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Sunday December 16th, 2007

LTTE Supremo Velupillai Prabhakaran has sustained minor injuries in an attack carried... (See Inside)

President scoffs at national govt.
Hot on the heels of a major Budget victory, President Mahinda Rajapaksa has ruled... (See Inside)

JVP, Basil in hush-hush pre-Budget meeting
A closed door meeting in Parliament at 2 p.m. on Friday between the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna... (See Inside)


       Mahinda's performance: People's views     

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Canadian visa embargo on Tamil MPs
The Canadian High Commission in Colombo has issued a visa embargo on several Tamil parliamentarians, including Tamil... (See Inside)

SLMC suspends Baiz, Nijamudeen
The SLMC High Command, which met under the leadership of Rauff Hakeem yesterday,... (See Inside)




Truant TNA MP loses Parliament seat
The Illankai Tamil Arasu Kachchi (ITAK), more commonly known as the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), has decided to take disciplinary action against Jaffna District MP M.K. Eelaventhan for not following proper procedure and failing to inform Parliament and the party that he would be out of the country for more than four months.
ITAK General Secretary Mavai Senathirajah told The Nation that they have learnt that Speaker W. J. M. Lokubandara and the Parliament Secretary General are reported to have informed Elections Commissioner Dayananda Dissanayake that Eelaventhan’s seat is vacant.
“According to Parliamentary regulations, if a MP fails to inform Parliament beforehand and is absent for more than three months, he automatically loses his seat,” Senathirajah said.
He added that a letter seeking an explanation about the ITAK MP’s actions has already been sent. “We too were unaware that he had left the country for such a long period,” the ITAK General Secretary said. (See Inside)

JVP’s double game draws flak from all corners
Despite continuous rhetoric against the government, the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) on Friday acted in a style which analysts claimed as a bid to ‘save’ the government. The JVP’s decision to abstain from the crucial third reading of the 2008 Budget has drawn immense flak from almost all political parties and the general public.
The country’s main opposition, United National Party (UNP) lashed out at the JVP yesterday accusing them of playing a double game by pretending to be against the government in front of the public, while in reality, actually safeguarding them.
UNP General Secretary Tissa Attanayake said, “We are very puzzled at their decision. The JVP openly showed their discontentment regarding the Budget and even called it a prostitute, and also an anti-people Budget. But on Friday, they supported the government by taking a decision to abstain from voting. They simply... (See Inside)

Lankan Tamils, Muslims, worst affected in human...
One year after the Sri Lankan Government promulgated tough anti-terror laws, the country’s human rights situation has hit a new low, resulting in serious violations against ethnic Tamil and Muslim minorities, Minority Rights Group International said in a new report.
“The anti-terrorism laws fed into the deteriorating human rights situation in Sri Lanka has resulted in hundreds of killings, abductions and disappearances, mostly of ethnic Tamils and some Muslims,” says MRG Director Mark Lattimer.
“The last two years have seen the government more vigorously pursue its ‘war on terror,’ which has resulted in thousands of civilian deaths and mass displacement of minorities,” he adds.
Since the tough counter-terrorism laws were promulgated in December 2006, large numbers of ethnic Tamils have been arrested and detained on suspicion of links with the Tamil Tigers.
Checkpoints have sprung up across the country and the military often conducts large-scale search operations, where Tamils face harassment and risk being arrested. On December 1, following two suicide... (See Inside)

Bogollagama’s blunders continue
Controversial Foreign Minister Rohita Bogollagama has made another blunder by wasting millions of public funds to establish a Consular Office in Shanghai and by appointing the relative of the Bandaranaikes, who is also an inexperienced junior officer, Majintha Jayasingha as the new consular general. The Sri Lankan Shanghai Consular Office is scheduled to open on December 20 by Foreign Minister Rohita Bogollagama, who is expected to kick off his five-day Chinese state visit tomorrow.
The Minister’s action has received strong objections from senior Foreign Ministry officials.
According to Foreign Ministry officials, the former Sri Lankan Ambassador in Beijing, Nihal Rodrigo, strongly made recommendations to the Foreign Secretary against the establishment of a consulate office in Shanghai because it would be an utter waste of public funds.
Rodrigo was the former Foreign Ministry secretary and was the most senior and most experienced serving career ambassador in the Foreign Service at that time. (See Inside)

IGP intimidates Bribery Commission
In what is alleged to be an act of indirect intimidation against the independent investigations carried out by the Commission to Investigate Bribery or Corruption (CIABOC), the Officer-In-Charge of the Commission’s Asset Investigation Unit, P.A. Premashantha, has been transferred with immediate effect by Inspector General of Police (IGP) Victor Perera.
CIABOC Director General Piyasena Ranasinghe said that it was normal practice to usually consult the Commission before transferring any of the officers from the commission. However, in this case, for unknown reasons, the IGP appears to have made an ad hoc decision to transfer this officer. The officer was conducting investigations into assets belonging... (See Inside)

Scribes flee Sri Lanka as death threats mount
Around 25 Tamil journalists have fled Sri Lanka over the past three years, the Free Media Movement (FMM) claimed yesterday.
FMM Convener Sunanda Deshapriya told The Nation that the journalists had fled the country as their lives were in danger.
The Nation learns that one of the most recent reporters to flee the country was Thinakkural Defence Correspondent K. P. Mohan, who was subjected to severe harassment by security forces on several occasions.
This was apart from an unidentified gang throwing acid on his face.
It is learnt that Mohan left the country with his family in mid November this year.
Meanwhile,... (See Inside)





Budget battle ends, survival race begins
The curtain finally fell last week on the political drama that was the Budget debate, but not before a few acts of defiance and deviousness that will have a significant impact on events in the months to come.
The final score of the third reading of the Budget will note that it was quite comfortably passed by a majority of 47 votes, in contrast to the relatively close call at the second reading just a few weeks ago, when it was approved by a majority of 16 votes.
But the vote on Friday had its surprises and some of them emerged even before the quorum bells sounded in Parliament. First, Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) Leader Minister Rauff Hakeem, resigned and crossed over to the opposition along with three colleagues, although two other SLMC parliamentarians opted to remain in government ranks.
Then, hours before the final vote, National Heritage Minister and heir to the Bandaranaike dynasty, Anura Bandaranaike, crossed over to the opposition. If that set the tone for the political theatre that was being enacted, then it turned into a tragi-comedy when the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), decided to abstain from voting—thus ensuring an easy passage for the Budget.
Those in the Mahinda Rajapaksa administration will publicly proclaim a great victory citing the 47 vote majority, but in reality they will also know that their numbers... (See Inside)

Picking up the pieces after the Budget
The government managed to win the third reading of the Budget quite convincingly, courtesy the JVP’s indirect support.
The JVP abstained, giving the government a considerable margin and dashing the hopes of the opposition, obsessed with defeating the government.
The JVP’s behaviour was peculiar, when compared with its earlier stance, when it voted against the Budget. The JVP wanted to ensure it did not defeat the government, in the process of opposing the Budget. The reason: It did not want to pave the way for the UNP to regain power.
However, the flashpoint in the run up to the Budget was the SLMC crossover drama, creating a politically tense situation, propelling the UNP machinery to work hard to defeat the government.
The JVP, carefully monitoring political developments, virtually, misled the entire country, with the impression that it would do a repeat performance of November 19. The party even announced that there was no change in its decision, as far as the Budget was concerned.
Did the opposition consider the benefits the JVP would reap by defeating the government? As UNP national organiser S.B. Dissanayake pointed out a few days back, the JVP created a sensation within the country and built up an anti-climax, to give the government a new lease of life.
Despite Dissanayake’s warning about the JVP, the UNP declined to heed his advice, as there... (See Inside)


Why the SLMC quit the Rajapaksa government
The latest decision by the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) to quit the government led by President Mahinda Rajapaksa has caused much controversy. The timing of the SLMC’s move has led to much speculation that the party decision was tied up with the Budget’s third reading vote on December 14.
While this may be true to some extent, it would be a mistake to regard the SLMC move from that perspective alone. The political compulsions that caused the SLMC to act as it did are much more complex and problematic.
Unless the Rajapaksa regime extricates itself from its majoritarian mindset and addresses minority concerns reasonably, such tensions and convulsions seem inevitable.
Before delving into the motivating factors behind the SLMC’s current decision a brief re run outlining the reasons that compelled the party to join the government is necessary. Examining the past history of the SLMC is also required to understand the present.
Advent of the SLMC
The advent of the SLMC was a watershed in the politics of this country. The SLMC’s charismatic Leader M.H.M. Ashraff, through... (See Inside)

Prabhakaran injured slightly in Air Force bombing
Velupillai Prabakharan, the elusive Chief of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), sustained minor injuries in aerial bombardment by the Sri Lankan Air Force in the last week of November.
Although the injuries are not of a serious nature, the LTTE Supremo is being treated at an underground medical facility in a secret location by the Thileepan Medical Unit, it is learnt.
The LTTE is keeping the entire incident under wraps because of the demoralising effect it may have on cadres and supporters of the movement. In addition, the Sri Lankan security forces may receive a morale booster by knowledge of the incident.
Currently the Sri Lankan authorities seem blissfully unaware of the fact that one of the bombs dropped by the Sri Lankan Air Force has inflicted slight injuries on their most prized enemy target.
According to informed Tamil sources, the incident took place around noon on Wednesday, November 28.
The attack
Three Sri Lankan Air Force planes believed to be Israeli built K-fir jet bombers had commenced aerial bombardment on suburban areas of Kilinochchi town. (See Inside)



Warne highest paid in first IPL list
The competition between rival Twenty20 leagues is really hotting up. And the men who are benefiting the most are the cricketers, for whom it’s raining money.
According to the figures released by BCCI, the players involved in the Indian Premier League (IPL) will be earning upwards of million dollars as per current indication. The inaugural event will be held in April-May 2008.
Topping the list of 34 players who have been paid an initial signing amount is recently retired Australian spin legend Shane Warne, who will be netting $400,000 (Rs 1.6 cr approx) for the 2008 season.
This is just the start for Warne, for he will also be part of the player auction to take place in January-February when franchisees will bid for the stars. So, the stock of Warne and others could rise further in the coming days, informed a BCCI official at the end of the finance committee... (See Inside)

Why do superstars lie?
Why can’t superstars be honest to themselves? Why do they want to hide behind a veil and take the sporting public who have supported and admired them for years for a ride?
Sri Lanka’s master blaster Sanath Jayasuriya in an interview with our midweek paper ‘The Bottom Line’ when asked ‘Did anybody force you to make this (retirement) decision or was it a personal choice?’ replied: “No, nobody forced me; this was my personal decision. I thought I should concentrate more on my one-day cricket.”
Why should a senior cricketer like Jayasuriya say that, when it was common knowledge to many that he was first approached by the selectors and given an ultimatum that they would not continue with him in Test cricket because of his poor batting record.
Jayasuriya we understand was asked what his position was to the ultimatum and he had told the selectors to give him one more Test to announce his retirement to which the selectors had obliged. The Kandy Test against England was his swansong and he signed off in style with a typical robust knock of 78 off 106 balls, the highlight of which was taking 24 runs (6 fours) off an over from James Anderson.
At least now the selection committee headed by former Sri Lanka fast bowler Ashantha de Mel had realised and got it into their heads to tell Jayasuriya that it was time for him to go. When the former selection chairman Lalith Kaluperuma retired Jayasuriya, almost for the same reasons, 14 months ago there was a big hue and cry made by Jayasuriya that he was not ready to quit and that his hand was forced by the then selectors. (See Inside)


“I have a hunch President will prorogue Parliament”
After the Budget drama finally ended on Friday, Sri Lanka Muslim Congress Chief Rauff Hakeem sat down for a ‘no holds barred’ interview with The Nation. Hakeem, who has always been an uncomfortable ally of the Rajapaksa administration, since the party joined government ranks earlier in the year, firmly believes that the SLMC bowed to the wishes of the Muslim community, when they sat in the opposition last week
Following are excerpts:
Q: What’s your reading of the Budget vote yesterday?
In a sense, this was expected by the skeptics who felt that the JVP would not sacrifice the large number of parliamentary seats they were able to gain by riding piggy back on the SLFP and the PA coalition. As a matter of fact, they tend to give the impression that their every move is for the nation’s common good but ultimately, what we need to read from their attitude is that their idealism, when it comes to Marxism, has a threshold, beyond which, what motivates them is their nationalist tendencies. I have no misgivings about my decision, since I left for the sole purpose of highlighting the grievances of my community, and I find that the policy platform and the trajectory of this government is never going to produce the resolution of the problems faced by my constituency. I made a very clear departure, telling the SLFP that they ought to return to their pre-2000 political platform. More towards the centre than to the right, the way they are now. Because right now, they are competing for space with the JVP and the JHU and by... (See Inside)

“Government did not win because we abstained”
The JVP’s decision to abstain from voting on Friday at the third reading of the Budget created an upheaval in both political circles and among the general public. The Nation met JVP Media Secretary Wimal Weerawansa in the aftermath of the Budget vote to delve into the reasons behind the JVP’s change of heart at the last minute and its plans to create a new, “progressive” leadership
Q: The JVP stated that this Budget neither recognises nor gives solutions to the people’s problems. Then why did you abstain from voting and indirectly allow the Budget to pass?
The government did not win because we abstained from voting. That argument is correct only if our vote would have changed the outcome of the Budget vote. The government won by 47 votes. Even if we voted against the Budget, the opposition would have lost by 10 votes. So we did not help the government to win the Budget vote.
The reasons why we abstained are twofold. One was to show our opposition to the corrupt economic policies of the government. The other was to stop the UNP and other foreign forces that were conspiring to create anarchy and instability by defeating the Budget and helping the LTTE indirectly.
We needed to show our indignation to both sides. Therefore we thought the only... (See Inside)




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