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9th  April, 2006  Volume 12, Issue 39

First with the news and free with its views                                     First with the news and free with its views                             First with the news and free with its views                                    

News

The JVP on Friday marched to the Norwegian Embassy calling for the ouster of the
facilitator from Sri Lanka's peace process and was stopped from proceeding to the
entrance by the police who placed barbed wire barricades  in their path.
The JVP has pledged to withdraw support to the government unless President 
Mahinda Rajapakse sacks Norway as facilitator --
Photo by Asoka Fernando


Norway's ouster will lead to collapse of peace process says Bala

JVP has a perverted desire for war, charges LTTE

The LTTE has warned that the peace process in.....

More...


Top News 

> Haukland takes the fight to Defence Sec.

> Claymore attack in Neerveli

> Talks venue La Barcarolle

> Battle for SLFP leadership postponed to May

> One soldier, one Tiger dead in Trinco clash

More News.......

Norway's ouster will lead to collapse of peace process says Bala

JVP has a perverted desire for war, charges LTTE

The LTTE has warned that the peace process in Sri Lanka will certainly collapse if Norway withdraws its facilitation and will eventually lead to war.

LTTE Chief Negotiator Anton Balasingham made the organisation's position clear on the issue of Norwegian facilitation after the JVP on Friday officially issued the President with an ultimatum to oust Norway.

The JVP has threatened to withdraw support to the government unless Norway is ousted immediately and the Cease Fire Agreement (CFA) completely revised at the next round of talks scheduled for April 19.

Balasingham told The Sunday Leader, the JVP's demand for the expulsion of Norway is absurd and irrational and can only be characterised as political infantilism.

He said it can be assured that the LTTE will not engage in direct negotiations with the Sri Lankan state without the facilitation of the third party, the Royal Norwegian Government.

Balasingham charged that it can be safely assumed that the JVP was opposed to peace and wanted war.

"The anti-Norwegian-ism therefore is a perverted form of their desire for war and military conquest of the Tamil homeland. We have our grave doubts as to whether President Rajapakse could advance the peace process by aligning with these irrational forces," Balasingham said.

He also said the LTTE has always insisted on third party facilitation because of mutual suspicion, distrust and hostility between the parties in conflict.

He further said the LTTE was happy with the Norwegian facilitation for their unbiased, objective neutrality and for their sincere commitment to bring peace, prosperity and ethnic reconciliation in Sri Lanka.

Balasingham told The Sunday Leader, the LTTE as a party to the CFA will not agree for amendments or modifications and it would be a futile exercise if the government delegation makes further efforts to bring amendments at Geneva to placate the Marxists' demand.

"On the question of the CFA, the LTTE's position is firm, clear and unequivocal. There is no need or urgency for revision or amendment of the truce agreement. What is urgent is the smooth, effective implementation of the obligations of the agreement by parties in the conflict. We stood by our position firmly in Geneva, in spite of feeble and futile attempts made by the government delegation to bring about amendments. Amendments or revisions cannot be made to the CFA without mutual consent as per Article 4.3 of the CFA," Balasingham added.


Claymore attack in Neerveli

An army truck transporting army personnel in the Jaffna District came under a claymore attack in Neerveli yesterday. The army media unit said one army personnel and a civilian were injured in the explosion.


Gotabaya accused of making 'extremely explosive' statements on the peace process

Haukland takes the fight to Defence Sec.

The battle between the government and the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) intensified last week with outgoing Chief Hagrup Haukland accusing Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapakse of making highly controversial and extremely explosive statements in relation to the peace process and the Cease Fire Agreement (CFA).

Haukland made this allegation in a strongly worded letter to the Norwegian facilitators and the media. His letter follows a report in a Sunday newspaper (not The Sunday Leader) on a meeting he and new SLMM Head Ulf Henricsson had with Defence Secretary Rajapakse on March 23.

Haukland has charged that details of their discussion, which was published in the defence column of that Sunday newspaper, were incorrect and very detrimental to the SLMM and the peace process as a whole.

In his letter, Haukland has charged that at their meeting the Defence Secretary was highly aggressive against the SLMM and the Norwegian facilitators, as well as the international community.

He charged that the Defence Secretary blamed the SLMM and the international community for not reaching a settlement in the conflict with the LTTE.

"During the meeting, the Defence Secretary himself made some highly controversial statements which would probably seem as extremely explosive and I sincerely hope that his comments do not reflect the official position of the GOSL," Haukland has said.

The Sunday Leader though in possession of the "extremely explosive" statements allegedly made by the Defence Secretary, refrains from publishing to prevent an outbreak of hostilities.

Haukland had also said that based on his experiences in Sri Lanka, the LTTE does not have the military capacity to win a war against the GOSL and the GOSL likewise does not have the capacity to win a war against the LTTE.

"The statement I made is not only my own opinion, but that of the international community that has also clearly voiced that it does not believe that an armed conflict can provide any kind of solution to the problems in Sri Lanka," Haukland has said.

The former SLMM Chief has also pointed out that the CFA is purely based on the willingness of the parties to keep the peace and it was ultimately with the international community, Norwegian facilitators and the SLMM to only provide assistance.

"The Defence Secretary in my honest opinion was avoiding any responsibility of the conflict, but rather tried to put the blame on those who are here in Sri Lanka trying to do whatever in their power to put an end to the conflict, which has had detrimental effects on the country," he has added.

Haukland has also charged in his letter that irresponsible journalism has had a very negative impact on the peace process in Sri Lanka.


Talks venue La Barcarolle

By Mandana Ismail Abeywickrema

The second round of talks between the government and the LTTE will be at Hotel La Barcarolle in Nyon, Geneva.

The venue for the talks will be finalised today (9) and is expected to be officially released to the media tomorrow (10).

A spokesperson from the Swiss Embassy said that out of several venues short-listed by the Swiss government, the hotel had been chosen and is being presented to both the government and the LTTE for approval.

The new venue was required due to the lack of required facilities at Chateau de Bossey, venue of the first round of talks.

La Barcarolle is located 20 minutes from Geneva and is situated on the shores of the lake facing the Swiss Alps.

The hotel offers conference facilities and has 39 air-conditioned rooms and suites and all rooms have a terrace or balcony facing the lake and the Alps.

One single standard room would cost CHF 230 while a single superior room would cost CHF 290.


Mangala carries the day at CC

Battle for SLFP leadership postponed to May

The SLFP on Thursday deferred the decision to replace former President Chandrika Kumaratunga as SLFP Leader with President Mahinda Rajapakse until May after Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera  urged the Central committee not to rush the decision and cause a split in the party.

This proposal was endorsed by the SLFP central committee following an emotional appeal by Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera.  The meeting also saw an angry President Rajapakse refusing to delay his claim for the leadership beyond May charging there was a conspiracy to undermine him at every turn. Kumaratunga had on Tuesday written to SLFP General Secretary Minister Maithripala Sirisena urging him to  postpone the party convention where a  decision on the leadership change was to be taken until her return to the country in May.

In her letter, Kumaratunga has said she was not  consulted as party leader on the agenda for the meeting or on the date for the convention and had directed Sirisena to postpone the meeting for the first week of May  when she would be present.

Following the letter being hand-delivered to Sirisena, the SLFP Leader had also personally spoken to several members including Minister Samaraweera over the telephone on the contents of her letter.

However, Kumaratunga's letter was not tabled at the central committee meeting by Sirisena.

The Sunday Leader learns Sirisena had instead proposed at the committee to amend the party constitution to enable the head of state if from the SLFP to be the leader of the party.

Informed sources said Minister Samaraweera while not opposing the appointment of Rajapakse as SLFP leader has said it would be more prudent to wait till Kumaratunga's return in May.

He had said it would otherwise lead to ill will among the members, which the opposition would capitalise on.

Samaraweera had also asked the central committee why the letter sent by Kumaratunga was not tabled and added she had spoken to him personally and several others on the delivery of the letter.

It is learnt President Rajapakse had retorted angrily at this point that Kumaratunga should have spoken to him as the President or the Prime Minister without engaging in discussions with other members.

Rajapakse  visibly angry and shaking has said he suspected a conspiracy afoot to deprive him of the leadership and undermine his presidency similar to the efforts made to deprive him of the party's nomination as the presidential candidate.

It is learnt several members including Ministers Anura Yapa, Felix Perera, Janaka Bandara Tennekoon and Seruwila Organiser M.K.D.S. Gunawardena had thereafter spoken in favour of adopting the amendment at the meeting and endorsing Rajapakse as party leader at Friday's convention.

However, Rajapakse, following an impassioned plea by Samaraweera had agreed to wait until May before assuming the leadership and not a day longer. He had said he would commence the campaign to take over the leadership by convening meetings with the party organizations immediately.

It was thereafter decided that Rajapakse will be appointed acting President of the party until the return of Kumaratunga to the country.


One soldier, one Tiger dead in Trinco clash

By Arthur Wamanan

The fate of the second round of talks in Geneva scheduled for April 19, hung in the balance yesterday after a clash between the army and the LTTE in Selvanagar in Kattaparichchan, Trincomalee left one soldier and one LTTE cadre dead.

One soldier was also injured in the clash.

 The clash between the army and the LTTE had reportedly taken place at around 2 p.m. in Selvanagar, which is an army controlled area, while the security personnel were at an army observation point. The army media unit told The Sunday Leader that the security personnel were attacked by a group of LTTEers and that they were fired at with small arms, RPGs and mortars.

A spokesperson for the military said the army had to retaliate.

LTTE Political Wing Head for Trincomalee, S. Elilan told The Sunday Leader that the LTTE suffered one fatality in the clash, adding that the army had fled the area leaving their weapons.

However, SLMM Spokesperson Helen Olofsdottir told The Sunday Leader they were informed of an attack in Trincomalee, but had no further details.


Clashes possible with Navy says Tamilselvan

LTTE plans sea transport for Eastern commanders

The LTTE has informed Norwegian facilitators that they would be forced to adopt their own sea transport for military commanders of Batticaloa and Trincomalee to attend a crucial central committee meeting in the Wanni in preparation for the Geneva talks despite the risks involved with the possible confrontation with the Sri Lanka Navy.

LTTE Political Wing Head S. P. Tamilselvan has in a letter dated April 5 informed Norway that they were compelled to make such arrangements because the government was adopting a hard line stance in providing air transport, which has been a routine arrangement facilitated by the SLMM.

He has said the LTTE leadership's meeting with the field commanders was an absolute necessity to maintain the integrity of the CFA.

Tamilselvan has also charged that Norway would bear testimony to the commitment of the LTTE to the CFA, while the government is acting bad faith adoption very rigid positions.

"Please understand that we have to resort to our sea transport only because inevitable circumstances created by the adamant attitude of the government. As a viable alternative, we suggest that arrangements be made for sea transport with SLMM monitors on board as early as possible," Tamilselvan has added.

Spokesperson for the Norwegian embassy in Colombo conformed receiving Tamilsevlan's letter.

Meanwhile, the SLMM told The Sunday Leader that Tamilselvan's letter has been forwarded to the government peace secretariat for consideration.

Government Peace Secretariat Head, Dr. Palitha Kohona told The Sunday Leader that he had not seen the letter, but would refer it to the Defence Ministry if received.


Expulsion from Working Committee stands

UNP decides to probe Wijesekera's conduct

The UNP Working Committee on Friday decided to initiate a disciplinary inquiry into statements made by Matara District MP Mahinda Wijesekara.

The decision followed representations made by several members at the Working Committee presided by UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe.

Wickremesinghe at the outset had explained the reason for removing Wijesekara from the Working Committee and the chairmanship of the District committee.

He said however Wijesekara  has not been removed as an organiser in the Matara District. Wickremesinghe said his decision to remove Wijesekara from the Working Committee was made after he had repeatedly cast aspersions on the leadership in the run up to the local authority elections despite a decision taken at the last committee meeting on his recommendation not to attack the leadership and undermine the polls campaign.

Following Wickremesinghe's initial remarks several members including Karu Jayasuriya, S.B. Dissanayake, Rajitha Senaratne, Johnston Fernando, Joseph Michael Perera, T. Maheswaran, Hemakumara Nanayakkara, Ravi Karunanyake, Imtiaz Bakeer Markar, amongst others made representations.

Jayasuriya identified as a strict disciplinarian said if Wijesekara had violated party discipline an inquiry should be held and if found to be at fault called upon to tender an apology to the leadership.

Dissanayake too had said if Wijesekara had made damaging statements, a committee of inquiry could be appointed and if found guilty, Wijesekara be asked to tender an apology and his positions restored.

Meanwhile, former Minister Imtiaz Bakeer Markar defended Wijesekara and suspect in the VAT fraud case Kamil Kutubdeen and admitted he had received funds from him for political work.

After the members made their representations, Wickremesinghe reiterated his position that the party leader was vested with the authority to appoint members to and remove them from the Working Committee. That decision stands, he said.

However, Wickremesinghe said if the Working Committee so proposes he was prepared to appoint a committee to go into the issue of Wijesekara violating party discipline.

A working committee member told The Sunday Leader after meeting the members had their say and Wickremesinghe had his way.


Sacking of Prima workers unlawful - LC

By Chinthaka Fernando

Labour Commissioner Mahinda Madihahewa had on Friday ordered Prima officials to reinstate the 1600 workers sacked by them, stating that Prima's move was against the labour laws.

General Secretary, Inter Company Trade Unions Federation, Wasantha Samarasinghe told The Sunday Leader that the Labour Commissioner made these observations at Friday's meeting attended by the trade union representatives, Prima officials.

"We couldn't get any reactions to the Commissioner's order because the officials from Prima were not of decision making posts. Therefore a meeting was set up for April 10 to discuss the issue with high ranking officials from Prima," he said. Samarasinghe further said that they will not give up the fast-un-to death campaign that was launched on March 23.


Orphaned girl sent to prison

By Jamila Najmuddin

A young girl orphaned by last year's tsunami tragedy has been forced to seek shelter at the Galle prison due to the lack of child care institutions, a child protection organisation said.

The organisation said that the girl, who is below the age of 18, was taken into the care of her grandmother following the disaster. However, a few months later due to the death of her grandmother, she was handed over to the Galle police to be put into a shelter as she had no other relatives who could take responsibility as her guardian.

As the child remained with the police to be put into an orphanage or shelter, The Sunday Leader learns that an order was issued by the Galle court, ordering the child to be put into the Galle prison.

The girl  is currently seeking shelter at the prison with the women inmates.

Commissioner of Prisons, Rumy Marzook confirmed to The Sunday Leader that the girl was put into the prison following an order issued by the Galle court. "She is currently residing with the women inmates," he said.

He added he could not provide further information as he did not have the relevant documents or details on the matter.

Officials from the Galle prison refused to comment without instructions from the Commissioner of Prisons. However, they confirmed the presence of the girl at the Galle prison.

Meanwhile, officials from the NCPA said while over 5000 children had been orphaned by the tsunami last year, an immediate awareness campaign had to be carried out amongst government institutions, informing them that the NCPA was the guardian of such children. "Many people are not aware that the NCPA is the guardian of children who have been orphaned by the tsunami and instead of putting them into shelters, they should be handed over to the NCPA immediately," officials said.


NPM calls to oust Norway

By Chinthaka Fernando

General Secretary,  National Patriotic Movement (NPM) Wimal Weerawansa called on the people on Friday to prepare themselves to make sacrifices to defeat the Norwegians.

Addressing NPM protestors outside the Norwegian Embassy in Colombo, Weerawansa claimed that Norway, the facilitators of the peace process, apart from being biased to the LTTE was now moving swiftly with an ulterior motive.

He alleged that Norway was trying to get hold of the oil resources in the country's northwestern ocean by helping the LTTE to divide the country. Weerawansa claimed that it was the reason for sending John Hanssen-Bauer, who is an oil specialist as the new peace envoy.

"Bauer is the one who plunged Sudan into the current crisis. He divided Sudan to get hold of the oil in Sudan. He will start researching on oil here while making arrangements to divide the country," Weerawansa charged. The protest was organised by the PNM to urge the Norwegians to step down from the the role of facilitators of the peace process.


"SLFP is not anybody's property" - MR

By Arthur Wamanan

President Mahinda Rajapakse speaking at the SLFP convention on Friday said barring 11 electorates the chairmen and vice chairmen of all seats were appointed based on the preferential votes obtained by candidates. The President said that a party must have discipline and added that he had taken stringent steps based on the election results to ensure necessary regulations were enforced.

Rajapakse further stated that any qualified person should be able to become the leader of the party irrespective of status or name. "This party is not the personal property of either the Bandaranaikes or the Rajapakses," he said.

Commenting on the party's stand regarding the peace process Rajapakse said, " The SLFP is not a war-loving party but rather one that stands for and promotes peace."

He said that the SLFP's duty was to transform itself into a party that combines nationalism and modernism.


MR's appeal to Anura

Tourism Minister Anura Bandaranaike who was not to attend Friday's SLFP convention made a last minute entry on a personal appeal by President Mahinda Rajapakse.

Following the dispute over the SLFP leadership stakes Bandaranaike had decided not to attend the convention given the intense pressure from Chandrika Kumaratunga in London.

Bandaranaike had boycotted the SLFP central committee meeting the previous day where it was proposed to appoint Rajapakse as acting leader.

However, senior SLFPers on learning that there would be no Bandaranaikes at the convention where Rajapakse was to be appointed acting leader urged the President to appeal for Anura Bandaranaike's presence.

The President was told it would be counter productive to assume the acting leadership in the absence of a Bandaranaike at the convention.

It is learnt the President had thereafter telephoned Bandaranaike and appealed for his presence to which appeal the Tourism Minister acceded.

At Friday's convention, Prime Minister Wickremanyake had proposed the name of Rajapakse as acting leader and was seconded by Minister D. M. Jayaratne. Rajapakse's appointment was followed by a cultural event after which Bandaranaike wished Rajapakse and left the convention.

Prior to his departure, Bandaranaike told Rajapakse, "Now, you have to fulfill my father's dream."


Trinco Tamil Forum Leader killed

By D. B. S. Jeyaraj

Vanniyasingham Vigneswaran, a Tamil political activist about to be appointed as a Tamil National Alliance national list MP, was assassinated in Trincomalee on Friday, April 7.

Vigneswaran a senior employee at the Bank of Ceylon was shot dead by two unknown persons as he was entering the Bank of Ceylon main branch office on Inner Harbour Road where he worked.

Vigneswaran, the president of the Trincomalee District Tamil People's Forum was the driving force behind the local polls election campaign in Trincomalee where the TNA contesting as the Ilankai Thamil Arasu Katchi had recorded a massive victory.

An announcement was to be made in the evening appointing Vigneswaran to the national list vacancy caused by the murder of TNA list MP Joseph Pararajasingham at the St. Mary's Cathedral during midnight mass on Christmas day last year.

Vigneswaran was entering his office from the front entrance when two men wearing helmets had accosted him and fired at point blank range. He was instantly killed.

The bank office was located in a high security area in Trincomalee in close proximity to the harbour. There were two security posts outside the bank one of which was only 15 metres away from the spot where Vigneswaran was killed.

The Trincomalee Police Superintendent's office and the Harbour Police Headquarters were at the back of the bank premises.

The naval headquarters was also very close to the bank and the whole area was closely guarded. The shooting took place at about 9. 30 am.

The killers reportedly escaped from the area on a motorcycle without being challenged in an area teeming with  security personnel and sentry points.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam political head for Trincomalee Elilan has pointed to the intensive security around the area and charged that the security apparatus and paramilitaries were responsible for the killing.

TNA parliamentarians upon hearing of the killing rushed to the well of the house and engaged in a protest demonstration. They shouted slogans accusing the government of responsibility for the killing.

The Speaker W.J.M. Lokubandara adjourned sittings because of the tumult at 10. 10 a.m. and resumed again at 10. 30 a.m. The TNA however continued their protest . The house was then adjourned without the emergency debate being conducted in full but the emergency was extended for another month.

Vigneswaran who hails from Nainatheevu in Jaffna , married in Trincomalee and has been living there for more than 30 years. He was a senior employee at the bank of Ceylon .

As president of the Trincomalee District Tamil People's Forum it was Vigneswaran who spearheaded the protest against the illegal construction of a Buddha statue at the Trinco Central bus stand precincts. The hartals were called off after assurances were given by the government of President Chandrika Kumaratunga. These were subsequently dishonoured and the statue still remains.

The Buddha statue incident figured prominently in the recent local authority elections in Trincomalee. Vigneswaran was the driving force behind the TNA campaign and used the statue issue to mobilise Tamil votes. As a result the TNA won handsomely in the district and captured control of both the Trincomalee Urban Council as well as the pradeshiya sabha.

The newly elected councils were planning to give top priority to the resolution of the Buddha statue problem.

Vigneswaran was to be rewarded with the Tamil national list MP nomination. The announcement was to be made later in the day but the killers struck first.

Vigneswaran's safety was under threat last year when two grenades were flung at his residence in Anbuvalipuram by a Tamil speaking youth. Vigneswaran was not at home then.

With the LTTE and TNA accusing the state of having a hand in the assassination political observers expressed concern about the fate of the April 19 Geneva talks.


Kidney patient seeks help

Jayakodi Arachchige Aruni Dinesha Kumari, 24, of Daluwakotuwa, Kochchikade is suffering from acute kidney disorder as both her kidneys are not properly functioning and is warded at the National Hospital Colombo. Consultant Physician NHSL, S. G. de Silva has diagnosed her case to be End Stage Renal Disease, which needs an urgent renal transplantation to save her life.  

Aruni's parents  seek a kidney donor ( O positive blood group) who could save their daughter's life.

Since her parents are financially unstable and cannot foot the expenses they seek public assistance to get financial aid. Donors are kindly requested to remit contributions to A/C No: 142-207-033478-3 (People's Bank - Kochchikade Branch)


Tigers deny staging TRO abductions

By Arthur Wamanan

The LTTE has denied reports by the University Teachers for Human Rights (UTHR)-Jaffna that TRO abductions were staged by the LTTE.

LTTE Political Head in the east S. Elilan told The Sunday Leader that these accusations by the UTHR- Jaffna were baseless.

"Why should the LTTE abduct the TRO members? We will not gain anything by staging an abduction of this nature," he said. He also said that the LTTE did not respect the UTHR as they made statements and comments without knowing the gravity of the problems.

"We don't respect them as humans. They don't respect the feelings of other people and make comments as they wish, and we can't waste our time on these petty statements," he said.

The TRO also condemned the statements by the UTHR and said that the comments were ridiculous and were not properly sourced. Speaking to The Sunday Leader TRO Spokesperson Arjunan Ethirveerasingam said that the TRO was contemplating legal action against the statements made by the UTHR.

"This is one of the worst comments I've heard and it is most ridiculous," he said. He also questioned the background of the UTHR and their credibility to make such statements.

"This particular group is notorious for making such ridiculous statements and they are unreliable," he added. Speaking on the latest developments on the abductions he said that the families had attended the press conference last week and shared the difficulties they have been facing.

Meanwhile, the TRO expressed its dissatisfaction with the efforts of most of the local authorities on this issue.   "We still have not received any feedback from the police and the Human Rights Commission  has also reported this in their report," he said.


Children's vaccines in short supply

By Risidra Mendis

A SHORTAGE of the diphtheria, purtussis and tetanus triple vaccine and the diphtheria and tetanus dual vaccine for children has left parents with no other alternative immunisation for their children.

The Sunday Leader learns that dithranol powder an ingredient used in ointments for Psoriasis, a common skin disease is also out of stock.

Speaking to The Sunday Leader a leading pharmacist said the triple and dual immunisation vaccine have not been available since January in the market. Dithranol powder is commonly prescribed by many dermatologists in the country. However for the past six to seven months Dithranol powder has been out of stock. The State Pharmaceuticals Corporation is the importer of the triple and dual vaccines and the Dithranol powder," the pharmacist said.

However an official of the SPC Marketing Division Surangani Perera said the SPC are not the importer and distributor of the triple and dual vaccines and the Dithranol powder. According to the pharmacist it is the SPC that has to supply the necessary stocks of these drugs to the market.

"Dithranol powder is not used on a regular basis in the country. The shortage of Dithranol powder in the country is due to the fact that nobody is willing to take on the responsibility of importing it," an official from Osu Sala said. 


European Commission welcomes relaxing of buffer zone

By Jamila Najmuddin

The European Commission last week welcomed the decision by the government to relax the buffer zone.

The new Mahinda Rajapakse administration last December relaxed the buffer zone from 100m to 200m  to between 35m to 60m. "We are happy with the progress made by the new government as a lot of controversy had surrounded the implementation of the buffer zone. A lot of people are yet to be given permanent housing," Head of Delegation, European Commission (EC)-Sri Lanka and Maldives, Julian Wilson told The Sunday Leader last week.

He added that although there have been some delays and obstacles in the tsunami reconstruction efforts in the island, the EC was confident that Sri Lanka would recover from the effects of the tsunami disaster soon.

Wilson also expressed satisfaction at the long and short term recovery programmes implemented by the EC soon after the tsunami tragedy and said that it would continue to implement programmes which would develop the country. "Our intention is to continue to contribute towards the country and apart from the tsunami, if there are any new schemes which will allow us to help with our contribution, we will implement it," Director General of Directorate of Outside Europe, Jean Louis Biancarelli told The Sunday Leader.

He added that the recovery programmes would also include the tsunami-affected districts in the LTTE controlled areas in the north and east.

Meanwhile, the European Investment Bank (EIB) signed an agreement with the government last week, launching a credit line of Euro 70 million to support those industries and services, which have been directly or indirectly affected by the tsunami.

This loan will finance small and medium scale projects in industry, infrastructure, tourism, energy and telecommunications related services and other sectors.

Senior Loan Officer - Operations in Asia, Andrew Baikos said the loan would be divided in two categories - the first a 50 million euro loan, which would be allocated to all businesses affected by the tsunami directly and indirectly,  and the second, a 20 million euro loan which would be disbursed through the Central Bank.


Despite Govt. promises farmers unable  to sell harvest

By Sunalie Ratnayake

Paddy farmers in the Polonnaruwa and Anuradhapura Districts and surrounding areas have fallen into deep debt and are suffering immensely due to their inability to sell their paddy harvest.

On a visit to Polonnaruwa and its surrounding villages, The Sunday Leader learnt that farmers were close to comitting suicide due to this problem.

"This is the third generation that is engaged in paddy cultivation as that is our main means of survial. But the situation is getting worse by the day. The government is only giving false promises and we actually have no means of selling our paddy," a farmer from Kalinga Ela in Polonnaruwa, Dhammika Nawaratne told The Sunday Leader.

"I have had to take  a second job  as a  temporary  driver in Colombo during weekdays without which, my family including my wife and two small children will have to die of hunger. After completing work in Colombo during the week, I go to the village every week- end to work as a farmer," Nawaratne added. 

Another paddy farmer from the same area, Podi Appuhami said, "I have 8000 kilos of paddy just lying in my house, which was brought back from the Cooperative, as the officials there refused to buy the paddy from me, giving reasons that are not valid and baseless. They said that the paddy was not up to the required standard; but I have seen with my own eyes that there are stocks of paddy that are in worse condition, inside these paddy stores. Those stocks have been taken in due to political reasons and mine has been rejected for not being a supporter  of the government.  What is left for us is to hang ourselves as I have a Rs.30,000 loan to be settled at the Cooperative which I have no means of settling."

Also, it was learnt that these farmers have to go through much hassle before even trying to sell their crop.

A form has to be obtained from the Goviniyamaka and a Rs.500.00 transaction has to be made each month, with the cooperative by each of the farmers if they want to sell paddy to the Cooperative.

According to many of the paddy farmers in these rural areas, the government only buys 2599 kilos from each person and only 30 forms have been given to the entire village.

"We have to be in long queues to obtain these forms and most of the days we are being turned back, which is a waste of both time and money," farmer Piyasoma Banda said.

However, when contacted by The Sunday Leader, Agriculture Ministry Coordinating Secretary Gunaratne Hettiarachchi said, "The government is buying paddy from the farmers and there is no 2500 kilo limit. But there  are rules and regulations with regard to the condition of the product. The paddy had to be of the best standard, properly dried and without black grains or else we cannot keep it for  long. Also, there are no extra stocks of paddy as everything has been cleaned and cleared out by the government."

Be that as it may, The Sunday Leader witnessed that the Cooperative storage unit at the 9th mile post on Aranganvila Road was overflowing with stocks of paddy and farmers were drying their paddy along the roadside as well, as they had no place to carry out the procedure.


Relief from hot weather soon

By Shezna Shums

The  Meteorology Department expects the current humid conditions to prevail till at least April 15.

The department further predicts that after April 15, the uncomfortable conditions should cease and the weather conditions should return to normal.

Since April 6 the sun has been directly above Sri Lanka, and on Friday the sun was said to have been directly above Hendala, Kitulgala, Nuwara Eliya and Badulla at around 12.43 pm.

With the sun being directly above the island, we would receive a lot of solar energy at the current time," explained, Meteorology Department, Meteorologist in Charge, Ajith Weerawardena.

He also explained that if there is no cloud cover the country can expect even more solar energy. This is one reason why the country is experiencing very high humidity conditions these days.


Rs. 2bn loss per month due to fuel subsidy

By Mandana Ismail Abeywickrema

The Petroleum and Petroleum Resources Ministry claims that the non-revision of fuel prices have resulted in the government incurring a huge loss due to the existing fuel subsidy.

Petroleum and Petroleum Resources Minister A. H. M. Fowzie said that the government has to bear a loss of Rs. 2 billion per month due to the fuel subsidy and that it could fluctuate depending on the global fuel prices.

However, he denied any plans of the government of a fuel revision in the near future.

Chairman, Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC), Jaliya Medagama said that the government incurs a heavy loss due to the high kerosene subsidy.

According to Medagama, the price of a litre of kerosene in line with the world market prices should be Rs. 63.12 while the current selling price is Rs. 30.50.

Last year, the government spent a hefty Rs. 21 billion on fuel subsidies alone.

However, Fowzie was evasive when questioned on whether the government planned to continue with the consumption subsidies.

Fowzie also said that discussions were underway to introduce a ration card scheme to ensure that the benefits of the government's fuel subsidy are enjoyed only by the needy.

"We are having discussions to introduce a ration card next month to the needy for kerosene and fuel," he said.

Fowzie also said that the ration cards would also be provided to the transport sector as well.


Minister Gamlath denies JVP allegations

By Chinthaka Fernando

 Agricultural Marketing Development Minister, Siripala Gamlath denied allegations levelled against him by the JVP that he was misusing his portfolio to monopolise the government's paddy purchasing mechanism. 

"I've been in the paddy purchasing industry for decades and now it is my son who is conducting the business. I joined politics only in 1994.  Just because I joined politics, I cannot stop my private businesses," he told The Sunday Leader.

Gamlath also said that he has never used his portfolio to the benefit of his business.  JVP Parliamentarian, Anura  Dissanayake accused Gamlath on Thursday in parliament charging that the government's paddy purchasing mechanism was being monopolised by a private sector paddy purchaser.

Dissanayake said that the accountability of the programme was in question as Gamlath was directly involved in the process.  Minister Gamlath is the owner of Nipuna  rice mills, one of the biggest rice mills in the country.

Speaking of the corruption that takes place when paddy is purchased by Cooperative Societies, Gamlath said that the inefficiency of the Co-operative shops  affected the purchasing programme. However, despite that he noted that the programme was continuing smoothly."There is no government institution in Sri Lanka which could handle a programme of this magnitude. The Cooperatives are also bankrupt institutions. Therefore we are going to start one in the near future," he said.


Each rally brought JVP 30 votes

The JVP claimed it held 27,000 rallies island wide in the party's bid to gain the maximum at last week's local government electionsw.

The party received 815,000 votes at the election meaning each rally brought the JVP 30 votes.

The campaign included small meetings to large rallies addressed by national level leaders. However, the party could only muster control of one local government authority - its home base in Tissamaharama, which the party already held.

After the results, party leaders have tried to minimise the damage. Addressing a press conference on April 3,  Propaganda Secretary, Wimal Weerawansa said that the UNP would have been wiped out if the JVP contested the election in alliance with the UPFA. 


More confusion over Hoole's post

By Arthur Wamanan

Jaffna University Registrar P. Kandaswamy has denied reports that the newly appointed Vice Chancellor, Prof. Ratnajeevan Hoole had assumed duties from Colombo.

Prof. Hoole last week told The Sunday Leader he had assumed duties as vice chancellor of the Jaffna University from Colombo as he did not feel safe to take up duties in Jaffna.  

Kandaswamy told The Sunday Leader that he had not received any documents stating that Prof. Hoole had assumed duties.

"Some of the instructions in the campus are given by me and I have no idea on Prof. Hoole instructing from Colombo. I have not received any documents stating this so far," he said.

The Jaffna University Students Union also said that they were unaware that the new VC had assumed duties.

"He has not issued any orders so far as we know and he can't do that unless he comes here," said a member of the union.

He also said that the campus was functioning normally even though the problems with the appointment of the VC continued.


Tourist  arrivals  up this year

By Jamila Najmuddin

Sri Lanka Tourist Board (SLTB) officials expressed optimism that tourist arrivals could reach 800,000 this yea,r going by present  trends.

Year on year  to February arrivals had recorded an increase of 40.2%, according to SLTB statistics. A total of 52,231 tourist arrivals have been recorded in January while 52,687 tourists arrived in February.

While a total 549,308 tourists arrived in the country last year, 104, 918 have already arrived in the country within the first two months. "The government has started its advertising campaigns in Europe which has attracted a lot of tourists especially from the region.  Although there was a sharp drop in European arrivals last year due to the tsunami, the industry is finally picking up," Director General, SLTB, S. Kalaiselvam said.

He added a rise of 36.8% had been recorded from January 2005 to January this year while a rise of 43.8% had been recorded from February last year to February this year. "We hope to achieve the 800 million target by the end of the year," Kalaiselvam added.


Police  ready to nab errant motorists

By Nirmala Kannangara

City Traffic Police will be on the look out for, vehicles on the run with garage numbers and vehicles affixed with  metal devices such as bull bars, mascots and fenders during the festive season. Offenders will be nabbed and a fine will be imposed.

Colombo Traffic Head Quarters would put in an extra effort to ensure that road rules are strictly adhered to by all  motorists so that  pedestrians as well as law abiding motorists could enjoy their vacation free from accidents.

Under the direction of the Inspector General of Police (IGP) Chandra Fernando, the Director Traffic Administration and Road Safety, SSP Lucky Peiris has deployed a contingent of more than 100 police officers in Nuwara Eliya during the New Year festive season to nab the errant drivers. 

Law and order would be strictly enforced and all the vehicles with garage numbers, bull bars, fenders and mascots would be taken into custody and would be produced before courts for further action at the earliest. But as a result of the court vacation during the festive season the motorists would have to wait a few weeks to get their vehicles released depriving them of enjoying the holiday season.

"If the road users really want to enjoy themselves there are ways and means to do it without taking the law unto their hands. Possessing of a driving licence is not a right but a privilege," claimed SSP Peiris.

During this operation all police officers including the Director, Traffic will be camped near the Mahagastota Lake in Nuwara Eliya and according to the SSP this would be a new concept as it would raise the morale of officers as all in the team will be camped together irrespective of their rank.

Meanwhile when asked as to what would happen if unruly motorists try to manipulate the police officers by using influence  SSP Peiris said that he would not succumb to any such pressure as  he wants  to make the roads safer.  

Speaking about the motorists who run with garage numbers SSP Peiris told The Sunday Leader that such vehicles can run only on test drives and also within the registered district. "If such a vehicle is nabbed it would be immediately taken into custody and nothing could be done thereafter until a court ruling is obtained.

"The same would happen to vehicles affixed with bull bars, fenders and mascots, if they are nabbed," the SSP warned.


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