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               "Nation's appreciation" to .......?

Who's fighting the war in Sri Lanka? Labour Minister Mervyn Silva has put up this
billboard titled "Nation's Appreciation" at Thimbirigasyaya which shows a soldier
in combat gear sporting a United States flag on his arm -
By Asoka Fernando


Norwegian Ambassador denies brokering top Tigers' escape

Norway's Ambassador to Sri Lanka, Tore Hattrem Friday refuted charges that Norway has been or is involved in ongoing secret negotiations on safe passage/security for the LTTE leadership. "This is with all respect, pure and simple rubbish," he told The Sunday Leader.

"Neither Norway nor any other actors have to my knowledge been involved in such talks. Norwegian efforts in the last several months have solely been focused on the humanitarian situation for the IDPs," Hattrem said.

Hattrem's denial to this newspaper was made following specific questions we posed to him asking if Norway was negotiating a safe passage for LTTE Leader Velupillai Pirapaharan and a limited number of other LTTE leaders in exchange for the LTTE releasing the people from the "no fire zone."

A report filed by Andrew Buncombe in Colombo for the Independent newspaper in the UK maintains that the Sri Lankan government is attempting to broker a deal with the Tamil Tiger rebels that could see their veteran leader, Velupillai Pirapaharan, allowed to lay down his arms and escape into exile in the hope of ending the island's bitter conflict.

In what might represent an attempt to seize on possible divisions within the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), The Independent says it has learnt that the government has put out "feelers" to the LTTE to see whether such a deal would be possible.

The arrangement could also see the remaining fighters, who are trapped along with 150,000 civilians in the north of the country, "rehabilitated."

Such an arrangement would be highly controversial, both in Sri Lanka and internationally, but some within the government believe it would be a price worth paying to end the conflict.

One possible location mentioned for the rebel leader's exile is Thailand, where, in the south of the country, the LTTE is said to have strong support.

It is far from clear whether  Pirapaharan would agree to go into exile. The man who founded the LTTE more than 30 years ago might prefer to make a stand in the no-fire zone, where the government has said it believes he and between 600 and 1,000 fighters remain.

Oily Abyss

As Citibank and Deutsche Bank sue for the billions owed to them by the CPC, the country's economic fate may well be decided by international arbitration

By R. Wijewardena

The country finds itself staring into the abyss of a major financial catastrophe after the government's negotiations with the international banks who originally organised the Petroleum Corporation's controversial oil hedging deal broke down last week.

Citibank and Deutsche Bank filed for international arbitration on the matter of outstanding payments due to them from the CPC, turning their backs on the high level government committee that had been tasked with negotiating a compromise on the hedging issue.

City, Deutsche and Standard Chartered banks all sold billions of rupees worth of oil derivatives to the CPC, at the height of last year's commodity boom as the government decided to hedge against further increases in the price of oil. The CPC agreed to purchase 2.5 million barrels of oil at $100 per barrel. However following the intensification of the global economic crisisthe price of oil collapsed, and the CPC was left purchasing oil atmore than double the market price.

Mounting criticism of the hedging deal and legal action by the opposition led the Supreme Court to abrogate the hedging agreement and order the CPC to halt its payments on oil derivates. However, the major international banks who had purchased the derivates on behalf of the government found themselves facing billions of rupees worth of losses.

The banks threatened legal action to recover the money owed to them by the CPC. However the President appointed a high level committee comprising several prominent ministers, to negotiate with the banks and reach a compromise on the total amount payable.After four rounds of talks between the banks and the cabinet sub committee negotiations have  collapsed and the government is currently facing the prospect of  paying as much as US$ 1 billion to the banks in question, should the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) rule against it.

While international arbitration is yet to commence, the cost of mounting a defence is expected to be several million dollars. The banks involved are some of the most powerful financial organisations in the world and can be expected to employ the best possible legal teams to present their case.

The banks are likely to sue for the full amount owed to them which at a minimum is calculatedto be 800 million dollars.

A decision against the government at the ICSID therefore will leave the country facing the prospect of a billion dollar payment and given that the country's total foreign reserves at present stand at not far above one billion dollars,the consequences of an unfavorable decision to the country's economy could be catastrophic.

The fate of this country's economy is therefore no longer in the hands of the government, the President or even the IMF, but rests on the outcome of a legal battle against some of the wealthiest organisations on Earth.

Alahakoon recalled from Sri Lankan Embassy in Pakistan

Former Editor-in-Chief of The Nation newspaper Lalith Alahakoon who accepted a government posting to its embassy in Pakistan, has been recalled.

Alahakoon left for Pakistan less than two weeks ago to take up his new post. He started work this week.  But after working for just one day at the embassy Alahakoon was handed a letter terminating his services with orders to return to Sri Lanka with immediate effect.  No reasons for his termination have been given.  

Cpc, ceb and slpa workers poised to strike

By Nirmala Kannangara

The Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC), Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) and the Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) have jointly decided to strike as a result of the government's failure to grant the employees their due salary increments, the Joint Trade Union Alliance (JTUA) told The Sunday Leader.

The government's failure to grant the employees of the three institutions their salary increments has led to unrest among employees and according to the JTUA they would decide the date for the proposed strike tomorrow (20).

"Unlike other organisations, the CPC, CEB and the SLPA get their increments once in three years. Although we were to get a raise in 2009, President Rajapakse postponed the payment of salary increments to 2010, which is unreasonable.

At a time when the entire cabinet enjoys salary increases and all other perks, the government does not want to give the hard working people their salary increments," JTUA Committee Member Ananda Palitha told The Sunday Leader.

According to Palitha although Petroleum Resources Minister A.H.M. Fowzie had agreed to grant salary increments to the CPC from its own resources, President Rajapakse has rejected the request.

Lasantha killing - cops still clueless

By Nirmala Kannangara

More than three months after the brutal assassination of The Sunday Leader Editor- in-Chief Lasantha Wickrematunge, the police are yet to make a breakthrough The Sunday Leader learns. Although the police were asked to submit the full investigation report into the murder to the Mt. Lavinia court by April 16 the police have failed to produce the report.

Police Spokesperson SSP Ranjith Gunasekera when contacted told The Sunday Leader that although the court had ordered the investigation teams to submit the full investigation report it would take more time as the police are still investigating the telephone calls received moments before Wickrematunge's death. "The police cannot divulge these details to the media but certainly we are working hard to make a breakthrough," the SSP said. The murder trial has been further postponed to April 30.

Concern over prison shooting

By Risidra Mendis

The public have voiced their concern over the safety of prisoners in prisons after the deaths of six prisoners at the Kalutara Prison last week.

The six prisoners were shot dead by prison guards when 11 prisoners allegedly tried to escape from the prison at 3 a.m. on April 15. Four prisoners were injured in the incident  while another chose to go back to his cell.

The Sunday Leader learns that two separate inquiries are being conducted by the Kalutara Police and the Prisons Department into the incident.

According to latest reports one injured prisoner has been transferred to the Colombo National Hospital. The Prisons Commissioner meanwhile has taken steps to transfer all staff at the Kalutara Prison from the ASP downwards as they had failed to report for duty on Wednesday (15). 

Speaking to The Sunday Leader Commissioner General of Prisons, Major General Vajira Wijegunawardene said that while the police inquiry was proceeding, he hoped to received the report of the Prison Department inquiry soon.

Responding to questions raised by the public as to whether the prison guards had the authority to shoot to death prisoners who tried to escape, Wijegunawardene said instructions had been given to prison guards  to shoot at prisoners trying to escape.

Commenting further on the escape drama Wijegunawardene said it was a well planned operation as there was only one guard on duty that day when there should have been five.

"The prison guards had gone home for the Sinhala and Hindu New Year. It was brought to my notice that there were two trishaws close to the prison at the time the prisoners were trying to escape. We are conducting inquiries and are trying to trace the whereabouts of these trishaws. Investigations are also underway to determine as to how the prisoners had communicated with outsiders," Wijegunawardene said.

He added that the prisoners had used hacksaw blades and coconut oil to cut  the iron bars of the prison cells without being noticed.

"These convicts were not serving death sentences," the Commissioner General said. He also said that the condition of the prisoner at the Colombo National Hospital was stable.

Mahinda - Ranil 'discussion' on Tuesday

The Socio Economic Forum for Sustainable Development has organised a discussion with President Mahinda Rajapakse and Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe to discuss the current crises faced by the country.

Highlighting the need for a democratic framework to have sustainable development in the country, the Forum has said Wickremesinghe's invitation to Rajapakse for an open debate is an excellent opportunity to create a platform to discuss issues faced by the country.

The Forum has stated that it was organising the event on behalf of the country. The discussion will be held on Tuesday (21) at 12.30 p.n. at Hotel Renuka.


Govt. rejects UN truce appeal

By risidra mendis

The government has rejected a fresh appeal by the UN to give civilians more time to leave the safe zone in the north.
The government's decision to reject the UN appeal came after a meeting between Chief of Staff of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, Vijay Nambiar and senior government officials in Colombo last week.

Nambiar was sent to Sri Lanka last week to discuss the fate of the civilians and efforts to free them from the war zone.

"I told him (Nambiar) that we cannot extend our decision to restrict offensive military operations because there was no result during the previous halt in the fighting," Defence Secretary, Gotabaya Rajapakse had said in an interview with the BBC.
Rajapakse had also said government forces will not launch any large-scale military assault on the safe zone due to the presence of the civilians.

"It's a hostage rescue operation, something like the Entebbe rescue mission," he said, referring to Israel's 1976 rescue of more than 100 hostages from Entebbe airport in Uganda.
"It has to be discreet and surgical. We are carefully monitoring the ground situation. When the time comes we will go in, it is purely for the field commanders to decide."

At the same time, Rajapakse had told the BBC, the government did not want a prolonged operation because that will give more time for the rebels to regroup. Rajapakse again denied allegations that security forces were firing heavy weapons in the safe zone.

"However, if the rebel leader, Prabhakaran, is seen then we will take him out, even if it is inside the safe zone. But we will take all measures to avoid civilian casualties," he said.

Between 50,000 and 100,000 civilians are still thought to be trapped in the zone - about 20 sq km (8 sq miles) of coastal area in Mullaitivu District.

  More News....


Oily Abyss

Alahakoon recalled from
Sri Lankan Embassy in Pakistan



Cpc, ceb and slpa workers poised to strike


Lasantha killing - cops still clueless

  Concern over prison shooting

Mahinda - Ranil 'discussion' on Tuesday


Govt. rejects UN truce appeal



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