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Despite being ordered by the government to vacate the Wanni, UN officials have been prevented from leaving LTTE-controlled areas by peaceful civilian protests. Photo shows a UN heavy vehicle convoy cut off by a group of protestors.

 

Bribery Comm grills Nation Building Minister

 

Govt. disowns Rajiva's attack on UNSG

 

President stays increase in retirement age

 

1229 'true cases' of abductions in 2007

 

Railway strike from midnight today

  Govt. says it is committed to a political settlement
  MR rules out early presidential poll

 

More News....

Hambantota Port project faces suspension

The Hambantota Port Development Project is facing suspension by end of September as a result of a serious cash flow crisis due to the government's failure to pay the contractor his dues.

The government owes the contractor, China Harbour-Sinohydro Consortium US$ 117mn for the work completed but is yet to make payment despite repeated appeals, it is learned.

On September 3, the China Harbour Consortium wrote to Ports Minister Chamal Rajapakse they will be compelled to suspend work on the project by September 30 unless the US$ 117 million (approx Rs. 12.5 billion) due is paid.

The Consortium while thanking the Minister for his support and assistance to the project has said they will 'be compelled to suspend work if the outstanding amount due to China Harbour is not made available to us by 30th September 2008.'

The letter was copied to the Ambassador to China in Sri Lanka, Ambassador of Sri Lanka in China, Finance Secretary P.B. Jayasundera, Foreign Secretary Palitha Kohona, Ports Secretary Thosapala Hewage and Vice Chairman, Ports Authority, R.M.P.B.Wickrema.

The local agent for the Consortium is businessman Prabath Nanayakkara who is also the agent for the Colombo-Katunayake expressway.

"Since His Excellency the President unveiled the commencement plaque at the inauguration ceremony last October, the construction works have been proceeding according to the planned schedule and we have achieved an operational output of US$ 60 million..," the letter states.

The Consortium has added they have completed 100% of the mobilisation and preliminary works, 85% precast element construction, 85% cofferdam construction,10% Breakwater construction and 5% Harbour Basin Excavation construction.

It has further stated that pursuant to the contract the Contractor should be entitled to a 25% of the contract sum as advance payment which amounts to approximately US$ 90 million to ensure the smooth implementation of the project.

"However we regret to inform that upto now we have only received US$33 million. The balance accumulated payments due to China Harbour from the Employer amounts to US dollars 117 million. As a result the Contractor is now experiencing a serious cash flow deficit and will be reluctantly compelled to suspend work if this problem is not addressed as a matter of priority," the Consortium has written.

The letter also said, "China Harbour have made every effort to achieve the current progress and have made considerable investments in equipment and other resources and are not in a position to shoulder this burden of a cash flow deficit any longer. Therefore we wish to inform that we will be compelled to suspend work if the outstanding amount due to China Harbour is not made available to us by September 30 , 2008."


Rs 450 million assets case

Bribery Comm grills Nation Building Minister

The Bribery Commission yesterday grilled Nations Building Minister RohithaAbeygunawardene over an Assets investigation involving nearly Rs 450million.

It is learned the Minister's statement was recorded by Sub Inspector Ranatunge at the Longden Place headquarters of the Bribery Commission.

The Minister faces allegations of amassing assets valued at nearly Rs 450million which are unaccounted for. It is alleged the Minister who isnicknamed 'Raththaran' has not submitted an assets declaration since entering Parliament in the year 2001.

There was no information available whether he pays income tax or has a tax file in the Inland Revenue Department.

The Minister told The Sunday Leader last month when questioned on an assets probe against him that there was no such probe and that he had never been summoned by the Bribery Commission to make a statement.

The Sunday Leader reported at the time the Minister had sought postponements on two occasions when summoned by the Commission.

It was also reported that the Minister was given a final date in September to come before the Bribery commission to record a statement.

The recording of the Minister's statement also comes in the backdrop of

allegations by previous investigating officers that there were attempts to stifle the investigation by those in authority.


Govt. disowns Rajiva's attack on UNSG

The government last week informed UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon that comments made against him by the Peace Secretariat Chief and Secretary, Human Rights Ministry, Rajiva Wijesinha did not reflect the views of President Mahinda Rajapakse or that of his administration.

The disassociation and an expression of regret was communicated to the UN Secretary General through the Head of the Sri Lankan UN Mission in New York, H.M.S. Palihakkara last week after Wijesinha launched a scathing attack on Moon.

Wijesinha's attack came after the UN Secretary General made a statement on the on going fighting in the north and the need to ensure the protection of civilians in the conflict zone.

Wijesinha in his response while criticising the UNSG for making wrong statements on the conflict had said of Moon that 'perhaps with knowledge will come wisdom.'

Informed sources said President was visibly angry at Wijesinha's attack on the UNSG and called for the statement, which was posted on several Government websites to be withdrawn.

The President also issued a directive for Ministry Secretaries not to make public statements without proper authorisation.


President stays increase in retirement age

President Mahinda Rajapakse has decided not to increase the retirement age of public servants to 63, The Sunday Leader learns.

Informed sources said a proposal was mooted by Public Administration Minister Karu Jayasuriya to increase the retirement age of public servants to 63 years in keeping with worldwide trends but the President has decided not to proceed with the recommendation at this point of time.

It is learned the proposal was for the President in his capacity as Finance Minister and Jayasuriya as Public Administration Minister to submit a joint cabinet memorandum recommending the new retirement age.

The President it is learned had taken the view the implementation of such a proposal will lead to protests from trade unions and also stall the promotion prospects of other public servants.

The sources also said the President took the view such an amendment would need a two third majority in Parliament and enabling legislation to increase the retirement age of judges and that this was not the appropriate time to do so.

The retirement age of a High court judge at present is 61 years while an Appeal Court judge's retirement age is 63 and that of a Supreme Court judge 65 years.

The sources said if the retirement age of a High Court judge is to be 63 years, adjustments would also have to be made for Appeal Court and Supreme Court judges and the Government was not in a position to go through such a process at this time.


1229 'true cases' of abductions in 2007

Official Police records for the year 2007 reveal there were 1229 cases of abductions and kidnappings reported of which 1195 have been described as‘true cases’.

The official Police ‘grave crime abstract for the year for whole island from 1.1.2007 to 31.12.2007' states that of the true cases plaints were filed in 227 while the accused were unknown in 218 complaints.

The record also states of the complaints received, there were mistakes of law or fact in 27 instances.

It is further stated in 14 cases convictions were recorded while there were acquittals in five cases.It is also stated that there were 945 cases pendingat present.

The records also show that there were 1397 cases of rape and incest for the year 2007 of which 11391 were true cases while there were 1663 cases of homicide and abetment to commit suicide.

The police have also recorded 366 cases of cruelty to children and sexual exploitation of children for the year under review.

The records further state there were 475 cases of unnatural offences and grave sexual abuse.

An alarming 18,635 cases of house breaking and theft were also recorded.


Railway strike from midnight today

By Nirmala Kannangara

Railway service will be hampered for 24 hours from midnight today (14), the Joint Railway Services Trade Union Front (JRSTUF) said.

The Government's failure to address the grievances faced by the railway employees was the result of the proposed one day token strike and according to the JRSTUF more than 10,000 railway employees are to join the strike.

"Although Railways Minister Dulles Alahapperuma was keen on solving the issues faced by the railway employees the delay in resolving the issue was because of the lethargy of the Salaries and Cadre Commission, the Public Service Commission, the Treasury and the Ministry of Public Administration," Secretary, JRSTUF Sampath Rajitha told The Sunday Leader.  

According to Rajitha, the Salaries and Cadre Commission for the past few years has failed to rectify the salary anomalies faced by the railway employees and the Treasury's failure to allocate money for the distress loan funds.

"The railway employees since July 2007 were unable to obtain  distress loans, an entitlement, as the Treasury had not released funds. How can the government say that it does not have money to pay distress loans when the government is spending money unnecessarily? Apart from this the Public Administrations Department has failed to pay the railway employees the disturbance allowance. Why do government departments inconvenience  employees so much," queried Rajitha.

Accusing the Salaries and Cadre Commission for their lethargic attitude in resolving the salary issues in government departments Rajitha said that most of the public sector unrest was due to the sluggish approach of the Salaries Commission.

"The sole responsibility for public sector agitation should borne by the Salaries and Cadre Commission. The proposed one day token strike starting tonight would hinder 60% of the railway service tomorrow and in the event the said government departments fail to address our demands at the earliest we would be compelled to take stern trade union action in the weeks to come," said Rajitha.


Govt. says it is committed to a political settlement

The Sri Lankan government last week reaffirmed its commitment to a political settlement and said the military engagement was purely to eliminate terrorism.

Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama in an interview to The Hindu newspaper last week said that subjugation of people by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam as a terrorist organisation cannot be tolerated.

"Democracy is the only answer we have for sustainable peace, and terrorism in the hands of the LTTE has to be eliminated in order to sustain that progress for the people of the island as a whole."

The Minister had also said that the negotiations between the government and the LTTE ended in a failure, as the latter was not committed to the peace process.

He had also commented on the humanitarian situation in the north.

"We are monitoring the situation on a daily basis and taking every meaningful step towards minimising the inconveniences that the community is experiencing," he had said.

 "We are doing everything in the north to facilitate their daily life. We know it is not normal. But these are interim phases that one has to go through. The government is very mindful of protecting civilian population. We do not want them to be falling into the hands of the LTTE, who take them in order to mobilise, or in order to seek protection out of them for the LTTE-hideouts."


MR rules out early presidential poll

President Mahinda Rajapakse has ruled out the possibility of an early presidential election.

The President is legally entitled to call for a presidential election after completing four years in office and will be entitled to do so in November 2009.

However the President has last week informed party seniors and senior Presidential Advisor Basil Rajapakse he does not intend to curtail his first term by two years and that the SLFP should prepare for a general election, which is due by April 2010. Rajapakse has said the people elected him for a six year term and he intends to honour that mandate.

The President had stated this position after he was urged by party seniors to hold the presidential election before a parliamentary election to capitalise on his personal popularity as opposed to that of the UPFA, which will be tested at a general election.


UN staff prevented from moving out of Wanni  

UN and staff from other relief agencies have been prevented from moving out of the Wanni by public protests blocking the roads, UN officials in Colombo said.   

No UN staff was able to move to Vavuniya in the past two days due to the protests.  

“Our staff has been blocked by peaceful protestors,” UN spokesperson Gordon Weiss told The Sunday Leader.  The protestors had handed over a list of concerns, Weiss added.  

“We have undertaken to pass the concerns to the Secretary General which we have done.” He said that UN agencies were in discussions with the protestors and organizers of the protests in an attempt to secure passage to UN staff out of Wanni.  

Protests erupted near UN offices and on the A9 at Kilinochchci and Murgunandi about 10 km south on the A9 on September 11, preventing convoys of vehicles from UN and other relief agencies from moving south. The protestors had begun gathering near the offices from early as 6.00 am on Friday morning.   The relief agencies had began relocation the day before on September 11 following a government directive on September 8.  

The government said that the Tigers were preventing UN and NGOs from moving out of the Vanni and had ordered them not to remove heavy vehicles and machinery out of the Vanni. 

“According to informed sources, LTTE has issued terrifying notices to officials of the organizations, not to remove their vehicles and equipments if they leave Wanni,” the Defence Ministry said and added that there was a possibility that the Tigers may not allow the heavy vehicles and machinery to be removed.  

The Defence Ministry has said that the Tigers were using the heavy machinery to build bunkers and earth bunds in the Vanni.  

“The LTTE is believed to have used some of the INGO vehicles to construct defences and dig trenches stretching as far as 20km to prevent the Army from advancing.”  Earlier it said that 38 vehicles belonging to Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA)  was commandeered by the Tigers. Though requests were made by the NGO to the Tigers to release the vehicles, it is not clear whether they were returned to the NPA.

Meanwhile the Tigers accused the government was paving the way for genocide quoting letters handed over to UN organizations by protesting civilian organizations.

“Several appeals were handed to the UN resident representatives by Civilian Based Organizations as well as Teacher Associations. The appeals mostly said that the Sri Lankan Government is ordering the international agencies out as it readies for the final stage of the genocide of the Tamils,” the Tiger Peace Secretariat said.

The protestors had told UN officials in Kilinochchi that the presence of international agencies was essential not only to look after the humanitarian needs but also for the protection of the civilians.


Strong winds to last a few more days

By Shezna Shums

Strong winds that are currently being experienced in the country will  persist for a few more days due to the cyclone close to Taiwan and the Philippines.

Deputy Director, Sri Lanka Meteorology Department, S.R. Jayasekera told The Sunday Leader that although Taiwan is not close to Sri Lanka  the cyclone's effects were being felt in the island.

The winds over the island are feeding into the cyclone that is closer to Taiwan and the Philippines.


Civilians in Kilinochchi hold protest

Civilians in Kilinochchi held a protest on Friday against the relocation of humanitarian organisations, sources said.

The civilians had organised the protest last Friday to urge the humanitarian agencies not to leave the Wanni and relocate elsewhere.

Sources said protests were also reported from Murugandi, where the civilians had blocked the road, stopping the flow of traffic  on the A9 road.

It was also reported that a few agencies in the Wanni had left the area on Friday.

The humanitarian agencies working in the Wanni were asked to relocate by the government, citing security threats.


Wanni civilians in dire straits says MSF

The situation of the tens of thousand of civilians remaining inside the Wanni was dire, according to international relief agencies that were relocating staff out of the Wanni following a government directive last week.

European relief groups Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and Solidar both said that civilians and the IDPs were facing grave situations in the absence of a permanent presence of aid workers in the Wanni except for representatives of the ICRC.

“MSF is very concerned about the possible consequences of ongoing hostilities for the population still living in the area, and the impact of displacement on the health of the population,” the French relief agency said on September 11 as it began relocating staff to Vavuniya.

“The absence of UN and INGOs paints a grim picture for over 150,000 persons who are currently living in welfare camps, public buildings and even under trees in town areas of Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu districts,”  Solidar said yesterday.

There are at least 160,000 IDPs in the Vanni according to UN reports and a total civilian population of between 260,000 to 310,000.

MSF said that there were potential health related dangers in the Vanni. “The potentially serious health impact will only be worsened by the arrival of the rainy season begins in roughly a month's time. Existing hospitals and clinics have also been affected by the fighting, and though the system is compensating for the moment, if the situation is prolonged there will be serious shortages of medicines and supplies, as well as qualified medical staff.”  

The ICRC last week said that 12 medical institutions including four hospitals had been relocated in the Vanni due to on-going fighting and 200 beds had been rendered unavailable.

MSF said that it was unlikely that civilians would move out of the Vanni any time soon despite government appeals to do so. “Although the government of Sri Lanka has dropped leaflets recommending that the population move from this area, and though they have announced the creation of a humanitarian corridor to facilitate this, there is little evidence that civilians have been able to move to safety.”

The French aid group also expressed its willingness to return to Vanni once the government gives the green light.

“MSF is prepared to return to Kilinochchi as soon as possible. In the interim, the withdrawal should not affect programmes in other parts of Sri Lanka's conflict-affected north, including Vavuniya, Point Pedro in the Jaffna peninsula, and Mannar.”

Solidar said that it had prepared to operate out of Vavuniya for the last year and a new office with eight expatriate staff was already up and running.

 

Clarification on photo

In last week’s issue of The Sunday Leader, a story titled “By way of deception” carried a picture without due attribution due to an oversight. The picture was that of IDPs in Nenaddan and was taken from the blog chulie.wordpress.com. The omission is regretted.


Teachers keep away from A/L marking

By Nirmala Kannangara

The Examinations Department will have to face an uphill task to get the A/Level papers evaluated, the teacher trade unions said.

With the Supreme Court (SC) order to all teacher trade unions to join in the paper evaluation process, the trade unions have requested their membership to report for paper marking, but without success.

"The law of the land is supreme and after the SC ruling we requested our members to join the paper evaluation process but we understand that most of the marking centers are empty as the teachers have not reported for paper marking. It is learnt that the teacher turnover after the SC verdict has been less than 10% and is very much below the required number," union sources told The Sunday Leader.

However, President Ceylon Teachers’ Union, Joseph Stalin told The Sunday Leader that the trade unions have now decided to strike back hard to cripple the work in schools to win their 11 year long demands.

"We respected the SC order and have asked the teachers to call off their strike and join in the paper marking. However, as we have to settle the problems faced by the teacher / principal services we have decided to initiate a concerted trade union action before the end of this year to get our salary anomalies rectified," Stalin said.

Accusing the Education Ministry of having broken all its promises, Stalin said that for the third consecutive occasion the Ministry has given three different versions on the proposed salary increase to teachers.

"Last month the Education Ministry Secretary said that the government has allocated Rs.1600 million for the teacher services salary increment, followed by an assurance by Minister Susil Premjayanth of a salary hike of around Rs.2000. But on Friday the Education Ministry has inserted a paper advertisement announcing that the teachers would receive salary increments between Rs.1005 – Rs.2685.

"Why is the Education Ministry trying to fool the teachers? If there is such a plan, we should be informed by a circular and not through paper advertisements. The government cannot fool us like this, and this time we hope to teach them a good lesson by bringing the schools to a virtual standstill," charged Stalin

Meanwhile, General Secretary, Ceylon Teacher Services Union (CTSU), Mahinda Jayasinghe told The Sunday Leader that all attempts to get the paper evaluation started by the Education Ministry have failed and that the teachers who had extended their support to the paper marking process were under constant threat by the education officers.

"Some teachers have informed us that they have been threatened by some officers at the Education Ministry. How can these officers get the papers evaluated when the morale of the teachers is low," asked Jayasinghe.

Director-General of Education Anura Edirisinghe was not available for comment.


Ravi seeks Rs 1b from Lake House

UNP Colombo district Chairman and MP Ravi Karunanayake has in a letter ofdemand to Lake House demanded one billion rupees by way of damages forthe publication of an allegedly defamatory article.

The letter of demand sent through Attorney G.G. Arulpragasam on September 8 refers to an article in the Silumina quoting Karunanayake as stating the people have rejected the UNP leadership.

"I have been instructed by my client to state that the said report under the said headline is absolutely false and false to the knowledge of the newspaper and has been made with the intention to create rift between the leader of the United National Party and my client and also to defame my client and to ruin, ridicule and to humiliate the unblemished character of my client as a person, as a professional and as a politician and to mislead the public and to gain wrongful advantage," Attorney Arulpragasam has stated in the letter of demand.

Lake House has been given 14 days to make the payment or face legal action.


Police move to prevent explosions in the city

The police in their cordon and search operations have recovered over 3000 kilogrammes of explosives from January 1 to date.

These explosives have been recovered from various locations around the island in police search operations.

Police spokesperson, SSP Ranjith Gunesekera told The Sunday Leader that despite police action to detect these explosives, in some instances explosions did occur in the city and the suburbs.

When The Sunday Leader asked about the recent explosions in Grandpass, Mount Lavinia, and Wellampitiya, Gunasekera said, the police were in the process of conducting search operations and that security had been tightened.

Gunasekera added that the police were daily carrying out cordon and search operations in Colombo and other busy towns to prevent such explosions from occurring.


CBK attends EF in Poland

Former President Chandrika Kumaratunga has been invited to attend the 18th Economic Forum in Poland, which commenced on September 10, the office of Kumaratunga said in a statement.

The Forum is held in Krynica, a southern city, also known as ‘Davos of Eastern Europe.’

The Forum, organised by the Institute for Eastern Studies Foundation has been held annually since 1991.


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