Sunday Leader bags Guardian Journalism Award
Sunday Leader won the prestigious 2009 Freedom of
Expression Journalism Award at a glittering ceremony
held at Kings Place, London on Tuesday April 21.
Shortlisted among three other chosen contenders, the
Guardian Journalism Award at the ceremony went to The
Sunday Leader in recognition of the newspaper continuing
to take a courageous stand despite the assassination of
its editor and co-founder Lasantha Wickrematunge in
January this year.
ceremony, hosted by Index on Censorship Chair Jonathan
Dimbleby, with a keynote speech by Sir David Hare,
honoured those who had made a contribution to free
expression in five categories: books, films, journalism,
news media and law and campaigning.
Speaking at the event, Jonathan Dimbleby said: 'Freedom
of expression helps to define our essence as human
beings and citizens. Everywhere this right is under
growing threat. The Index on Censorship Freedom of
Expression Awards are a chance to celebrate those who
against all odds have made distinguished contributions
to this vital cause - to protect and enhance liberty in
Britain and around the world.'
recipients of the awards for 2009 are:
Guardian Journalism Award: The Sunday Leader - Sri Lanka
Sunday Leader and its journalists have been subject to
continual threats and brutal harassment since it was
launched 15 years ago.The assassination of The Sunday
Leader Editor and Co-founder Lasantha Wickrematunge in
January provoked protests and vigils around the world.
His brother Lal has since bravely continued the
important work of the newspaper.
Economist New Media Award: Psiphon
Psiphon is a revolutionary software programme that
allows internet access in countries where censorship is
imposed. The programme turns a regular home computer
into a personal, encrypted server, capable of retrieving
and displaying web pages anywhere. Psiphon was developed
as a human rights software project by the Citizen Lab at
of Toronto. One of its aims is to design software that
is easy to use, so that those with limited technical
abilities can take advantage of the technology.
Fyvel Book Award:
Coma - Ma Jian
with dark wit, poetic beauty and deep rage, Beijing Coma
takes the life (and near death) of one young student to
create a dazzling novel about contemporary China. In May
1989, tens of thousands of students are camped out in
Tiananmen Square. But what started as a united protest
at the slow pace of their government's political reform
has begun to lose direction. People from all over China
are coming to join the demonstration, but the students
at its heart are confused by the influence they suddenly
wield, and riven by petty in-fighting. One of them, Dai
Wei, argues about everything from democracy to the
distribution of food to protesters, little knowing that,
on June 4, a soldier will shoot a bullet into his head,
sending him into a deep coma.
Bindmans Law and Campaigning Award: Malik Imtiaz Sarwar
Imtiaz Sarwar is a leading human rights lawyer and
activist and the current president of the National Human
Rights Society (HAKAM). Imtiaz has been a central figure
in fighting lawsuits brought against journalists and
bloggers, and was the lead counsel for Raja Petra
Kamaruddin, popular blogger and editor of Malaysia
Today, whose release he secured last year. In August
2006, a poster declaring him to be a traitor to Islam
and calling for his death was circulated in
He has proposed setting up an inter-faith council, and
spoken in a series of public forums on the need for
Index on Censorship Film Award: The Devil Came On
the exclusive photographs and first-hand testimony of
former US Marine Captain Brian Steidle, Directed by
Annie Sundberg and Ricki Stern The Devil Came On
Horseback takes the viewer on an emotionally-charged
journey into the heart of Darfur. Steidle had access to
parts of the country that no journalist could penetrate;
he was unprepared for what he would witness and
experience, including being fired at, taken hostage, and
being unable to intervene to save the lives of young
children. Ultimately frustrated by the inaction of the
international community, Steidle resigned and returned
to expose the images and stories of lives he believed
were being systematically destroyed.
Present to collect the awards were Lal Wickrematunge and
Frederica Jansz, the editor of The Sunday Leader, Nart
Villeneuve the CTO of Psiphon, Ma Jian the author of
Beijing Coma, Peter Noorlander on behalf of Malik Imtiaz
Sarwar and Annie Sundberg the director of The Devil Came
in attendance were nominees for the Bindmans Law and
Campaigning Award Harry Roque and Harrison Nkomo as well
as Guardian Journalism Award nominee Sanjuana Martinez.
interviews by the BBC recorded in the run up to the
awards with Lal Wickrematunge, Nart Villeneuve, Harrison
Nkomo and Sanjuana Martinez can be found on the website
www.indexoncensorship.org in the coming days.
Over 6000 civilians killed due to
document circulated among the diplomatic missions in Sri
Lanka has stated 6432 civilians had been killed due to
fighting over the past three months.
Associated Press (AP) yesterday reported that 13,946
civilians had also been injured during the fighting.
According to AP, the report indicated that an average of
33 civilians had been killed each day at the end of
January and figures increased to 116 this month.
than 100,000 civilians had fled LTTE areas last week as
the military intensified its military operations in the
states that more than 50,000 people are still trapped in
the LTTE areas.
Meanwhile, UN Under Secretary for Humanitarian Affairs,
Sir John Holmes arrived in Sri Lanka yesterday.
US Acting Department Spokesman, Robert Wood addressing a
press briefing has said the
remained extremely concerned for the safety of the
remaining civilians in the no-fire zone.
"Although tens of thousands of people have fled the
area, numerous people have been killed, and tens of
thousands of additional civilians remain in the conflict
call on the Government of Sri Lanka and the Tamil Tigers
to end hostilities," he has said.
According to Wood the
was supportive of India's efforts to stop the fighting.
has also called on the Tigers to lay down arms and
surrender to a third party.
call on the Tamil Tigers to lay down their arms and
surrender to a third party.
international community needs to provide assistance to a
large number of displaced persons. The international
community should be prepared to play a role to end the
fighting," he has said.
further added that the US fully supported the UN
Secretary General's decision to send a UN humanitarian
team to the no-fire zone.
Low voter turnout at WPC polls
Western Provincial Council (WPC) elections that
concluded yesterday recorded a low voter turnout and a
minimum number of incidents.
Election monitors said an average of 55-60% turned out
to vote in all three districts in the province.
People's Action for Free and Fair Elections (PAFFREL)
Executive Director, Rohana Hettiarachchi told The Sunday
Leader that Colombo recorded the lowest (53%) voter
turnout. "Around 60% voted in Gampaha and Kalutara.
There were very few minor incidents," Hettiarachchi
Campaign for Free and Fair Elections (CAFFE)
spokesperson, Keerthi Tennekoon meanwhile said that the
damage was done before the elections.
reason why there were few incidents of violence reported
on polling day is that all the major incidents had been
done during the pre-election period," he said.
said this was the worst election since the Eastern
Provincial Council polls last year.
Khavan's little secret
Golden Key was also chairman, Barter Card Lanka
has finally emerged regarding the whereabouts of Golden
Key's missing billions.
former employee of Barter Card Lanka Limited has
disclosed that Golden Key CEO Khavan Perera was also
chairman of Bartercard's Sri Lankan subsidiary for over
10 years, and alleged that under his management billions
of Ceylinco funds had been embezzled through the firm's
cashless trading scheme.
Bartercard which enables businesses to swap goods and
services without using cash is a legitimate Australian
company which operates in a number of countries.
However it is alleged that Khavan Perera badly
mismanaged the company's Sri Lankan franchise and used
Bartercard's unique trading mechanism to embezzle funds
taken from Golden Key.Until2004 the franchise for
Bartercard in Sri Lanka was held exclusively by the
Ceylinco Group and the company was effectively run as
Khavan Perera's private property. During this time it is
claimed that "he evicted all the professionals from top
management in the company and appointed a number of his
associates and relatives to key positions."
former Bartercard employee continued that " they worked
together and violated all the country's accounting
According to CEO of Bartercard Lanka, Iftikhar Aziz "Bartercard
international was not happy with Ceylinco's management
they (Ceylinco) made a mess of things."
claimed that Bartercard International took steps to
diversify the ownership of Bartercard Lanka away from
Ceylinco. "We're trying to wash our hands off Ceylinco.
Bartercard is a reputed company we don't want to be
associated with the goings on at Ceylinco."
Despite the CEO's claims however Khavan Perera continues
to be Bartercard Lanka's Chairman, and Ceylinco Golden
Key remains a major Bartercard shareholder therefore the
company relationship with Golden Key continued to be an
intimate one right up to the point of Khavan Perera's
Bartercard Lankawas not declared amongst Khavan Perera's
assets, which is in itself suspicious, as he continued
to be the company's chairman, and the Golden Key
Bartercard connection is yet to be investigated.
Bartercard Lanka has so far been shielded from the fall
out of Golden Key despite the fact that its chairman is
currently in jail - "We don't want to have anything to
do with Ceylinco" insisted Iftikhar Aziz. "We have
nothing to do with Golden Key, we have nothing to hide."
that details of Khavan Perera's relationship with the
company have emerged it is time for the authoritiesto
put theseclaimsto the test.
Lasantha killing - Nothing yet
Investigations into the assassination ofslain
Editor-in-Chief of The Sunday Leader Lasantha
Wickrematunge have shown no progress for the past three
and a half months. This is
Lavinia Magistrate having orderedthe police to submit
the investigation progress report at the next hearing
date. The murder trial of Wickrematunge will be taken up
again on Thursday, April 30.
cuts to take time
Monetary Board of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL)
on Wednesday (22), cut the penal rate of interest
charged on overnight (O/N) reverse repurchase
transactions with CBSL by 175 basis points (bps) to 13%,
whilst at the same time reducing its repurchase rate by
125 bps to 9% "in order to encourage commercial banks
to lend their surplus funds to customers rather than
entering into repurchase agreements with CBSL, a CBSL
expects that these measures would result in more active
lending by commercial banks supported by a reduction in
their lending rates in accordance with the reduction in
policy rates, thereby augmenting credit flows to the
However, the O/N reverse repurchase (repo) rate, i.e.
the rate at which the CBSL lends money to banks and
primary dealers have had remained unchanged at 11.75%.
O/N reverse repo rate remaining unchanged makes little
difference as the market can utilise that window not
more than thrice monthly," sources told The Sunday
Leader on Wednesday.
cuts will help ease pressure on lending rates, albeit
slowly, as banks will have to first bring down their
high deposit rates, commensurate with lowering their
lending rates, the sources said.
said that O/N inter-bank borrowing rates were in the
9«-10% levels. The sources said that the government
owned People's Bank was among the borrowers at
sources said that Treasury Bond yields in secondary
market trading (i.e. Bonds maturing from 2010-12) has
fallen by 100 bps since Monday (April 20) to be
commanding yields of between 15«-16%.
Meanwhile, CBSL in regard to the afore-mentioned policy
rates cuts further said that since around October 2008,
CBSL had taken a number of steps to promote market
liquidity and thereby stabilise money and credit markets
in view of the implications of the turbulent conditions
that have prevailed in financial markets the world
the beginning of this year CBSL has also gradually eased
its monetary policy stance in view of the improving
outlook on inflation with a considerable deceleration in
Inflation on a year-on-year basis, as per the new
Colombo Consumers' Price Index (2002=100) reached a five
year low of 5.3% in March 2009. Expansion in money
supply has decelerated to 9.9% together with a sharp
deceleration in credit to the private sector to 5.6% by
the continuing decline in the general price level and
the demanding conditions facing the real sector, CBSL is
of the view that its monetary policy stance should be