|Reform only way
MANAMA (AFP) – The only way forward for Bahrain is
through political reform rather than oppression of its
Shiites and a heavy-handed crackdown, the head of its main
Shiite opposition bloc said in an interview.
The opposition pulled its 18 MPs out of parliament – two of
whom have been detained – in protest at violence against
Sheikh Ali Salman, who heads Al-Wefaq, the Sunni-ruled
kingdom’s largest Shiite political group, said his movement
was also not planning to take part in upcoming by-elections.
A “counter-revolution” has raised fears among Sunnis of the
Shiite-led protest movement, the white-turbaned cleric said,
while insisting on a civic state for both Muslim communities
and not Iran-style clerical rule.
The government is now “definitely demanded to introduce
serious reforms. What is also definite is that stability
will not come through oppression,” said Salman, ahead of the
lifting of emergency laws enforced in mid-March.
The Wefaq leader said “security (forces) will not bring the
solution ... Without political reform, this bad situation
will continue and there will not be real stability.”
If the authorities, widely criticised by rights groups for
their heavy-handed clampdown on Shiites, continue with the
same policies after the June 1 lifting of emergency law, the
crisis will remain unchanged, he said.
“If the same mentality that runs the country now continues
in the coming days... this means that Bahrain will remain
‘ill,’” he said, insisting on a political solution.
“You have frightened the people with tanks, so you have to
keep tanks around. This would be far from normal,” he said,
warning that protesters were already returning to the
streets in their villages.
The cleric led the political front of month-long protests on
the streets that erupted in mid-February led by Shiite youth
inspired by uprisings that toppled long-time strongmen in
Tunisia and Egypt.
Banking on the unprecedented mass protest camped out at
Manama’s Pearl roundabout, before it was raided in
mid-March, Salman’s Wefaq and six other opposition groups
raised the stakes, demanding a “real” constitutional
Some demonstrators from the disenfranchised Shiite community
called for the fall of the Al-Khalifa dynasty, sending
shivers across the Sunni-ruled Arab monarchies of the Gulf
wary of neighbouring Shiite Iran’s influence.
“We said: The people want to reform the regime. We did not
raise the slogan of toppling the regime,” said Salman. “We
conducted a survey among demonstrators, and the majority
said they wanted a constitutional monarchy.”
|Nepal’s leaders battle
to avert fresh crisis
KATHMANDU (AFP) – Nepal’s ruling parties were to hold
11th-hour talks on Saturday to try to avert a fresh
political crisis, with hours to go before parliament’s term
Nepal’s parliament, or Constituent Assembly, was elected in
2008 with a two-year mandate to fulfil the terms of the
peace agreement that followed a long civil war and write a
new constitution for the world’s youngest republic.
It has been unable to complete either task, despite being
given an extra 12 months in 2010, and unless a fresh
extension can be agreed its term will expire at midnight
(1815 GMT) Saturday, leaving the country in legal limbo.
The widespread hope that followed the end of the war in 2006
and the abolition of Nepal’s unpopular monarchy two years
later has been replaced by a growing sense of anger and
frustration in one of the world’s poorest countries.
Nepal was without a government for seven months before the
current prime minister was elected in February – has stifled
economic growth, forcing many Nepalese to seek work
This time the coalition government, which includes the
leftist UML (Unified Marxist-Leninist) and Maoist parties,
has proposed a bill to give the assembly more time, but does
not yet have the needed two-thirds parliamentary majority.
It requires the support of the main opposition party, the
centrist Nepali Congress (NC), which has said it will only
vote for an extension under certain conditions.
The NC is demanding that the Maoists, who fought a 10-year
war against the state before laying down their arms in 2006
and becoming a legitimate political party, hand over weapons
stored in military camps to the government.
“We haven’t yet been able to reach an agreement on the
issues such as surrendering the arms to the government,” Ram
Sharan Mahat, a senior NC party leader, told AFP. “I’m not
optimistic about a positive outcome.”
Thousands of people have taken to the streets in recent
weeks in protest against the slow pace of progress since the
2008 elections and politicians’ failure to complete the
constitution. On Friday, protesters set fire to cars in
Kathmandu as they tried to enforce a shutdown of the
capital, and hundreds of riot police were deployed around
the city ahead of Saturday’s vote.
Analysts predicted the knife-edge negotiations would
continue well into Saturday, and said it remained unclear
what would happen if no agreement could be reached.
The speaker of the house, Subas Chandra Nemwang, said the
parties had no choice but to agree.
“They have time and again said that they are committed to
the peace process and the constitution,” he told AFP. “I
hope they will put aside their differences and reach
agreement on those two vital issues.”
derails, injuring 39
TOKYO (AFP) – An express train in Japan derailed and
caught fire inside a tunnel overnight, injuring 39
passengers, railway officials said Saturday.
The injured were taken for hospital treatment though no-one
was seriously hurt, officials said.
The train, carrying 240 passengers, made an emergency stop
inside a 685-metre (750-yard) tunnel on the northern
Hokkaido island at around 10:00 pm (0100 GMT) on Friday
after its driver noticed smoke emerging from the train.
The passengers escaped but the fire continued to burn until
early Saturday morning, destroying the six-carriage train.
Officials and emergency workers found marks on the track and
said one of the carriages had apparently derailed just
before entering the tunnel.
The government ordered the railway company, JR Hokkaido, to
carry out a thorough investigation. Naotoshi Nakajima,
president of JR Hokkaido, apologised for the accident.
“This serious accident caused injuries to so many of our
passengers,” he told reporters.
“We are extremely sorry. We will investigate the cause and
will draft prevention measures,” he said.
|Iran sends advisers to
Syria to help quell unrest
WASHINGTON (AFP) – Iran is sending trainers and advisers
to Syria to help crush anti-government demonstrations
threatening to topple Iran’s most important ally in the
region, The Washington Post reported late Friday.
The influx of Iranian manpower was adding to a steady stream
of aid from Tehran, the newspaper said, citing unnamed US
That aid includes not only weapons and riot gear but also
sophisticated surveillance equipment that is helping Syrian
authorities track down opponents through their Facebook and
accounts, the sources said.
Iranian-assisted computer surveillance is believed to have
led to the arrests of hundreds of Syrians seized from their
homes in recent weeks, the paper said.
According to one diplomat and US officials, the Iranian
military trainers are being brought to Damascus to instruct
Syrians in techniques Iran used against the nation’s “Green
Movement”’ in 2009, the Post reported.
Officers from Iran’s notorious Quds Force have played a key
role in Syria’s crackdown since at least mid-April, it said.
US sanctions imposed against the Quds Force in April had
been intended as a warning to Iran to halt the practice,
said the Post.
At least eight people were reported killed by security
forces Friday as pro-democracy protesters took to the
streets in cities and towns across the country after Muslim
Friday prayers in defiance of a government crackdown.
The death toll by early evening was far lower than last
Friday when at least 44 people were killed by security
forces during similar protests.
Since the revolt in Syria erupted in mid-March, Friday
protests have become a weekly ritual and are widely seen as
a barometer of whether activists are able to maintain
momentum despite the repression.
|Report queries Haiti
quake death toll, homeless
PORT-AU-PRINCE (AFP) – Haitian officials reacted
sceptically Friday to a draft US report that questioned both
the death toll in last year’s earthquake and the numbers
The draft report, based on a survey commissioned by the US
Agency for International Development (USAID), argues that
far fewer people died in the devastating 2010 quake than has
It also suggests that many of those still living in squalid
tent cities did not lose their homes in the disaster.
The draft report, dated May 13 and which has yet to be
released, draws its estimates from door-to-door surveys
carried out by the agency over 29 days in January.
Challenging the commonly accepted death toll of 250,000
people, it proposes a far smaller figure.
“The number of fatalities that resulted from the earthquake
is estimated at 46,190 to 84,961, approximately 2.2 percent
of the population,” it says.
The report, a copy of which has been obtained by AFP, also
questions official UN figures that around 680,000 people
It argues that only between 5 percent and 10 percent of that
number moved into the street from crumbled homes.
The draft report said its own findings – and data from
Haiti’s ministry of public works – suggested that the UN
estimates were “improbable figures.”
There was no comment Friday from the office of President
But a government spokesman, who asked not to be named,
expressed surprise, saying: “Honestly, I have never heard of
“The official figures remain the same. It’s surprising that
we would talk about new figures now.”
And one government minister, who also spoke to AFP on
condition of anonymity, said he found it “curious that the
new figures had appeared more than a year after the
“The official numbers that I am aware of remain the same and
that is between 250,000 and 300,000 dead,” the minister
US State Department Mark Toner, which oversees USAID,
acknowledged they had commissioned the report from
Washington-based firm LTL Strategies.
But he added: “The first draft of the report contained
internal inconsistencies with its own findings.
“We are reviewing these inconsistencies with LTL Strategies
to ensure information we release is accurate.”
In the months after the disaster, the USAID’s Foreign
Disaster Assistance funded a multi-million project to assess
the safety of nearly every earthquake-damaged home in Haiti.
The project was led by the Pan American Development
Foundation, working with the well-known structural
engineering firm, Miyamoto International and Haiti’s
ministry of public works (MTPTC).
It moved across the island, identifying which homes it
considered “totally unsafe” or “mostly unsafe.”
The follow-up study, commissioned by USAID and carried out
in January, conducted more than 2,000 in-depth surveys
across low-income neighbourhoods in Port-au-Prince.
It found that 64 percent of houses designated as “totally
unsafe” and more than 90 percent of those designated “mostly
unsafe” had already been reoccupied.
Entitled “Building Assessments and Rubble Removal in
Quake-Affected Neighbourhoods in Haiti,” the report could
have major implications for the future of aid and
reconstruction to the impoverished nation.
The United States, along with other international donors,
has pumped millions of dollars into Haiti in a bid to help
it get back on its feet after the quake levelled much of the
|Egypt eases Gaza
Egypt has opened its border
with Gaza, easing restrictions and allowing more
Palestinians to cross. Women, children and men over 40 are
now allowed to cross freely. Men aged between 18 and 40 will
still require a permit, and trade is prohibited.
Egypt and Israel have blockaded the Gaza Strip since the
militant Hamas movement took power there in 2007. Israel
fears weapons will be imported into Gaza, but Egypt insists
it will conduct thorough searches.
The BBC’s Jon Donnison, in Gaza, says the decision to ease
the border controls is symbolically important. It is another
sign that the new leadership in Egypt, where President Hosni
Mubarak was ousted in February, is shifting the dynamics of
the Middle East.
Israel has criticised the border move, saying it raised
But with elections coming up in Egypt, our correspondent
says the change in policy is likely to be popular with a
public sympathetic to the Palestinian cause.
Although the border will still be closed for trade, the
opening of the Rafah crossing is expected to provide a major
economic boost to Gaza.
Previously, only about 300 Palestinians were allowed out
Gaza resident Ali Nahallah told the BBC the changes would be
“Of course this is our only entry point from Gaza to the
external world,” he said.
“We feel that we live in a big jail in Gaza so now we feel a
little bit more comfortable and life is easier now. My kids
are willing to travel to see other places other than Gaza.”
The latest move comes a month after Egypt pushed through a
unity deal between the two main Palestinian factions - Fatah
and Hamas - something Israel also opposed. Fatah runs the
West Bank, while Hamas governs Gaza.
Analysts say that with elections looming in Egypt the new
policy is likely be popular with a public largely
sympathetic to the Palestinian cause.
Egypt’s co-operation in blockading Gaza was one of President
Mubarak’s most unpopular policies.
Egypt says the crossing will be open from 0900 to 2100 every
day except Fridays and holidays. Last year, Israel eased
restrictions on goods entering Gaza, but severe shortages in
the territory remain.
In 2010, the International Committee of the Red Cross said
the blockade was a clear violation of international
Hundreds of smuggling tunnels run under the Egyptian border
|Joint approach more
beneficial, Lankan-UAE ministers agree
|Minister of Industry & Commerce, Rishad Bathiudeen
(right) paid a courtesy call on UAE Foreign Trade Minister,
Lubna Bint Kalid Al Qasimi (left) at Abu Dhabi’s Ministry of
Foreign Trade on May 23. Ms. Lubna Bint Kalid Al Qasimi,
will visit Sri Lanka in the due course, says Minister
“Her visit will further consolidate our trade relations and
will help in bringing new UAE business engagements to Sri
Lanka,” the Minister added.
During the discussion, Minister Bathiudeen apprised the UAE
minister of Sri Lanka’s new socio economic development trend
and invited the UAE business community for renewed trade
partnership with Sri Lanka to further enhance mutual trade
UAE-Sri Lanka trade turnover at present stands at US $ 548.4
million (2010) of which Sri Lankan exports to UAE amounts to
US $ 246.2 million, making UAE one of the key trading
partners in the Middle East. Given the ‘trading hub’ outlook
of both economies, a joint approach to avail of global
market opportunities is a more beneficial option, agreed
|Nizam Ismail elected
Dy Mayor of London Borough of Harrow
Lankan born Councillor Nizam Ismail from Galle, was elected
Deputy Mayor of the Harrow Council London at the annual
council meeting of the council on May 10, 2011. Nizam, an
old boy of St. Aloysius’ College, Galle was first elected a
coucillor to the Harrow Council London in May 2002 to
represent the Queensbury Ward. He held the position of the
Chief Whip of the Harrow Labour Group. At present, he is the
Chairman of the Traffic and Road Safety Advisory Panel,
Treasurer of the Labour Group, Governor of a school and
chairman of the Harrow Muslim Council, Chairman and Trustee
of Overseas Sri Lankan Muslim Educationa Trust (OSMET).
Nizam is very much involved in serving the community. By
profession he was an engineer serving British Telecom and
went on to serve the Ministry of Defence where he received a
commendation by the Air Vice Marshall A. J. C. Bagnali CB
OBE RAF for the services rendered to MOD London.
He lives with his wife Zahafaran, daughter of the late A. I.
H. A. Wahab who was a diplomat and former Mayor of Galle.
Their daughter Dr. Ferina Deen is a dermatologist and son
Imran is an executive in a reputed merchant bank in London.
As a Sri Lankan, his achievements reflect the contry he was
born and the community he represents.
|CHINESE MUSICIANS WELCOME GL
WITH SINHALA SONGS
Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi of the People’s Republic of
China, in an exceptionally warm gesture, arranged for a
group of accomplished Chinese musicians to offer a series of
Sri Lankan songs, including ‘Danno Budunge’ and ‘Olu
Pipeela’ in addition to Chinese traditional music, in
welcoming Sri Lanka’s External Affairs Minister, Professor
G. L. Peiris to the Foreign Ministry in Beijing for wide
ranging bilateral discussions. The musicians with the two
Foreign Ministers at the conclusion of the meeting
Nayaka Thera leaves for Lebanon
Dr. Kanumuldeniye Sri Dharmashoka Nayaka Thera
Viharadhipathi, Nawa Polonnaru Gal Viharaya, Dehiwala and
the Director General of the international Vihara foundation
left for Lebanon on Friday, May 20 from the Katunayaka
International Airport to attend a series of Vesak programmes
held to celebrate the “2,600 Sri Sambuddhathwa Jayanthiya”.
After the Lebanon tour the Ven. Nayaka Thera is due to visit
Himachal Pradesh in India. He also hopes to see the Dalai
Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader.
|Sri Lanka showcased at
RHS Chelsea Flower Show in London
|The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) Chelsea Flower
Show is considered the most prestigious flower show in the
world, graced by royalty and a large affluent clientele. It
is a very important event in the UK’s social calendar and
showcases the works of the world’s leading garden designers
and horticultural enthusiasts. The show is being held at the
Royal Hospital Gardens in London and this year’s event held
from May 23 to 28 saw over 140,000 visiting the show.
Sri Lanka Tourism also took part at this event in
partnership with the Orchid Society of Great Britain (OSGB)
and Borneo Exotics (the sole exhibitor of Sri Lankan
The OSGB stand which celebrated its Diamond Jubilee at the
Chelsea Flower Show exhibited Orchids from around the world
set in a backdrop depicting the Sigiriya Rock Fortress in
Sri Lanka. The centrepiece of the stand was the specially
made replica of the ‘Sigiriya Lion Paws’ that attracted a
lot of attention and interest.
Guests celebrating the OSGB/ Sri Lanka Tourism stand
included TV Chef personalities Gary Rhodes and Rick Stein,
TV Personalities Lawrence Llewelyn Bowen Diana Moran and
Bill Bailey, actress Jane Asher and popular boy band JLS.
The star of the show however was the effervescent award
winning actress Dame Helen Mirren, who unveiled the new
hybrid Nepenthes “Helen” named after her by Borneo Exotics,
who grow their carnivorous plants in Sri Lanka.
The Acting High Commissioner in the UK, P. M. Amza and Mrs.
Amza were the guests of honour at the Sri Lanka Stand.
The ‘Vote for the most popular Orchid and win a holiday to
Sri Lanka’ competition jointly hosted by Sri Lanka Tourism,
Sri Lankan Airlines and Elegant Travels has received a
tremendous response from the crowd reinforcing the
popularity of Sri Lanka as a holiday destination in the UK.
“We are delighted to be associated with the RHS Chelsea
Flower Show which attracts a large affluent audience in the
UK . This is in line with Sri Lanka Tourism’s strategy of
promoting Sri Lanka as holiday destination that offers more
than the beaches and attracting a more upmarket clientele,”
said Sanjika Perera, Director Sri Lanka Tourism in the UK
|At World Confab on Drowning Prevention in Vietnam
‘Kiss of life’ a must,
says Dr. Godakumbura
|The Second World Conference on Drowning Prevention was
held in Danang, Vietnam a week ago. The Governor General and
the Chief Justice of Australia were among the dignitaries,
and there were 400 delegates from 50 countries including
representatives from WHO, Unicef, Safe Kids, etc. Consultant
surgeon, Dr. Wijaya Godakumbura, well known for his burn
prevention activities, made a presentation on ‘Drowning in a
developing country in Asia: Its nature and the support that
such countries need’. He concluded his talk with the
following words: “Those of us in Sri Lanka who are trying to
prevent drowning would be grateful for any assistance that
could be given to us”.
Drowning is a major global health hazard; it is referred to
as the ‘silent killer’ because quite often the death occurs
swiftly and silently. Over 90% of the deaths occur in
developing countries where natural bodies of water like
wells, rivers, lakes and the sea account for the majority of
the deaths whereas in developed countries it is children
drowning in swimming pools. What is tragic in these
catastrophes is the fact that children and young adults are
often the victims. Another feature is that, as in road
accidents, alcohol plays a significant role in drowning
among the youths in streams, lakes and the sea. Some die
while trying to save a friend from drowning. People jump
into the water on impulse without any knowledge of rescue
techniques and one death then becomes two or three!
In Sri Lanka, children drowning in unprotected wells and
pits is not uncommon. According to one newspaper, four
children had fallen into unprotected wells in February 2010
and three of them had died! Over 35,000 people died in the
tsunami of 2004 and 30 in the floods of last January and
February. It is now universally accepted that ‘swimming
training’ prevents many of the drowning deaths. Similarly if
people have a basic knowledge on resuscitation techniques –
this could be done through TV programmes – it could be very
handy because ‘Kiss of Life’ administered by bystanders
prior to the arrival of trained staff has saved many lives.
The above is done in a large scale even in some countries in
our region like Bangladesh and Vietnam. Swimming training is
being done in Sri Lanka, but this activity needs to be
promoted along with demonstration of the ‘Kiss of Life’ on
TV if we are to reduce the number drowning in Sri Lanka
appreciably, which now stands around 1,100 per year or three
|Sri Lanka Tourism
Awards - 2010 - Winners
1. General Awards
Tourism Legends - Mr. Ken Balendran
Tourism Pioneers - Mr. S. D. Saparamadu, Mr. Nihal Perera
Outstanding Contribution to Tourism - Mr. Palitha Gurusinghe
Tourism Entrepreneur of the year - Mr. Anura Lokuhetty, Mr.
Leisure Attraction of the year - Pinnawala Elephant
Tourist Hotel ¬- Star Classified
Five Star (City) – Cinnamon Lakeside Colombo
Five Star (Resort) – Heritance – Ahungalle
Four Star – Heritance Tea Factory - N’ Eliya
Three Star – Palm Garden Village Hotel, A’pura
Tourist Hotels ¬Other
Unique Accommodation Boutique Hotel - Serene
Unique Accommodation Boutique Villa - Paradise Road, The
Hosted Accommodation ¬- HOTEL
¬Ayurvea Tourism - Barbaryn Reef Hotel ¬Weligama
¬Adventure Sorts - Ella Adventure Park
Spa - Cinnamon Lake Side Azmaara Spa
¬Ecotourism - Heritance, Kandalama
Heritage - Galle Face Hotel
Culture - Cinnamon Grand - Nugagama
Agri Tourism - CIC Agri Holiday Resort - Higurakgoda
Tourist Hotels & Restaurant - The Gallery Cafe
Travel & Tourism Operator
Major Tour Operators (Inbound)- Walkers Tours
Transport Operator Emerging Market (Non Traditional) - Asian
Tour Operator FIT (Foreign Independent Travelers) - Asian
Destination Loyal Partner (Foreign) – Tour Operator - Sri
Airlines¬ - Contribution to Tourism
Airline of the year - SriLankan Airlines
Charter Airline Operation of the year - Walkers Tours /
Professional Exhibition Organizer - Lanka Exhibition &
Conference Service (Pvt) Ltd.,
Conference / Exhibition Venue - Waters Edge - Battaramulla
Electronic Media Programme on Travel & Tourism - TV - Art-TV
Electronic Media Programme on Travel & Tourism - RADIO -
Print Media Presentation on Travel & Tourism - Sri Lankan
Pocket Guide Serendib Magazine
Foreign Journalist Promoting Sri Lanka Tourism - Ms. Sachiyo
Best Tourism Website
Travel (eg: Destination - Walkers Tours
Hotel - Mt. Lavinia Hotel
Niche Product (eg: - Eco Team Adventure Sports, Spa, etc.,)
Provincial Toruism Project
Provincial Destination Development & Marketing - Wayamba
Tourism Education & Training Effort - Sri Lanka Institute of
Tourism & Hotel Management
Excellence in Service
National Tourist Guide Lecturer – Roshan Fernando
Chef of the Year - Wijesiri Delthalawage.
|NATIONAL YOUTH CENTRE AT
Youth Affairs and Skills
Development Minister Dulles Alahapperuma, at the opening of
the ‘Sri Lanka Youth’ national youth centre at Padiyatalawa,
Ampara, being briefed on the Training Course for Apprentice
electricians inaugurated under the auspices of the
International Immigrant Centre. Parliamentarian Sriyani
Wijewickrama and National Youth Service Council Chairman
Lalith Piyum Perera are also in the picture
Sri Lanka has emerged to the maximum possible level in
conducting systematic quality assurance activities in higher
education compared to other developing nations. In
recognition to the active work conducted by the Quality
Assurance and Accreditation Council (QAAC), the Director of
the Council, Prof. Colin N. Peiris, has been appointed to
Director Board in two leading QA Networks in the world,
INQAAHE and APQN.
INQAAHE (International Network for Quality Assuance Agencies
in Higher Education) is the world body in QA and it has over
200 members spanning six continents and 79 countries. The
great majority of its members are QA Agencies that operate
in many ways, and QAAC, Sri Lanka has a full membership.
Asia Pacific Quality Network (APQN) has also appointed Prof.
Peiris to the Board for the third consecutive term. He has
prepared a Manual on ‘Training Materials used in External
Assessments’, used by APQN membership. APQN has 75 members
from 30 countries in the Asia Pacific Region.
|STRI-MELA OPENS IN GALLE
A two-day exhibition and a seminar titled `Stri-mela’,
organized by Sri Lankeeya Kantha Handa’, an organization
dedicated to empowering the women in the Economic and Social
Sectors in the country, were held at Galle Town Hall
recently. Here, Southern Province Governor Kumari Balasuriya
lights a candle to open the exhibition on the occasion.
Among others in the picture are former Minister Ferial
Ashraff and Visakha Dharmadasa of the `Stri- mela’
Organizing Committee, Chairman, Southern PC C. Vitanachchi
and PC members Wijepala Hettiarachchi and Sisira Kumararatne
(Picture by Neminda Samarajeewa.)
|President meets Jaffna
|SLFP Chief Organiser for Jaffna District Angajan
Ramanathan with his team of around 100 youths from Jaffna
talking to President Mahinda Rajapaksa at Temple Trees