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Dushmanth Weeraman clinched the top award at the Sirasa Dancing Star competition held last Thursday night at the BMICH. Picture shows Dushmanth and his dancing partner with the trophy immediately after it was presented.

 

UNP to oppose stripping CBK's
civic rights on principle

 

Choksy won't budge for SB

 

JVP defectors in secret talks for return

 

Workers irked by use of CEB property
for electioneering

 

Customs takes action to recover levy

 

Euro delegation fails to meet Pillayan

 

More News....  

President calls for PB's explanation on LMSL deal

Lalith told to write to PB with copy of judgement

SC ruled that PB acted to secure illegal advantages to JKH

Judgement to be referred to Bribery Commission

By Sonali Samarasinghe

President Mahinda Rajapakse has called for Finance Ministry Secretary P.B. Jayasundera's explanation on his culpability in the Lanka Marine Services Limited (LMSL) case following the Supreme Court judgement last week.

The decision to call for Jayasundera's explanation came in the backdrop of JVP calls on the suitability of Jayasundera to hold office as Treasury Secretary given the Supreme Court judgement on his arbitrary, biased and ultra vires conduct on the privatisation deal for the benefit of one party.

A three member Supreme Court Bench comprising Chief Justice Sarath Silva and Justices R.A.N.G. Amaratunga and D.J. de S Balapatabendi in a 69 page judgement on the sale of shares of LMSL which was a wholly owned company of the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation to John Keells Holdings Limited (JKH) passed serious strictures on Jayasundera's role in the transaction and directed him to pay Rs 500,000 as compensation to the state.

The Supreme Court also ruled inter alia that the land grant to JKH in terms of the agreement and all agreements entered into between the Board of Investment (BoI) and LMSL are null and void.

The judgement was consequent to a fundamental rights petition filed by Presidential Advisor and Colombo Municipal Council Member Vasudeva Nanayakkara.The Sunday Leader learns, President Rajapakse had directed Secretary Lalith Weeratunga on Tuesday, July 22 to call for a copy of the judgement and having studied it call for Jayasundera's explanation on the specific findings against him.

A top source at Temple Trees told The Sunday Leader Weeratunga was directed to send a copy of the judgement to Jayasundera together with the letter calling for his explanation.

The Supreme Court in its judgement said, "The findings of the judgement demonstrate that the action of P.B. Jayasundera, eighth respondent has not only been arbitrary and ultra vires but also biased in favour of John Keells Holdings Ltd. The allegation of the Petitioner that he worked in collusion with S. Ratnayake of John Keells to secure illegal advantages to the latter, adverse to the public interest is established."

The judgement further stated, "Jayasundera's conduct in the matter of obtaining the valuation is basically not authorised by the cabinet, is characterised by inexplicable haste, erratic, apparently designed to suit his own objectives, contrary to all accepted procedures and furthest removed from a lawful exercise of power under the PERC Act of tendering well considered advice and a recommendation to the cabinet."

The Sunday Leader learns that steps are also underway by a public interest group in terms of the judgement to refer the matter to the Bribery Commission for further action. It is alleged that in terms of the Bribery Act, causing loss to the state by an illegal act falls into the category of corruption.


UNP to oppose stripping CBK's civic rights on principle

The UNP has decided to oppose any move to deprive former President Chandrika Kumaratunga of her civic rights through parliament on a matter of principle.

The decision to oppose moves to strip Kumaratunga of her civic rights was taken at a discussion of the party's political affairs committee last week.

The Sunday Leader learns the issue was mooted by Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe on the basis of a principle established in 1998.It is learned, UNP MPs Lakshman Seneviratne and Ravi Karunanayake had said the party should not defend Kumaratunga but the principle established in 1998 with which the committee had agreed.

Wickremesinghe had told the committee that in 1998, when the PA Government introduced a motion to nullify the civic disability imposed on former Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike, the then President, Chandrika Kumaratunga had given an assurance that the Special Presidential Commission law will not be used in the future to deprive a person of his or her civic rights and based on that principle the UNP did not oppose the motion.

The UNP Leader pointed out that President Mahinda Rajapakse as a minister of the PA Government also supported that motion in parliament.

"It is that principle we want upheld and did not participate in the debate on Mrs. Bandaranaike's motion and state our case. But if the President wants to now go back on that accepted principle, then we must have the right to place in parliament the issues that led to his former leader, Sirimavo Bandaranaike's civic rights as well in the same debate," Wickremesinghe said.


Choksy won't budge for SB

UNP National List Member and former Finance Minister K.N. Choksy has informed the party he will not resign his seat for national organiser S.B. Dissanayake.

The UNP Political Affairs Committee last week requested Party Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe to ask Choksy to resign his parliamentary seat for Dissanayake's appointment to 'test' the member's right to sit in parliament.

The Court of Appeal had in an earlier ruling said Dissanayake faced civic disability due to a Supreme Court conviction for contempt in which he was sentenced to two years imprisonment.

It is learned President's Counsels, Choksy and Tilak Marapone in separate opinions given to the party months earlier had also said Dissanayake suffered civic disability due to the judgement and that his civic rights would be restored only in December 2011.

The Sunday Leader learns Choksy had informed Wickremesinghe on Thursday, July 24 that he has no intention of resigning his seat for a newcomer to the party like Dissanayake and added he holds the seat in his own right due to the long standing contribution to the party.

"I am the only national list MP who has not crossed and is this the way the party shows its appreciation," Choksy had asked an embarrassed UNP Leader.

Choksy had also told Wickremesinghe he would be leaving for India today (Sunday) and on his return would come before the Political Affairs Committee and explain why he cannot resign his parliamentary seat as well as why Dissanayake will be deprived of his civic rights till December 2011.

The UNP Leader had earlier asked Dissanayake to test the issue of his civic disability by contesting the Sabaragamuwa Provincial Council election as the party's chief ministerial nominee but he had declined the offer insisting on a parliamentary seat.


JVP defectors in secret talks for return

The JVP is in secret talks with several members of Wimal Weerawansa's National Freedom Front (NFF) for their return to the party fold The Sunday Leader learns.

It is learned two rounds of talks have been held between the JVP leadership and the disgruntled NFF members on the timing of their return to the party.

Informed sources said the NFF members decided to open negotiations with the JVP after Weerawansa failed to deliver on the promises made with regard to public office and other benefits allegedly promised by the government.

It is learned Weerawansa's failure to get the deputy speaker's post and chairmanship of the Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) for NFF nominees from the government were central to their discontent.

It is learned some members may return to the JVP before the provincial polls scheduled for August 23 if the negotiations are successful.


Workers irked by use of CEB property for electioneering

By Nirmala Kannangara

Violation of election guidelines by Power and Energy Minister John Seneviratne has come under severe criticism by the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) employees, The Sunday Leader learns.

The alleged misuse of public property by Minister Seneviratne for election campaigning in the North Central, Sabaragamuwa and Central Provinces has irked CEB employees according to the Lanka Viduli Sevaka Sangamaya (LVSS).

Seven CEB circuit bungalows in the Sabaragamuwa, North Central and Central Provinces have been taken over by Minister Seneviratne for election campaign work, while Power and Energy Ministry vehicles have been deployed in the Ratnapura District, the Minister's constituency, for campaign work Lanka Viduli Sevaka Sangamaya (LVSS)  alleged.

According to Convener, LVSS, Ranjan Jayalal, the CEB employees on July 14 have spotted two Ministry vehicles with the same registration number plates at the Ministry car park and had reported the matter to the relevant departments for action but to no avail.

"This is clear evidence as to how the newly appointed Chairman, Committee on Public Enterprise (COPE) is using official vehicles for election campaign work and also using two vehicles under the same registration number which is a criminal offence. If Minister Seneviratne who is also a lawyer by profession violates the law of the land then what could the country expect from him," claimed Jayalal.

According to Jayalal two circuit bungalows in the North Central Province (NCP) - Minneriya and Anuradhapura - and four circuit bungalows in the Sabaragamuwa Province (SP) - Balangoda, Pambahinna, Samanalawewa and Udawalawe - and one from the Central Province Kandy have been taken over by the government till end August to house party supporters for election work.

These bookings were made despite the allegations levelled against Minister Seneviratne for permitting the Ampara CEB circuit bungalow to be used by party supporters during the Eastern Provincial Council elections, it is learnt

"In April Minister Seneviratne released the Ampara circuit bungalow to the Defence Ministry for one month waiving off Rs.1.59 million as rental. Notwithstanding the huge loss incurred electrical engineer Batticaloa has now estimated the damage to the bungalow as Rs. 2 lakhs and Minister Seneviratne has  approved the renovation of the bungalow out of CEB funds," alleged Jayalal.

According to Jayalal the circuit bungalows have been released under Minister Seneviratne's name while all prior bookings made by the CEB employees were cancelled without notice.

"This is unfair by the employees as they have booked these bungalows since the beginning of the year to have a vacation with their children during the school holidays. Although the bookings have been cancelled, the Ministry has refused to refund the money to the employees and had requested them to use the bungalow on a later date," claimed Jayalal.

"According to Circular No: 2007/ GM/ 17/ Personnel, issued on November 5, 2007 by the General Manager, payments have to be done when the bookings are made and the dates cannot be changed thereafter for any reason - be it official or personal," Jayalal said.

According to Jayalal although permission has been given for two adults and two children less than 12 years to occupy a room, it had been reported that more than 10 people are occupying one room at these bungalows.

However when asked at to why  CEB employees were deprived of the use of the  circuit bungalows during the school vacation and   why they were given for election work in violation of the  Election Law, Acting General Manager, CEB Badra Jayaweera told The Sunday Leader that she did not want to comment on the issue.

"I do not want to speak on this issue, you can call the GM when he returns to the country," said Jayaweera.


Customs takes action to recover levy

By Nirmala Kannangara

The Sri Lanka Customs last week prevented the State Bank of India from selling goods worth Rs.15 million owned by a debtor due to the non-payment of customs levy by the latter, reliable sources told The Sunday Leader.

Metal Packaging and Printing Industries (Pvt) Ltd, an Indian company had obtained a Rs.100 million loan facility from the State Bank of India to start a BOI project in Seeduwa but had closed down the business one year after its inception defaulting the Sri Lanka Customs The Sunday Leader learns.

Failing to follow the BOI guidelines the State Bank of India (SBI) meanwhile had attempted to sell the machinery and the goods lying in the closed Indian factory according to the sources.

"How could they sell the goods without informing the Sri Lanka Customs? If the SBI wanted to cover up their losses first they had to go for an open tender and offer the tender to the highest bidder. But it was learnt that the bank has sold all the goods and machinery to a local for a lesser amount without settling the custom levy," alleged the sources.   

According to the sources it is not only the Indian company that has cheated the Sri Lankan Customs but also the bank.

"However when we came to know that the bank had already sold the goods to a local and they were planning to remove them from the Seeduwa factory premises on Saturday, July 19 we informed the Customs office and the timely intervention of Customs Preventive Officers prevented the SBI from removing the goods and sealed the factory," claimed the sources.

Meanwhile sources from the Sri Lanka Customs Preventive Department told The Sunday Leader that they had to seal the Seeduwa factory since the SBI failed to produce the receipts they have paid the customs duty.

"The SBI did not have the authority to sell the goods to cover up their losses without abiding by the BOI guidelines. However the SBI officers promised to pay the customs levy and produce the receipts to the Preventive Department during the course of this week. If they produce the documents then we would give the bank the authority to remove the goods," the sources further added.


K.C.Kamalasabayson PC Memorial Oration

The K.C.Kamalasabayson P.C. Memorial Oration will take place on Friday,  August 22. The oration was originally intended to be delivered on August 1, but was rescheduled in view of the SAARC Summit taking place in Colombo during that time. The venue and time will remain the same.


Euro delegation fails to meet Pillayan

By Arthur Wamanan

The delegation of European Parliamentarians had to forego a meeting with Eastern Province Chief Minister Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan following security issues.

The delegation headed by  Robert Evans told the media last Friday that it was a mystery to them that they were not allowed to fly to Trincomalee, which was the main purpose of their visit.

Evans stated that everything was in order for them to fly to Trincomalee but added they were told that they would not be able to go to the airport.

The delegation had planned to meet Chief Minister Chandrakanthan alias Pillayan during the visit.

"The last minute cancellation and a catalogue of chaos and confusion meant that the delegation did not fly to Trincomalee. Despite repeated assurances, endless complications resulted in the party being turned back from Ratmalana Airport, destroying months of preparation, time and expense," the Members of the European Parliament (MEP) in a statement said.

The MEP also said that though the TMVP had joined the democratic mainstream, they were also reported to be recruiting child soldiers.

The MEP expressed concerns over "the lack of a timetable for weapons decommissioning."

The delegation was in Sri Lanka from July 20 to 25.


More school buses to ease traffic congestion

By Shezna Shums

The National Transport Commission is to expand its school bus services to accommodate more children from schools around the island.

The government has taken this decision in order to gradually reduce the number of private vehicles and school vans on the roads and ease traffic congestion.

Chairman, NTC, Professor Amal Kumarage told The Sunday Leader that the school bus service was started in 2005 and had a total of 384 buses transporting students.

But by the end of this December the NTC hopes to strengthen the service  by adding 550 more buses. Eventually the NTC hopes to have a total of  1000 buses in use exclusively for school children.

These buses cover all  provinces around the island and there is a demand from 4000 schools for this bus service. Over 50 percent of the school buses operate within Colombo while the rest  operate outside of the Western Province.

"Only school children and teachers will be allowed in these buses. One parent per primary school child will also be allowed to travel in these buses, but that too will be at the  discretion of the relevant school," said Prof. Kumarage.

The demand for  a school bus service comes  not only from government schools, but private and  international schools as well. "With this service we hope to reduce the school traffic as well as private vehicles transporting school children," Prof. Kumarage added.

The fares charged for this school bus service will be half the  normal bus fare.

For a child over the age of 12, the school bus fare will be half the  normal bus fare on the same route.

In the case of a child below the age of 12, the school bus fare will be half the discounted bus fare applicable to those over 12.

"So for children below 12 the fare will be half of the half rate bus fare," explained the Chairman.

A free seat will be allocated in the bus for one child as well as one teacher who will be responsible for the children in the bus.


FM blasts EU team for critical comments

The government yesterday charged that the visiting EU delegation is basing its critical assessment of the government’s human rights record on the viewpoints of a few individuals.

Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama said that if they had wanted to judge the ground reality fairly, the EU group should not have “confined themselves to a few of those in Colombo” and formed their statement based on people who “may have some agendas to entertain.”

He further charged that the EU’s press statement on Friday regarding the delegation’s cancelled visit to Trincomalee was “contrary to what happened.”

“This was their own creation,” said Bogollagama.

The Minister said that the EU had turned down the request to be flown to visit Eastern Province Chief Minister Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan alias Pillayan in an Air Force craft and had “insisted” on bringing down a private aircraft from Africa.

He said that on the EU’s behalf, the Defence Ministry had to lobby the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to expedite all the necessary clearances for a foreign aircraft to operate in Sri Lanka, but that the process was further confounded by the failings of the chartered air crew.

On the day of the flight, the aircrew had failed to comply with certain regulations, leading the CAA to deny permission for the flight, Bogollagama further said.

“Even at that stage they could have used one of our aircraft but they chose to leave the airport,” he continued.

Foreign Secretary, Palitha Kohona also added that after the delegation left the airport at 1 pm, the Foreign and Defence Ministries had managed to arrange the necessary clearances to enable the flight.

“If they are serious they must try to be serious,” the Foreign Minister charged.

He also denied reports that the government was moving to cease hostilities with the LTTE. “No decision has been taken by the government towards a ceasefire, unilateral or otherwise,” he asserted.

The Minister further said that security at the SAARC summit “must be ultimate,” not just good. “You cannot take any chances with peoples’ lives.”

Bogollagama also claimed that the massive ‘entertainment’ expenditure bill chastised by the UNP in parliament was not for the consumption of the ministry or visiting delegations, but primarily to feed and entertain the 12,000 police officers in Colombo during the summit.

 

 JVP accuses Buddhadasa’s goons of assault 

JVP members of the Kaduwela Pradeshiya Sabha have been allegedly assaulted by a group of thugs associated with the Pradeshiya Sabha (PS) Chairman G.H. Buddhadasa.

JVP sources told The Sunday Leader that the party members in the PS were assaulted allegedly by UPFA supporters because they objected to a request to make a special statement by Kaduwela PS member Prabath Dharshana, who defected from the JVP to join Wimal Weerawansa’s faction.

The Kaduwela PS had convened on Friday (25) at 9.30 a.m. and during the sessions; the four JVP members in the PS had supported a motion moved by Deputy PS Chairman, Jagath Kumara to object the involvement of a Kaduwela PS member in the distribution of liquor and narcotics in the Kaduwela area.

“The motion was moved against Buddhadasa. When the motion was taken up, over 150 of his thugs were in the gallery watching everyone who spoke in favor of the motion,” a JVP source said.

Former JVP member Dharshana had then requested time to make a special statement and the JVP members in the PS had objected saying he had no right to make such a statement. The governing UPFA members had then opposed the statement of the JVP members.

Following a heated argument between the JVP members and the UPFA members, several members had attempted to assault each other. However, the incident was settled and the session had continued. “The statement Dharshana intended to make was going to be against the JVP and the UPFA members wanted it made. That was why they created a disturbance,” the JVP source said.

At the conclusion of the PS sessions at 2.30 p.m., a group of about 150 thugs had allegedly arrived at the ground floor and assaulted the JVP members, who were about to leave the premises.

According to the JVP source, JVP PS member Asitha Niroshana was badly assaulted and his travel bag was also taken by the thugs. Niroshana is currently being treated at the Colombo National Hospital.  JVP PS member Gamini Sarath Kumara had lodged a complaint regarding the incident with the Nawagamuwa Police.

Police Spokesperson SSP Ranjith Gunasekera told The Sunday Leader that the police has so far not made any arrests with regard to the incident.

He said that the Nawagamuwa police was still conducting the inquiries and that the JVP council member receiving treatment in hospital had said he was able to identify two people who involved in the alleged assault. “The police is now making arrangements for the member to identify the suspects,” SSP Gunasekera said. (MIA)

 

 Traffic restrictions today

The movement of motor traffic is to be restricted in several areas today (27), the police has said.

Motor traffic movement will be restricted from the Galle Face Roundabout to the BMICH and the New Parliament Road from 9 a.m. to 12 noon today in view of the SAARC summit.

According to the police, vehicle movement will also be restricted along the Colombo-Katunayake road between 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. today.

 

Wadigamangawa joins the government 

Opposition Leader, North Western Provincial Council Asoka Wadigamangawa had reportedly crossed over to the government after holding discussions with President Mahinda Rajapakse yesterday.


SRK declines invitation 

Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan has turned down an invitation to take part in a cultural event organised for the 15th SAARC summit in Colombo citing security concerns.

 

Kilinochchi District Secretariat official dies in claymore attack

Deputy  Director Planning of the Pooneryn Division, and a Development Officer in the Kilinochchi District Secretariat was killed last Friday due to a claymore attack in Oddisuddan.

The victim, Santhalingam Vimalakumar (33) was on his way to Vavuniya on an official engagement when he came under attack.

Vimalakumar was the president of the organisation serving the needs of government officials without land in the Kilinochchi District.

The attack on the government official in the LTTE-controlled area is the first incident since the LTTE had announced a unilateral ceasefire last Monday in view of the upcoming SAARC Summit.

Nagalingam Nanthakumar, Divisional Secretary of Thunukkai division of Mullaithivu District was killed in a similar attack while travelling to his office last month. 

Pro Tiger websites stated that the attack was carried out by the Deep Penetration Unit of the Sri Lanka Army.

The military has in the past denied such allegations and has held the Tigers responsible for attacks within its territory.


IOM helps  SL fishermen

The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) has helped six Sri Lankan fishermen stranded at the port of Al Quseir on Egypt's Red Sea coast to return to Sri Lanka. The fishermen returned to the island earlier this week.

The group, which left Sri Lanka's west coast in March, drifted into Egyptian waters when their boat developed technical problems.

At Al Quseir they struggled without proper food and medicine, and had no means of getting home. The Sri Lankan Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Sri Lankan Mission in Cairo then contacted IOM for help.

IOM provided medical screening and then arranged their return to Sri Lanka.


Less private busses next week

By Risidra Mendis

Private bus owners have expressed their concern over the losses they would incur during the SAARC Summit in Colombo.

Private bus owners are considering reducing the number of buses in  operation if there is a decrease in the number of commuters during the SAARC meeting period.

Speaking to The Sunday Leader President, PBOA, Gemunu Wijeratne said the government had given them the assurance that there would be no interruption to the bus service. "There will be no interruption to buses entering Fort and buses plying from Fort to Galle and Matara among other destinations," Wijeratne said.

He added that the Transport Ministry has assured them that during the period of the summit alternate routes will be introduced for all buses. "Private bus owners will suffer a revenue loss, as there will be a reduction in passengers due to the closure of many offices and shops in the city," Wijeratne said.  


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