Sunday September 02nd, 2007
UNP plans no confidence
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
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
Colombo district UNP leader Ravi Karunanayake put forth
the proposal for a vote of no confidence...(See
Has Gota been asked to shut up?
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
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
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
UNP MP Lakshman Kiriella told The Nation this fresh purchase was
separate to the controversial...(See
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
|Chamal delays Male flight by
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
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
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
• 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.
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
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
That incident took place recently when the suspect
attempted to go through a check point manned by the STF
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
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
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.
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
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
Woes of the dwindling tourist
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.
scene becomes `Alice’s Wonderland’
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
Over the years, Athas has cultivated top defence sources and
fallen out with them on many occasions as well, due to his
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
Who says the war has reached a
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
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
And the reason he adduces: They are trying to re-organise
themselves during a lull “to get prepared for the next step in
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
This government is suffering from a hangover and in the process
losing valuable friends and pushing...(See
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
Sri Lanka has produced one of the most intractable ethnic
conflicts in the modern world for which there has never been a
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
|Susanthika dreams of Olympic gold
(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
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...
“State-backing makes this the worst
intimidation I’ve faced”
What are your personal thoughts on the removal of your security
by the government?
A: 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?
A: 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