the print journos from what it was for the past six years.
The entire area had been overhauled and replaced by permanent tiers, efficient workstations comprising permanent tables equipped with individual telephone and power points with enough space to comfortably accommodate at least 75 journos. It had glass paneling, was fully lit and air-conditioned making it state of the art. Where this new media centre scored over the rest of the cricket stadiums in the country was that it was the first to install Wi-Fi (Wireless Fidelity) facilities. The media box bore comparison with some of the best in England, Australia and South Africa.
Having absorbed the wonderful atmosphere that was laid out to them the question on virtually every journos lips was why hadn’t Tamil Union to whom the stadium belonged not thought of upgrading the media centre before. Why wait until they got enough flak from the local and foreign media to move into action?
Did they feel that no one would bother to complain about the working conditions in the media box just because Sri Lanka was playing Bangladesh and not England? Bangladesh maybe the lowest ranked Test team in the world but that does not mean that the working conditions of the journalist should also measure according to their country’s cricketing status. Would Tamil Union have provided the same appalling facilities if they were hosting a Test match against England?
The Tamil Union authorities no doubt were caught napping and the local and international exposure they got for being rather laid-back had certainly shaken the very foundations of their hierarchy who moved into action swiftly to rectify their mistake.


“I am not bound to represent Tamil interests”
Q: You are the first among the minority groups in Sri Lanka to hold the post of SLFP Treasurer and also second from Katana. How do you feel about this acheivement?
I feel very proud. This is a clear indication that the SLFP is democratic and non-partisan. I think this the maximum that a minority member could achieve in the party.
Q: Isn’t there provision for a minority member to be the leader of the party?
Well, I don’t think a minority member could expect to become a leader because the party consists of a majority of Sinhalese. Of the three most important posts, those of president, secretary and treasurer, I have got one.
Q: Who helped you to climb the political ladder?
One time SLFP Treasurer H. Don David, popularly known as Konde David because he had a pony tail, President Mahinda Rajapaksa and Anura Bandaranaike.
Q: When did you get into active politics and how did the three people you mentioned help you?
I entered politics in 1974. I contested the Cooperative Society Welihena branch election. I won and became the secretary. Then, in 1971, I was expelled from Maris Stella College. So I sat for the A/Ls as a private candidate. After I got through my A/Ls, I applied for a teaching post and received an appointment at Welihena Government School as a mathematics and science teacher. I was only 19.
While teaching, I was organising the SLFP branch and I became the secretary of the branch. In 1974 I joined Law College. In October, the sitting MP of the Katana electorate passed away and it was after this that my active role in politics commenced. At that time I was only a law student but I addressed about 100 meetings. Anura Bandaranaike was organising my election campaign. People such as Dr. N.M. Perera and Colvin R. de Silva used to come for my meetings.
In December 1974 there was a lunch at our party treasurer’s house. The treasurer was H. Don David, known as Konde David. He was a rich man with no children. When the Bandaranaikes came to Negombo, he entertained them. In December 1974 when David invited the Bandaranaikes, I was also...

Buddha approved of tit for tat: JHU leader
Q: Several members of your party have been accused of selling their vehicle permits, given to them as parliamentarians. What is your response please?
We have never done any devious act of this nature. I have worked in the Education Department for 35 years, from teacher to deputy director. As deputy director, I was entitled to a vehicle permit but, I didn’t have money buy a vehicle, hence, I never accepted the permit. All the officers there took their permits. I have no savings to show. Everything I have earned, I’ve dedicated to the betterment of the general public. I don’t have any money.
When we were given vehicle permits, it was I who proposed that we should not accept them. However, since it was necessary to improve the party, we have agreed to take the permits and use it for the betterment of the party. We have never sold our permits to anyone. Our legal advisor, Udaya Gammanpila, is handling everything with regard to this matter.
However, I must add that we don’t know what some of the other MP monks did with their permits. There are permits that were not given to the use of the party, especially, by Theras Udawatte Nanda, Nandaloka, Aparekke Punnananda, Uduwe Dhammaloka. We don’t know what happened to them.
The permits given to me, along with Theras Kotapola Amarakeerthi, Athuraliye Rathana and Omalpe Sobhitha, were taken as sangika property.
If they say that we have sold our permits, we would like to ask which parliamentarian has not sold his permits. We haven’t, for sure. All the UNP MPs took their permits and are driving super luxury vehicles but, what have they done for the country?





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