Former Minister S.B. Dissanayake who was released from prison on Friday being worshipped by his wife Thamara just outside the prison gates -- Photo by Asoka Fernando
If court action fails...
UNP gears to contest CMC as independents
The United National Party (UNP) will field its team for the Colombo Municipal Council (CMC) election under the leadership of mayoral.......
> Govt. to present CFA amendments in Geneva
> Lanka's economy slides in world rankings
SB accorded a massive welcome
4,500 police promotions
Cigarettes generate 10% of government revenue
If court action fails...
UNP gears to contest CMC as independents
The United National Party (UNP) will field its team for the Colombo Municipal Council (CMC) election under the leadership of mayoral candidate Sirisena Cooray as an independent group if the application challenging the rejection of the party list in court fails.
The UNP will challenge the rejection of its CMC nomination list in the Court of Appeal tomorrow.
The UNP list was rejected on the grounds that a youth candidate of the party, currently 19 years of age, was only 17 in 2004, the year of the electoral list applicable for the election scheduled for March 30.
The party had fielded two independent lists for the election, one of which was later given to the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC).
It was decided by the UNP on Friday, if the court action fails, the party will contest in alliance with the SLMC through the accepted independent list by getting a majority of the candidates to resign.
Cooray was on Friday requested by Party Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe to launch his campaign over the weekend. Wickremesinghe speaking at a rally to mark the release of S.B. Dissanayake on Friday also criticised the officials of the Elections Department for rejecting the UNP list without giving the party a hearing.
Meanwhile, Wickremesinghe on Thursday appointed a two member committee comprising former Treasurer, Milroy Perera and Attorney Mahinda Haradas to inquire and report on the circumstances which led to the list being rejected.
The Sunday Leader learns, there had been three vacancies to be filled - two by Parliamentarians T. Maheswaran and one by Colombo North Organiser, Lilantha Perera, but without notice to the leadership, party headquarters Sirikotha had instructed Colombo Central Organiser and MP, M. Maharoof to furnish five additional names of youth for
It is the inclusion of a youth sent by Maharoof without Sirikotha going through the proper procedures which led to the rejection of the UNP list, party sources said.
LTTE will not accept amendments says Balasingham
Govt. to present CFA amendments in Geneva
The government is proposing to present a draft of an amended Cease Fire Agreement (CFA) at the Geneva talks scheduled to commence on February 22.
The Sunday Leader learns the draft is being prepared by a legal team headed by President's Counsel H. L. de Silva in consultation with the security forces.
The government's decision to present an amended draft is in keeping with a pledge given to the JVP by President Mahinda Rajapakse last week that the government would honour the Mahinda Chinthana and the agreement signed with the JVP in relation to the CFA.
The President in the Mahinda Chinthana pledged to amend the CFA to ensure "that acts of terrorism would not be permitted in any way."
In the agreement Rajapakse signed with the JVP, a pledge was made to completely re-do and revise the CFA.
Article 4 of that agreement, which Rajapakse and JVP General Secretary Tilvin Silva signed states, "It is agreed hereby that in considering the harmful and prejudicial effects and other serious implications of the Cease Fire Agreement that was entered and signed by the then Prime Minister Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe and LTTE on February
22, 2002, the said agreement shall be reviewed and revised fully and the said agreement shall be completely redone on removing and eliminating all the clauses which are prejudicial and harmful to the national security and foster and nurture separatism and are inconsistent with the Constitution of Sri Lanka."
The Sunday Leader learns that the government in preparing the draft has consulted the commanders of the security forces on provisions of the CFA which they consider a threat to national security.
It is also learnt that specific attention has been paid to the High Security Zones (HSZs) in preparing the draft amendment to the CFA.
In terms of the CFA signed on February 22, 2002, it could be amended and modified only by mutual agreement of both the government and the LTTE.
Such amendments in terms of Article 4.3 of the CFA have to be notified to the government of Norway in writing.
The Sunday Leader learns that up to Friday, the government had not submitted the draft amendments to Norway.
The LTTE however, has said it will not agree to any amendments to the CFA.
Chief LTTE Negotiator, Anton Balasingham told The Sunday Leader on Friday from London that the LTTE delegation "will not accept any amendments or annexures to the CFA, but rather insist on full and effective implementation of the terms and conditions of the truce."
The fate of the talks will hinge on either the LTTE or the government compromising on the conflicting positions, diplomatic sources told The Sunday Leader on Friday.
Chief facilitator, Norwegian International Development Minister Erik Solheim after his shuttle diplomacy in Sri Lanka last month announced the talks will focus on implementing the CFA.
Lanka's economy slides in world rankings
By Jamila Najmuddin
In a stark demonstration of Sri Lanka's economic downturn, the island has been slotted at 98 out of 117 countries, according to a ranking by the World Economic Forum (WEF).
While the country's economy has been termed "very poor" by the WEF, Sri Lanka has also been ranked 100th in terms of quality of its state sector facilities.
Sri Lanka was ranked 73 out of 104 countries last year and 63 out of 101 countries in 2004. "This clearly proves that Sri Lanka's economy is deteriorating each year and when compared to other countries, the island's popularity is at stake," Economist, Dr. Harsha De Silva said.
According to Dr. De Silva, the countries are currently ranked on its macroeconomic stability, the quality of state sector facilities, the improvement of technology and the security situation in the country.
De Silva said that Sri Lanka had faded in its macroeconomic stability, the poor quality of its state sector facilities and the deteriorating security situation in the island.
"The country has a very high inflation level. In the beginning of 2005 alone, Sri Lanka's inflation rate was 18%. Sri Lanka's exchange rate is also under immense pressure," Dr. De Silva said.
However, he added that one of the main reasons for the country to perform poorly was the deteriorating security situation. "The country's security situation has been deteriorating since mid last year. Daily incidents have been reported from the north and east which is one of the main reasons for the markets to perform poorly," Dr.
De Silva said.
Sri Lanka is currently on par with countries such as Albania and Ruwanda and according to Dr. De Silva, many more countries which are lesser known.
The rankings are conducted by world famous professors, Professor Jeffrey Sachs and Professor Michael Porter, both currently conducting lectures at Harvard University, USA.
SB accorded a massive welcome
By Nirmala Kannangara
UNP Leader Ranil Wickreme-singhe vowed to take back the Colombo Municipal Council (cmc) powers even by contesting as an independant group. The UNP Leader was addressing a massive crowd that thronged to welcome S.B. Dissanayake at
the Vihara-maha Devi Park on Friday(17).
Wickremesinghe promised to institute legal action against the Elections Commissioner's decision to reject the UNP nomination list and promised to secure the cmc adminstration even if a negative court ruling is delivered.
The UNP Leader challenged the returning officers for refusing to entertain reprsentations by party lawyers with regard to the rejection of nominations, a matter to be taken up with the Elections Commissioner tomorrow(20).
Pointing at the Town Hall building he said that the power of that building will be taken back on March 30.
A grand welcome was accorded to the pardoned unp national organiser and country's most famous prisoner, S.B. Dissanayake who pledged to help the UNP Leader to re-organise the party and record a historic victory at the forthcoming local
Dissanayake who served a jail term of one year and two months was granted a Presidential pardon by President Mahinda Rajapakse, 40 days before his term ended.
Straight from his prison cell, party supporters escorted him to the Viharamaha Devi Park where the continuous sathyagraha was being held calling for his release. It was organised by rebel JHU Member and Parliamentarian, Ven. Uduwe Dhammaloka Thero.
A massive crowd thronged the city to have a glimpse of the UNP strongman and a rousing welcome was accorded upon arrival at the sathyagraha venue.
Addresing an emotional gathering, Dissanayake reiterated the necessity to restore the UNP's lost image and vowed to work tirelessly for the welfare of a party that toiled to secure his release.
"Chandrika put me behind bars to curtail my powers and political activities, but today I am a free man. Looking at this sea of loyal supporters, I could say that my power has increased. But the woman who put me behind
bars by trumpeting false charges against me is helpless today. Those who supported her have deserted her. The one who gave dead ropes to her, the faithful Mangala Samaraweera too had left the sinking ship" added Dissanayake.
Comparing his "faithful" UNP that did not desert him in his hour of need to a giant tree, Dissanayake quipped that the SLFP was only a tiny plant and the JVP was a blade of grass. " I am indebted to this great
party, its leaders and supporters for all the hard work they did on my behalf."
Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe said that he could not forget the service rendered by SB to the party. He also stressed that the freedom of expression should be restored in the country and vowed that the struggle started to get his party loyalist released from jail would be
carried forward until his civic rights are also restored.
4,500 police promotions
Some 4,500 police personnel are to receive their promotions following a directive by President Mahinda Rajapakse to immediately grant promotions, authoritative police sources said.
The move is said to put an end to the stagnation of promotions and transfers due to the dysfunctional status of the National Police Commission (NPC).
Orders have already been issued to the Inspector General of Police(IGP) to make necessary arrangements to grant the promotions as expeditiously as possible, sources from Temple Tress confirmed.
However, The Sunday Leader learns that several irregular transfers and promotions that had taken place during the last two weeks have been according to the whims and fancies of politicians due to the NPC being dysfunctional since November.
Despite criticism that these promotions are illegal, some in the police force have lauded the move.
President, Police Inspectors' Association, IP Dale Gunaratne has hailed the Presidential directive as timely.
IP Gunaratne himself was a victim due to the inordinate delays in executing police promotions. "I had to go before courts to get my due promotion which also helped other colleagues to receive their promotions," he said. (NK)
Cigarettes generate 10% of government revenue
By Dilrukshi Handunnetti
Sri Lanka makes a whopping Rs. 31 billion from the tobacco tax alone.
According to new government revenue records, the state had earned Rs. 31.8 billion by the tobacco tax alone in 2005. The revenue generated equalled 10% of the government's total revenue last year.
The increase in revenue, according to excise sources is due to regular raids and the reduction of sales in illegally manufactured products as well as counterfeit imports.
Sri Lanka's only authorised manufacturer of cigarettes is the Ceylon Tobacco Company (CTC).
Taxation on tobacco is high all over the world given the number of smokers. One of the world's highest taxes is imposed on cigarettes which is about 80%.
Studies have revealed that awareness programmes have proved only marginally successful with one person out of five in Europe and one out of eight being smokers while 60% of smokers are also addicted to nicotine products.
Controversial circular suspended
By Shezna Shums
The government has suspended the controversial circular number 1/2006 amidst loud protests from the Government Medical Officers Association (GMOA) against the suspension.
The circular was the result of the Tissa Devendra Committee deliberations on the improvement of the present wage structure of public sector employees.
Excluding the doctors, lower categories of health sector employees were up in arms against the implementation alleging further discrepancies being caused to their salary structures.
Protesting unions claim that the new circular, if implemented would widen the gap between the doctors and other category workers.
Secretary, Public Service United Nurses Union (PSUNU), Hector Francis told The Sunday Leader that they had informally been told that the government will appoint a committee of trade union representatives to work with the National Wage Commission to avoid discrepancies which is yet to be appointed.
It is learned that circular 1/2006 will remain suspended till April. This had been decided on January 30 when President Mahinda Rajapakse met public sector trade unions and Health Ministry officials at Temple Trees where unions querried and were told how the circular deprived the lower categories of a decent salary hike and increased
The provisions of the circular were incorporated into the December budget. However, President Rajapakse later ordered its suspension.
The Public Service United Nurses Union (PSUNU) claims they would wait until the new recommendations are made before resorting to trade union action.
"If the circular is implemented, doctors will receive a 67% salary increase while labourers and lower categories would only receive a 7% increase," Francis explained.
The PSUNU added that nurses were the most affected by this circular and that the circular widened the difference between their salaries and those of doctors.
The PSUNU has called for the rectification of their salary anomalies before implementing the new circular.
Trinco Muslims condemn offending cartoon
By Kumudu Amarasingham
Muslims in Trincomalee held a demonstration after Friday prayers last week, protesting the publication of cartoons, allegedly insulting Prophet Mohammed in a Danish paper last month.
The cartoons sparked off a spate of protests around the worlds causing riots in some Muslim nations. The Danish flag was burned before its embassies in many countries. The cartoons, after being featured in Denmark, were
subsequently published by papers in Europe. The editor responsible for the publication was sacked.
Muslims in Colombo and some parts of the island launched protests against the cartoons the week before last. However demonstrations scheduled in Ampara and Trincomalee were advanced to last Friday.
Meanwhile UNP MP Jayalath Jayawardena, in a statement issued to the press strongly condemned the cartoons.
"I vehemently condemn the cartoons published by a Danish newspaper tarnishing the image of Prophet Mohammed," the release said. Jayawardena added that the founders of all faiths needed to be respected by all irrespective of their personal beliefs.
Meanwhile, religious leaders of other faiths too have come out strongly against the lewd cartoons calling for greater respect for all faiths irrespective of personal religious beliefs.
Peace vigil by women's coalition
A Peace vigil will be held on February 20 at 1. 30 pm by women's groups advocating a negotiated political solution to the ethnic question.
The Sri Lanka Women for Peace and Democracy (SLWPD), which is a coalition of 25 women's organisations has organised the event.
TNA lashes out at Govt. for holding polls in NE
By Jamila Najmuddin
The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) has lashed out at the government for planning to hold local government elections in the north and east in March while there is a heavy presence of paramilitary groups in the region.
Co-convener, TNA, Suresh Premachandran said that while the Elections Commissioner maintained silence with regard to this issue, he believed that elections could not be held in the war-torn areas particularly when there was an escalation in violent incidents by the paramilitary groups.
The TNA had earlier urged the Elections Commissioner to postpone the poll till such time the deteriorating security situation in the north and east showed signs of improvement.
Premachandran said that a discussion was held with the Elections Commissioner calling for a postponement. A letter of protest is to be handed over to the commissioner this week.
The TNA will also write to President Mahinda Rajapakse drawing his attention to the present security situation in the conflict areas.
"The situation in the north and east is rapidly deteriorating due to which an election cannot be held. There are several paramilitary groups functioning in the north and east and it is only obvious that violence would be created by such groups," Premachandran added.
He said that the TNA would demand to know the procedure that would be followed given the fact that hundreds of voters from the said areas were disenfranchised at the November presidential polls due to areas being divided between the government and the LTTE. "There are voters living in the LTTE controlled areas so we need to be briefed
on the arrangements made to allow these voters to vote at the upcoming local government elections," Premachandran said.
Meanwhile, PAFFREL Chief Kingsley Rodrigo said that elections should not be held in the north and east as it was not clear whether elections in the LTTE controlled areas could be held.
Rodrigo said that no arrangements were being made to conduct elections in these areas and added that it was only right for the Elections Commissioner to postpone elections if the north and east was to be included. "We cannot have elections in a few areas and ignore the Tamil speaking and LTTE controlled areas. Arrangements must be made
to conduct elections islandwide," Rodrigo added.
TRO wants abduction investigation expedited
By Jamila Najmuddin
The Tamil Rehabilitation Organisation (TRO) has urged the government and security forces to expedite investigations with regard to the seven TRO employees who were abducted two weeks ago.
Meanwhile, the government has claimed that the TRO was not cooperating with the investigations as expected of them. While the TRO claims that there has been no progress in the
investigations, TRO Spokesperson, Arjunan Ethirveerasingam said that the TRO would monitor the progress of the investigations closely before lodging a fresh complaint with the police.
He said the government and the security forces had to take up responsibility in conducting a thorough investigation. "There have been no developments on the seven TRO members who have been abducted. The Human Rights
Commission (HRC) is conducting its own investigations," Ethirveerasingham said. Despite rumours escalating within the government and the security forces that the abductions were carried out by the TRO itself, he refuted the allegations, stressing that the seven TRO employees
were still missing.
"We have interviewed the families and the two women who were abducted. The question of whether this was a planned abduction by the TRO itself does not
arise," he said.
He said the government also complained that the TRO did not cooperate with the police in conducting investigations, but said this was untrue, as all TRO employees had
been instructed to cooperate fully. "According to the two women who were released, some of the abducted were tortured by the kidnappers. All we want is for them to return home safely," Ethirveerasingam said.
Meanwhile the government said last week that two DIGs and a number of other investigators have been deployed to carry out the investigations. The government added that despite all this, it was disappointing that the TRO was
not helping with the ongoing investigations.
Initiative on pneumococcal disease
By Sunalie Ratnayake
The government has taken the initiative in bringing together leading experts in Asia to discuss the burden of pneumococcal disease, teaming up with World Health Organisation (WHO) and Pneumo-ADIP, a team based at Johns
Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
The initiative has recognised it being of great importance to the global community to increase focus on the disease, as there is a call for an urgent global
The countries working towards a common goal in this disease are Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Korea, Mongolia, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam.
Serious pneumococcal infections are a major global health problem. According to WHO estimates, over 1.6 million people including up to one million children who are less than five years old die every year from pneumococcal
Health experts have identified the primary causes of death from pneumococcus to be pneumonia in which fluid fills the lungs hindering oxygen from reaching the bloodstream as well as meningitis - an infection of the fluid
surrounding the spinal cord and brain and sepsis which is caused by an overwhelming infection of the bloodstream by toxin-producing bacteria.
The above facts were disclosed at a press briefing held last Wednesday (15) at Hotel Galadari under the auspices of the Health Ministry. Chief Epidemiologist, Health Ministry, Dr. Nihal Abeysinghe
said. "We are pleased that Sri Lanka is a part of the South Asian Pneumococcal Surveilance conducted in Sri Lanka based on sound methodology with high standards of quality control."
Abeysinghe also said that the programme conducted by the Lady Ridgeway Hospital (LRH) at present, would soon be extended to the Kandy Hospital and other parts of the island as most patients with lung infections were reported from Nuwara Eliya and Kandy
LRH Consultant Pediatrician Dr. Sarath De Silva noted the clinicians have the opportunity of identifying pneumococcal as a leading cause of meningitis and pneumonia
in children as a result of the improved microbiology laboratory.
There is said to be a significant need for surveillance in Sri Lanka and the microbiology laboratory is expected to play a key role in confirming the clinical diagnosis aspect.
Tsunami-affected children yet to return to school
By Kumudu Amarasingham
Many tsunami-affected children are yet to return to school even after one full year, according to the People's Charter on Education Emergencies, prepared by the Elated Schools Development Campaign. The post tsunami situation in Sri Lanka has had a seriously devastating
impact on the education system and school going children in the affected areas, it has been found.
Among the 10 affected provinces the latest figures show that a total of 70 schools were completely damaged and another 102 were partially damaged by the giant waves. Another 260 schools became temporary shelters for an
estimated 300,000 people made instantly homeless by the tsunami waves. While commending the government's reconstruction effort so far, the charter expressed apprehension that a lot of tsunami-affected children were not in school yet.
"We are concerned that even after one year of the tsunami the construction of the affected schools has not been completed. We are also informed that the reconstruction of the schools has been pledged by various agencies
and in some locations the reconstruction work has started. But no indication is there as to when this will be ready for use," the charter said.
Valentine plant a threat to habitat
By Risidra Mendis
The popularity of the Philippine Fireworks - better known as the Valentine shrub among plant lovers because it blooms in February - could become a menace if released to the natural habitat due to its invasive nature.
Environmentalists have voiced concern over this shrub as it has a tendency to spread rapidly if no measures are taken to arrest its spreading.
Speaking to The Sunday Leader, Director, Peradeniya Botanical Gardens, Dr. Cyril Wijesundara said if released into the natural habitat, due to its rapid
spread by suckers and seedlings, the Valentine shrub could affect the regeneration of the forests.
"If released to a degraded area or a forest gap, this plant can become a menace to the existing vegetation. This shrub, botanically known as Clerodendrum quadriloculare, is a native plant from the Philippines and
cultivated in some tropical countries especially in the Pacific region. It has large, paired oval leaves that are a dark green above and reddish purple below.
"The flowers are produced in very showy large clusters. Each has a narrow pink tube that is commonly three inches or more in length, ending in five white
spreading lobes," Dr. Wijesundara said.
According to him the Valentine shrub has become popular among plant growers in the country due to its clusters of pink flowers.
The Valentine plant is considered to be an invasive species in the Pacific region. "On the Pacific Islands, the Valentine shrub is grown in full shade under the
forest canopy. The Pacific Island Ecosystems at Risk (PIER) project has given the Valentine shrub a rating of seven in their risk assessment and advised people against cultivating it. A specimen was provided for identification sometime ago from a plant found near Dambulla when it
was a rare ornamental shrub. But now this plant has become a common species and can be seen in many home gardens today," Dr. Wijesundara said.
According to Dr. Wijesundara people growing this plant should take precautionary measures and prevent it from spreading in natural habitats. "Many invasive plants have spread through home gardens and caused damage to the
natural eco system. If released to the natural habitat, this Valentine shrub will be extremely difficult to control," he added.
New president, secy. for BASL
By Kumudu Amarasingham
Attorney-at-Law, Sunil D. Abeyratne was elected secretary, Bar Association of Sri Lanka for 2006-2007, with President's Counsel, Nihal Jayamanne elected president for the same year.
The post of secretary was keenly fought, with Abeyratne obtaining 909 votes, and the other contestant, Guneratne Wanninayake obtaining 539 votes. Abeyratne won the Colombo Bar with 370 votes.
Abeyratne entered the Bar in 1986, and has held the positions of assistant secretary, executive vice president, executive committee member and newsletter editor. He obtained his Master-of-Law from the University of London in 2003.
He has written a number of articles on computer lLaw, international commercial arbitration and other current subjects. He is a practising lawyer in the areas of criminal and civil law in the superior courts as well as courts of first instances.
Abeyratne studied at Royal College, Colombo. He was an active member of the Law Students' Union while at Law College and was an internationally recognised trainer of Junior Chamber, International.
Into his busy schedule Abeyratne has also managed to include some socialising and social service activities through the Lions Club. He was a former District Chairman of Leo Activities, Lions Club District 306. He is married to a lawyer and is the father of two children - Menaka and Dilini.
Nihal Jayamanne, President's Counsel, was elected president, Bar Association of Sri Lanka for 2006-2007. He won the Colombo Bar, which has over 60% of the total votes obtaining 1100 votes.
Jayamanne has given a number of lectures, especially on information technology law and arbitration, for lawyers and law students. He is highly respected in the profession, and is regarded as an authority on various subjects related to law.
Commenting on the present crises in the JSC, where two judges had resigned, Jayamanne said he would act not with a view of going against any individual personal but purely with a view of how it would affect the process of administration of justice.
After winning the Colombo Bar, Jayamanne said that he would lead the Bar to be independent, without being politically biased.
Jayamanne vowed that he would work to bring integrity, credibility and dignity to the legal profession.
The Sri Lanka Law College premises was the election centre for the Colombo lawyers of the association.