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Sunday November 25th, 2007

Rohitha in hot water
The government’s confusion over the position taken by Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama agreeing... (See Inside)

FM to deny granting consent
Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama is expected to deny granting his consent to support... (See Inside)

TRO mocks ban
The controversial, Tamil Rehabilitation Organisation (TRO), which was banned last week in Sri Lanka, has vowed to continue... (See Inside)


                    Protecting who?                 

The latest barbed wire reinforcements in front of Police Field Force Headquarters on Havelock Road might be aimed at protecting the premises, but they pose a serious threat to pedestrians given the large space they occupy along the pavement
(Pic by Ishara S. Kodikara)



Another jumbo delegation for Japan
President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s delegation to Japan next month has already topped the 200 mark, and looks set... (See Inside)

Opposition no better than present regime — Wijeyadasa
Controversial COPE Chairman Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe has said he abstained ... (See Inside)




Fishy wind power deal reaches new heights
The cabinet of ministers appears to have been misled by parties with vested interests over a controversial wind power deal that has been awarded to an Indian energy company which will come up in Puttalam.
The Nation reliably learns that the cabinet has granted approval for the controversial 50 MW wind power plant project to Enercon India Power Development Limited, despite a 10-member project committee comprising the CEB, BOI, CEA and the National Planning Department rejecting the Indian company. However, the 10-member committee’s recommendation had been sidelined and the authorities had instead claimed that they... (See Inside)

SLMC moves for use of PA systems
Cabinet considered a cabinet paper submitted by the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) seeking amendment to the legislation governing religious rights.
The SLMC presented the cabinet paper two weeks ago and the Cabinet which met last week, gave their consent for the amendment last week.
The SLMC’s action is a sequel to a Supreme Court order to ban the use of loud speakers from 10 pm to 6 am.
According to an SLMC official, the amendment would enable all religious bodies to exercise their rights in the correct manner. (See Inside)

CPU bemoans lack of press freedom in SL
The Commonwealth Press Union (CPU), in a letter to President Mahinda Rajapaksa, has highlighted the growing insecurity faced by journalists in the country.
The letter has also raised serious questions over the future security of the independent newspapers in Colombo, while urging the government to investigate the arson attack at the Leader Publications print site on November 21 as a matter of extreme urgency.
The letter further states, “The intimidation, at gunpoint, of the employees and the subsequent firebombing of the printing presses by masked gunmen, are unacceptable within a democracy. As it is well documented that the Leader has been... (See Inside)

Hospital staff to fall sick over fingerprint issue
The All Ceylon Health Service Union will go on two days sick leave from Tuesday, demanding that authorities heed their demands immediately.
All Ceylon Health Service Union Deputy Secretary Gamini Kumarasinghe speaking to The Nation said that they are demanding overtime allowance, holiday allowances and an immediate stop to the fingerprinting machine which marks their in and out hours during work.
“All employees except doctors and nurses have to use the fingerprint machine to sign in and off to get paid overtime, but the employees are refusing to use the machine,” he said
He further pointed out that the higher officials of the Health and Nutrition Ministry have forced the hospital employees... (See Inside)

President leaves for Iran tonight
President Mahinda Rajapaksa will take wing to Tehran late tonight, for a high-level four-day state visit during which he will hold talks with his Iranian counterpart, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, defying what diplomatic sources say were heavy ‘representations’ from the US to defer the visit.
The relatively miniature Presidential delegation, which will include Deputy Foreign Minister Hussein Bhaila and Foreign Secretary Palitha Kohona, leaves the Ugandan Capital of Kampala at midnight tonight, where Rajapaksa was attending the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. Four media personnel are also scheduled to leave for Tehran with President Rajapaksa’s delegation. (See Inside)

British Tamil Forum plans major birthday celebrations in London
The British Tamil Forum, an active LTTE front organisation in the United Kingdom, is planning to hold a mass scale commemoration ceremony in London mid this week to celebrate the birthday of LTTE Supremo Velupillai Prabhakaran.
The British Tamil Forum has already reserved the ExCel Conference Hall at Royal Victoria Dock in London for November 27.
According to reports reaching The Nation, the main objectives of the event will be to celebrate the birthday of Prabhakaran, commemorate LTTE suicide cadres who died in terrorist attacks, propagate and promote the separatist agenda of the LTTE , and raise funds for the terrorist outfit.
The commemoration of any LTTE programmes, ...(See Inside)





Defeating Budget: a vain boast
Ending weeks of speculation, second guessing and sordid drama, the government ensured the passage of the second reading of the Budget last week, avoiding a potential political nightmare that could have had serious repercussions.
The final majority the government achieved was quite comfortable, but a few questions remain in the aftermath of the vote, while both President Mahinda Rajapaksa and the government as well as the opposition take collective stock of the political fallout.
That the ruling coalition-now sans its major ally, the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), was pressing the panic buttons before the vote, was obvious. This was only confirmed by the cross-over of Ratnapura District Parliamentarian and second accused in the Nalanda Ellawala murder, Mahinda Ratnatilleke.
Ratnatilleke was a staunch Ranil Wickremesinghe loyalist in the UNP, as well as being a vitriolic critic of President Rajapaksa in Parliament. He has now been rewarded... (See Inside)

Government, UNP lock horns
The government managed to overcome the obstacles laid by the opposition with ease at the second reading of the third Budget of the Rajapaksa administration.
Though it appears to be a comfortable victory for the government, an in-depth analysis will show that the government is dangling from a straw.
The main opposition UNP was optimistic along with the vociferous members of the SLFP (M) that they could make the difference at the third reading of the Budget.
A careful study will show that minority parties, such as the SLMC and the CWC, could tilt the balance of power towards the opposition at the third reading if the opposition could convince them to vote against the government. In fact, Arumugam Thondaman and Rauff Hakeem command the confidence of at least 12 members in the House.
Balance of power
According to calculations, the opposition needs only eight members to defeat the government at the third reading if the JVP sticks to its guns.
The opposition at this instance has taken into consideration the two TNA members who were absent for the second reading of the Budget. (See Inside)


Media freedom set alight
The country woke up Wednesday (21) morning to the news that The Sunday Leader press had been set fire to by an unidentified armed gang. It was reported that the fire, which started around 2 a.m., raged till dawn. We visited Leader Publications premises the day after, to observe the aftermath.
About a dozen people were sifting through the rubble and moving the debris out of the building. Piles of ash and semi burnt rolls of newsprint were everywhere. The electrical wiring and rubber and plastic components of the printing press had melted for the heat. Several eyewitnesses told us of their night of horror. (See Inside)

What will the LTTE Leader say on Great Heroes’ Day?
In recent times the most important event for the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) has been its annual ‘Maaveerar Naal’ or Great Heroes’ Day (GHD) held each year on November 27.
Various observances are held in Sri Lanka and abroad to commemorate the Tiger cadres who have died for the Tamil cause. ‘Puligalin Thaagam Thamil Eelath Thaayagam’ (Thirst of the Tigers is for a Tamil Eelam homeland) is the motto of the LTTE.
An important feature of the GHD has been the ceremony where LTTE Leader Velupillai Prabhakaran pays homage to the fallen cadres. The centrepiece of this ceremony is his address to the Tamil people in his capacity as the self-styled national leader of the Tamil Eelam nation.
Since his speeches indicate the future course of the LTTE, this address is keenly scrutinised by observers of the Lankan ethnic conflict. “What will Prabhakaran say on GHD?”... (See Inside)



Kumble throws first Test wide open
DELHI (AFP) Anil Kumble led a disciplined spin attack to keep India’s hopes alive in an evenly poised opening Test against Pakistan at the Ferozeshah Kotla ground here on Saturday.
The new captain dismissed the top three batsmen to restrict Pakistan to 212-5 in the second innings. The tourists are now 167 ahead with five wickets in hand after conceding a 45-run lead.
Misbah-ul-Haq (29) and wicket-keeper Kamran Akmal (21), the last pair of specialist batsmen, were at the crease when bad light stopped play on the third day.
Pakistan will expect more from this duo to boost their chances of setting a challenging fourth-innings total on a wearing pitch. The pair have so far added.... (See Inside)

Point Blank
Where Aussies rule
Not only is Australia uncontested in world cricket, but also in other sports as well. At the recently concluded ninth World Netball Championships held in Auckland, Australia beat New Zealand 42-38 to win the world crown.
This took place while the Australian cricket team was locked in battle with Sri Lanka in the second Test at Hobart.
A recent survey done by an Australian newspaper ‘The Courier Mail’ revealed that Aussies ruled the world in 30 sports.
Australia no doubt is a nation of top sportsmen and they have 30 world champions to prove it. Why Australia is so prolific in producing world champions in the face of competition from countries with much larger athlete pools from which to draw is because of their addiction to sport.
For a nation of just 20 million people (same as Sri Lanka) Australia is way above other sporting nations. They finished... (See Inside)


“We knew the JVP would protect us” – Basil
Q: The finger has been pointed at the government about the burning of the The Sunday Leader newspaper since it is perceived largely as an anti government newspaper. How do you answer?
I have no details about the incident yet. I only heard about it when I spoke to some of our editors who informed me about it. I have no detailed information from the police or other sources. I have spoken to the Media Minister about it though. This government remains committed to media freedom. Since President Mahinda Rajapaksa came to power the number of newspapers and TV and radio stations in the country have increased. There have been similar incidents like this one and there were allegations against the government. We will definitely investigate and if there is proof of arson, after studying the matter we will take action. We assure the media that this government will protect institutes and media personnel.
Q: Will the government take action to bring the culprits to book as soon as possible, if only to clear its name? What action has the government directed in this regard?
It will. I have already spoken to the Media... (See Inside)

“Budget has not changed, neither has our position”-Somawansa
Q: What was it about the Budget exactly that the JVP voted against on Monday?
This Budget has no economic or political vision. Those who drafted it have not diagnosed the problems faced by the country. There are economists who have diagnosed the problems we are having – regressive taxes, bad governance, corruption, disparities between provinces, impaired institutions, market imperfections and lack of economic safety nets for the poor.
These are the problems we are having. The JVP agrees with them. These problems must be addressed completely and properly, otherwise we are not going to achieve what we hope for Sri Lanka.
Q: You speak of regressive taxes. Yet, when the four controversial tax bills came up for vote the second time, instead of voting against, the JVP simply walked out without voting, effectively allowing the bills to pass. Why not take action then?
Well, walking out is also a way of registering... (See Inside)




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