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Sunday June 22nd, 2008

Billions for SAARC tamasha
While the masses tighten their belts, staggering in the face of the skyrocketing cost of living, the forthcoming SAARC summit is set to cost Sri Lanka at least a whopping Rs. 3 billion, The Nation learns.
According to the initial estimates drawn up on Friday,... [See Inside]

Baiz at it again, threatens CEB workers
A Deputy Minister is alleged to have threatened Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) workers attached to the Puttalam office yesterday over the telephone, using abusive... [See Inside]

Umma to do a wettu?
After severing her connections with the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) last Tuesday (17), Gampaha District Parliamentarian Anjan Umma is very likely to join the Wimal Weerawansa-led National... [See Inside]


         What does his future hold?         

As the world remembered millions of refugees around the world on Friday, World Refugee Day, this image of a little boy living in a temporary shelter in Maligawatte reminds us of how close the problem is to home
                                 (Pic by Nissanka Wijeratne)



GSP+: EU Ambassadors warn of dire consequences
Visiting European Union (EU) Human Rights Ambassadors have warned of dire consequences in the event Sri Lanka fails to comply with international human rights conventions and improves its human rights record in... [See Inside]

Sell diesel cheap or leave
Petroleum Minister A.HM. Fowzie yesterday warned that he would be compelled to order Lanka Indian Oil Company (LIOC) to wind up operations if it refused to sell diesel at a cheaper price.
The Minister, who threatened to take drastic action... [See Inside]




SL an illegal firearm haven
Nearly 35,000 illegal firearms are in circulation in Sri Lanka, disclosed South Asian Small Arms Network (Sri Lanka) (SASA Net) Chairman Kingsley Rodrigo, recently said.
The situation, Rodrigo pointed out, was exacerbating the prevailing insecurity in the country. He added that majority of those who hold the illegal firearms were the youth.
“Around 15,000 weapons had been given to politicians and their supporters during election time by the then government in 1989 to overcome threats by the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP). But records show that, since 1989, those who were given weapons are yet to return them to the respective authorities,” Rodrigo said. He said there were some 70,000 Army deserters in the country who had left their weapons in their camps at Mullaitivu, Kilinochchi and Elephant Pass, paving the way not only for civilians, but even the LTTE, to easily... [See Inside]

New lease of life for CSC
The Ceylon Shipping Corporation (CSC) has acquired a 165,000 MT oil tanker through its joint venture with a member of the global shipping dynasty family, Pyrros Vardinoyannis.
The joint venture was signed recently in Tangalle, Sri Lanka, between Vardinoyannis and CSC, a wholly government-owned entity.
The joint venture company, CSC Kandia, is expected to put value back into the CSC as a ship owner and operator, thereby enhancing its ability to aggressively pursue various types of cargo movements.
In the past, the CSC owned and operated 17 vessels but now operates a substantially reduced fleet of two small vessels. [See Inside]

LTTE meeting place destroyed
A meeting place of the LTTE situated two kilometres north of Aandankulam Junction in Mannar was attacked by the Air Force yesterday, around 12:30 p.m.
Air Force Spokesman Wing Commander Janaka Nanayakkara told The Nation that Air Force MI 24 helicopters were engaged in the attack.
The Air Force pilots had observed that the targets were taken accurately and confirmed that the place was under fire following the attack.
Meanwhile, four LTTE cadres were killed due to fire launched by the Army at Puwarasankulam, in Vavuniya, yesterday, at around 6 a.m.
Military Spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara said that the Army used Rocket Propelled Grenades (RPGs) and Multi Purpose Machine Guns (MPMGs) on an LTTE bunker and a hut, having observed four LTTEers, including two females. [See Inside]

War toll in Sri Lanka jumps to 215,000 – study
New estimates of war deaths in 13 countries, including Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Ethiopia and Bangladesh, show that previous counts have vastly understated the lives lost to war in the past half century, a British study published in the British Medical Journal said last week.
The new estimates relied on data from nationally representative population surveys done by the UN World Health Organisation in these countries earlier this decade to calculate death tolls in wars waged from 1955 to 2002.
In most of the countries, this method pointed to much higher loss of life than broadly cited media estimates of the various war death counts had shown, the researchers said.
For example, the method indicated 3.8 million Vietnamese died in the protracted fighting in Vietnam, mostly from 1955 to 1975, compared to previous estimates cited by... [See Inside]

Govt. moves to destabilise CEB, charge unions
Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) trade unions charge that the government has violated the Electricity Act of 1969 by letting the Lanka Electricity Company (LECO) manage the Broadlands Hydropower Project.
CEB Joint Trade Union Front Convenor Ananda Nimalaratne told The Nation that the government, through the Sustainable Energy Authority (SEA), had given LECO permission to manage the Broadlands Hydropower Project, thus violating the Act.
“The Electricity Act of 1969 says that only CEB can produce hydropower while mini hydropower projects, which only produce lower than 10 megawatts, could be initiated by private companies,” he said.
Nimalaratna added that LECO had submitted the application to start the Broadlands Hydropower Project two weeks... [See Inside]

CEB wants Defence Ministry to pay up
The Defence Ministry owes Rs. 159,000 to the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) for utilising the Ampara circuit bungalow from April 10 to May 11.
Officials attached to the CEB told The Nation that the Defence Ministry had booked the bungalow from April 10 for election purposes and had not yet paid the due amounts.
“The Ministry booked the bungalow during election time but they did not make any prior payments. Usually an employee of the Board is required to pay the amount once they book the bungalow,” he said.
He added that bookings were usually only made by the employees of the Board and that outsiders were not allowed to use the bungalows.
“The Welfare Department does not permit any outsiders to book the circuit bungalow... [See Inside]




After Ranil?
The country’s major opposition party, the United National Party (UNP) is at it again. After yet another election defeat-at the Eastern Provincial Council polls-there are calls for its leader Ranil Wickremesinghe to step down.
It is a now familiar scenario with a predictable outcome: Wickremesinghe wriggles out of a tight corner, appoints a committee to tide over the issue and lives to fight another day-until he loses the next election!
Those who are now agitating in the UNP would want to believe that this time around, the results would be different. More relevant to the issue however would be to examine whether showing Wickremesinghe the door, would solve the party’s growing problems.
In his second tenure, his signal achievement was the Ceasefire with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Unfortunately, that is what has now come to haunt him because his political opponents have conveniently branded him as the man who tried to hand over the country to the LTTE, at least in the eyes of the southern electorate. It is a label that Wickremesinghe is finding it difficult to get rid of. [See Inside]

Oh, what a tangled web we have woven!
Three top Indian bureaucrats were in Colombo on Friday to discuss crucial issues pertaining to the Sri Lankan peace process and the war against the LTTE. It was a sequel to Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama’s recent visit to India to extend an invitation to the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to attend the SAARC summit in Colombo. But observers noted that the delegation’s visit was more like three people from India who met with three Sri Lankans and it is believed that a special message had been delivered to the Sri Lankan government over the present situation in the country. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is expected to visit SL for at least two and a half days during the SAARC summit and will also meet with all political parties in the country including the main opposition UNP and minority political parties. It was unknown what the Indian Delegation had exactly told the Sri Lankan authorities although Sri Lankan officials described it as a routine visit by the Indians. To substantiate this, they also said that Presidential Secretary Lalith Weeratunge, Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa and Senior Presidential Advisor Basil Rajapaksa visited Delhi in November last year for discussions. [See Inside]


Inconvenient lessons
The problems in the education sector at present have become one of the most discussed topics. Long standing disputes between the Education Ministry officials and teachers have finally resulted in principals and the teachers deciding to boycott A/L and O/L paper marking. Although union action is nothing new to us, this action which would have serious consequences has shaken the entire nation. As always, when the teachers go on strike the group that ultimately suffers is the students. Although the grievances of the teachers might be legitimate, the children aren’t answerable for any of these issues. And the students who are sitting for their A/L and O/L exams and their families wonder whether the continuous union action would destroy their most cherished dreams. [See Inside]

New e-NIC really tamperproof?
A Rs. 5 billion tender has been doctored by the Internal Administration Ministry, of which Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake is Minister. Our repeated attempts to contact the Prime Minister failed as Wickremanayake remained unavailable for comment.
However, we did speak with Internal Administration Ministry Secretary, Dr. Upananda Vidanapathirana, who refuted charges that the government has compromised on security specifications for the new Identification (ID) Card.
“There is absolutely no compromise. The Prime Minister will not tolerate any compromise on this project and neither will I,” Dr. Vidanapathirana said.
He added that the revised specifications were based on recommendations made by the Tender Board and a Technical Evaluation Committee (TEC).
“They addressed all these issues. Prospective bidders were informed of all the issues. On my part, I have conformed very strictly to procedure – I go by the TEC report and my decision is based on this report, which is in black and white. Thus,... [See Inside]



Vettori tries to calm Champions Trophy fears
New Zealand captain Daniel Vettori did his best Friday to allay growing security concerns about staging the International Cricket Council (ICC) Champions Trophy in Pakistan this year.
Australia captain Ricky Ponting has said he doesn’t yet know if his side will travel to Pakistan for the September 11-28 event and raised the prospect of individual withdrawals even if the title-holders do decide to send a team.
“We don’t know if we’re going. And if we do go, we don’t know if individuals are going to pull out,” Ponting was quoted as saying in Australian newspapers.
“It just won’t be Australian players. There will be a few other teams who will be thinking long and hard if the tour does go ahead.
“I’m sure a lot of the New Zealand players who have been confronted with this stuff before, in Sri Lanka and Pakistan, will have some pretty serious concerns.”
Australia put off a March-April tour of Pakistan after several of their players hesitated after a series of suicide bombings in the run-up to Pakistan’s national elections. [See Inside]

The International Cricket Council’s (ICC) decision to put on trial the challenge system where players will have the right to contest umpiring decisions during the upcoming Test and ODI series between Sri Lanka and India once again brings to the forefront the individual who initially suggested such a move 11 years ago.
Senaka Weeraratne, a lawyer by profession and a keen follower of cricket wrote a letter under the heading ‘Allow Appeals to the Third Umpire’ in early 1997 which was published widely in Sri Lankan newspapers as well as ‘The Australian’, ‘The Sunday Age’, ‘NT News’, ‘The London Times’, Pakistan’s leading paper ‘Dawn’ and even the prestigious ‘Time’ magazine.
Weeraratne’s proposal letter was submitted to the then president of Sri Lanka Cricket Upali Dharmadasa who knowing the importance of the concept had acknowledged the contents of it and forwarded it to his secretary Tryphon Mirando for further action. It was only through the controlling body for cricket in the country that Weeraratne could put forward his suggestion to the ICC. Whether successive administrators had followed Weeraratne’s... [See Inside]


NFF will govern nation by 2018-Wimal
The National Freedom Front (NFF) Leader MP Wimal Weerawansa recently came up with a plan to set up an All Party Defense Committee to ensure public safety. In an already highly militarised environment, many aspects of the programme including strengthening the existing civil defense committee and the establishment of a civil intelligence wing have sparked off controversy
Q: You have proposed to set up an All Party Defence Committee to ensure public safety which the Government has decided to take up. But already there is a civil Defense Committee. What is the difference between the two?
A: First of all I have to explain why the National Freedom Front (NFF) came up with these proposals. It is evident that there is a major threat to civilian security. The battle worn Tigers who are on the brink of collapse are now resorting to attacking soft targets like public transport; they are doing this to divert attention from the battle front where they are suffering increasing defeats.
We have identified several reasons behind the LTTE’s series of attacks on civilian targets.
First of all they want to create a climate of fear among the public, and they hope that the growing... [See Inside]


RANIL and the enemy within
The United National Party (UNP) still the country’s single largest political party, is in the midst of a political crisis.
The UNP, led by veteran politician Ranil Wickremesinghe, is in the throes of a leadership battle which, some say, is the party’s worst crisis ever.
The internal conflict and squabble among some, over the leadership, is certainly blocking the party’s forward march. Some feel that, at the end of the day, the political crisis brewing within the UNP could upset everything, if corrective measures are not taken forthwith.
UNP members, by and large, paint a rosy picture to the outside world, while, at the same time, wrestle within to maintain the sanity of the party.
The same reason that prompted 17 UNP stalwarts to quit the party, including political giants such as Karu Jayasuriya and Dr. Rajitha Senaratne, are, today, seen as the same cause for many more to rise against the present leadership, thus demanding a change of the leadership of the party or, play the game according to the rules, which some perceive, Wickremesinghe has failed to do in the past. [See Inside]




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