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Sunday September 02nd, 2007

UNP plans no confidence motion
The country’s main opposition United National Party (UNP) is planning to move a no confidence motion against the government in Parliament shortly.
Senior UNP sources told The Nation they would give notice of the no confidence motion before the end of next week.
The Political Affairs Committee of the UNP, which met on Wednesday, decided they should maintain the current momentum and seek to take on the government on various issues.
Colombo district UNP leader Ravi Karunanayake put forth the proposal for a vote of no confidence...(See inside)

Has Gota been asked to shut up?
Sri Lanka’s outspoken Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa has been issued a tough warning from the higher ups including President Mahinda Rajapaksa to be careful about what he tells the public, particularly when the media is present, The Nation reliably...(See inside)


For my father…

This little boy, the son of an STF officer killed in action at Kanchikudichchiamu recently, plays with the medal of valour presented to his family at the STF’s 23rd Commemoration Day of STF War heroes yesterday
(Pic by Ishara S. Kodikara)


Govt. to buy even more MIGs
The government is planning to spend a whopping US$300 million before the end of the year to purchase several MIG 29 fighter jets for the Air Force, a senior opposition parliamentarian alleged yesterday.
UNP MP Lakshman Kiriella told The Nation this fresh purchase was separate to the controversial...(See inside)

Rajapaksa-CWC rift deepens
The rift between President Mahinda Rajapaksa and the Ceylon Workers Congress (CWC) has deepened even further, with President Mahinda Rajapaksa unwilling...(See inside)




Chamal delays Male flight by late arrival
Passengers who were on their way to Male on a Sri Lankan Airlines flight last week, were severely inconvenienced when the flight was delayed due to the late arrival of Minister of Ports and Aviation, Chamal Rajapaksa and his wife, also heading to the Maldivian capital, The Nation learns reliably.
Passengers who had boarded the flight to Male had to wait one and a half hours in the air craft for the late arrival of the Minister, his wife and another delegation accompanying him to take part in the Maldivian Hotel and Tourism Exhibition which was held...(See inside)

Cabinet amends Grade 1 admissions guidelines
The Cabinet of Ministers on Wednesday moved five amendments to the guidelines set out by the Supreme Court on the admission for Grade 1 students to schools, Education Ministry sources revealed. The circular and the policy framework with the amendments are to be produced before the SC tomorrow.
The Cabinet amendments are as follows:
• The suitability and the needs of the child should be tested by a group of teachers, specialized in primary education, nominated by the Provincial Education Director: Eliminate activities to measure the intelligence of children when admitting them for Grade one.
• The children of the members of the Security Forces should apply through the Secretary of the Defence Ministry. The Defence Secretary will submit those applications to the selection committees of relevant schools: Children of the members of the Security Forces who are not selected at the interview will be admitted to classes even when they exceed 40 students.
• The Chairman of the Selection Committee should be a Deputy Education Director appointed by the Zonal Director of Education on the advice of the Education Ministry Secretary, while the Vice Chairman of the Selection Committee should be held by one of the two members appointed to the Selection Committee representing the school’s Past Pupils Association: Do not appoint a Vice Chairman to the interview board.
• Five marks will be given for the children of the parents of public (except the children of the security forces) or private sector in the district feeder area: If there is a request from teachers and state officers to admit their children to a school in a district which they are not residing, they will be given five marks. (See inside)

Authorities launch witch-hunt to apprehend Karuna cadres
A witch-hunt to apprehend Karuna cadres found in possession of weapons in public places has begun in Batticaloa.
Karuna’s men, who were previously freely roaming through the town with weapons in tow, are now confined to their barracks following strict warnings by the Special Task Force (STF) that they would be arrested if found with weapons in public places.
According to SSP H.M.D. Herath, a cadre attached to the Tamil Makkal Vidudalai Pulligal (TMVP) has already been imprisoned after he was found with two hand grenades in Puthur, Batticaloa.
That incident took place recently when the suspect attempted to go through a check point manned by the STF in Puthur.
SSP Herath also notes that strict directives have been issued to the law enforcement authorities to arrest anyone carrying weapons other than the three armed forces and the police.
As a first step towards strengthening law and order in the cleared areas, the Karuna cadre was arrested, SSP Herath said. (See inside)

Laugfs pleads for `even one rupee increase’ in gas price
The Sri Lankan owned LPG Company, Laugfs Lanka Limited has appealed to the Consumer Affairs Authority (CAA) to give them at least a ‘one rupee’ increase following the Authority’s decision to permit Shell Gas to increase prices.
Laugfs chairman W. K. H. Wegapitiya told The Nation, “Our company, is a 100% locally owned firm which perhaps is why we are given step motherly treatment by the CAA. I don’t understand why they cannot allow us to increase prices even after the Supreme Court ordered the Authority to let us increase the prices,”.
Since Shell gas announced a price hike, Laugfs has been unable to contact the authorities including CAA Chairman Sarath Wijesinghe and Minister Bandula Gunawardena to demand an explanation for not allowing the company to increase its price of gas. (See inside)

President to address UN General Assembly in September
President Mahinda Rajapaksa is scheduled to address the General Assembly of the United Nations sixty-second session on September 24 at the UN Headquarters in New York.
President Rajapaksa is expected to arrive in New York on September 22 with an eight member delegation. This is in contrast to his record-breaking 52-member delegation last year, which was the largest delegation to the United Nations sixty-first General Assembly.
During his stay in New York President Rajapaksa is likely meet several Asian and European heads of state, and will also attend several high level functions.
In addition, President Rajapaksa is scheduled to meet U.S. Congressman Frank Pallone Jr., the founder and co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Sri Lanka, along with its member US lawmakers.
On August 1, Pallone disclosed to a House Committee on Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia hearing, that, over the past 20 months, more than 1,000 people are believed to have...(See inside)

Woes of the dwindling tourist industry
The Inter Company Employees Union (ICEU) is scheduled to meet Tourism Minister Milinda Moragoda on Friday to discuss the fate of the dwindling tourism sector in the country and the prevailing worker insecurity.
“The issue of the 57 employees who have been ousted from a leading hotel in Katunayake will also be taken up during Friday’s meeting,” ICEU General Secretary Wasantha Samarasinghe told The Nation yesterday.
He emphasized that when they meet with the authorities later this week, the union’s aim is to fight for the rights of workers and protect their employment in the sector including payment of their salaries.
“From the year 2000 onwards, we have been expecting nearly a million tourist arrivals to the country annually but Sri Lanka has failed to keep to this target and the arrivals have been at the 500,000 – 600,000 mark. Even last year, the trend was on a downward spiral and the ongoing security problem in the country only added to its woes,” Samarasinghe noted.
He pointed out that if Sri Lanka failed to protect its experienced hotel employees then, in time to come, most of them will seek greener pastures abroad and this would result in a severe crisis for the industry. (See inside)





Lanka’s political scene becomes `Alice’s Wonderland’
Sri Lanka’s volatile political scenario is getting `curiouser and curiouser’, if one were to borrow a phrase from Alice in Wonderland. And the country has become a Wonderland indeed in terms of the political permutations and combinations that are evolving by the day.
This week we were informed that Opposition leader Ranil Wickremasinghe paid a visit to former President Chandrika Kumaratunge. Details of the meeting were not immediately divulged to the media apart from stating the obvious: that they discussed the current political situation.
Of course it is public knowledge that there was little love lost between Kumaratunge and Wickremasinghe not so long ago. Wickremasinghe had been Leader of the Opposition throughout Kumaratunge’s tenure as President and had only made life difficult for her during that period.
Kumaratunge too did likewise, attempting to do to Wickremasinghe what his uncle J.R. Jayewardene did to her mother Sirima Bandaranaike- summoning her before a Commission of Inquiry. This she did through the Batalanda Commission but Wickremasinghe was exonerated.
At the 1999 Presidential election, it was again Wickremasinghe who was Kumaratunge’s opponent, and what could have been a close contest ended in an anti-climax when Kumaratunge was the victim of a bomb blast at Town Hall on the last night of campaigning.
Then, while Kumaratunge was in office, Wickremasinghe engineered a political coup d’etat , by inveigling a number of leading lights in her cabinet including the then General Secretary of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party S.B. Dissanayake and Professor G.L. Peiris to cross-over to the Opposition.
A general election was eventually forced upon Kumaratunge and she was compelled to cohabit with a United National Party cabinet. An optimistic few believed that it would be a great boon to the country to have a system of checks and balances in government with the executive led by one party and the legislature by another.
It was not to be. (See inside)

Opposition gathers momentum as Rajapaksa takes on the media
The contradictions in the local political arena have gradually and steadily crept into the media too. Unlike in the past, the media is overtly divided and is advocating various political lines.
The situation has been aggravated with the withdrawal of security given to senior journalist Iqbal Athas. Athas, who counts over 40 years in journalism, is essentially a defence writer who had been threatened by some unruly elements in the Sri Lanka Air Force on an earlier occasion. After the exit of Minister Mangala Samaraweera, he was not in the good books of this government either.
Athas’ forte was defence and he has written defence articles for more than two decades now, causing sheer embarrassment to successive governments on countless occasions.
Athas issue
While the defence establishment was not too keen to provide Athas with security since he often saw flaws in the defence administration, successive governments have nevertheless given him security, albeit with reluctance.
The security issue came up after some airmen threatened him with death at his own residence in the presence of his wife and daughter.
Over the years, Athas has cultivated top defence sources and fallen out with them on many occasions as well, due to his writing.
At present, the issue of Athas has been taken up by the opposition, which is making a song and dance around the country stating that the media in Sri Lanka has been threatened.
The fact remains that it is not only Athas, but the freedom of the media...(See inside)


Who says the war has reached a stalemate?
The week opened with an important military announcement by Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa and closed with a military operation that will continue into next week.
“The Government is determined to liberate the remainder of the uncleared areas in the Wanni from the clutches of LTTE the same way it liberated the East,” Defence Secretary
Rajapaksa announced on Monday (27)
The announcement assumes added significance as it was made during a passing out parade of Home Guards, who underwent special combat training at the Galakiriyagama Special Training School.
This was not a knee-jerk reaction to a question by a journalist, but a well thought out speech by the country’s Defence Secretary, whose brother is the President and Defence Minister of the country.
Not only did Rajapaksa announce the military would go for the Wanni, he also cautioned that the LTTE was making desperate attempts to destabilise the Government, using foreign forces to do so.
And the reason he adduces: They are trying to re-organise themselves during a lull “to get prepared for the next step in the war.”
Anyone who has talked to Gotabhaya Rajapaksa will vouch that he is very clear in what he wants to achieve. But, some within the government feel the timing was far from right to make such a statement.
This government is suffering from a hangover and in the process losing valuable friends and pushing...(See inside)

Where do the IDP’s go from here?
Arguments and counter arguments continue to rage in the east over the resettlement of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).
As the government is not ready to resettle the people in Sampur and Mutur, the refugees are adamant to return to their own lands.
Sri Lanka has produced one of the most intractable ethnic conflicts in the modern world for which there has never been a straightforward answer.
While much is spoken about ‘conflict resolution’ by politicians, scholars and even the media, very little is done on the ground actually to resolve the protracted civil strife.
It is not that the politicians are unaware of the fact that innocent people have been the direct victims of the protracted Eelam war. But yet, they do not bother to find solutions.
In this back drop both the successive governments and the LTTE have not only been insensitive to the suffering of the common masses...(See inside)



Susanthika dreams of Olympic gold
OSAKA (AFP) - America’s Allyson Felix defended her world 200 metres title with one of the quickest runs of all time on Friday.
Felix caught Jamaican Veronica Campbell on the bend and surged down the straight to finish in 21.81 seconds, lowering her own personal best by a massive 0.30.
She became the first woman to run under 22 seconds since fellow American Inger Miller took world championship gold with 21.77 in 1999.
Campbell, who won the 100m in a photo-finish on Monday, finished well adrift in 22.34 with Sri Lanka’s Susanthika Jayasinghe taking surprise bronze in 22.63.
The veteran Jayasinghe, Asia’s most decorated female sprinter, condemned 2003 silver medallist Torri Edwards of the United States to her second fourth-place finish after the 100m.
“I feel so good, I’m so excited. Tonight is special,” said an ecstatic Felix.
“I’ve been waiting for so long to run under 22 seconds. It has not been an easy road, but finally I managed it.”
Campbell had been eyeing a rare sprint double but the bid was soon forgotten as Felix left her standing with her astounding run.
The performance confirmed the Olympic silver medallist as the world’s leading 200m runner and vindicated coach Bobby Kersee’s decision to pull her out of the 100m. (See inside)

Point Blank
Triumph over adversity
At a time when people are going through hard times with the ever escalating cost of living on one side and the never-ending conflict in the North and East between the government and the Tamil Tigers, Susanthika Jayasinghe’s triumph at the World Athletics Championships in Osaka comes as a soothing balm, although it is not going to cure all ills.
At 31 many experts wouldn’t have given her a ghost of a chance of coming close to a medal against such a strong field of competitors. But the steely determination of Jayasinghe to win something for her war ravaged country ensured she ended up with at least a bronze medal in the women’s 200 metres final.
Being the sole competitor for her country, Jayasinghe would have felt the pressure of having to deliver alone. She could have bagged another medal in the women’s 100 metres as well, but for a false start which saw her disqualified from the semi-final. It was an agony she had to undergo, but one that gave her extra courage and determination to do well in the 200 metres.
That Jayasinghe was able to hold her own against such a diversified world class field of competitors, ten years after she won a silver medal in the same event at Athens speaks volumes for her fitness both mentally and physically. Unlike in most other sports running the short distance gives an athlete only one chance to win a medal or finish amongst the also rans. It involves a tremendous amount of concentration at the starter’s block and the mental strain an athlete undergoes until the race is finally won or lost is huge.
Many may not like Jayasinghe’s attitude, the way she lambasts officialdom and those who work in it. She did not receive any support from her national athletics association and had to go heavily into debt to reach the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. But after her bronze medal achievement she was supported by a national fundraising drive in her... (See inside)


“State-backing makes this the worst intimidation I’ve faced”
Q: What are your personal thoughts on the removal of your security by the government?
I can’t challenge the removal of my security and I can’t go and demand that I be given exceptional treatment. But on the other hand, the danger is that they have increased the threat level when the government parties stage a demonstration outside my house. The most common bogey that they use when a government becomes uncomfortable, is that you are a LTTE sympathiser. When governments are in opposition I am their darling and then when they come into power they feel uncomfortable when I report certain things. If it is wrong, if there were factual errors, they could have easily have approached me and pointed them out. On the other hand if they felt that more exposure is going to be damaging and if someone responsible asked to meet me sort of privately, and told me, ‘look don’t say this’ – I would still have gone out of the way to listen to their viewpoint and then place both sets of facts before the public. But there was no such attempt made.
Q: Can you explain the events that led to the removal of your security last week?
On the MiG deal, two things happened. On December 4 last year, we ran a front page report in which we brought out certain alleged irregularities to do with the procurement of the MiGs. It also brought considerable pressure on me, even at that time when I was enjoying security. There was pressure saying that if I were to continue with this, the consequences could be fatal. So as you will notice, we left it and I began to dig further into it. And from December until August 12, we never published anything. In the meantime, to our surprise, the opposition, United National Party had done a study on the procurement of the MiGs and they put out a 14 page report. Some newspapers carried it in its entirety but we left out some of it, we edited some of the provisions because we felt that they were not relevant and they were just accusations against someone, which we believe was not what we had said at the beginning. When this came out, I thought that, well most of the material with regard to this has now come into the public domain. And they had also made it clear in the UNP report that some of the facts were misrepresented in the official procedures undertaken by the government of Sri Lanka. In light of that, there was only one singular difference on the report of August 12. All I said was that the government of Ukraine had begun an investigation. Secondly, that the proceeds of the deal had not gone to Ukraine. Then the middle man who came in as the ‘designated party’ turned out to be someone who is living in London, by the name of M.I. Kuldirkaev. He had gone missing after the Ukraine government began the investigation. I take full responsibility for the fact I presented in my column and until this date, the Ukrainian...(See inside)





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