Norwegian Ambassador denies brokering top Tigers' escape
Ambassador to Sri Lanka, Tore Hattrem Friday refuted
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.
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
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."
report filed by Andrew Buncombe in Colombo for the
Independent newspaper in the
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.
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.
arrangement could also see the remaining fighters, who
are trapped along with 150,000 civilians in the north of
the country, "rehabilitated."
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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 $100 per barrel. However following the
intensification of the global economic crisisthe price
of oil collapsed, and the CPC was left purchasing oil
atmore than double the market price.
Mounting criticism of the hedging deal and legal action
by the opposition led the Supreme Court to abrogate the
hedging agreement and order the CPC to halt its payments
on oil derivates. However, the major international banks
who had purchased the derivates on behalf of the
government found themselves facing billions of rupees
worth of losses.
banks threatened legal action to recover the money owed
to them by the CPC. However the President appointed a
high level committee comprising several prominent
ministers, to negotiate with the banks and reach a
compromise on the total amount payable.After four rounds
of talks between the banks and the cabinet sub committee
negotiations have collapsed and the government is
currently facing the prospect of paying as much as US$
1 billion to the banks in question, should the
International Centre for Settlement of Investment
Disputes (ICSID) rule against it.
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.
banks are likely to sue for the full amount owed to them
which at a minimum is calculatedto be 800 million
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.
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
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
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
By Nirmala Kannangara
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.
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.
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
By Nirmala Kannangara
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.
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
public have voiced their concern over the safety of
prisoners in prisons after the deaths of six prisoners
at the Kalutara Prison last week.
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.
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
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
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
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.
added that the prisoners had used hacksaw blades and
coconut oil to cut the iron bars of the prison cells
without being noticed.
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
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.
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.
rejects UN truce appeal
By risidra mendis
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
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.
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
"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
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.