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Sunday May 11th, 2008

East erupts
Incidents of rigging, intimidation, impersonation and other election-related violence, including acts of thuggery, overshadowed yesterday’s much-hyped Eastern Provincial Council election, with independent election monitors asserting there was an over 50% voter turnout in most areas. (See Inside)

Mihin’s antics compromise Lanka’s safety record
Grounded budget carrier, Mihin Lanka, is at the final stages of bringing in two Airbus A-320 aircraft to Sri Lanka in order to resume flights again.
The government... (See Inside)

Karuna to be deported?
Moves are afoot to deport LTTE renegade leader Vinayagamoorthy Muraleetharan, alias Karuna Amman, from the... (See Inside)


                 Bullet turns ballot?              

TMVP chief ministerial candidate Pillaiyan steps out of a heavily armoured vehicle at Vipulananda Maha Vidyalaya, Valachchenai, to cast his vote at the Eastern Provincial Council elections, which were overshadowed by several incidents of election-related violence
                             (Pic by Ishara S. Kodikara)


Sri Lanka makes last-ditch attempt to secure HRC seat
Colombo will make a frantic, last-ditch attempt on Tuesday to persuade members of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) to re-elect Sri Lanka, overshadowed by allegations of gross human rights violations, (See Inside)

CEB, SLPA and CPC fall victim to election abuse
Frontline state-run institutions, the Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA), Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) and Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC), have fallen victim to yesterday’s Eastern Province... (See Inside)




Election overshadowed by high-scale violence
The Centre for Monitoring Elections Violence (CMEV) yesterday said that some 18 major election related offences were reported, including murder and attempted murder, out of a total of some 25 complaints.
The statement issued by the CMEV yesterday cited that the offences in the latter category include murder, attempted murder, assault, threat and intimidation, impersonation and ballot stuffing.
The CMEV pointed out that out of the major offences, three were reported from Ampara and two were from Trincomalee. Among the incidents that were highlighted in the CMEV report were the systematic impersonations in Thambiluvil, Tirukovil in Ampara District.
TMVP supporters at polling station 52, AK/Thambiluvil Central College were seen removing voter ink from their fingers and returning to vote repeatedly with new polling cards... (See Inside)

WFP suspends Food-for-Work ProgrammeThe World Food Programme (WFP) has temporarily suspended its Food-for-Work Programme while also reducing the quantity of rations given to the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and economically affected families.
WFP Deputy Country Director Jean Yves told The Nation that the organisation had to suspend its Food for-Work Programme since it did not have sufficient resources to fund the project.
“We do not have sufficient resources to fund the project so we temporarily suspended the programme. There are around 140,000 people receiving aid due to this programme and all of them would be affected by this suspension,” he said, adding that the organisation had no choice in deciding to suspend the programme.
He further said that the Protected Relief and Recovery Programme and Maternal and Children Nutrition Programmes (MCN) were forced to reduce the amount of dry... (See Inside)

Postal strike on Tuesday unless Saturday circular is withdrawn
The Post and Telecommunication Officers’ Union yesterday warned of a strike which could cripple the sector if Postmaster General M.K.B. Dissanayake fails to immediately withdraw the circulation asking workers not to work on Saturdays.
Union President Navaratna Bandara said that the circulation was sent to all the departmental heads, requesting them not to allow the employees of Postal Department to work on Saturday.
“People are working on Saturday so that they will be able to reduce the weekday workload. They receive an allowance for working extra hours. If they implement the circular, people would be loaded with work and we won’t be able to compete with our... (See Inside)

Invincible ship sunk in Trinco
An underwater explosion damaged and sunk a cargo ship, Invincible, belonging to the Navy, which was docked in the Ashroff jetty in Trincomalee, during the early hours of yesterday.
The explosion, which occurred at about 2:30 a.m., had not caused any harm to the ship’s crew.
“We found human remains near the explosion site, leading us to suspect that a suicide cadre, diving underwater, had detonated a bomb near the ship,” Navy Spokesman Commander D.K.P. Dassanayake said.
The ship named Invincible was first captured in 2003, transporting 254 illegal Pakistani migrants to Italy and was handed over to the Navy after it was confiscated in 2005 following a trial.
Dassanayake said that the Ashroff jetty was for... (See Inside)

Prorogation was President’s face-saving measure
The United National Party (UNP) yesterday charged that President Mahinda Rajapaksa resorted to the prorogation of Parliament as a face-saving measure due to the ongoing investigations by the Parliamentary Select Committee investigating the LTTE-government deal, which allegedly led to Rajapaksa’s victory at the 2007 presidential polls.
UNP General Secretary Tissa Attanayake told The Nation, “The President is merely trying to save face from these committees because he knows that if the investigations continue, the culprits will be known by all.”
He noted that with the prorogation of Parliament, all vital Parliament Select Committees,...  (See Inside)

Onus now on the Speaker to take action
Following the sudden prorogation of Parliament by President Mahinda Rajapaksa early last week, which resulted in the dissolution of the sitting committees, such as the Committee on Public Accounts (COPE) and the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), the onus is now on the Speaker to take action on the submitted reports.
Former PAC Chairman Rauff Hakeem told The Nation that the reports that have been submitted to the House remain the property of the House. “The PAC report is a complete report. The new Parliament can always take it up. It remains a public document. The onus is now on the Speaker to take action,” he asserted.
As for the ongoing PAC investigations – including pending interim reports on the Customs... (See Inside)





Free and fair poll: Bone of contention
The outcome of the Eastern Provincial Council elections will be known when these comments are being read. Nevertheless, the run up to the poll saw and interesting development: the Supreme Court was petitioned by an organisation asking for a “free and fair poll,” and specifically requesting that the use of arms by unauthorised groups be prevented.
Any action that promotes democratic mechanisms such as elections are most certainly welcome, and the recent trend of seeking the intervention of the courts of law indicates that we are indeed a vigilant society where citizens are on the prowl, monitoring social injustices.
This has been made possible to a large extent by progressive steps taken by the higher courts in recent times, promoting judicial activism. The courts have been involved with a variety of issues such as regulating gas prices, school admissions and teacher strikes. This policy has encouraged more and more citizens to take their grievances... (See Inside)

Rajapaksa effectively bolts stable door on crisis situations
Is Sri Lanka interested in securing the GSP+? After having listened to Central Bank Governor Nivard Cabraal on the BBC’s Hard Talk, where he said that Sri Lanka could manage its economy without the GSP+, Sri Lankan entrepreneurs who benefit from the GSP+ and the workers affiliated to those export-oriented industries are up in arms, trying to fathom as to why Cabraal had to make such a drastic statement, which would affect the entire country.
The GSP+, though some seem to think would only benefit the garment industry, it only covers 65% of the GSP+ facility that Sri Lanka is enjoying right now and 35% of the facility goes to other agro-based industries and fish exports, including prawns and ornamental fish, and other industries such as tea bags.
Since the garment industry takes the forefront in the fight to secure the GSP+, the other industries which benefit from the European Union’s GSP+ have not voiced their concerns and have taken a backseat all this time.
But now it appears that they too would come forward if the government doesn’t take... (See Inside)


UL crisis deepens
The sharp differences SriLankan Airlines has been having with its pilots reached volcanic proportions last week after Captain Milinda Ratnayake, Senior Manager Flight Operations, was removed from his post and given a fresh posting as Head of Service Delivery.
Capt. Ratnayake will now be in charge of the cabin crew and ground handling. The Airline Pilots Guild is furious.
For well over a decade, Capt. Ratnayake has locked horns with a majority of the pilots attached to SriLankan Airlines.
The charges
Having held his position as Senior Manager Flight Operations for 11 years, and as Chief Pilot for three years, Capt. Ratnayake has been accused of discrimination against local pilots, making false allegations, lying to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), discrediting local pilots over their foreign counterparts employed by UL, and allowing at least two foreign pilots to fly SriLankan minus their licenses.
Before Emirates... (See Inside)

Pandemonium reigns in east despite govt. denial
The Provincial Council elections in the east, which commenced sharp on time at 7.00 am yesterday, was marred with intimidation and thuggery.
All fingers were pointed at government ministers who, according to eye witnesses and independent poll watchers, had used their clout with the intention of turning the results of the polls, their way.
Reports reaching from Batticaloa, Trincomalee and Ampara strongly indicated that government ministers were responsible for inciting and encouraging violence. Their supporters, who had been brought to the east in bus loads, had been used to intimidate voters and stuff ballot boxes as the police watched the situation helplessly.
Scores of people in this region have been deprived of their polling cards. Most of the voters in... (See Inside)



India favourites, Lanka confident
Sri Lanka expressed confidence of turning tables on India in the 4th Asia Cup Women’s cricket final at the Welagedera Stadium, Kurunegala today despite keeping a close tab on the fitness of one of their key fast bowlers Sreepali Weerakkody who is recovering from a hamstring injury.
Frankly speaking, Sri Lanka had fitness question marks on both their fast bowlers with Chamani Seneviratne also nursing a hamstring injury, but coach Chitral Mendis said that she was fit to play in the final and their only concern was the fitness of Weerakkody whom he considered a key player in the side if they are to end India’s dominance in the tournament.
Weerakkody and Seneviratne were injured in the return match against India and had to sit out Sri Lanka’s final league game against Bangladesh which they won convincingly by nine wickets.
“The girls are confident they can get the better of India provided we are able to play our full side. The first game against India we lost by 29 runs and in the second game we misread the wicket and lost by a big margin,” said Mendis, a former club cricketer and coach. He lamented the lack of proper replacements... (See Inside)

Wisden honour for four Lankans
Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack, universally accepted as the cricketers’ ‘Bible’ has honoured four Sri Lankan cricketers in its 2008 edition.
Sri Lanka captain Mahela Jayawardene, vice-captain Kumar Sangakkara and champion bowlers Muthiah Muralitharan and Chaminda Vaas have been picked among Wisden’s top 40 cricketers for their performances during the 2007 calendar year.
All of them along with Sanath Jayasuriya have been featured in the past four years with Sangakkara being the only Sri Lankan to appear regularly in all five years.
‘Wisden’ says: “The Wisden Forty, including the Leading Cricketer in the World, have been selected by Wisden as the top 40 cricketers in the game on the basis of their class and form shown in all cricket during the calendar year 2007. The selections were made in consultation with many of the world’s most experienced cricket writers and commentators. In the end though, they were Wisden’s choices, guided by the statistics but not governed by them. The selection panel is no more infallible than any other... (See Inside)

Point Blank
Making the most of it
Twenty20 cricket, the latest version to hit the century-old game is catching on fast especially in India where the platform has been laid for the world’s greatest entertainers to perform their skills at a very high price. In its over 100 years of existence cricket has undergone several changes in its format and Twenty20 is the quickest and shortest form of entertainment which the followers of the game are subjected to witness. In an era where time flies Twenty20 is a more profound way of keeping pace with the times.
The Indian Premier League (IPL) and the Indian Cricket League (ICL) which preceded it has in a way given young Indian cricketers the chance to rub shoulders and compete on equal terms with the best players in the world. It is for them a once in a lifetime opportunity. They are not only learning the skills and tactics of how superstars prepare themselves both physically and mentally for a contest, but also on how they handle pressure situations in the middle which is a vital element in today’s fast-paced game. (See Inside)


Political expediency and military reality
Asymmetrical warfare is not confined to well defined boundaries. As such, the time-frames announced are unrealistic and impracticable. The reasoning behind the Army Commander’s statement that the military campaign against the Tamil militants would be won by the end of 2008, is a manifestation of this reality. Having committed himself twice before, obviously he has not even learned from experience of the basic tenets of the art of war. What excuses will he give a day after the deadline?
Remember those who did? General Hakirat Singh boasted that he would take Jaffna in 72 hours and planned “Op Pawan” on this premise. It took the IPKF more than 72 days of fighting with two Infantry Divisions supported by Armour to take full control of the Walikamam area of the Jaffna Peninsula. It is interesting to note the psyche that prevailed and prompted General Hakirat towards such an ill-planned battle. On first meeting with young LTTE cadres, who had volunteered to surrender their weapons subject to an amnesty being offered, he exclaimed to the Sri Lankan Security Forces... (See Inside)




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