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Sunday August 26th, 2007

APRC Sessions Suspended!
The All Party Representative Committee (, which is at the centre of a controversy, will not meet again until the party leaders sort out their differences, The Nation reliably learns.
The APRC last met on August 23 (Thursday) to discuss core issues. However, the meeting ended inconclusively following Environment Minister Champika Ranawaka’s verbal assaults on APRC Chairman, Science and Technology Minister Prof. Tissa Vitharana.

CEB loses billions using wrong fuel
The country is losing billions of rupees by using the wrong fuel to generate power. Adding to the losses is the ongoing wastage in certain power plants. The government has also rushed to finalise the new expensive auto diesel-guzzling Kerawalapitiya project.
The CEB engineers are blaming politicians and certain key officials...

 

I'll be watching you!

This is what UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe who has been having a field day with charges against the government appears to be saying as he adjusts his spectacles at the people’s rally in Nittambuwa. The UNP-SLFP (M) rally drew massive crowds to the traditionally SLFP power base last Friday. (Pic by Nissanka Wijeratne)


CHA wants government to act against killings
The Consortium of Humanitarian Agencies (CHA) led by Executive Director Jeevan Thiagarajah on Thursday held discussions with high-ranking government ...

JHU to stay in APRC
The Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) yesterday said that they will not pull out from the All Party Representative Committee....

 

 

NEWS

Security checks cheese off NGOs
International Non-Governmental Organisations (INGOs), including the United Nations (UN), are reportedly irritated about the security checks which their vehicles in the north and east are constantly subjected to, sources told The Nation yesterday.
An official from a leading NGO said that that owing to the checking, the activities of these organisations have been hampered in both the north and east.
However, an official attached to the UN office in Colombo pointed out that the security forces were very particular about carrying out checking when there were local aid workers travelling in the vehicles, and that they rarely stopped vehicles transporting foreign aid workers.
“Local aid workers are the victims of these thorough checks. However this has not affected foreign aid workers much, probably owing to the certain amount of immunity enjoyed by foreign aid workers in Sri Lanka,” the official noted.
Meanwhile, development work continued to be hampered in the north, following restrictions imposed by the government on transporting certain goods to Vavuniya and Kilinochchi.
An official from a leading aid agency said that it was very difficult to work in Vavuniya and Kilinochchi, as they did not have fuel for their vehicles and as a result, they were unable to transport necessary goods. He also said that the area did not have electricity generators.

Paper marking to start on Sept. 4
The crisis with regard to the evaluation of G.C.E A/L answer scripts is likely to be settled by Monday and evaluation will begin on September 4, the Education Ministry told The Nation yesterday.
Calling the crisis an attempt at sabotage, Examinations Commissioner Anura Edirisinghe said that at the meetings held in three evaluation centres in Colombo on Friday, the attended evaluators complained of being harassed by the teachers’ unions via telephone and requested a solution to the problem as early as possible.
Education Minister Susil Premajayantha said, “Their salaries can be increased only when the Review Committee recommends it. The teachers’ trade unions want a confirmation of this through a circular. This can be done only after the budget allocations are made. It is pointless asking for this now. However, the decision is in the hands of the Review Commission.”
Secretary, Educational Professionals Association, Wasantha Dharmasiri said that the strike had been a success since the unions managed to totally stop all teachers attending evaluation.

COPE to be opened for journalists?
The United National Party (UNP) is continuing to urge the government to permit journalists to cover proceedings of the Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE).
During a private member’s motion in Parliament recently, UNP MP Ravi Karunanayake emphasised upon the need to permit journalists to cover COPE sittings on grounds that the Committee dealt with public institutions and therefore the public has a right to know what takes place during such sittings.
“However, it is no secret that this government is averse to the media, and they are continuing to oppose our proposal,” Karunanayake told The Nation recently.

HRC launches spot checks on police stations
he Human Rights Commission (HRC) has launched spot checks on police stations around the country to find out whether law-enforcement officers are engaging in any unlawful activities.
“The move is to check whether police stations are illegally arresting persons, unlawfully detaining them and or whether anyone in custody is being subject to torture or other forms of harassment,” Commissioner, Justice D. Jayawickrama told The Nation.
The aim of this programme, according to the HRC Commissioner, is to ascertain whether police officers are observing and respecting the human rights of all those under their custody.

Jaffna civilians hampered by atrocious pricing
Essential items in Jaffna continue to be sold at appalling prices, despite attempts by authorities to control prices in the peninsula.
“Despite a decision taken by the Jaffna Government Agent to impose a price controlling formula in the peninsula, the businessmen are paying scant regard to the price controlling formula and are jacking up prices in an ad hoc manner, according to their whims and fancies,” sources told The Nation.
As a result, most of the shops sell both essential and non essential products keeping a flat profit of 100%, if not more.
“The public is helpless against these racketeers, as they have only two options, either pay exorbitant prices and survive or starve to death,” sources pointed out.

Honey crisis solved by Champika
Environment Minister Champika Ranawaka has intervened to bring about a settlement to the honey crisis after four Veddas (indigenous persons) were arrested by Wildlife Department Authorities when they attempted to collect bees honey from the Maduru Oya Forest Reserve.
Their leader Uruwarige Wannila Aththo told The Nation that they received a permission letter from the Minister to enter the jungle without any obstacles to collect honey for their annual bees honey pooja.
“The Minister has also assured us that he will take steps to withdraw the case filed by the Wildlife Department against the four Veddas....

 

 


 



POLITICS

Education system in crisis
Sri Lanka in its post-independent era has for long taken pride in the social luxuries it provides for its people; most notably, free healthcare and free education that it offers, no matter what financial constraints successive governments have been faced with. Of these two services, it is education that has been hogging the headlines in recent weeks – and for all the wrong reasons too.
The education system appears to be in crisis with no ready solution in sight: university students are more on the streets than in their campuses with their capital expenses slashed in half; teachers are on strike refusing to mark advanced level answer scripts; and most infamously, new admissions to national schools are bogged down in a protracted legal wrangle that is rapidly snowballing into a showdown between the legislature and the judiciary.
Seemingly Sri Lanka should be a country cited as a role model in education: there is universal access to free education right through to the university level, and at primary and secondary levels, not only is education free, students are provided uniforms and text books free of charge as well. What more could one ask from the state?
Yet, the recent unrest in the education sector suggests otherwise. That there is this much discontent indicates that while education is free in principle, the planning and resources that have been afforded to this vital sector have been inadequate.
And make no mistake; mishaps in educational policy can have far reaching and devastating consequences.

Uncertainty prevails as protagonists enter the fray
A period of conjecture is presently prevailing for many in the government as well as the opposition. The main reason for this is because nobody seems to be certain about what is taking place within their own confines. There is suspicion all over and the true state of affairs is yet to be revealed.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa is definitely a worried man since the opposition is exerting pressure on the government from various fronts. Be it in Parliament or otherwise, it appears that the government is facing a Herculean task to forge ahead.
The arrival of former President Chandrika Kumaratunga has made things worse for him politically, since the SLFP-Mahajana wing would receive an additional boost given her presence in the country.
CBK’s return
While some may argue that she no longer has any political clout, given that she has seemingly retired from politics, it appears that she is trying to make her presence felt by participating in many social events. By the looks of it, the independent media is betting on the former President and giving her prominence, due to the perilous situation in the country.
Soon after her arrival, Kumaratunga was seen at social gatherings, chatting to people about the political climate and the present administration. Many members of the SLFP had already telephoned her and many had welcomed her back to the Sri Lankan political arena.
The main opposition has not shown any interest in meeting Kumaratunga and soliciting her support. However, there is a section in the UNP which is of the opinion that her assistance would provide a great boost to the opposition campaign against the government.

NEWS FEATURES

RETURN OF THE ‘QUEEN’
The speculation about Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga’s return to active politics has been rampant since November 2005. Her exit from the political scene was anything but graceful, she retired young and some might even say she was unceremoniously kicked out of the SLFP presidency soon afterwards, although she refrained from making too much noise about it then.
But as last week unfolded, it became increasingly apparent that Kumaratunga had returned to the island this time with a clear resolution that she would assume a more public role. Her visits to Sri Lanka since she left office have been largely personal ones and she steered clear of the limelight on all those occasions. On this trip however, the former President has thrown herself back into the public eye, posing with politicians and diplomats and generally making her presence felt.

NEWS MAKERS
Arjuna Ranathunga makes headlines again
Arjuna Ranathunga entered politics riding on the hype of being the captain of the team that won the 1996 Cricket World Cup. Almost 10 years later he’s making headlines again. Last Friday he quit as the party organiser for the Kotte electorate and handed over his letter of resignation to the President.
Ranathunga revealed that his decision to resign was based on differences he had with Kotte Mayor. “This wasn’t a sudden decision. From some time I found it increasingly difficult to execute my duties in Kotte. Finally it came to a point when I felt it was pointless remaining as the party organizer” he said.
Ranathunga said that he did not want to get entangled in the corruption prevalent in the Kotte MC.

 

SPORTS

England fail despite Mascarenhas fireworks
BRISTOL, (AFP) - Sachin Tendulkar’s 99 set up India’s nine-run victory against England at Nevil Road here Friday which saw them level the seven-match one-day international series at 1-1.
Tendulkar’s 80th ODI fifty was the centrepiece of India’s record 329 for seven against England.
In reply, the hosts got close with 320 for eight - England’s highest total batting second in a one-day international.
Ian Bell top-scored with 64 and all-rounder Dimtri Mascarenhas, whose previous-best score was five, later kept England in the hunt when it seemed they were out of the game with a 36-ball fifty featuring five sixes and a four before he holed out for 52.
Mascarenhas hit the spinners for three sixes to reduce the requirement to 65 from the final six overs and added two more, sending one shot into the guttering of the stand, before mis-cueing to mid-wicket in the penultimate over.

Point Blank
Those were the days
Wednesday August 29 will be an auspicious day when the Gamini Dissanayake Foundation holds a grand charity banquet to honour the late Minister who played a significant role in helping the country achieve full membership of the International Cricket Council (ICC) which eventually led to Sri Lanka playing Test cricket.
It is now 26 years ago since Dissanayake changed the destiny of Sri Lanka cricket with his forceful and forthright speech which had the lords at Lord’s astounded and ashamed why they had constantly in the past pushed back Sri Lanka’s case for full membership.
The historic day dawned on July 21, 1981 less than a month after Dissanayake had been elected president of Sri Lanka Cricket, with Pakistan proposing and India seconding Sri Lanka’s admission.
From their onwards it was a case of improving the infrastructure of Sri Lanka cricket and making available to the players the best facilities for them...

INTERVIEWS

Corrupt Officials, Politicians Exposed
SLFP backbencher and Chairman, Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) Wijedasa Rajapakse has the nerve to call a spade a spade. A member of the UPFA, he has opted to take on all the corrupt State institutions and individuals by their horns. As a result, he has become a hero in the eyes of the public, who are witness to widespread corruption initiated by the politicians themselves. Though humble, he is fearless. He says that, when 30% to 40% of Sri Lanka’s student population suffer from malnutrition, he simply could not stand by and watch politicians and their henchmen swindle money from the State, to fatten their purses. “I am not there for the luxury of my colleagues. I am there to serve the nation. I have no obligation towards any of my colleagues. My obligation is towards the general public” he told The Nation in an interview

Following are excerpts:
Q: Much light has been shed on the COPE investigations, and you, in particular, have come under flak for exposing corruption within State institutions. How do you face such criticism?
A:
I am glad there is no criticism from the public. The media and the public appreciate what I’m doing, except for a few politicians charged with allegations of corruption. So far, nobody from the public, has challenged me directly. However, I have problems with my parliament colleagues. I am not there for the luxury of my colleagues. I am there to serve the nation. I have no obligation to any of my colleagues. My obligation is towards the general public.
Q: The COPE, to date, is not empowered to take action or recommend action pertaining to corruption within a particular agency. Then, what is the use of these exposures?

“Mangala is now a political refugee” – Lalkantha
While acknowledging that there is a need to defeat the present government, the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) will have nothing to do with achieving the political agendas of the United National Party due to that fact that its economic, social and cultural policies are detrimental to the development of the country, stated JVP Parliamentarian and Trade Union Front Leader K.D. Lalkantha.
In an interview with The Nation, commenting on the latest invitation extended SLFP(M) Leader Mangala Samaraweera, who called on the JVP to join the new National Congress to defeat the government, Lalkantha asserted that the need of the hour was to build up a truly national front, uniting all progressive and patriotic forces to pull the country out of present mess.
Samaraweera at a press conference held on Wednesday made a passionate plea to members of the JVP, whom he referred to as “my erstwhile friends whom I respect,” to join hands with the National Congress that has been formed with the UNP in order to topple the incumbent government.



 
 

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