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With people being rounded up willy-nilly following the recent bomb blasts in the city there has been a rush to obtain ID cards. As a result these students sitting the G.C.E. (O/L) examination this year are having an anxious time wondering if the Department of Registration of Persons will be able to issue their national identity cards on time for the exam starting next week.  --Photo by Thusitha Kumara

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Navy Chief grilled on
torture by Aussie court

  >

Nandana to form JVP
breakaway party

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ASC tops tender for Colombo South Harbour Terminal project

  >

Be ready for elections
warns President

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Calls for UN HR mission
as civilian death toll mounts

 

 

 

 

Budget heading for photo finish

The final vote on the budget scheduled for December 14 is expected to be a photo finish with both the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress and the Ceylon Workers' Congress expected to decide how they would vote early this week.

The government won the second reading registering 118 votes while the opposition registered 102 votes. The UNP, JVP and the TNA have already announced they will vote against the budget on December 14.

The Sunday Leader learns all 22 TNA MPs will be present for the vote on December 14 including the two MPs who were absent during the last vote with SLFP dissident Wijedasa Rajapakse also expected to vote with the government giving the combined opposition 105 votes.

It is also learned the JVP dissident MP Nandana Gunatilleke who abstained during the vote on the second reading will vote with the government on December 14.

However the SLMC which has six MPs and the CWC which also counts for six MPs are to review their decisions based on the government's response to a number of proposals they have submitted and announce how they will vote early this week. Both the CWC and the SLMC gave their 12 votes in favour of the budget on the November 19 second reading vote.

The SLMC Working Committee, which met on Sunday, December 2 overwhelmingly, called on the party MPs to vote against the budget due to the government's failure to address grievances of the Muslim community.

SLMC General Secretary, Hasan Ali confirmed to The Sunday Leader that the working committee decided that the party should vote against the budget but said a final decision will be taken early this week.

Meanwhile the CWC too has decided to review its position in view of the harassment meted out to upcountry Tamils following the arbitrary arrest and detention of several persons.

Following decisions reached at a high level meeting of the CWC, Minister Arumugam Thondaman boycotted Wednesday's cabinet meeting with the entire CWC parliamentary group boycotting parliament during the emergency debate vote.

A top CWC source said the party would take a final decision on how they will vote on the budget before December 12.

Meanwhile the government is independently attempting to lure several opposition MPs to crossover before December 14 while the opposition is in discussion with six MPs of the ruling UPFA.

Informed sources said Chief Government Whip Jeyaraj Fernandopulle last week told President Rajapakse to postpone his visits to Japan and England in view of the delicate balance of power leading up to the December 14 vote. Sources close to the President said the President had refused to do so informing Fernandopulle that the government parliamentary group should know to secure its numbers.

The President is expected to leave for Tokyo early this morning.


Service Chief submits to jurisdiction of foreign court

Navy Chief grilled on torture by Aussie court

Sri Lanka's Navy Commander Vice Admiral Wasantha Karannagoda last week denied to an Australian Court under cross examination that Sri Lanka used torture to extract evidence.

Karannagoda who was a key prosecution witness made the denial under cross examination in a Melbourne Magistrates Court in a terrorism case against three Tamils accused of raising funds for the LTTE.

The Navy Commander appeared by video link in the Melbourne Court on December 4.

The three Tamils, Aruran Vinayagamoorthy, 33, Sivarajah Yathavan, 36 and Arumugam Rajeevan 41 are facing a committal hearing and are charged with being members of a terrorist organisation, making funds available to a terrorist organisation and channelling funds to a proscribed entity.

While Vinayagamoorthy and Yadavan are also charged with intentionally providing resources or support to a terrorist organisation the prosecution alleges the three men funneled AUD 1.9 million in donations from Australian Tamils to their homeland to support a terrorist campaign.

Questioned by Defence lawyer Phillip Boulten SC, Karannagoda denied ever hearing of widely reported allegations that Sri Lankan authorities had tortured former members of the LTTE during interrogations.

Karannagoda also said in evidence that much of the sworn material evinced in court by him were as a result of interviews conducted with Tamil Tiger cadres who had fled the LTTE's command and sought assistance from the Sri Lankan government.

The Navy Commander's statement contained details of LTTE leadership and recruitment and detailed a large number of atrocities. Meanwhile the appearance of Sri Lanka's Navy Commander in an Australian court of law has raised eyebrows in diplomatic circles as such an appearance, they say, tantamounts to Sri Lanka subjecting itself to the domestic laws of another sovereign state.

Legal experts speaking to The Sunday Leader said this may amount to Sri Lanka waiving its sovereign immunity to be a witness in a foreign court and may tantamount to a violation of Sri Lanka's sovereignty. Diplomats however point out that Sri Lanka's Foreign Secretary Dr. Palitha Kohona being a citizen of Australia may have been a persuading factor. The Prosecution was led by Mark Dean SC and the committal hearing before Magistrate Peter Reardon is continuing.


Basil promotes new party

Nandana to form JVP breakaway party

A new JVP faction is currently in the making under the leadership of former JVP presidential candidate and senior party member Nandana Gunathilleke.

It is now learnt that this new JVP faction would be formed under Gunathilleke after the vote on the third reading of the budget on December 14. Formation of the new party is expected to take place as soon as December 15.

Gunathilleke was removed from the party several months ago due to an internal conflict. However, he remained as a parliamentarian without resigning due to requests made by President Mahinda Rajapakse and brother Basil Rajapakse.

The Rajapakse brothers after recognising Gunathilleke's potential to form a new political front, an alternative to the JVP, requested him to remain in politics in order to give the necessary leadership to the new JVP faction.

The decision to promote another party from within the JVP follows the party's decision to vote against the budget.

Informed sources said the controversy surrounding the JVP's decision to vote against the budget pushed Basil Rajapakse to call Gunathilleke for several discussions, where it was finally decided to launch a new JVP under Gunathilleke's leadership following the budget vote on December 14.

The first step in the campaign is for Gunathilleke to vote in favour of the budget on December 14.

Meanwhile, it is learnt that Gunathilleke has already held secret discussions with several provincial leaders of the JVP to muster their support for the new political movement.

Rajapakse has also agreed to provide several breakaway members of the JVP with top jobs in the state sector and create employment opportunities for at least 1,000 of their supporters.


ASC tops tender for Colombo South Harbour Terminal project

The Aitken Spence led consortium comprising the Port of Singapore has been selected as the most eligible bidder that should be called for negotiations for the Colombo South Harbour Terminal operation, The Sunday Leader learns.

Informed sources said the project committee report submitted to the Cabinet Appointed Negotiating Committee (CANC) stated that based on the tender document issued, Aitken Spence consortium was the most eligible bidder that should be called for negotiations.

It is learned the CANC which met on November 19 had also unanimously agreed with the recommendations of the project committee.

However, it is learned the Chairman of the Ports Authority Saliya Wickramasuriya who is a member of the CANC later raised issue with the recommendations with President's Secretary Lalith Weeratunga resulting in the CANC calling on the project committee to make further clarifications on their recommendation.

The Sunday Leader learns Hutchison of Hong Kong is also making a strong bid for the project having being invited to tender by the Ports Authority Chairman.

However, an informed source said the project committee on Friday responded to the clarifications sought by the CANC and maintained that the Aitken Spence consortium should be the party that should be invited for negotiations.


Be ready for elections warns President

President Mahinda Rajapakse last week called on government members to be prepared to face an early general election.

The President informed the ruling party MPs to be ready for early elections at the parliamentary group meeting on Monday, December 3.

He has said that although there was no doubt of a government victory at the third reading vote on the budget on December 14, the government members should be prepared to face an election in the event the budget was defeated.

This was the first occasion the President has requested the government members to be prepared for an early election.

"We will win on December 14. Our votes will be higher than what we received on November 19. The problem is that there is talk in the country that we are afraid to face an election. If we by chance lose on the 14th, we may have to go for an election. In case that happens, everyone has to be prepared to face an election. We would not have a problem even if we go for an election. The present situation would help us win. Don't think that there would not be an election. Therefore, work with the intention of winning," the President has said.


Calls for UN HR mission as civilian death toll mounts

By Amantha Perera

Two prominent international human rights watch dogs, Amnesty International (AI) and Human Rights Watch (HRW) last week once again called for the setting up of a field presence of the off ice of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights as violence claimed over 50 civilian lives in the fortnight.

"AI and HRW ask the Human Rights Council to urge the Sri Lankan Government to agree without delay to the establishment of a United Nations field operation with a strong monitoring mandate, and further urge all parties to the conflict to comply with their obligations under international law to protect civilians and allow access by humanitarian aid agencies to populations in need," they said in a letter addressed to UN Human Rights Commissioner Louis Arbour on December 7.

The UN Human Right Council will be in session in the coming week from December 10 to 14. In September heavy lobbying by the government was able to prevent any resolution critical of Sri Lanka being tabled at the sessions.

The AI and HRW said that over 50 civilians had been killed in attacks in government controlled areas and the Wanni after November 27.

"The failure of the Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE to abide by their obligations under international humanitarian law, including customary law relating to the methods and means of warfare, and to take all feasible measures to protect civilians from harm, has encouraged a cycle of abuses against civilians with impunity," they said in the letter.

The letter focused on the attacks in the Wanni of November 27 that left 11 civilians dead and 20 others in Nugegoda and the latest in Kabethigollawa.

It also said that large number of disappearances had been reported from Jaffna - "Reports indicate that unlawful killings and enforced disappearances continue at very high levels. According to official sources, over 200 civilians were reported missing in Jaffna District since January 2007."

The government however is unlikely to yield to international pressure to establish a UN field presence here to monitors abuse.

 Last week Disaster Management and Human Rights Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe had repeated the government's stand at a briefing in Geneva attended by Arbour.

"Human Rights Minister, Samarasinghe, briefing regional groups and the UN High Commissioner Louise Arbour in Geneva, ruled out a fully fledged OHCHR field presence in Sri Lanka," the Information Department said.

Samarasinghe told the meeting attended by the ambassadors of Asia, Africa, Eastern Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, the Non-Aligned Movement, Organization of the Islamic Conference and others that the government was not restricting UN officials from visiting the country and was engaged in a constructive dialogue.

"He emphasized the need for a practicable home-grown model which is acceptable to the elected Government and the people of Sri Lanka. Ruling out a 'super-national' body, the minister stated that Sri Lanka has been an independent state for almost 60 years and a functioning democracy that has enjoyed universal adult franchise since 1931.  He further explained that the country was facing a serious threat to its security from one of the most ruthless terrorist outfits in the world," the Department said.


Heavy fighting along northern FDL

By Amantha Perera

Heavy fighting erupted along the volatile Vavuniya-Mannar forward defence lines right through last week and continued into the weekend, the military and the Tigers said.

Six hours of fighting was reported in the Admapan area, about seven km from the Mannar coast. The Tigers said that a large number of government troops broke out of the line at Manthai, west of Adampan on Friday, December 7 morning around 9 am. They were backed by artillery, multi-barrel, mortar fire and helicopter gun ships, Tamilnet said. It said that the fighting had lasted six hours but the government advance had been stopped. No details of causalities were available in the report.

Meanwhile the Army claimed that 17 Tigers, including six female cadres had been killed in fighting in the Mannar District on December 7. "Seventeen LTTE cadres were killed and over 18 injured in pre-emptive strikes launched by the Army in the Narrikulam general area," the Army said.

It said troops had not suffered any casualties. The Defence Ministry also reported fighting in the Palamootai area and Periyatamapani on the same day. It said four Tigers and a soldier were killed.

In an operation on December 1 and 2, the military said that it had captured the first bunker line along the Tiger defences at Adampan. Heavy fighting during the operation and an ensuing attempt by the Tigers to recapture the line left over 40 Tigers dead. The Tigers denied the Military claims and said the troops withdrew after suffering heavy casualties.

LTTE Military spokesperson Rasaiyah Marshall told The Sunday Leader the army tried to infiltrate at Kurisuddakulam and was forced to retreat after suffering heavy casualties. He said at least 10 soldiers were killed and a large number injured.

Marshall further claimed bodies of soldiers were handed over to their families through the International Red Cross. He also said the LTTE suffered no casualties in the offensive but recovered a large haul of small arms and ammunition.

Marshall also claimed the LTTE thwarted an army attack in Karukkalum with the security forces retreating after suffering heavy casualties. He said one Tiger was killed in the attack.

The Tigers have also deployed cadres in large numbers and bolstered the defences along the FDL north of Vavuniya following sustained government offensives and skirmishes. The line of control is usually manned by three bunker lines on either side.

Meanwhile, unconfirmed reports said that the Tigers had moved Vidusha the military head of the female Tigers into the Vavuniya -Mannar front line area to bolster the moral of female cadres stationed in the area. She is the head of the Malathi brigade, named after the first female Tiger to die in battle. The Charles Anthony Brigade too has been active behind the Tiger forward line.


Fire in Kamburupitiya

Several shops were destroyed by a fire in the Kamburupitiya town in Matara yesterday.

The police stated that about eight shops were destroyed in the Kamburupitiya town due to a fire that broke out in a petrol shed.

The fire was said to have been caused due to a technical defect that had occurred when pumping fuel to a vehicle yesterday afternoon.

 


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