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World Affairs









RETURN of the parcel bombs: The reality of the ongoing war against terror struck home in Pettah yesterday when a blast ripped through a packed area on Olcott Mawatha injuring 45 people. Photo shows police investigators examining the scene of the blast. Inset: An injured receiving treatment at the Colombo National Hospital. Photos by Thusitha Kumara


45 injured in Pettah bomb blast 


Civilians slow to move out of Wanni 


SC Judge stresses importance of appointing Constitutional Council


IDPs go deeper into Tiger territory


TNA team to tour India next month 


Govt. asks Wanni civilians to flee


More News....



SriLankan in severe financial crisis

By Ruan Pethiyagoda

The national carrier, SriLankan Airlines has confirmed that it is facing its worst ever financial crisis.

UNP MP Ravi Karunanayake first brought this matter to the attention of the public in parliament, wherein the government denied that SriLankan was facing any significant financial problems, but the airline's CEO, in a memo, has admitted that the airline's situation is dire.

 "We will not tell you fairytales about our situation today," SriLankan CEO, Manoj Gunawardena has written in a memo distributed to all employees of the airline. "SriLankan Airlines is undergoing its worst ever financial crisis. We are not alone; bigger and stronger airlines too are facing this crisis but that is of little comfort to us."

Gunawardena confirmed this to The Sunday Leader, and outlined several steps that the airline was taking to bring itself back to profitability. In an unusually frank and candid statement from the head of a government enterprise, Gunawardena told the SriLankan Airlines staff in his memo that although the company earned Rs. 80 billion in revenue, it spent Rs. 82 billion on expenses.

 "If we go on like this, last year's loss may be doubled soon and this company's future will be under threat," Gunawardena wrote. "We cannot go on like this. Our nation cannot afford us to do so."

The objective of the memo, Gunawardena said, was to keep the staff informed of the airline's true position, and enlighten them on the steps being taken at management level to resolve the crisis.

He has informed staff of an action plan to reduce overheads by Rs. 6 billion, and increase revenue by Rs. 8.8 billion, whilst asking staff members of all levels to look at ways that they can reduce the airline's costs from the bottom up, and asking for increased productivity.

The eight page document is the start of "a  new culture" of open communication with the airline's employees, Gunawardena told The Sunday Leader. In it, the CEO outlines several new company policies which, it is hoped, will rejuvenate the airline, stem the losses, and make it commercially viable.

SriLankan will be slashing routes and frequencies to make its flight schedule more profitable, and expects to save Rs. 3.3 billion in the financial year with this measure, the CEO's note tells employees. It also expects the 15% fare increase introduced in June, and the fuel surcharge started in July, to increase revenue by Rs. 8 billion.

Across the board, the airline is adopting cost cutting measures small and large, according to the staff memo. The SriLankan Airlines offices at the World Trade Centre, apart from those related to customer interaction, are being moved to Katunayake. "We already have land and buildings in Katunayake," the CEO's memo stated. "So why do we need to pay expensive rent for so many floors in the country's tallest building?"

The CEO says that SriLankan's management "does not intend to continue making losses. We expect to turn this airline to profitability. This is not a dream. It is a promise that we will deliver, with your active participation."

The document also states that come what may, SriLankan will be independent and will not take money from the Treasury. "We have not received a cent from the Treasury since privatisation, and we don't intend to start now. If we are going to start off the new era by becoming a strain on the government and our fellow citizens, we will have failed already."

45 injured in Pettah bomb blast 

Forty five persons including two children were injured when a bomb placed under a watch stand on Olcott Mawatha exploded yesterday noon.

Eye witnesses said that the bomb appeared to have been placed under the racks of a pavement stall selling watches just opposite the M D Gunesena Book Shop in the heart of Pettah.

“The blast came from the under the stall while I was looking for a watch for my kid,” Nishantha Silva who suffered leg injuries in the blast told The Sunday Leader while receiving treatment at the Colombo General Hospital.

A native of Chilaw, Silva who works in the Pettah fish market was at the watch stall to buy watch for his eight year old child on his way home when the explosion occurred.

Defence authorities in Colombo said that the blast occurred around 12.15 pm under the stall, one among hundreds that line the pavements on Olcott Mawatha.

The explosion may have been caused by a small parcel bomb connected to a timer.

The government blamed the Tigers for the attack.

Hospital authorities however said that none of the injured were in critical conditions though few had suffered serious injuries. Director of the General Hospital Dr Hector Weerasinghe said that few of the injured had undergone emergency surgeries yesterday.

“The blast came all of a sudden, there was nothing unusual, people were just walking on the pavement,” Anoma Chandrani from Kegalle and an employee at the Biyagama Free Trade Zone said.

She too was receiving treatment and said that she had fainted after the blast.

“When I gained consciousness I was on the ground.”

The area of the blast was cordoned off and several roads in the vicinity by authorities soon after the blast as officers combed the blast site for clues.

Eights days before the blast, accessories used in making suicide jackets were recovered from an unattended bag inside the St. Phillip Neri’s Church premises, just yards from yesterday’s blast site.

Civilians slow to move out of Wanni 

There was no immediate reaction to the government leaflets dropped over Kilinochchi on August 29 asking civilians to flee the Wanni into Vavuniya without risking being caught in the fighting, military officials in Colombo said.

“It has only been day since the leaflets were dropped, may be in the next few days we might see an increase in the number of civilians coming into government controlled areas,” military spokesperson Brig Udaya Nanayakkara told The Sunday Leader yesterday.

The leaflets said that the government forces had reached the final phases of the operations to gain control of the Wanni and that the government was taking all steps to safeguard the safety of civilians.

“(Velupillai) Pirapaharan, who is facing big defeats, has taken all the steps to protect him. He would not hesitate to pay any price to protect himself,” it said.

Last week, Defence Secretary Gottabaya Rajapakse told the press that the government wanted the civilians to flee the Wanni and come to Vavuniya.

However, civilians who have fled the fighting and converged on Kilinochchi have so far shown no signs of moving south.

“They appear to be going deeper into the Wanni, away from the A 9,” the Catholic Bishop of Jaffna Rev Thomas Saudranayagam told The Sunday Leader last week.

Brig Nanayakkara said that civilians would only be able to reach government controlled areas if the Tigers allow them to leave.

“What we expect will happen only if the Tigers allow these people to come.”

Rajapakse told the press earlier in the week that the Tigers may not be able to keep tens of thousands of civilians without their will in the Wanni.

There are over 130,000 IDP’s, including 75,000 who fled the fighting since June in the Kilinochchi currently.

Says no one is above the law in Sri Lanka

SC Judge stresses importance of appointing Constitutional Council

A Supreme Court judge last week said the 17th Amendment to the Constitution has become a dead letter due to the failure to appoint the members of the Constitutional Council and that elections are now held without the salutary oversight of the Independent Elections Commission.

In a far reaching address on the 'Sovereignty of the people and the rule of  law,' Supreme Court Justice and President's Counsel Saleem Marsoof on Friday, August 22, also said it is essential to bring about changes in polity and attitudes to create the climate for the appointment of the Constitutional Council so that it can begin to function once again. 

 "This is extremely important for the preservation of the rule of law," Justice Marsoof had also stated.

Justice Marsoof expressed these views in making the inaugural K.C. Kamalasabayson (P.C.) memorial oration at the HNB Towers Auditorium  on August 22 . Among those present at the memorial oration were Chief Justice Sarath N. Silva, Attorney General C.R. De Silva, Justice Dr. C.G. Weeramantry, judges of the superior courts and other members of the judiciary, BASL President, W. Dayaratne and Solicitor General W.P.G. Dep.

The comments of Justice Marsoof were particularly significant in view of a fundamental rights petition currently before the Supreme Court calling for the appointment by President Mahinda Rajapakse of the Constitutional Council.

This case is coming up before the Supreme Court again on September 17.

Stating that one of the most important achievements of former Attorney General Kamalasabayson was the enactment of the 17th Amendment to the constitution, Justice Marsoof added it has been described as a high water mark in the legislative history of Sri Lanka.

"Sadly, the 17th Amendment to the constitution has become a dead letter due to the failure to appoint the members of the constitutional council, which has, for instance, compelled a fast aging commissioner of elections to continue in office ad infinitum and beyond even the compulsory age of retirement.

"In the absence of a properly Constituted Constitutional Council, elections are now held without the salutary oversight of the independent Elections Commission sought to be established by the said Amendment, and major appointments to the public service and the judiciary are made without complying with the mandatory provisions of the constitution," he said.

 "It is therefore essential to bring about changes in polity and attitude to create the climate for the appointment of the Constitutional Council so that it can begin to function once again. This is extremely important for the preservation of the rule of law," Justice Marsoof added.

Justice Marsoof in his oration also cited the Supreme Court determination on the 18th Amendment to the Constitution and added that this determination clearly establishes that in Sri Lanka no one is above the law.

He also made reference to the recent Supreme Court Judgement on the Lanka Marine Services privatisation deal in the context of good governance. 

"It is the failure on the part of an increasingly greater number of public officers to adhere to principles of good governance that resulted in unfortunate decisions such as the recent judgement of the Supreme Court in Vasudeva Nannayakara, Attorney at Law, Vs. K.N. Choksy (P.C.), former Minister of Finance and 30 others in which all agreements entered into between the Board of Investment and Lanka Marine Services Limited for the sale of its shares as part of the process of privatisation were declared null and void."

 (The Morning Leader, the sister paper of The Sunday Leader, will commencing on Wednesday, September 3, serialise the full oration of Justice Marsoof.)

IDPs go deeper into Tiger territory

Thousands of displaced civilians in the Wanni appear to be heading deeper into Tiger territory despite government calls for them to seek the safety of government controlled areas in the south in Vavuniya.

"They appear to be going deeper into the Wanni, away from the A 9," the Catholic Bishop of Jaffna, Rev. Thomas Saundranayagam told The Sunday Leader.

For the time being most of the over 130,000 IDPs in Kilinochchi are staying in areas south and south west of Kilinochchi, according to UN reports and maps. However, government officials and relief agencies have already identified nine open air sites north-east of Kilinochchi to relocate the IDPs, according to latest UN maps.

Last week Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapakse said that the government expected the civilians to flee to government held areas in the south.

"We want the civilians to come to Vavuniya, we have established all facilities in Vavuniya," he told the media.

Government will soon notify the IDPs of a safe passage and was also planning to airdrop leaflets, he said.

Rajapakse also said that the Tigers might not be able to hold tens of thousands of civilians in the Wanni against their will for long.

"It will break up and come to government controlled areas, that is what we are expecting," he added

Last week representatives from the ICRC and the UN High Commission for Refugees met  Wanni Commander, Major General Jagath Jayasuriya in Vavuniya to discuss preparations to deal with the exodus from the Wanni.

Government officials in the Wanni said that so far sufficient supplies had reached the IDPs but the situation remained tense.

"There is no problem so far. But, there will be a severe issue if the entry-exit point is closed for some reason. There are nearly two hundred thousand IDPs in addition to the civilians. All of them will be affected. But, at the moment everything looks good," the Government Agent in Kilinochchi Nagalingam Vedanayagam said.

TNA team to tour India next month 

A group of TNA parliamentarians are to tour India next month to hold discussions with several Indian leaders.

The tour scheduled for next month follows an invitation extended by the Indian government to the TNA.

It has been reported that the Indian government had extended the invitation following a request made by TNA leaders for an opportunity to discuss the situation in the north and east as well as the present political climate in the country during Indian Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh’s visit to Sri Lanka for the SAARC summit.

The TNA parliamentary delegation is to be led by party leader, R. Sampanthan.

It is learnt that the TNA delegation is to hold discussions with several leading figures of the Indian government including Prime Minister Singh, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and National Security Advisor M.K. Narayanan.

Leaflets dropped

Govt. asks Wanni civilians to flee

By Arthur Wamanan

The government last week began air-dropping leaflets in the Wanni asking civilians to flee to government held areas warning that government forces had reached the final phase of gaining control of the Tiger held areas.

The leaflets were first dropped soon after Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapakse said that the government expected the civilians to come to government areas.

"We have already begun dropping the leaflets," Military Spokesperson Brig. Udaya Nanayakkara told The Sunday Leader.

The leaflets were addressed "To the people in Wanni," and said, "Our military forces are in the process of fighting the final war to liberate the Tamil people who are stuck in the Wanni and who are suffering due to the atrocities of the LTTE. The government is taking all the steps in order to make sure that the civilians are not affected due to this war.

Pirapaharan, who is facing big defeats, has taken all the steps to protect him. He would not hesitate to pay any price to protect himself. Pirapaharan is becoming weak."

Excise Dept. earns Rs.91 mn. by way of fines

By Shezna Shums

The Department of Excise has earned over Rs. 91 million by way of fines imposed on illicit breweries, sellers of illegal substances and fines on places not abiding by the regulations of the department during the first half of this year.

Department of Excise statistics for the first six months of this year  show that around 28, 485 cases have been directed to the Magistrates Court for relevant action.

To be exact, the department during this period has earned a total of Rs. 91, 711, 750. This figure is apart from other cases that the department is unable to refer to the courts.

Some of the cases that were referred to courts related to manufacturing and unlawful sale of illicit spirits,  manufacture of unlawful arrack, selling of ganja, toddy and cultivating ganja.

Other cases include selling cigarettes to underage persons as well as selling of beer and other alcoholic drinks to underage individuals.

However it was noted that there are a number of cases involving five star hotels, restaurants and roadside stalls where cases cannot be filed in courts.

These cases involve technical issues where the Department of Excise has no authority to take legal action

Such cases may include the sale of drinks that are cheap but which are sold at exorbitantly high prices, or operating with a license but doing business unethically.

There are a total of 2, 453 such cases detected by the Department of Excise.

Excise Departmentofficials explained that when illicit breweries are operated in conserved areas such as in small islands or along the sea shore they not only make illicit liquor but are also damaging the environment and its fauna and flora.

Coral reef, fish, reptiles, crocodiles along with water plants and mangroves get damaged when breweries are operated in these areas as the furnaces and toxins used are detrimental to the environment.

Price of domestic gas to go up from tomorrow

By Nirmala Kannangara

Domestic gas prices are to go up further from September 1, The Sunday Leader learns.

The two-gas companies - Laugfs and Shell have made applications to the Consumer Affairs Authority (CAA) early this month seeking  a price revision in domestic gas prices effective from September 1. They however  declined to reveal what their anticipated prices would be.

Director Finance, Shell Gas Company Rimoe Saldin told The Sunday Leader that Shell gas has made an application to the CAA for a price revision of a domestic gas cylinder from September but said that till the CAA made the final determination he was not in a position to say whether the request would be granted or dismissed.

"According to the pricing formula we sent the data to the CAA early this month as the gas companies could request  a price revision once in two months. Accordingly we made an application for a price revision from next month based on world fuel and freight charges in June and July," Saldin said.

According to Saldin although he was positive of a price revision he was not sure whether it would be a price hike or a reduction.

Meanwhile sources from Laugfs Holdings told The Sunday Leader that they too have made an application to the CAA according to the pricing formula and said that they were anticipating a price hike depending on the world fuel prices in June and July.

 " Laugfs too made an application to the CAA early this month for a price revision and according to the pricing formula we would get approval for a  price increase. As the world fuel prices went up considerably in June and July the CAA will definitly allow us a price increase. However, as the world fuel prices are going down now when fuel prices for  August and September are considered for the next price revision in November the price of domestic gas cylinders will surely come down," the sources stated.

CAA Chairman Rumy Marzook was not available for comment.

Fishing resumes after a two day break

Fishing in Muttur and the coastal areas reassumed on Friday after two days following the Tiger air attack on the Trincomalee harbour last Tuesday.

The fishermen were banned from entering the sea on Wednesday and Thursday in order to ensure that security was in place following the air attack, a member of the Fishermen Union said.

Military Spokesperson, Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara told The Sunday Leader that there were no restrictions imposed on fishermen and that they could go into the sea to fish.

The Muttur fishermen had earlier faced problems with regard to their fishing time, as the navy had only allowed them to fish from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.

They had requested the navy to advance the time by at least one hour to enable them to fix the nets.  The navy has now advanced it by one hour allowing the fishermen to fix their nets.

The restrictions earlier came into place following an attack on a navy vessel at the Ashraff jetty on May 10.

A'Sangaree urges LTTE to lay down arms

Tamil Liberation United Front (TULF) Leader, V. Anandasangaree last week urged Tiger head, Velupillai Pirapaharan to lay down arms and declare a unilateral ceasefire.

In a letter to the LTTE chief, Anandasangaree stated that this was the last chance available to save the lives of those stuck in the Tiger-controlled areas in the Wanni.

He added that the displaced persons would be definitely used as a civilian shields.

"It is the innocent people who always become a human shield. Wherever possible you should have allowed the displaced people to get into safe areas under the control of the government," he had said in his letter.

Anandasangaree also stated that all those who had claimed to be his supporters had gone abroad and were filling up their pockets using his name.

He also stated that his supporters abroad had given false hopes to the Diaspora, stating that the Tigers would retaliate after letting the military into its territory.

"They, some of whom publish tabloids give false hopes to the Diaspora that you are waiting to round them up after allowing them to get into your area and on that score they have collected large sums of money."

Around 160,000 displaced persons are now in Kilinochchi.

Teachers salary issue to be referred to President

By Nirmala Kannangara

The Education Ministry has decided to refer the teacher trade union grievances to President Mahinda Rajapakse in order to commence the stalled A/Level paper evaluation, the Ceylon Teacher Services Union (CTSU) said.

With the government teachers' decision to refrain from applying for A/L paper evaluation due to government's failure to rectify the salary anomalies in the teacher/ principal services, the Examinations Department faces an uphill task regarding 2008 paper marking according to CTSU sources.

"Although the Examinations Department claimed that they have received the required number of applications for paper evaluations it was a total flop as not even 5% of the teachers turned up for paper marking," General Secretary CTSU, Mahinda Jayasinghe told The Sunday Leader.

According to Jayasinghe, trade union representatives of the CTSU, Education Professionals' Union and All Ceylon United Teachers' Union met Secretary Education Ministry Nimal Bandara, President's Secretary Lalith Weeratunga and members of the Salaries and Cadre Commission in order to settle the long-standing problems faced by the teacher/ principal services in the country.

"When the representatives of the three trade unions disclosed that the teachers have decided to boycott the paper marking, President's Secretary and the Education Ministry Secretary accepted that the issue should be addressed at the earliest and decided to refer the matter to President Mahinda Rajapakse before September 4," Jayasinghe said.

However, Jayasinghe further said that the trade unions will meet the government delegation once again on or before September 7 and that he was confident that they could come to a consensus in order to resolve the matter.

TMVP wants Mangalam Master in North Central PC

Discussions are continuing with the government with regard to appointing Mangalam Master to the North Central Provincial Council, TMVP Spokesperson Azath Moulana told The Sunday Leader last week.

Aiyathurai Kathiramanambi alias Mangalam Master who had contested under the UPFA ticket at the North Central Provincial Council polls on August 23 received only 5519 votes.

Moulana stated that the TMVP was holding discussions with the government to get Mangalam Master into the provincial council.

"Discussions are continuing. A decision on this issue is expected to be made by the government in the near future. We are hopeful that the government would take a decision, favourable to the TMVP," he said.

Students following Mervyn's example says FMM

The Free Media Movement (FMM) has condemned the assault on three journalists by students of the Colombo University Medical Faculty on Friday

Journalist Yamuna Harshani and photographer Janaka Galappathi of the Lankadeepa newspaper were interviewing students at the university about the boycott of A/L paper marking by teachers  when they were assaulted. The media personnel had then summoned TV journalist Dushantha Manoj to cover the incident. When Manoj arrived  the students had attacked him too.

In a press release Spokesperson, Free Media Movement, Sunanda Deshapriya stated "there was no provocation or exchange of any words before the journalists were assaulted by some of the students."

The three journalists subsequently lodged complaints at the Cinnamon Gardens Police Station.

Deshapriya noted that the journalists were "simply doing their duty in reporting an important social issue."

He also alleged that at the time of the attack there were two policemen present who made no attempt to intervene and restore order, although  the cameras snatched by the unruly students had been later recovered by the police. The FMM further demanded that the police should publicise the action they took  on those who seized the cameras.

Deshapriya attributed the "growing culture of unbridled and open violence against journalists," to "the actions of Minister Mervyn Silva and the inaction of the government and police to discipline him."

He went on to say that such acts of violence when committed by people of high rank gave rise to "a culture of impunity," and that the police must ensure that the culprits behind the recent attack are punished, in order to "restore confidence in the rule of law and dispel the misguided notions of students that violence has no consequences."

Police Media Spokesperson SSP Ranjith Gunasekara, said that the police had taken appropriate action, and that they had recovered the cameras as well as saved the media personnel from being harmed. He went on to say that an investigation into the incident was underway and that two police teams were appointed to look into the attack.

Questions over SJKMC vehicle repairs

By Nirmala Kannangara

Questions have been raised as to why the Sri Jayawardenapura Kotte Municipal Council (SJKMC) gets council vehicles repaired at private garages when the council has its own garage with a team of well-trained mechanics, The Sunday Leader learns.

The  vehicle repair bill of the SJKMC has exceeded Rs. 2 million per month since the present administration came into power. In July the repair bill had gone up considerably according to Opposition Leader, SJKMC, Suraj Jayasuriya.

"This has become a serious issue over the past few years despite the fact that the council has its own team of 15 mechanics.  The municipal engineer with the blessings of the ruling party allows  repairs to SJKMC vehicles  be done in private garages. At a time when the MC is facing a serious financial crisis these unscrupulous acts of the ruling members are adding more burdens to the rate payers," Jayasuriya told The Sunday Leader.

According to Jayasuriya although this was raised at last week's council meeting the ruling party failed to give a proper answer and has said that they could not rely on the MC mechanics, as they were unqualified.

"When questions were raised as to why the council has failed to make the maximum use of their own mechanics the ruling party said that the council lacks well qualified mechanics. If that was the issue, why have they failed to recruit qualified mechanics to the council, instead of spending council money according to the whims and fancies of the ruling party members? When the engineer was summoned to give an explanation, the UPFA members did not allow him to speak," claimed Jayasuriya.

According to Jayasuriya the official vehicle of the municipal commissioner too had been sent to a private garage for engine repairs which has cost the council Rs. 83, 000.

"The council mechanics could have attended to the repairs at a much lessor cost. There are instances when the council had to send vehicles to other garages when our own mechanics failed to do a satisfactory job. But here at the SJKMC they neither consult the mechanics nor call for quotations prior to the repairs," charged Jayasuriya.

Jayasuriya further said that the opposition has suspicions about a dozer that has been sent for repairs more than a year ago. "In the first instance the dozer was sent to a private company for repairs which cost the council Rs.1.6 million. However the bulldozer could not work for more than 200 hours after the repairs and had to be sent once again to the same company for repairs. The vehicle was sent in early 2007 for repairs but since then we do not know what has happened to the vehicle. It is not known whether the ruling members have sold it or are using it for private work," alleged Jayasuriya.

Meanwhile Municipal Engineer Sarath Wijesinghe told The Sunday Leader that the MC has had to send the vehicles to private garages or sales agents as there are no qualified mechanics at the SJKMC.

All attempts to contact Mayor Swarnalatha de Silva failed.

Businessman shot dead in Rajagiriya

A businessman had been killed by unidentified persons last Friday and his body was found with gunshot injuries in Welikada, Rajagiriya.

The victim has been identified as C.L. Jayathunga, a 49-year-old businessman.

Police Spokesperson SSP Ranjith Gunasekara told The Sunday Leader that the body was found in his vehicle down Cooray Road in Welikada.

SSP Gunasekara said that the body was found around noon on Friday and that no progress had been made with regard to the killing.

"The police are conducting investigations into the killing. We have not received any information pertaining to the incident. The motive and perpetrators are not known. Investigations are in progress," SSP Gunasekara said.   

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