Apparel sector yet to get relief
By Mandana Ismail Abeywickrema
benefits outlined in the Economic Stimulus Package
presented by the government in December 2008 to give a
boost to the country's economy in the backdrop of the
global recession are yet to reach the export sector in
months after presentation, the apparel sector is yet to
receive the full benefits of the proposals in the
Secretary General, Joint Apparel Associations Forum (JAAF),
Rohan Masakorala said that the modalities to implement
the proposals were still being worked out.
also said that the government would most likely appoint
a task force to address the issues faced by each
industry in the export sector by next month.
government proposed several measures to encourage the
apparel and leather exporters in the stimulus package
presented last year.
mentioned in the 2009 budget, in order to maintain the
working cadre, maintain the 2008 export revenue, and
also make value additions, 5% of the export value would
be given as manufacturing relief to the apparel and
leather product exporters.
reduction in diesel and furnace oil prices, removal of
15% electricity surcharge, reducing interest rates and
cancelling the Economic Service Charge for a period of
one year would help reduce production costs in these
factories," Masakorala said, adding that the apparel
exporters would lodge the claims for the first quarter
Speaking of the export sector's performance, he said
that the official statistics released for the month of
January has shown no significant increase or decline in
added that global economic conditions have created a
slowdown in many countries resulting in downsizing and
reducing work hours in several industries.
Director, MAS Holdings, Dian Gomes said that although
the government's stimulus package is more than
conceptual there has been no action with regard to its
full implementation. He said that the next 15 months
would be a difficult period for the country's export
sector with the period between June and December being
the most crucial.
Referring to the apparel sector, Gomes said the world
situation was affecting the orders received by the
country compelling the industry to adopt a more lean and
global situation is tough and the retailers are not
doing well. There has been a decline in orders all over
the world," he said.
Holdings employees about 40,000 people in 34 plants
said the company was currently "right sizing" the
added that the organisation had provided a voluntary
retirement scheme (VRS) for about 500 employees.
Meanwhile, the chairman of a top apparel sector
organisation who requested anonymity said the immense
pressure brought upon the prices of apparel exports have
forced the industry to bring down costs.
uncertainty is high and we don't know how long it will
go on," he said.
been revealed by apparel sector trade unions that out of
the 800 garment factories that were operational in the
country at the height of the apparel sector boom only
around 275 were functioning as at end 2008.
Apparel sector experts have said that while 60 to 70
garment factories have closed down since 2007, many of
them were trying to consolidate. It has also been
pointed out that while there were over 350 garment
factories operating as of 2007, there are now only
around 265 to 275 factories 'operational.'
Statistics also show that the workforce in the apparel
sector that stood at around 300,000 in 2007 has now
declined to about 280,000.
According to statistics available with the Inter Company
Employees' Union (ICEU) approximately 16,802 workers
have lost their jobs so far this year alone.
Police not interested in tel. data
By Nirmala Kannangara
police have failed to collect the telephone data report
prepared by the Electronics Department of the Moratuwa
University on a directive issued by the Mt. Lavinia
Magistrate on the assassination of The Sunday Leader
Editor-in-Chief Lasantha Wickrematunge.
Electronics Department of the Moratuwa University told
The Sunday Leader, the police had failed to collect the
report for the past two weeks even after being informed
that it was ready for collection.
Lavinia Magistrate Harsha Setunge on February 19 ordered
the police to refer the telephone calls received by
Wickrematunge moments before he was killed to the
Electronics Department, Moratuwa University in order to
get details of the calls, to make a breakthrough into
Although the Electronics Department had completed its
investigations in early March and requested the police
to collect it from the university, the police for the
past two weeks had not collected the report, The Sunday
Leader learns. According to university officials, the
police have promised to collect the report on Monday
(16), but have failed to collect it even by Friday (27)
informed two police officers Mendis and OIC Amarabandu
two weeks ago but although they promised to collect the
report on March 16 they have still failed to do so," the
university officials said.
Meanwhile, Police Spokesperson SSP Ranjith Gunasekera
told The Sunday Leader that investigations are still in
progress, but did not comment further.
First AMF award to Lasantha
By Dilrukshi Handunnetti in Bangkok
the Asian Media Forum (AMF) conferred its first ever
award on Founder Editor, The Sunday Leader, Lasantha
Wickrematunge at a simple ceremony in Bangkok on
Wednesday (25), it was an emotional moment for many.
award, the first of its kind was awarded posthumously to
Wickrematunge for his courageous journalism and for
fighting corruption in his long and distinguished
Gathered inside the conference hall at Windsor Suites
Hotel in Bangkok city were over 80 journalists. Many
knew Wickrematunge personally while others knew him
through his work.
room full of journalists, it was my honour to receive
this award, conferred posthumously on a journalist famed
for his indomitable public spirited journalism.
award was presented jointly by two distinguished men.
One was Prof. Vithit Muntabhorn, the UN Special
Rapporteur for North Korea Human Rights, a distinguished
jurist and a member of the International Court of
Justice (ICJ). The other was a journalist of
international repute, Nurul Kabir, the editor of the
Dhaka-based daily newspaper, New Age.
eyes misted as Kabir placed the award together with
Prof. Muntabhorn. For I knew, Kabir's sentiments about
media freedom resonated with those of the slain Sunday
Leader's Founding Editor. That he too had been fighting
authoritarian regimes and corruption in his own home,
Bangladesh and more importantly, that he was a man lucky
to be alive, conferring an award on a slain colleague.
Under various forms of attacks
journalist who had been under various forms of attacks,
having both his legs broken during different regimes,
Nurul Kabir used his pen to fight against the mighty
force of the military controlled Bangladesh regime from
January 2007 to December 2008. He continues to pay the
price. Just one week before, Kabir's vehicle was given
chase by unidentified gun wielding motor cyclists and is
lucky to be alive.
was also among the first South Asian journalists to
visit The Sunday Leader office to express solidarity
after the brutal slaying of its Founder Editor. "I am
honoured that I was chosen for the task of conferring
the award," Kabir said, once the simple ceremony drew to
same ceremony, the Asia Media Report 2009 was launched,
aptly titled, Missing In The Media.
AMF Report Editor, Darryl D'Monte in his overview noted
with concern how Asia replaced the Middle East as the
deadliest region for journalists in 2008 with 26
reporters, photographers and editors losing their lives
in retaliation for their work or in civil conflicts.
Growing influence of Taliban
adds: "While Pakistan will continue to cause concern due
to the growing influence of Taliban, Sri Lanka has
witnessed a brutal murder of one of its most outspoken
journalists. The controversial but powerful newspaper
editor was assassinated even before outrage and dismay
had died down over the ransacking of the premises of a
popular radio and TV broadcaster by masked, armed men.
Wickrematunge was the first Asian to win the Global
Integrity Award in 2000 awarded by the Berlin based
AMF report containing 20 chapters representative of the
region also noted that Wickrematunge had become the
prime target of the regime of President Mahinda
Rajapakse, and particularly of his brother and Defence
Secretary Gotabaya Rajapakse.
Timely intervention of journalists
attempt to arrest Wickrematunge failed after senior
police officers refused to comply and also because of
the timely intervention of journalists who had gathered
around him," it adds.
AMF report further notes that "Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and
other nations use national security laws to intimidate
and even terrorise journalists."
murders in 2009 of scribes in Pakistan and Sri Lanka
ought to serve as a reminder to South Asia in
particular, and the continent in general, that eternal
violence is the price of press freedom.
Media workers killed
Interestingly, D'Monte remarks that "Between 2006 and
February 2009, 18 journalists and media workers have
been killed in Sri Lanka, making it one of the most
dangerous places in the world for the media to function
without fetters - ironical, considering the emerald isle
has given birth to the word 'serendipity,' from the
ancient name Serendip for Sri Lanka."
GMOA up in arms against arrival of
Indian medical team
By Nirmala Kannangara
the government's decision to permit Indian doctors to
run a hospital in Pulmodai sidelining the Sri Lankan
doctors, a confrontation is brewing between Health
Ministry officials and the Government Medical Officers'
Association (GMOA), The Sunday Leader learns.
there are adequate doctors in the country and in some
instances when doctors are without work why did the
Health Minister get down a team of Indian doctors and
other medical staff to treat the internally displaced
persons (IDP) in the north?" asked Deputy Secretary GMOA,
Dr. Upul Gunasekera.
stated that the GMOA in consultation with the Health
Ministry had started a voluntarily programme to treat
the IDPs in the north and the east a few months back.
this backdrop what was the need for the government, and
the Health Ministry in particular, to get down a team of
Indian doctors to run a 50-bed hospital in Pulmodai
which is the first in the country's medical history?" he
asked, appearing visibly angry at what he considered was
an infringement of the rights of the GMOA.
According to Dr. Gunasekera lack of administrative
skills of Health Ministry officials had led to the
present state of "unethical dealings" at the Ministry.
He charged that the latest decision to permit the
Indians to run a hospital in Pulmodai was to instigate a
confrontation between Ministry officials and the GMOA.
GMOA he said called on Health Secretary Dr. Athula
Kahandaliyanage two weeks ago seeking clarification as
to why such a decision was taken when adequate doctors
were available to treat the IDPs in the north and the
east, and that so far they had not received any
According to Dr. Gunasekera the Health Ministry's
'deliberate failure' to consult the GMOA and the SLMC on
the issue would not only hamper the country's medical
profession which is comparable to that available in
developed countries and was the best in the region, but
would also result in bad repercussions for the patients.
are surprised that the government has permitted the
Indian doctors to run a hospital without the support of
our own doctors. If any foreign doctor wants to practise
here, he should get SLMC registration without which he
cannot practise in the country. In this instance none of
the Indian doctors have obtained SLMC registration,
neither have they applied for registration," Dr.
According to Dr. Gunasekera if a team of foreign
doctors are assigned to treat our own people then there
should be bilateral collaboration and unless there is
equal local representation it would be a risk to let
them work without supervision.
Gunasekera said that the GMOA was awaiting the Ministry
Secretary's report on how permission was granted to
Indian doctors to run a hospital. He warned if the GMOA
perceives any hidden agendas that would tarnish the
country's health sector, stern action would be taken
against the government.
Secretary Dr. Athula Kahandaliyanage told The Sunday
Leader that the Indians responded positively to their
call and added that the Sri Lankan government had
requested such medical help not only from India but also
from other countries as well.
made an appeal to the foreign missions in the country
and International Non Governmental Organisations (INGO)
to help us in this hour of need. That is why the Indians
came to help us with medical assistance," added Dr.
Indian High Commission in Colombo responding, said, "
The medical team is a fully self-contained unit. All
equipment, including operation theatres, operating
tables, X-ray machines, ventilators, laboratory,
medicines, medical items and hospital stores (including
beds, tables, bed linen, etc) worth SL Rs. 70 million,
needed for a modern hospital have been sent with the
Indian medical team arrived in Sri Lanka on March 9 to
establish an emergency medical unit including a hospital
in Pulmodai as agreed with the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL)
to assist in supplementing the existing medical
facilities and attend to the medical needs of the IDPs
in the north.
Predator flies to destroy piti
By Risidra Mendis
species of flies known as parasitoids is to be brought
down from Puerto Rico to control the spread of the piti
Sunday Leader learns that 50,000 parasitoids are to be
brought into the country by April to control the spread
of the piti makuna which is known to attack plants and
trees that exude milk.
programme to bring in the parasitoids will be funded by
the United States Agriculture Department (USAD) Animal
and Plant Health Inspection Service.
piti makuna also known as the mealy bug by Horticultural
Crops, Research and Development Institute (HCRDI)
officials, is believed to have entered the country in
mid 2007 and has so far destroyed many vegetable and
fruit cultivations mainly in Colombo and Gampaha areas.
Division of Entomology (HCRDI) Indra Wahundeniya said
this was the first time the mealy bug has affected
papaya and many other varieties of vegetables and fruit
plants in the country.
believe this bug was illegally brought in to the country
with plant materials. The mealy bug has no natural
enemies to control its numbers. This is the main reason
for the mealy bug to increase in numbers within a short
period and reach epidemic levels," Wahundeniya said.
added that in such cases cultural and chemical control
methods introduced by the Agriculture Department were
only temporary and it was necessary to introduce a
natural enemy to control the spread of the pest. "It has
been recorded that over 25 countries around the world
including Mexico and South America have faced the same
problems with these pests.
parasitoid was the best option, as these insects are
known to lay eggs on the mealy bugs. The parasitoids
have a four stage life cycle namely the eggs, the
larvae, the pupa and the adult insect. Once the
parasitoid completes its life cycle the mealy bug will
reduce in numbers," Wahundeniya explained.
Wahundeniya went on to say that some of the 50,000
parasitoids brought down will be kept in the
laboratories to multiply and the others released to
badly affected areas in the country.
are still not sure if 50,000 parasitoids will be enough
to control the spread of the mealy bug as the situation
is very serious in some areas. At present we are
awaiting instructions from USAD as to whether we can
immediately release the insects to the environment or
wait for a few days until the parasitoids get used to
the Sri Lankan climate," Wahundeniya said.