He wasn't tucked in. How can you tuck a child in to bed amongst suitcases? This little boy sleeps in the basement of the Baseline air bridge while his parents beg above
- Photo by Asoka Fernando
* No prospect of talks resuming soon, says Bala * LTTE told to stop killings
Norways asks govt. to deliver on Geneva agreement
Following calls by the Norwegian facilitators for the government to deliver on the agreement reached in Geneva, President Mahinda.....
Norways asks govt. to deliver on Geneva agreement
> LTTE targeting VVIP, President warns
> Govt. offers LIOC compromise deal
to evict DB
> AB warns Rohitha against poaching
Norway invites govt. and LTTE for talks in Oslo
The LTTE yesterday decided it’ll respond to an invitation extended by Norway to visit Oslo for discussions with a high powered government delegation on the operations of the SLMM only after the outcome of the co-chairs meeting in Norway and the decision of the EU on the Tiger ban is known on May 30.
Norway’s International Development Minister Erik Solheim extended a written invitation to both the government and the LTTE to visit Oslo for talks on June 8 and 9 to discuss the operations of the SLMM.
The invitations were extended to President Mahinda Rajapakse and LTTE Leader Velupillai Pirapaharan calling on them to send two high-powered delegations to the meeting. The LTTE thinking to delay its decision on the invitation was based on the belief that the government would otherwise use the possibility of talks to seek more aid at the Tokyo donor confab.
Chief LTTE negotiator Anton Balasingham told The Sunday Leader yesterday the LTTE’s decision to accept or not the invitation of Norway will depend on the outcome of the co-chairs meeting in Tokyo and the EU decision on the proscription of the LTTE.
Meanwhile, LTTE Political Wing Leader, S. P. Tamilselvan also informed Norway’s Special Envoy Jon Hanssen-Bauer yesterday that the LTTE would inform its decision on the invitation after May 30.
Spokesperson of the Norwegian Embassy in Colombo, Erik Nurnberg confirmed to The Sunday Leader that the invitation was extended to the government and the LTTE to visit Oslo on June 8 and 9 to discuss the operations of the SLMM.
* No prospect of talks resuming soon, says Bala * LTTE told to stop killings
Norways asks govt. to deliver on Geneva agreement
Following calls by the Norwegian facilitators for the government to deliver on the agreement reached in Geneva, President Mahinda Rajapakse on Friday invited the LTTE for unconditional talks in Geneva through the Norwegian facilitators with an assurance of fully complying with the Ceasefire Agreement.
The President's invitation was extended when he met with Norway's International Development Minister Erik Solheim, Special Envoy Jon Hanssen-Bauer and Ambassador Hans Brattskar on Friday at Temple Trees.
The invitation was communicated by Hanssen-Bauer to LTTE Political Wing Leader S.P. Tamilselvan on Saturday in Kilinochchi.
The President also told the Norwegian delegation the government's offer of seaplanes to transport LTTE's eastern commanders to the Wanni for a central committee meeting still stands and a proposal for them to carry their pistols in the same seaplanes was under consideration.
It has been proposed that the pistols will be in the custody of the SLMM officials who would be accompanying the LTTE eastern commanders until they land in the Wanni. This proposal was also forwarded to the LTTE on Saturday.
'Try and make Geneva happen,' Rajapakse had told Solheim.
The President also assured the Norwegians urgent action would be taken to bring to book the perpetrators of violence including those responsible for attacking the offices of the three international aid agencies.
Solheim impressed upon the President the importance of delivering on the Geneva agreement in relation to disarming armed groups operating from government controlled territories.
Solheim, who called off his visit to the Wanni after LTTE Leader Velupillai Pirapaharan refused a meeting under the threat of a EU ban, met with Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe Friday afternoon before leaving for New Delhi to brief the Indian government on the unfolding developments in Sri Lanka.
India has decided not to attend a crucial Co-Chairs meeting in Tokyo this week and is currently embroiled in a diplomatic wrangle with Sri Lanka over payments due to Indian Oil.
Meanwhile LTTE Chief Negotiator Anton Balasingham told The Sunday Leader, "I do not think there is any prospect for peace talks to resume soon. The low intensity mini-war situation prevailing in the north east, the possible proscription of the LTTE by the EU, and the duplicitous and hypocritical attitude of Rajapakse's administration towards paramilitary violence have further exacerbated the conditions of
The same message was conveyed by LTTE political wing leader S.P. Tamilchelvan to Haussen-Bauer yesterday.
Norway's special envoy stressed the importance of the LTTE too halting all claymore attacks and assassinations to create a conducive climate for the talks.
Meanwhile, Solheim told Reuters on Friday Sri Lanka risks sliding deeper into violence that some fear could ignite civil war unless the LTTE stops killing and the government reins in armed groups opposed to them.
Solheim had also appealed to both sides to take a hard look at how they can defuse "a very very serious" situation.
"The situation is grave - many people are killed more or less every day now. To sum it up by month or year, it would be a very high number," Solheim told Reuters.
The Norwegian Minister was also quoted as saying, "people all over the North and East are living with fear."
"The main issue at the moment is that a) the LTTE should stop assassinations, claymore attacks etcetera and b) the government should deliver on what they promised at Geneva talks (in February) to stop all attacks by armed groups operating from their territories, including Karuna," Solheim had also told Reuters.
Norway is to also urge the Co-chairs on Tuesday in Tokyo to adopt an even-handed approach when dealing with the government and the LTTE on the delivery of agreements reached.
Ministers asked to be vigilant this week
LTTE targeting VVIP, President warns
President Mahinda Rajapakse has warned his ministers to take adequate precautions in the next few days since the LTTE plans to hit a VVIP target.
The President's warning came at the weekly cabinet meeting on Wednesday, May 24.
The government had earlier received information from the intelligence services that the LTTE may use a police truck or motorbike to carry out the attack dressed as policemen.
All police stations have also been alerted of the possible Tiger strategy and warned to be extra vigilant.
President Rajapakse told his ministers he had credible information the LTTE was planning to target a VVIP and that confirmation of this information was received from France, Germany and England.
"The ministers must be very mindful when moving about these days. We cannot be afraid of the LTTE or be cowed down by such threats, but all necessary security measures must be taken," the President has said.
He had also told the ministers according to reports received the LTTE was planning something big and may target some other places too.
The President further said the situation was discussed at the security council meeting and necessary steps taken to ensure the security of the city.
Crisis over fuel subsidy
Govt. offers LIOC compromise deal
By Sonali Samarasinghe
The government on Friday offered Lanka Indian Oil Company Ltd a compromise formula to break the deadlock over the fuel subsidy dispute which had reached proportions of a diplomatic row between Sri Lanka and India.
The government owes Lanka IOC over US $ 76 million as subsidy payment from January 2004 to April 2006.
The government had earlier declined to make this payment and called on Lanka IOC to submit their profit and loss accounts.
In terms of the agreement signed between Sri Lanka and India the fuel subsidy had to be met by Sri Lanka.
However with the government refusing to make the payment, Lanka IOC last week informed the government and the Colombo Stock Exchange in writing that no further fuel imports will be made until the subsidy payments are met.
Lanka IOC also informed the government that petrol stocks would last only for 20 days and diesel for 45 days. Of the total number of service stations operating in the country 160 are currently controlled by Lanka IOC.
Managing Director of Lanka IOC K. Ramakrishnan told The Sunday Leader he met Treasury Secretary Dr. P. B. Jayasundera on Friday and the government had offered a compromise formula.
He said the company was now in the process of studying the compromise but was not in a position to divulge details as the matter had to be placed before the Board. However, he said the solution was a number between the subsidy figure of US$ 76 million and the losses made by the company.
"We don't want this matter blown out of proportion considering we plan to expand in Sri Lanka. But the solution must allow us to survive commercially as well," Ramakrishnan said.
"We are very keen to settle this amicable as our company has futuristic plans to expand our investment in Sri Lanka," he added.
Ramakrishnan also said that Sri Lanka is currently taking an economic beating and these issues were raised in a brain storming session and a candid airing of views on Friday at the Treasury to reach a compromise.
Treasury Secretary Dr. P. B. Jayasundera contacted by The Sunday Leader declined to comment.
MR to evict DB
By Dilrukshi Handunnetti
President D. B. Wijetunga's Paget Road residence is to be taken over by Defence Spokesman and Plan Implementation Minister Keheliya Rambukwella shortly.
The government had requested for the official residences of both President Wijetunga and widow of former President R. Premadasa to house two ministers.
The Sunday Leader learns that Hema Premadasa had flatly refused to hand over the Wijerama Road residence to the government whereas President Wijetunga had promptly agreed to hand it over if "the President so desired."
Minister Rambukwella had personally called upon President Wijetunga's Pilimatalawa residence on Wednesday (24) bearing a note from President Mahinda Rajapakse requesting the handing over of the house.
It is learnt that President Wijetunga who was ill at that time had responded that "he had nothing to say but agree if the President wanted the house" and added that the government could acquire the building along with his personal belongings and furniture.
However, Minister Rambukwella had apologetically said that the government wanted only the premises and not the furniture which were Wijetunga's private property.
Secretary to President Wijetunga, P. G. Wilson when contacted by The Sunday Leader said that he was not aware of any attempt to hand over the former President's official residence and office back to the state. He said that no official communication has been received so far to that effect.
However, none of the Paget Road office telephones were being answered by the officials as the buildings was being prepared for hand over by Friday (26).
Minister Keheliya Rambukwella is expected to come into occupation of both the Paget Road residence and the office shortly. Rambukwella was unavailable for comment.
A family member of the Wijetunga family told The Sunday Leader that the request had come at a time when President Wijetunga was ill and if he were to be brought to Colombo for treatment, the former head of state would not have an official residence to occupy.
An official residence and an office form part of the retirement benefits provided to all Executive Presidents of the country. This is the first ever attempt to acquire such premises by the state without offering an alternative.
AB warns Rohitha against poaching
Tourism Minister Anura Bandaranaike has lashed out at Enterprise Development Minister Rohitha Bogollagama, warning him not to poach in the affairs of the Tourism Ministry.
In a hard-hitting letter Bandaranaike has said, Bogollagama's unethical and unacceptable behaviour was not surprising given the notorious conduct of some of his immediate family members which had led to many a public scandal.
Bandaranaike's letter follows a report in the financial news of the Ceylon Daily News, under the heading, "Lanka to be promoted as a major tourist destination in Japan."
"This article extensively deals with various projects of tourism, which you wish to promote in Japan," Bandaranaike has said in his letter.
The Tourism Minister has told Bogollagama, in all cabinets of ministers in democratic countries, one minister does not poach into the workings of other ministers or their ministries.
Bandaranaike's letter further said, "The least you could have done was to have informed me before you launch yourself into the affairs of my Ministry, at your pleasure, like the way you lavishly spend the tax payer's hard-earned money."
Bandaranaike also further warned Bogollagama, "If you interfere with my Ministry again, I shall in the future poach into the Enterprise Development Ministry as well. There is a Tourism Minister solely for the task of promoting tourism and the subject does not come under your purview."
The letter further said, "If it is only a publicity stunt, which you are good at, do not repeat it without consulting me ever again."
Tsunami housing programme lagging behind
By Jamila Najmuddin
The United Nations (UN) last week expressed concern over the weak status of the tsunami housing programme and hoped new revamped housing policy would expedite the process.
Despite many pledges by the government to provide permanent houses by the end of the year, UN agencies remain doubtful if the government can accomplish its aim. "Hundreds of tsunami victims are yet to receive houses. We hope the new policy will have an effect," UN Senior Recovery Advisor, Pablo Ruiz said.
The Presidential Secretariat early this month informed District Secretariats that the housing programme had been accelerated and that they had been put in charge.
However UN said that the reconstruction effort needed to make a fast shift from policy announcements to effective policy implementation.
"The policy should be headed in the right direction, rather than causing a delay in the housing programme," Ruiz said. Meanwhile, Director, Housing, RADA, Ramesh Selliah told The Sunday Leader, they hoped the new policy would have a positive impact on the housing programme.
"It is still too early to comment but we are hopeful it will accelerate the process as according to the policy, victims have four options to choose from," he said.
The new housing policy which is still in the process of being implemented was introduced by President Mahinda Rajapakse late March with a view to take urgent and immediate action to accelerate rehabilitation and reconstruction work of all houses damaged or destroyed by the tsunami.
Of the 37,042 houses assigned to donors, only 5979 have been so far handed over to beneficiaries. The bulk of this has been in the Districts of Hambantota (2256) and Galle (1352), while the worst affected districts Ampara (629) and Batticaloa (340) have lagged behind.
The tsunami needs assessments reports said that close to 100,000 houses needed to be constructed. Of that 65,000 are outside the buffer zone. The zone, which was seen as a major drag on the reconstruction effort too was revised in December 2005.
SAHR asks Mahinda to abide by constituion
The high-powered South Asians For Human Rights (SAHR) has expressed deep concern over the appointments made by President Mahinda Rajapakse to the Human Rights Commission (HRC) in Sri Lanka in violation of the country's constitution.
In a hard-hitting statement, SAHR, headed by former Indian Prime Minister Inder Kumar Gujral, has urgently called on the President to take steps to ensure that the selection process to the commission is carried out in a democratic, constitutional and transparent manner as called for in the Sri Lankan Constitution.
The SAHR has also commended S.G. Punchihewa for declining to accept his appointment and his respect for the rule of law whilst noting that Deepika Udagama and M.N. Selvakumaran, two leading academics, had also declined "these unconstitutional appointments."
The human rights organisation has also called for the Constitutional Council to be constituted to enable nominations to public bodies including the Public Service Commission and National Police Commission to be carried out according to proper and established procedures.
In this context, SAHR notes with concern that the appointment by Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse of individuals to the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka "is in violation of the provisions of the constitution as well as Paris Principles which calls for the establishment of independent national human rights commissions," SAHR has also said.
The statement was issued by SAHR Chairperson, I.K. Gujral, SAHR Co-Chairperson Asma Jahangir and SAHR bureau members in Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
Ground situation in NE leading to war - LTTE
The LTTE last week said the ground situation in the north and east was leading to war.
LTTE deputy head of the Batticaloa Miltary Wing Jeyam said that the people were getting ready for war and added that no one could stop them, as they have decided their destiny.
"I can see the people of Tamil Eelam getting ready for war. Nobody can defeat us now when the Tamil people have resolved to decide our own destiny," Jeyam told reporters.
The LTTE also said the government was testing its patience by carrying out attacks on civilians instead of attacking them.
"The government forces have been attacking us under the guise of the Karuna faction. The LTTE will not consider the killing of 'Col.' Ramanan as just another incident. We are on the brink of our patience," Jeyam said.
SLMM at sea over naval monitoring
By Jamila Najmuddin
The resumption of naval monitoring by the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) is likely to be delayed for some time, SLMM Chief Ulf Henricsson said last week.
The SLMM is yet to receive any official reaction from the government or the LTTE to the set of new recommendations they forwarded after naval boats with monitors were attacked by the Tigers early this month.
Henricsson told The Sunday Leader that a letter listing the new set of recommendations had been sent to both the LTTE and the government two weeks ago and the SLMM would continue to await the response of the parties.
"The government and the LTTE are aware that they have to respond soon. Therefore we will continue to wait," Henricsson said. However, while a response is expected soon, both the government and the LTTE are yet to discuss the set of recommendations before an answer is conveyed.
"The LTTE will not comment on the matter as we have not yet discussed the issue. However, discussions will be held soon and an answer will be conveyed," LTTE Spokesperson Daya Master said.
The government too maintained that discussions on the matter would be held soon, after which they would respond to the SLMM's proposals. "A team has been appointed to study the proposals," Deputy Director General, Government Peace Secretariat, Kethesh Loganathan said.
Banning of Da Vinci Code creates a stir
By Kumudu Amarasingham
The Free Media Movement on Friday lashed out at the government for banning the recently released movie, The Da Vinci Code, in Sri Lanka, claiming it was a violation of fundamental rights.
President Mahinda Rajapakse ordered the ban on the film last Wednesday following a request by Catholic Bishops.
"It is strange that they should ban the movie without even looking at it first," Head of the Free Media Movement (FMM) Sunanda Deshapriya, said on Friday.
The President does not have the power to ban a movie. That is up to the Public Performance Board, Deshapriya said. He said if a group could simply have something banned by appealing to a powerful politician anyone could get anything banned on any ground.
"If the Catholic Bishops didn't want Catholics to watch it they should merely have told their followers not to, instead of having it banned in the country," Deshapriya said. He said the Catholic Bishops were contradicting themselves, on the one hand calling for the preservation of human and fundamental rights, and on the other working against them.
Deshapriya also pointed out that both in the Philippines, which is 99% Catholic, and India the movie had not been banned.
"People should be allowed to watch or read anything and make up their own minds. It's like we're moving back to the dark ages," Deshapriya said.
Met. Dept. warns of freak weather
By Nirmala Kannangara
The Meteorological Department forecasts a rise in sea water level due to thunderstorms and requests the people living along the coastal belt not to panic if the water level rises.
According to the Met Dept. whenever the wind is strong the seawater would come inland and the people should not consider this as yet another tsunami. "After the tsunami people panic for the smallest rise in sea level" Met Department, sources said.
Meanwhile the Met Dept. further forecasts thunderstorms accompanied by heavy rain in most parts of the Central, Sabaragamuwa and Western Provinces and also in some part of the southern province till first half of June.
Director, Meteorological Department K.R. Abeysinghe told The Sunday Leader yesterday that 'tornedoes' (thunder storms) could be expected at any time accompanying heavy showers and the tornedoes could blow at a speed of 20- 30 km per hour or even 50 km per hour.
" These storms could uproot big trees and could damage roofs as due to the heavy blowing roofs could be
blown off but this will last only 10-15 minutes," claimed Abeysinghe.
Abeysinghe further stated that lightning and thunder too could be expected and warned the public to be vigilant.
Data collection in NE hampered - NCPA
By Dilrukshi Fernando
data collection work in the north-east done by the National Child Protection Authority (NCPA) has been hampered since one of its officers is still in LTTE custody.
"This is an obstacle because we cannot enter these areas and work independently. Continued outbreaks of violence are also hindering our work," Chairperson, NCPA, Padma Wettewe told The Sunday Leader.
The NCPA started collecting data from border villages last week on children affected by the ethnic conflict, assisted by district officers, police and government agents of the relevant areas.
"There is a special act for children affected by the tsunami and also for the NCPA but there is no specific act with regard to children who are affected or displaced by the ethnic conflict," Wettewe said.
She added that after the data is collected, officials will be travelling to the affected areas in order to speak with the people and inquire about their needs. "We need to see what they are going through to know what we are dealing with. It is only after this that the (NCPA) can implement structured programmes to help the children
affected by the war, especially the orphaned and the displaced."
With the capture of the NCPA officer by the LTTE, the authority has faced several problems with access to restricted areas, which may compromise the data that will be presented at the end of the collection process.
The incident, which occurred last year, involved the capture of three NCPA officers by the LTTE when the officers had been pursuing a suspected foreign paedophile, when they accidentally entered an LTTE controlled area.
Blake new US Ambassador
The United states has appointed Robert Blake as the new Ambassador to Sri Lanka.
A senior diplomat, Blake was the Administrative Assistant to the Assistant Secretary of Political affairs in the state department and has served as Commercial Secretary at the US Missions in Egypt and Nigeria.
Govt. and LTTE have obligations beyond CFA - UNHCR
By Kumudu Amarasingham
High Commissioner for the UNHCR, Louise Arbour has expressed deep concern over the killings in Sri Lanka last week.
These constituted not only serious breaches of international humanitarian law but also violations of the ceasefire agreement reached between the government and the LTTE in 2002, she said.
In a statement last week, Arbour asked all parties to resume dialogue and take immediate steps to defuse the situation.
The Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), she stressed, have obligations beyond the ceasefire agreement to respect basic human rights and humanitarian norms regardless of the status of the ceasefire agreement and whether the country is at peace or war.
Paramount among these is respect for the right to life, said the High Commissioner, noting the concerns raised by a UN independent expert on extra judicial, summary and arbitrary killings. The UN expert reported that civilians and members of the security forces taking no active part in hostilities are being targeted.
"I recommend that the government of Sri Lanka seek international police and forensic support for investigations on killings to ensure justice and accountability," Arbour said.
The High Commissioner urged the parties to take immediate steps to de-escalate the violence, resume dialogue and strengthen the monitoring and protection of human rights.
She also expressed concern over recent threats and obstruction to the work of the Sri Lanka monitoring mission, which consists of Nordic countries and set up by the cease-fire agreement brokered by Norway in 2002.
No fertiliser scarcity for Yala assures govt.
By Chinthaka Fernando
The government has allocated Rs.10 billion for the fertiliser subsidy programme for 2006.
Officials assured that there wouldn't be a fertiliser scarcity in the country as reported by the media recently.
Agriculture Ministry Secretary, Tissa Warnasuriya said the government had imported fertiliser exceeding the estimated requirement.
According to him, the country's urea requirement for the Yala season is 106,000 metric tonnes and the government had already imported 165,000 metric tonnes of urea, which is much more than the estimated requirement.
"Sometimes the actual requirement could be slightly higher than the estimation. But now we have an excess of urea even if the requirement increased," he said.
Warnasuriya further said the fertiliser would be provided at the subsidised price to paddy farmers who cultivate up to five acres of land.
"We will have to take special decisions in cases where the land is more than five acres. But such cases are very rare because 99% of the Sri Lankan farmers have lands less than five acres," he said.
According to Warnasuriya, fertiliser was imported and distributed throughout the country through the two companies - Sri Lanka Lak Pohora and Colombo Commercial (Pvt) Ltd.