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Case in point, never drive faster than your guardian angel can fly.
A backup vehicle crashed into a tree on Reid Avenue, Colombo 7
last Friday (27), despite the road being closed as it chased
full speed behind a VVIP!

Govt. flayed for its HR record by US

The United States Department of State in its 2008 country report on human right practices has rapped the Sri Lankan Government for what it terms its declining human rights record which the report states has escalated as a result of the armed conflict.  The report has also accused pro-government paramilitary groups including Tamil political parties the EPDP and TMVP for gross human rights abuses. The report has named the LTTE too as being guilty of killing and abusing civilians. 

The foreign super power has slammed the government's respect for human rights, which it states, declined as armed conflict escalated. The overwhelming majority of victims of human rights violations, such as killings and disappearances, were young male Tamils, while Tamils were only 16 percent of the overall population, it says.

Credible reports it asserts, cited unlawful killings by paramilitaries and others believed to be working with the knowledge of the government, assassinations by unknown perpetrators, politically motivated killings, the continuing use of child soldiers by a paramilitary force associated with the government, disappearances, arbitrary arrests and detention, poor prison conditions, denial of fair public trial, government corruption and lack of transparency, infringement of freedom of movement, and discrimination against minorities.

"Pro-government paramilitary groups were credibly alleged to have participated in armed attacks against civilians and practiced torture, kidnapping, hostage-taking, and extortion with impunity. During the year, no military, police or paramilitary members were convicted of any domestic human rights abuse. The executive failed to appoint the Constitutional Council, which is required under the Constitution, thus obstructing the appointment of independent representatives to important institutions such as the Human Rights Commission, Bribery Commission, Police Commission, and Judicial Service Commission," the report said.

The LTTE, the report states have attacked and killed a large number of civilians; are also engaged in torture, arbitrary arrest, and detention; denied fair, public trials; arbitrarily interfered with privacy; denied freedoms of speech, press, and assembly and association; and practiced extensive forced recruitment, including of children. The LTTE was active in areas, particularly in the south, that it did not control, attacking military and civilian targets, including public buses and trains, and conducting political assassinations.

The country report on Sri Lanka has eight pages of human rights violations.  It maintains there was little progress in several high-profile killings under investigation by the Commission of Inquiry (CoI). In 2007 President Rajapakse invited an International Independent Group of Eminent Persons (IIGEP) to assist the CoI and monitor its progress. The report notes the CoI interviewed witnesses in three cases and held public formal hearings, including testimony by video link from protected witnesses who had fled abroad. However, according to the IIGEP, the investigations were hampered by the lack of effective witness protection and the inappropriate role of the Attorney General's Office in steering the inquiry.

The IIGEP terminated its mission in March, citing an "absence of political and institutional will" to identify the perpetrators and "uncovering the systematic failure and obstructions to justice that rendered the original investigations ineffective."

"Credible evidence placed before the CoI alleged that security forces were responsible for the 2006 execution style killing of 17 members of the French NGO ACF (Action Against Hunger).

By year's end, no arrests were made. There was also no outcome of the CoI investigation into the case of five Tamil students killed in Trincomalee in 2006 despite testimony that implicated individual members of the security forces by name. While the commission indicated on several occasions that it was nearly ready to present its findings, by year's end, none of the commission's findings had become public" the report states.

During the year, media reports implicated the LTTE in attacks on political opponents and civilians. On January 16, the LTTE targeted a passenger bus in Moneragala District, killing 27 civilians including three children. On April 8, a suspected LTTE suicide bomber killed Minister of Highways and Road Development Jeyaraj Fernandopulle in Weliweriya.

The LTTE also conducted a number of attacks on military and police targets, including the September 9 attack on the air base in Vavuniya that reportedly killed up to 20 members of the armed forces.

Allegedly because of government pressure, the Sri Lanka Human Rights Commission (SLHRC) ceased providing statistics on forced disappearances by state security forces, pro-government paramilitary groups, or the LTTE. According to internationally respected monitoring organisations, after a decline in mid-2007, the number of disappearances increased  to more than 500 within a year. On November 8, the chairman of the Presidential Commission on Disappearances, retired High Court Judge Mahanama Tilakaratne, stated that 1,100 persons missing or abducted in the past two years were still unaccounted for.

In March Human Rights Watch (HRW) provided documentation on several hundred cases compiled by local human rights groups since mid-2006. The greatest concentration of disappearances during the year occurred in Vavuniya and the Eastern Province. The HRW report concluded that a crucial factor was "the systemic impunity enjoyed by members of the security forces and pro-government armed groups for abuses they commit."

Witnesses and potential victims identified the perpetrators of many abductions as Tamil-speaking armed men using white vans without licence plates. The government generally failed to investigate these incidents, the report states.


Drug shortage going from bad to worse  

By Nirmala Kannangara

Shortage of drugs in government hospitals has now reached a critical stage and has  badly affected the war casualties the Government Medical Officers' Association (GMOA) said.

The shortage of necessary drugs and injections in government hospitals over the past few months has now come to a crucial stage and many surgeries have been postponed at the National Hospital of Sri Lanka (NHSL) and in many other hospitals, The Sunday Leader learns.

The Health Ministry's failure to implement the Senaka Bibile drug policy and setting up a drug information centre have become the main causes for the inflow of quality-failed drugs and drug shortages in hospitals says Assistant Secretary GMOA, Dr. Upul Gunasekara.

According to Dr. Gunasekara, although the matter has been brought to the notice of the Health Ministry officials nothing has been done to supply the necessary medicine and instead  allegations have been made against the doctors for the drug shortage. 

"The Director General Health Services has blamed the doctors for prescribing medicine according brand names instead of their generic names which was the main reason for the shortage of drugs. How can drugs prescribed by brand names lead to a drug shortage? The Health Ministry officials do not know what they are talking about and  blame others for their own faults," added Dr. Gunasekera.

According to Dr. Gunasekera although the Health Ministry wants the doctors to prescribe drugs by their generic names it would not be fruitful as the patients will not get the best medicine for their illnesses.

"When a doctor writes a prescription by the generic names it is the pharmacist who decides as to what medicine should be given to the patient. Since there are low quality and good quality medicines in the market, the doctors do not want pharmacists to give their patients low quality drugs. That is the reason for them to prescribe drugs by their brand names instead of their generic names," claimed Dr. Gunasekera.

Dr. Gunasekera further said that the absence of a drug policy, a drug information centre and the drug index was the main reason for this issue and added that Sri Lanka was the only country that does not have a drug policy and queried as to why Health Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva does not want to implement Prof. Senaka Bibile's drug policy in the country.

"The basic concept of introducing a drug policy to a country is to ensure the continuous supply of good quality drugs for a lower price while a drug information centre could tell the people what  good quality drugs are available in the market. This could in turn identify the quality failed drug suppliers enabling the Health Ministry to black list these importers," said Dr. Gunasekera.


Pak paid $ 6 mn to Taliban for Swat ceasefire?

The Taliban in Pakistan's restive Swat valley was paid $6 million in compensation by the government as part of the deal for a ceasefire with security forces for an indefinite period, media reports said Tuesday.

Islamabad signed a controversial deal with Maulana Sufi Mohammad of the Tahrik-e-Nafiz Shariat Muhammadi (the Movement for the Enforcement of Islamic Law) to enforce Islamic law (Sharia) in Swat to restore peace in exchange for the payment, a security official was quoted as saying.

The amount paid through a back channel was compensation for those who were killed during military operations and compensation for the properties destroyed by the security forces.

The reports said all of Pakistan's tribal areas come under President Asif Ali Zardari's jurisdiction and the amount was paid from a special fund of the president. A special aid package, including a donation from the U.S., was designated for the region by the president's office and distributed through the Governor's office in North West Frontier Province (NWFP), the reports said.

The deal was thrashed out after months of intense fighting in which hundreds of civilians and militants were killed and 500,000 persons displaced.


Maharagama UC corrupt to the core 

By Nirmala Kannangara

The Maharagama Urban Council (UC) has become a haven for  corruption and the members of the council's ruling UPFA administration have allegedly shown displeasure over the conduct of its Chairperson Kanthi Kodikara, Deputy Chairman, Maharagama UC, Senaka Kalubowila told The Sunday Leader.

According to Kalubowila the monthly council meetings  end abruptly due to the lack of a majority and the council administration is on the verge of collapse due to lack of support within its ruling members.

"Since the February council meeting could not be held on Friday February 27, the council work cannot continue due to  lack of funds to meet  payments. Although there are nine members for the ruling UPFA, only six members including the JHU member were present at the meeting.  Consequently the meeting had to be postponed for want of a quorum. As a result the council could not pass its financial bill for the month of March which would badly affect the work of the council," Kalubowila further said.

Meanwhile since Kodikara's husband Upali Kodikara is contesting for the Western Provincial Council (WPC), the UC vehicles are being misused for the election campaign work alleged Kalubowila. "UC double cab, bearing number WP GC4984 is  being used for election campaign work from the time the WPC elections were announced. Although there are restrictions placed on issue of fuel for other vehicles, this particular double cab is allowed to pump fuel without any questions being asked," alleged Kalubowila.


5000 electronic ticket machines issued to bus conductors

By Risidra Mendis

Private bus owners have completed the distribution of 5000 electronic bus ticket machines to conductors.

The balance 1000 electronic bus ticket machines are yet to be brought down from China at a cost of Rs. 25,000 to Rs. 30,000 each.

The Sunday Leader learns that according to a Supreme Court Order all private bus conductors have to use the electronic bus ticket machines from February 15.  

President Lanka Private Bus Owners' Association (LPBOA) President Gemunu Wijeratne told The Sunday Leader that the electronic bus ticket machines would solve one of the major problems of private bus conductors cheating the commuters.

"The electronic bus ticket machines can track the non-issuing of tickets and therefore private bus conductors would be forced to  issue tickets," Wijeratne explained.

Even though private bus owners have to pay for the ticket machines, the cost of the electronic ticket machine has been added to the fare policy. We should be able to get back our profits due to the revised fare policy in less than an year, after which we can pay back the cost of the electronic bus ticket machines," Wijeratne said.


UN Security Council meeting on SL

According to a report by Inner City Press, a UN Security Council meeting on the situation in Sri Lanka was scheduled for Friday 27, despite the fact that UN spokesman John Holmes had said "there is no request for a Council meeting," three days earlier. The Council President, Japan's Yukio Takaso had said "at this moment, there is no strong request," on being asked about the issue a week earlier. The meeting would take place under the heading "Other Matters."

During this past month, the conflict between the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) appeared to be drawing to a close. The LTTE first began fighting for a separate homeland in 1983. Now, the area of land controlled by the LTTE has shrunk to just 34 square miles, due to significant advances made by the Sri Lankan Army forces.

Humanitarian groups have estimated that there are around 250,000 civilians trapped within this small area. However, the government states there are only about 70,000 civilians in the area concerned. There is much difficulty in ascertaining the state of the fighting as well as the number of deaths, as well as how many civilians are still in LTTE-controlled areas, as journalists are restricted with regards to their movements within the war zone.


Confusion over fuel subsidy

By Risidra Mendis

Some trishaw drivers are being forced to register with their area  police to receive the fuel subsidy approved by the government.

The government approved the fuel subsidy to all trishaw drivers effective January 1 on the basis that they register with the grama niladaris of their areas.

However The Sunday Leader learns that some trishaw drivers have complained to the All Island Three Wheeler Drivers' Welfare Association (AITWDWA) over the confusion of registration as they have been asked to register with the police in their respective areas.


Deshamanya Lalith Kotelawala remanded

The arrest of Deshamanya Lalith Kotelawala on Thursday, February 26, hardly shocked a nation that is still grappling with a far bigger issue, the staggering fraud of Rs. 26 billion. Kotelawala’s arrest as a result was not stunning news but expected, as investigations have proved his complicity in one of the biggest white collar crimes committed in this country. An arrest warrant has been issued for his wife and co-partner Dr. Sicille Kotelawala too.

The arrest of Kotelawala one of the most successful businessman in this country was the final icing on the cake of a dream empire which collapsed like a pack of cards in December last year.

First came the staggering collapse of Golden Key followed by the arrest of its CEO and other directors. Now its founder chairman and think tank has been remanded.

Depositors amounting to 7,188 who deposited their monies with Golden Key have not been receiving interest payments since November last year. Since early December depositors have been unable to withdraw their funds.

In December last year, the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) launched an investigation into the collapse of Golden Key, and the company’s CEO Khavan Perera. Perera is already in remand custody as are a number of other leading members of the Ceylinco group, including Golden Key Finance Director Saradha Sumanasekera and Ceylinco Insurance Chaminda Jayalath.

However Kotelawela and his wife remained free until last week, after paying Rs. 25 million as bail to the Mount Lavinia Magistrate’s court.

Kotelawela initially claimed his innocence in the multi billion rupee scam insisting he too had been duped by the crooked actions of his own management team at Golden Key. He singled out Perera as being the mastermind behind the scam.

His lawyers argued vehemently in his defence that Kotelawela as Chairman of Ceylinco Consolidated knew nothing of what was taking place at Golden Key despite the latter functioning as a subsidiary of the Ceylinco Group.

However the investigation revealed otherwise casting serious doubts on Kotelawala’s plea of innocence. It was discovered that the Golden Key company has not produced a set of properly audited accounts for three years and that the company had not held a board meeting for four years. That Kotelawala was unaware of the lack of board meetings and accounts in this respect was not only unacceptable but simply unbelievable.

Prosecuting lawyers and investigators have argued that to allow one of Ceylinco group’s subsidiaries to plunder a quarter of a billion rupees and profess ignorance is an act of criminal negligence. The prosecution has further revealed that there is evidence to prove that Kotelawala had indeed used some of Golden Key’s money outflow for personal reasons and gain.

At the time of going to press Dr. Sicille Kotelawala had not yet been remanded. It is understood that she is overseas.


No breakthrough even after seven weeks

By Nirmala Kannangara

The police for the third consecutive week are still probing into the telephone calls received by the late Editor-in-Chief of The Sunday Leader Lasantha Wickrematunge on the day of his assassination, but have failed to make any breakthrough.

Wickrematunge was killed on January 8 while on his way to office in Attidiya in close proximity to the high security zone near the Ratmalana Airport and the Air Force Base.

The police appointed four investigating teams to probe into Wickrematunge’s murder, but for the past seven weeks the teams have failed to make a breakthrough.

However, two suspects alleged to have had a link to the killing have been taken into custody and are under interrogation according to Police Spokesperson SSP Ranjith Gunasekera.

"The two suspects are still being questioned and we expect to get vital details for a breakthrough soon," Gunasekera told The Sunday Leader.

Meanwhile, when asked about the latest situation on the probe on Wickrematunge’s murder, Gunasekera said the details had not been revealed to him by the investigating teams as it could hamper the investigation process.

"The police teams do not wish to give me the details, as exposure of such details to the media would disturb all their efforts to make a breakthrough. What I know is that they are still probing into the telephone calls received by Wickrematunge moments before he was assassinated," Gunasekera said.

However, he also said the Government Analyst’s (GA) report is yet to be received and the police were waiting to get the fingerprints compared with the GA report for further investigation.


Eight accused in Global Tower murder discharged

The Mt. Lavinia Magistrate last week discharged the eight accused in the Rehan de Silva murder trial and instructed that they be given back their passports, The Sunday Leader learns.

Subsequent to the mysterious death of Rehan de Silva in December 2006 at the Global Towers in Wellawatte, the eight accused were taken into custody and their passports were impounded. However, since there were no charges levelled against the accused, they were discharged by the Mount Lavinia Magistrate last week who instructed that their passports be handed back to them.

 


  More News....

 

Drug shortage going from bad to worse

Pak paid $ 6 mn to Taliban for
Swat ceasefire?

 

 

Maharagama UC corrupt to the core 

 

5000 electronic ticket machines
issued to bus conductors

 

UN Security Council meeting on SL

 

Confusion over fuel subsidy

 

Deshamanya Lalith Kotelawala remanded

 

No breakthrough even after seven weeks

 

Eight accused in Global
Tower murder discharged

 

 


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