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Sunday April 20th, 2008

Mihin bankrupt!
The government-owned budget airline Mihin Lanka is in debt over its head to the tune of billions of rupees, prompting its controversial CEO Sajin Vaas Gunawardene... (See Inside)

Rice crisis deepens
Consumer Affairs Minister Bandula Gunawardena threatened to use the military to force open rice shops yesterday if the owners... (See Inside)

Kitulgoda showdown to intensify
The showdown between the opposition parties and the government over the appointment of Dhammika Kitulgoda as the Secretary General of Parliament is showing... (See Inside)


         Shutters down on consumers       

Consumers who rushed to the government mooted Budget Mart in hope of purchasing rice after other privately owned retail and wholesale shops downed shutters in protest of the new price control mechanism were angered by what met their eyes, closed shops!
                                 (Pic by Nissanka Wijeratne)



‘White van’ victims at CID, TID
Several Tamils who were abducted in Colombo and suburbs by unidentified gangs that came in white vans during the last... (See Inside)

Weerawansa gets security boost
Controversy rigged former Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) strongman Wimal Weerawansa, who is now residing in an undisclosed location, has been given a security boost by the government.
Reports... (See Inside)




Mahinda promises a helicopter for Ranil
President Mahinda Rajapaksa has assured his political arch-rival, Ranil Wickremesinghe that he will look into a request made by the United National Party (UNP) to make available a helicopter for Wickremesinghe’s election campaign in the Eastern Province.
The assurance was given when Wickremesinghe met Rajapaksa at a weeding. Wickremesinghe had lamented the Defence Ministry’s refusal to provide him with a helicopter for a four-day election campaign, to be carried out in view of the May 10 Eastern Province Provincial Council Elections.
The President had told Wickremesinghe to send a letter addressed to him and that he would personally look into the matter.
A letter was then sent to the President by UNP Chairman Rukman Senanayake requesting a Mi-17 helicopter.
Senanayake, in his letter has pointed out that it was unsafe for the Leader of the Opposition to travel to the areas in the Eastern... (See Inside)

4500 eligible Grade V scholars not admitted to leading schools
The Education Ministry has failed to admit some 4500 eligible Grade Five scholarship students to leading Colombo schools last year, an audit report has revealed.
“The audit inquiry held with regard to admission of scholars to Grade Six in 2007, following the results of the Grade Five scholarship examination held in 2006, reveals that the Schools Unit of the Education Ministry had not been just and proper in admitting scholars to the schools,” the audit report issued late last year stated.
The query states that students who had not gained the minimum marks required for admission, and even failed to sit for the scholarship examination were admitted, instead.
“Instances were noted that the principals of popular schools were instructed to admit children without presenting their documents on scholarship results,” the query noted. (See Inside)

Highly trained security personnel for VIPs
The Defence Ministry’s research division has recommended the use of extensively trained security personnel for the protection of the country’s VIPs.
The recommendation comes amidst reports that the government was looking at getting assistance from India’s Gurkhas or Black Cat commandos to provide protection for VIPs in Sri Lanka.
However according to a spokesman attached to the Indian High Commission in Colombo, no official request has so far been made by the Sri Lankan government via the mission in Colombo, but it was possible that a direct government to government request may have been made.
Meanwhile, the government’s defence spokesman minister Keheliya Rambukwella told The Nation that the Defence Ministry’s research unit was studying various aspects on how to upgrade... (See Inside)

No fresh invitation to India - Govt.
Despite the recent hype generated over a bigger Indian role being played in Sri Lanka’s almost faltered peace process, the government will not extend a formal invitation to India urging it to play a more pivotal role in the island’s stagnant peace process.
The Sri Lankan government’s Defence spokesman Minister Keheliya Rambukwella told The Nation that India already was playing a ‘substantial role’ and there was no necessity to extend a fresh invitation.
Norway’s special peace envoy, Jan Hansson Bauer last week urged India to play a more crucial role in the island’s conflict, by mediating between the government and the LTTE in an attempt to put an end to the more than two decades long... (See Inside)

Take Bhagwati to courts – JHU tells President
The Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) yesterday demanded President Mahinda Rajapaksa to immediately take legal action against the Chairman of the International Independent Group of Eminent Persons (IIGEP) Justice P.N. Bhagwati, on grounds that he neglected to carry out his duties properly.
JHU spokesman Nishantha Sri Warnasingha, told The Nation that Justice Bhagwati, former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of India failed in his duties by not issuing a vital report on human rights to the President and the Attorney General’s (AG) Department.
“It was President Mahinda Rajapaksa who invited justice Bhagwati to come and investigate into the of human rights situation in Sri Lanka. But he neglected his responsibilities and cold shouldered the Human Rights Commission in Sri Lanka. (See Inside)

Potta Naufer attack under full probe
The Borella Police and the Prison Department are conducting separate investigations in connection with the attack on underworld leader Mohammed Naufer alias Potta Naufer at the Welikada prison on Friday.
Potta Naufer is serving a death sentence after he was found guilty in the Justice Sarath Ambepitiya assassination.
OIC (Crime), Borella, IP Gamini Hewawitharana, told The Nation that they had recorded statements from three suspects connected with the attack and the statements will be reported to courts on Tuesday.
The underworld leader continues to receive treatment to his injuries at the National Hospital, Colombo caused by sharp pins. (See Inside)




Battle of a different kind
Amidst all the festivities for the Sinhala and Tamil New Year, and in the throes of an election campaign in the East, the government had a battle of a different kind on its collective hands these past few weeks-that of the rising cost of living that has been taking the gloss off its popularity in recent months.
The latest ad hoc measure resorted to by the government, was to impose price control on rice- a step reminiscent of the Sirima Bandaranaike regime in the seventies when the country was in dire straits economically.
Significantly, this was announced only after the New Year, when most households would have purchased their stocks of rice, at least for the festive season. Most probably, the powers that be anticipated problems as a result of this measure-and sure enough, more complications arose soon after price control was announced.
Some traders put up shutters while others displayed blithe disregard for the regulations and continued to sell rice at higher prices. (See Inside)

Pitch battle for Chief Ministerial stakes
The focus is once again on the East. After the liberation of the East from the clutches of the LTTE, this is the first time that both the government and the opposition have shown a keen interest in the province.
It is after a long pause that the Eastern Province is gearing itself to elect a body to manage its own affairs under a Chief Minister from the province.
Definitely the people will hear many stories, some times fairy tales from both the government and the opposition UNP, as a prelude to the crucial election.
It is crucial for the government since the Security Forces cleared the East from the LTTE under the political leadership of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, and several massive development projects had been launched since then, including the “Nagenahira Udanaya” which is known as the Sunrise Region Development. A rejection of the UPFA by the people at this election means that the government efforts are in vain. It would also paint a negative picture in the eyes of the international community... (See Inside)


To clean up the HR closet

It was only last Tuesday, April 15, a panel of top legal luminaries requested Sri Lanka’s government to clean up its human rights record.
The International Independent Group of Eminent Persons (IIGEP), comprising experts from several countries in the European Union and the United Nations, said the government did not appear interested in taking action.
This advice from the IIGEP came shortly after a thundering warning issued to the UPFA government by the European Union’s GSP plus regime, saying that if the human rights situation was not improved, Sri Lanka might lose the chance of gaining the GSP plus facilities.
Virtually shaken by the warning from the EU, the Rajapaksa government immediately sprang into action.
It was only two weeks ago the cabinet dwelled into the intricacies of the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP+) after... (See Inside)

BOI Chairman calls the bluff

The first case filed in the Supreme Court this year was Fundamental Rights Application No. 1/2008 by Vasudeva Nanayakkara, who had filed an earlier case praying for the cancellation and annulment of the dubious privatisation of Lanka Marine Services to John Keells. The Nation understands from legal circles that this case was concluded and judgment reserved by Chief Justice, Sarath N. Silva, with parties permitted to file written submissions by May 9, 2008. According to the same legal sources the disclosures made in the Supreme Court, to say the least, have been quite shocking, and the officials of the Attorney General’s Department have been at sea, trying to defend a hopeless cause.
Vasudeva filed his case in the public interest, given the judicial activism of the Chief Justice, Sarath N. Silva and the Supreme Court intervening to protect public interest and public property. One of the Supreme Court Judges had recently reminded the public of what Arahath Maninda had preached to King Devanampiyatissa – ‘You are only the custodian and trustee of the property of the kingdom, which belong to the people’. Legal circles are of the view that the Attorney... (See Inside)



McCullum fireworks mark IPL’s bow
The Indian Premier League, with its potential to transform world cricket, began on Friday with a spectacular floodlit match in Bangalore. The sell-out crowd of 55,000 was treated to a remarkable innings from New Zealand’s Brendon McCullum.
Playing for the Kolkata Knight Riders he hit 158 not out off 73 balls (10 fours, 13 sixes), the highest ever individual Twenty20 score, as his side romped to a 140-run win.
Kolkata Knight Riders sent into bat rattled off 222-3 off 20 overs and bowled out Bangalore Royal Challengers for a mere 82 off 15.1 overs.
The cricket was preceded by a lavish opening ceremony at the ground.
Acrobats, singers and cheerleaders from the Washington Redskins performed to a backdrop of some impressive fireworks.
But the home team, the Bangalore Royal Challengers, was soundly beaten, and there was one other sour note. A row about the restrictions placed on international news agencies Reuters, AP and AFP led to all three boycotting coverage. It meant websites and newspapers were unable to show photos from either the match or the opening... (See Inside)

Why blame the captain?
Is there a hidden hand behind a campaign to oust Mahela Jayawardene as captain of the Sri Lanka one-day side? News items appearing in certain sections of the press point to an organised campaign to remove him from the pedestal. Not so long ago it was the very same critics who hailed him as the best captain, but since of late they seem to have adopted a different stance and called for public opinion to chuck him out.
One thing the critics should remember is that captains cannot be changed just like you change your underwear. Just because the team he leads has suffered a series of defeats why blame only the captain? Aren’t there others who should also take part of the blame? It is not only the captain who decides on the composition of teams but also the national selectors and the team management.
We don’t say that Jayawardene is foolproof. He does have his faults but all captains cannot be everyone’s darling. A good example is Arjuna Ranatunga, the present Sri Lanka Cricket interim committee chairman. He had his own faults especially with players, officials and coaches and a running battle with some sections of the media for his arrogance... (See Inside)


“A Muslim unit in Muslim areas”
Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) which threatened to sweep the eastern province at the May 10 polls, has complained that the government has already begun its terror tactics using state resources in the guise of development work, to woo the supporters and thereby win the election. However SLMC General Secretary and Ampara district chief candidate Hasan Ali says the party is ready to face any such threats to sweep the province on May 10. Throwing a challenge to the government, the SLMC General Secretary told The Nation that the UPFA will be forced to eat the humble pie and regret it this time. “We are going all out to crush the UPFA. For the UPFA, this election may be a face saving mechanism. But for the people of the east, it is a referendum,” the experienced politician opines.
Following are excerpts;
Q: What is the progress of the election campaign?
A: The election campaign is going on smoothly. So far there have not been major incidents. But the biggest hitch is the government’s new policy to restrict the campaign time. We are severely handicapped because of this new regulation. (See Inside)

“Our goal is to return a Muslim as Eastern CM”
The man who spearheads the campaign for the UPFA in the east, is none other than Ameer Ali, the Minister of Disaster Relief. A former SLMC strongman, Ali, is all out to give his best, to ensure a UPFA victory. His ultimate goal is also to ensure that, M.L.A.M. Hisbullah, who was his arch rival, a few weeks ago, is brought to power and made the first Chief Minister of the eastern province, after the North and East were de-merged by a Supreme Court order. Ali says that, if the SLMC had agreed to join the UPFA, then it would have ‘the easiest’ to return a Muslim to the post of Chief Minister. But adds that, with the refusal of the SLMC to join hands, the job is not going to be ‘that easy’. “But we are trying our level best. This is our goal and we will somehow achieve it,” he told The Nation in an interview.
Following are excerpts;
Q: What is the progress of your campaign in the East?
A: We have just begun our campaign. The campaign so far, has gone on smoothly. Our goal is to return a Muslim, as a Chief Minister to the East. We are working very hard, to achieve this goal, and... (See Inside)




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