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Sunday November 04th, 2007

Dealing a devastating blow to both disciplinary standards of the Sri Lankan forces and the UN Peacekeeping troops, the UN decided to repatriate 111 Sri Lankan soldiers...(See Inside)

Colombo on red alert
Defence authorities launched a massive security operation yesterday morning in Colombo and other highly populated major urban...(See Inside)

Fiery Rajapakse calls parliament a ‘cistern’
Labelling the traditional Budget debate a ‘futile effort,’ Member of Parliament and Chairman of the Committee on Public Enterprises...(See Inside)


Stringent security measures were taken yesterday in Colombo following bombardment of Kilinochchi on Friday by the Air Force in which Thamilselvan and several other Tiger rebels
(Pic by Ishara S. Kodikara)


New formula in place of UN HR office here
The Ministry of Human Rights is exploring the possibility of arriving at a working arrangement with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).
It is learnt that Minister of Human Rights Mahinda Samarasinghe at present is holding...(See Inside)

Funeral tomorrow
The funeral of the LTTE political wing head, S.P. Thamilselvan will be held tomorrow.
LTTE military spokesman Rasiah Ilanthirayan told The Nation yesterday that the last.. (See Inside)




UNP writes to Speaker against select committee appointments
The United National Party (UNP) yesterday said that they handed over a letter to the Speaker, W.J.M. Lokubandara, against a decision to appoint ministers as chairmen to handle the parliament select committees, which will probe the controversial MiG deal and the alleged financial transaction with the LTTE in 2005.
Chief opposition whip Joseph Michael Perera yesterday told The Nation that he had handed a letter to the speaker and informed him personally of their disapproval against these appointments.
“These appointments are against the parliamentary traditions and standing orders. Usually it is the person who asked for a parliament select committee who will be appointed as the chairman of the committee, or someone else he or she nominates. But here, it is not so,” said Perera.
Further speaking Perera said that this action is in a way an attempt by the government to protect the accused, and said that the UNP will make a decision to take action against this, if the Speaker continues to uphold this decision.
Meanwhile Sripathi Sooriyaarachchi, the Coordinating Secretary of Sri Lanka Freedom Party – Mahajana Wing (SLFP-M) told The Nation that his party is scheduled to hand over a letter to the Speaker W.J.M. Lokubandara on Tuesday, opposing the unethical appointments of chairmen to the Parliamentary...(See Inside)

RDA in questionable road deal to benefit LTTE controlled Killinochchi?
Road Development Authority (RDA) has paid a sum of Rs. 25 million to one Sudar Constructions (Pvt) Ltd, going against regular procedure, for the construction of four roads in LTTE controlled areas in Killinochchi.
“Normally, the RDA pays its contractors after its engineers have checked whether the construction has met the required standards. But since the roads are built in the LTTE controlled areas, it is impossible to do so, nevertheless, the RDA has paid this amount,” a highly placed source told The Nation yesterday.
He revealed that the RDA had paid this money to the company through an individual called S. Yogarajah (522370452V) who lives in a LTTE controlled area and that has raised suspicions on whether the money has been transferred to the LTTE.
“Sudar Constructions has written a letter to the Director Finance of the RDA and asked him to pay this individual. The strange thing is that the Provincial Director of the North East has added a footnote to the letter asking the Director Finance to pay this individual this said amount,” the source alleged. (See Inside)

Asian Development Bank approves Keangnam bid for A’pura road project
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has recommended the awarding of the contract for the rehabilitation and upgrading of the A – 12 Puttalam to Anuradhapura Road to Keangnam Enterprises Ltd.
The recommendation has been made despite a case pending on the matter before the Supreme Court.
The ADB in a message dated October 5, to Ministry of Highways and Road Development Secretary S. Amarasekara, informed him that the ADB has no objection to the project of upgrading a road stretch of 70 km from Puttalam to Anuradhapura, and a town section of 13 km in Anuradhapura town being awarded to the lowest evaluated responsive bidder Keangnam Enterprises Ltd which quoted a price of approximately Rs. 3.7 billion without VAT.
The Supreme Court in late September issued an Interim Order on the Cabinet of Ministers restraining them from making any final decision to award or approve the tender for the rehabilitation and upgrading of the A- 12 Puttalam-Trincomalee Road, from Puttalam to Anuradhapura, to M/s Keangnam...(See Inside)

Norway, SLMM fear backlash following Thamilselvan’s killing
Norway and the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) yesterday stated their concern over the death of the LTTE political wing leader S.P Thamilselvan as an attempt which will only lead to the escalation of war, unless the parties involved cease the hostilities and return to peace negotiations.
Erik Solheim, the Norwegian International Development Minister and facilitator for the peace process in Sri Lanka expressed his concern during an interview with a Norwegian news agency. He also expressed his fears on the consequences of the growing conflict in Sri Lanka.
Characterising the death as a huge loss, Solheim further stated that Thamilselvan was an important contact point between the LTTE and Norway in the facilitation of the peace... (See Inside)

Engineers cry ‘foul’ over proposed grid substation of the CEB
Members of the Ceylon Electricity Board Engineers Union (CEBEU) have decided to withdraw from all committees handling the Norwegian funded Galle grid substation project as a mark of protest against the alleged ad hoc style in selecting the company to handle the project.
The approximately Rs. 2 billion project, financed by Norway, aimed at enhancing capacity has however been overshadowed by several alleged unethical decisions taken by the Ministry of Power and Energy with regard to transparency and open bidding.
The Nation reliably learns that Norway had requested the Sri Lanka Power and Energy Ministry to consider Norwegian based ABB group, an engineering and energy company, when evaluating tender bids. (See Inside)

Unemployed graduates to file petition with HR Commission
Unemployed graduates will lodge a complaint with the Human Rights Commission tomorrow against authorities who brutally attacked them last Thursday during a protest march.
Police on Thursday used tear gas, water cannons and baton charge to disperse the protesting unemployed graduates who were on a march towards the Finance Ministry to hand over a petition urging the government to guarantee employment in the forthcoming budget, which will be presented next week in Parliament.
“Twelve were injured following the actions by the law enforcement authorities. We were charged as if we were terrorists or thieves. The complaint will be lodged against those who assaulted us and those who gave the orders to assault us,” Unemployed Graduates’ Union Convenor, Sujith Kuruwita (See Inside)





End ‘kussiye yuddaya:’ UNP urges govt.
Almost everyone-even those in government- agrees that the cost of living has risen to unmanageable levels, and is still rising with no respite in sight. The government has not been adept at sound economic management nor has it appeared prudent in its own expenses, sustaining a jumbo cabinet with all its trimmings.
As a result, public resentment against the government is rising amidst a plethora of price hikes and strikes demanding better wages. The war, more war and nothing but the war was the government’s mantra to keep critics at bay. But the recent air-cum-land attack at Anuradhapura dented the government’s boast.
Friday’s killing of S.P. Thamilselvan, Head of the political wing of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) might offer some succour to the President, but the economic hardships faced by the average citizen are of such intensity that much more needs to be done about what the UNP calls the ‘kussiye yuddaya’ (the war in the kitchen).Come Wednesday and the Mahinda Rajapaksa government will be called upon to deliver its budget proposals in parliament, an event eagerly awaited probably more for its political consequences than for its economic impact.
Some months ago, there was wild speculation that the government would be forced to surrender its parliamentary majority and resign on the vote on the budget. That speculation only gathered momentum with the formation of the National Congress between the United National Party (UNP) and the breakaway faction of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) led by former Minister Mangala Samaraweera.
That pre-budget hype appears to have died a natural death now. No one in the corridors of power realistically expects the government to collapse on the vote on the budget now. With some clever political manoeuvring, President Mahinda Rajapaksa has ensured that he has the numbers to see the budget through, if only by a slim margin.
Yet, the budget will be of some political interest, mostly with regard to what stance would be taken by the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP). It is no secret that the JVP worked harder than most sections of the SLFP to bring Mahinda Rajapaksa into power. But now for a variety of reasons, that relationship has soured and Rajapaksa bashing has become a popular pastime among JVPers.
But the JVP itself is on the horns of a dilemma. While it has been harshly critical of the government, especially its handling of the economy,... (See Inside)

Going against the world order
President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s planned visit to Iran at a time when the United States and the Western world is frowning at Iran may not augur well for Sri Lanka.
The truth is that Sri Lanka too is facing many a problem with the international community relating to human rights issues.
In the circumstances, the President’s impending visit to Iran is likely to cause more heartburn for Sri Lanka rather than bring benefits.
According to reports, the President is likely to undertake his visit either from November 9 to 11 or November 19 to 21 and all ground work has been finalised in this regard. The Iranian Ambassador in Sri Lanka is already in Teheran for this purpose.
Showing solidarity
It appears that the President has either been ill-advised by Foreign Ministry officials or is adamant to visit Iran to show solidarity with the Muslim world.
Showing solidarity with the Muslim world is one thing that no one would grudge, but the Sri Lankan Government should have looked at the greater international picture and taken a decision which would benefit the country at large. (See Inside)


Thamilselvan: Memories of a negotiator
Following the death of Anton Balasingham, S.P. Thamilselvan, who has participated in all rounds of peace talks since 1994, assumed the role of ‘Chief Negotiator’ at the only subsequent round of talks in Geneva, last November.
While the LTTE Political Wing leader who was killed in a Sri Lanka Air Force air raid in the early hours of Friday (01) morning, might not have left the legacy ‘Bala’ did at Sri Lankan peace talks, he is however remembered – and not too fondly – by several members of successive government delegations.
“I will not be on record, since it is unfair to say bad things about a person in his death. But he was not a good man and was a poor negotiator, simply for the fact that he was inflexible and therefore, a compromise with him was virtually impossible,” said a member of a previous UNF government delegation who wished to remain unnamed.
Thamilselvan’s smile belied his personality, the delegation member said, adding that the late ‘Brigadier’ was a man who was firmly on the side of war and had no real aspirations for peace and an end to the Sri Lankan conflict. (See Inside)

JR’s Kandy March and the tale of...
Last month saw the golden jubilee of a shameful event in the political annals of this country. October 3, 1957 was the day on which the United National Party (UNP) organised a protest march to Kandy from Colombo under the leadership of Junius Richard Jayewardene. JR’s ‘Kandy March,’ as it was known, played a very negative role in souring ethnic relations in the island.
The agreement, signed by S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike and S.J.V. Chelvanayagam in 1957, was a significant event in the political history of post-independence Sri Lanka. The Prime Minister of the day and the leader of the biggest Tamil political party had come to an understanding, which if implemented may have helped contain the ethnic conflict at its nascent stages.
The agreement, known generally as the ‘Banda-Chelva pact,’ was never allowed to work because of political opposition in the south. The opposition came from hardliners among the Sinhala Buddhist clergy and laity as well as hawkish elements among both the government and opposition. (See Inside)



Aussie-Lanka Test series for Warne-Muralitharan trophy
SYDNEY, (AFP) - Australia and Sri Lanka will play for the Warne-Muralitharan Trophy this month in honour of the two leading wicket-takers in Test history, Cricket Australia and Sri Lanka Cricket announced Saturday.
Shane Warne and Muttiah Muralitharan, who have taken more than 1400 Test wickets between them, have lent their names to the trophy, which will be up for grabs each time the two nations do battle in future series.
They will first compete for the trophy during a two-Test series which gets underway in Brisbane next Thursday.
The announcement celebrates the 25th anniversary of Australia-Sri Lanka Test cricket, with the trophy featuring casts of Warne and Muralitharan’s right hands and match-used cricket balls bowled by both players during their careers.
Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland said the trophy was a fitting tribute to two players who have left an indelible mark on world cricket.
“Both Shane and Muttiah have broken the 700-wicket barrier and inspired young cricketers around the world to try their hands at spin bowling,” Sutherland said in a statement. (See Inside)

Point Blank
Rugby blues or smiles
For the next two weeks the focus of Sri Lankan sports fans will be in Colombo and in Australia where rugby and cricket, two sports which are popular with spectators will take precedence over everything. These are two sports which Sri Lanka is going out with great hopes of achieving success.
That the Singer Rugby Asiad the 20th in the series since 1969 is finally taking place in Colombo is itself a great relief to the host nation. The tournament is already delayed by a year (it is held every two years and the last one took place in 2004) because of the reluctance of countries like Japan, Korea, and Hong Kong to come to Sri Lanka citing security concerns. A year was wasted trying to woo these countries to come, but eventually the show must go on and the tournament is taking place sans the big guns. Their absence from the line-up will give the lesser fancied countries the chance to stake a claim for Asia’s top rugby nation title. The victory though will be a hollow one because whoever emerges champion will know that they had not played against the best in Asia to win the crown. (See Inside)


More UNPers will join govt. if budget is undefeated- Navin
Following are excerpts:
Q: There was euphoria among the voters, shortly after the defection in the UNP, who assumed that at least this group would bring about a change in the government. But sadly, the 17 member dissident group has not so far achieved anything by way of shaping the destiny of the present government. Why is this?
Really speaking we had two objectives in mind before joining the government. Firstly, to bring about some reforms within the UNP, and then of course to stabilise the present government in resolving the ethnic crisis. The thought of reforming the UNP was because we felt that the reform process was marginalised by a certain group.
Although we have 17 in the government, there are 20 to 25 who supported us. Still there are some people in the UNP to support us. So we thought, if there was an election, certain members in this group will not be given nominations, and we thought the strength of our team would have been diluted. We wanted to retain our group. This is why, while staying in the government, we wanted to ensure necessary changes are done in the UNP. Then, we felt as far as the ethnic issue is concerned, that there must be stability in the government. While the war is continuing we have given our proposal to the APRC.
It is partly true that the overall economic picture has not been to the expectation of the general people. People did expect us also to bring some changes in the government which we could not. But the expectation was that we could manage finance and economy and that has not happened. This I feel is because the key institutions of finance have not been devolved. I feel that if one of our members got that portfolio, the financial situation could have been better managed.
Q: The present government appears to be much worse than the previous ones in the spheres of economic growth, human rights record, cost of living and so on. How do you like being partners of such a government?
I don’t agree with that assessment. Let us take... (See Inside)

Vasu upholds citizens’ rights
Q: You told the newspapers that you have information on billions of dollars Sri Lanka lost due to defaults on international transactions. Could you explain what you meant?
The transactions relate to exports, when exports are made, the money should come back to the country within six months. That was the practice. However, according to a presidential directive during President D.B. Wijethunge’s tenure, these requirements were dispensed with.
Consequently, only those who voluntarily brought back the proceeds did so. If one does not want to bring back those proceeds, one could either deposit or spend the money outside the country. So, when this came to the knowledge of certain concerned persons, they wanted this to be surveyed. Exporters who answered the questionnaire, declared that they had deposited certain amounts in the banks, while the balance was used for business promotions and other This was computerized and found that about 19% of the proceeds forthat period, had not been repatriated. For the period 1993-2000, US$ 13,000 million were not brought back into the country. This was revealed in the Auditor General’s report, where it refers to the mismanagement of the foreign exchange by the Central Bank (CB). This also came up before the COPE committee as well.
So, I have proposed to the President that we could place before the country, a proper picture of the situation by giving a Foreign Exchange Budget like what N.M. Perera used to do. Then the country knows exactly how its foreign exchange had been expended. Generally speaking, about 20% is not repatriated out of the export proceeds but, the CB Governor, summoned by the President, when I raised this matter with him, said “No, this...(See Inside)




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