With the impending cross overs from the JVP to government ranks not far off, this News 1st hoarding which came up in both English and Sinhala all over the city had the public in fits of laughter but not everyone was laughing and within a day the hoardings were vandalised. And in no time the JVP came back with a personalised poster attack on the management of Sirasa in
true 1980s terror era style. As the saying goes, we report, you decide
• Commitment to start talks
Co-Chairs want guarantees from government, LTTE
The Co-Chairs will ask both the government and the LTTE for guarantees they are serious in wanting the peace talks to resume, top diplomatic sources ......
Findings on stent usage causes alarm
> Sacked UDA chairman appointed to Finance Ministry
> ICRC suspends supplies to Jaffna by sea
> Govt. goes silent on aid workers’ massacre
> North-East tsunami reconstruction halted
• Commitment to start talks
Co-Chairs want guarantees from government, LTTE
The Co-Chairs will ask both the government and the LTTE for guarantees they are serious in wanting the peace talks to resume, top diplomatic sources said yesterday.
The decision to seek guarantees follow conflicting signals emanating from both the government and the LTTE after the Co-Chairs released their statement last week welcoming "the expression of willingness of the government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE to come to talks unconditionally as conveyed to the facilitator."
The government was quick to deny through Defence Spokesperson Keheliya Rambukwella that President Mahinda Rajapakse had agreed to unconditional talks.
Norway’s International Development Minister Erik Solheim on Tuesday informed the Co-Chairs he spoke with the President on Friday, September 8 and was informed the government was ready for unconditional talks.
The LTTE too agreed for talks with Political Wing Leader S.P.Tamilselvan making a statement through Reuters. Following this statement, Norway’s Ambassador in Colombo, Hans Brattskar spoke to LTTE Peace Secretariat Chief S.P. Puleedevan and confirmed their agreement to start talks with the government.
"We need assurances from both sides they are serious about this. Both sides will like it to be anchored at the very top.There has to be some kind of guarantee they are serious," one top diplomat said on the condition of anonymity.
The Head of the Government Peace Secretariat, Palitha Kohona speaking to The Sunday Leader from London said the government stands ready to start talks.
"We have said for many months we are ready for talks.We have always said we are willing to talk.Now we have to find a convenient date and a suitable venue and start talks as soon as possible," Kohona said.
Meanwhile Ambassador Brattskar was expected to travel to Kilinochchi yesterday for a meeting with Tamilselvan to ascertain the LTTE’s position in the wake of the Co-Chairs statement which called for talks early October provided there was agreement between the two parties.
Ambassador Brattskar met chief government negotiator Minister Nimal Siripala De Silva who while raising issues of LTTE’s seriousness to commence talks indicated the government’s willingness to do so.
It is learnt, Minister De Silva wanted assurances on LTTE’s commitment to start talks but did not ask for a written guartantee from Velupillai Pirapaharan as speculated.
Findings on stent usage causes alarm
By Ranee Mohamed
Stents used to repair blocked arteries in patients receiving angioplasty surgery have caused much heartache and anxiety among patients all over the world following new evidence that emerged at the World Congress of Cardiology held in Barcelona last week of possible side effects.
It was revealed at the conference that some stents resulted in death due to reasons not associated with the heart.
Naming the stent Cypher by its name, the controversy raged following comments that there were ‘non cardiac’ reasons for the deaths of patients who have used these stents.
The evidence unfolded at the World Congress of Cardiology directly concerns the Cyper stent used in Sri Lanka too at a cost of approximately Rs.350,000.
Evidence of death from non cardiac reasons as cancer, stroke and lung diseases in cardiac patients who have received implants of Cypher stents caused much heartache, as eminent cardiologists laid bare the latest findings of these drug-eluding stents.
The most striking data revealed by the cardiologists was the association between sirolimus (the drug used in Cypher stents) implantations and increased non cardiac mortality. Separate analyses identified these deaths as cancer, stroke and lung disease among others.
Meanwhile, several telephone calls made by The Sunday Leader to the local agents for Cypher Swissbiogenics and Lanka Medicals were not met with a positive response. Director Sales and Marketing Bernard Joseph was busy with meetings, we were told. Attempts to contact other representatives proved unsuccessful.
"The sales directors are away at review conferences," we were told on Thursday and Friday when an attempt was made to get their response to these revelations.
As doubts began to center around this expensive brand name Cypher, associated with drug eluding stents, reports published worldwide last week caused grave doubts about the usage of this ‘popularly used’ stent.
These facts were brought to light by Shelley Wood in Heartwire. Wood directly reported on the revelations made by eminent cardiologists attending the World Congress of Cardiology.
The evidence directly concerns thousands of patients in Sri Lanka too who have been implanted with these stents which are used as a mesh to hold together the walls of a blocked artery in angioplasty.
The stents used in Sri Lanka range from Rs.175,000 – Rs.200,000 and also the ‘more fashionable’ stents at a cost of approximately Rs.350,000
Drs. Edoardo Camenzind of the University Hospital of Geneva, Switzerland and Alain J. Nordmann of the University Hospital Basel, Switzerland on the evening of September 3 stunned the audience of the World Congress of Cardiology with evidence of increased deaths in patients randomised to drug eluding stents (DES) within the trial programmes that secured approval for the devices in the first place.
"It has become a fashion to use stents these days. Even patients with treatable blockage of 30% to 40% are subject to surgery. Getting a stent into the cardiac system seems to have become part of a ‘fashion sickness’ said a member of medical profession who did not wish to be identified.
He pointed out that the hidden realities of this cardiac surgery is that some invasive cardiologists chose to use a particular brand of stents, and are at most times coaxed into usage by the local suppliers here. The grim reality also allegedly involved a substantial payment for the doctor who uses these expensive stents that like washing machines promise additional benefits.
• Submitted false educational qualifications
Sacked UDA chairman appointed to Finance Ministry
By Kumutu Amarasingham
The former chairman of the Urban Development Authority (UDA), who was sacked by Minister Dinesh Gunawardena for submitting false educational qualifications, has been reappointed deputy director- planning, at the Ministry of Finance recently by the government.
D.S. Jayaweera was found unsuitable to hold the post of chairman, UDA, by the Parliamentary Committee on High Posts, following investigations into charges he had misled the committee by providing false information regarding his educational qualifications.
Jayaweera was appointed chairman of the UDA on December 7, 2005.
Following the appointment, the Committee on High Posts of Parliament chaired by Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake examined a compliant received against Jayaweera for providing false information regarding his educational qualifications claiming a Ph.D.
Jayaweera, who first denied the charges, subsequently accepted that he forwarded false information and tendered an apology to the committee on July 4 this year. He was then asked to tender a written apology.
At its meeting held on August 22 the Committee on High Posts dealt with Jayaweera’s issue stating, "The committee deliberated and resolved that the written apology tendered by Mr. D.S. Jayaweera was not acceptable. Further, the committee was of the view that Mr.D.S. Jayaweera was not suitable to hold a high post. Therefore the committee unanimously resolved to inform the Hon. Minister of Urban
Development and Water Supply in writing that Mr. Jayaweera misled the Parliamentary Committee on High Posts by providing false information regarding his educational qualifications and hence he was found not suitable to hold a high post."
Urban Development Minister Dinesh Gunawardena, subsequently sacked Jayaweera from his post as chairman, UDA.
However, Jayaweera is currently the deputy director planning, Ministry of Finance.
When contacted by The Sunday Leader Jayaweera said he had completed his thesis and all the requirements for the Ph.D but had not received the certificate due to logistical problems. He further said that he had tendered an apology to the Parliamentary Committee on High Posts for providing false information.
• Due to security concerns
ICRC suspends supplies to Jaffna by sea
The ICRC last week suspended supply of essentials to Jaffna by ship following repeated threats by the LTTE, ICRC officials said.
"Till such time the government and the LTTE reach a common position, all sea operations have been stopped," ICRC Spokesperson Davide Vignati told The Sunday Leader.
The suspension comes after the LTTE last week issued its second letter to the ICRC stating that it could not guarantee the security of ships sailing to Jaffna. The ICRC has been negotiating with both the government and the LTTE to ferry supplies to the besieged north.
While the Tigers had said they would guarantee the safety to convoys on the A9, according to Vignati, the government has shown a reluctance to move all supplies along the A9. The ICRC took the decision to suspend the sea operations due to safety concerns of relief workers.
"We cannot let the civilians starve to death. Aid is thinning out and help needs to reach the peninsula soon. We cannot let the conflicting views of both the parties affect the civilians," Vignati added.
ICRC suspension comes following a similar move by the SLMM in May. The truce monitors suspended naval monitoring after navy crafts with monitors on board came under Tiger attack on May 11, off Mullaitivu. The attack followed three written warnings to the SLMM not to board navy crafts.
Two supply ships with ICRC on board have reached Jaffna since violence erupted last month and last week an aircraft with supplies from UN agencies too reached the peninsula.
Meanwhile the SLMM had raised concerns over the closure of the A9 during a meeting New Head Larse Solenberg held with Tamilselvan in Kilinochchi on September 15.
Govt. goes silent on aid workers’ massacre
By Jamila Najmuddin
The government is yet to officially convey its concerns over the SLMM’s ruling on the Muttur aid workers killings in writing to the monitors three weeks after the SLMM released their report pointing the finger of accusation at the security forces.
Defence Spokesperson, Minister Keheliya Rambukwella told The Sunday Leader that the issue was now being handled by the Peace Secretariat.
"The Peace Secretariat will take necessary action as the report was a bad blow on the government’s image. Such false reports will not be tolerated," Minister Rambukwella said.
Soon after the report was released he said that the government would do everything possible to prove to the international community that the report was a hoax.
Nevertheless the only official communication the SLMM has thus far received from the government on the report has been at meetings.
However soon after the SLMM released its findings, Rambukwella had said that the government would take immediate steps to rectify what he called an erroneous report including writing officially to the SLMM.
Rambukwella came down hard on the SLMM saying that the monitors were openly supporting the Tigers and were adding fuel to the fire at a time the country needed the monitors to remain neutral.
Minister Rambukwella had also said that discussions had been held with the Norwegians on the issue soon after the report was released and a letter had been handed over to the peace facilitators to be delivered to the monitors.
The Norwegians however said they were yet to receive any such letter from the government.
The SLMM had also reacted to the government’s criticism over the report saying that "any official letter" was welcome from the government, as their inquiries over the death of 17 NGO workers in Muttur had been ‘independent.’
"The report reveals that the government is to blame for the death of the 17 NGO workers in Muttur and if they have any problem with that, they know where to find us," SLMM Spokesperson, Thorfinnur Omarsson charged last week.
The SLMM also remained confident that the government would not react to the letter as the "truth would be revealed."
North-East tsunami reconstruction halted
Violence has brought tsunami reconstruction work to a complete halt in certain areas in the northeast, aid agencies said last week.
Aid workers also warned that work would only recommence once violence comes to a complete standstill and the security of workers is guaranteed.
"The reconstruction work in certain areas in the northeast has reached a halt due to the upsurge in violence.
"Due to the recent Sampur attack, reconstruction work in Trincomalee has come to a complete halt and we do not know when it will begin," Information Officer, International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC), Rukshan Ratnum said.
IFRC has pledged to build 15,000 houses destroyed by the 2004 December tsunami.
More than 60% of the tsunami needs assessment was based in northeast areas of Jaffna, Mullaitivu, Trincomalee, Batticaloa and Amparai according to the government and donor partners. The districts have been hit by violence since August.
Ratnum added that while it was currently difficult for workers to enter the conflict areas, their commitment to the beneficiaries remained high and the work would re-commence as soon as the fighting ceased.
However, government officials handling the reconstruction work told The Sunday Leader that the disrupted supply lines to the northeast had also affected work.
Due to the violence the north has been hit by a severe shortage of fuel and any heavy vehicle entering the east beyond Welikanda needs a special permit from the Defence Ministry.
Government officials added that aid workers had continuously complained of this procedure, as there had been a delay in obtaining permits from the Defence Ministry. Several pleas had been sent to the government urging it to scrap the permit system.
"Discussions with the aid agencies are continuing and their problems are being discussed. Due to the violence, reconstruction work has reached a complete halt and it cannot begin till such time both parties cease the violence," Director Housing, RADA, Ramesh Selliah said.
Selliah added that certain donor agencies had also informed the government over the past few weeks to transform their donor driven housing projects to owner driven projects due to the workers’ reluctance to enter the conflict areas. The donors had further informed the government to distribute their funds to the tsunami victims so that they could start construction work. (JN)
By Risidra Mendis
Private bus owners and Transport Minister A. H. M. Fowzie are at loggerheads over providing a diesel subsidy to the bus operators.
The bus operators have threatened to go on strike from midnight today (17) while Fowzie says that he will provide additional state sector buses to the public if they launched a strike.
Fowzie also told The Sunday Leader that if private bus owners go on strike, he would take measures to issue route permits to those on the waiting list to run their buses.
President, Private Bus Owners Association (PBOA), Gemunu Wijeratne said discussions with regard to a diesel subsidy or the reduction in diesel prices was not discussed at the meeting held with President Mahinda Rajapakse.
Pro peace demonstrators vs Anti peace activists
By Jamila Najmuddin
A relaxing coffee break for pro and anti peace activists turned into a scuffle when each set eyes upon the other at a popular coffee shop down Horton Place last week.
Five persons who had taken part in a pro peace demonstration at Lipton Circus on September 13 evening headed to the coffee shop only to find two hecklers already at the coffee shop.
The two persons had been verbally abusing the protestors during the demonstration a little while earlier. They had thereafter proceeded to click pictures of the peace activists. The scuffle broke out when the latter too pulled out a camera and tried to return the compliment.
The peace activists however had their camera snatched from them.
"We informed the management that a camera had been stolen, and asked them to call the police. But sadly, the management did not at the time and insisted that we leave immediately and take it outside," one of the peace activists later said.
The scuffle had continued outside with the two sides trading charges for almost 15 minutes. "Two of us followed one of the hecklers, still demanding for the return of the camera, but he managed to flee in a three-wheeler and sped away," one of the demonstrators explained.
The police finally arrived 30 minutes after the camera was stolen and both the pro and anti peace demonstrators proceeded towards Cinnamon Gardens Police to lodge an official complaint. Even at the police station the screaming match continued. The group is currently exploring legal options.
Businessmen alarmed by wave of abductions
The increasing number of abductions in Colombo has left city businessmen in a state of fear, the Sri Lanka Jewellers Association (SLJA) said.
A member of the association told The Sunday Leader that the businessmen who were being abducted were from the Pettah area.
"More than 50 businessmen have been abducted during the last two to three months. Some of them were released as soon as the ransom was paid," the member said.
He however said there were instances where the abducted person was not released even after the payment of the ransom.
"Two months ago, when a businessman was abducted, a ransom of six million rupees was paid as instructed by the abductors. But that was the last time they heard from them. The person has not been released as yet," he said.
He added that businessmen of Indian origin were also being abducted.
"They are not only abducting businessmen from Jaffna as many people think. A jewellery shop owner was abducted with his son and his employee while returning home last Tuesday night. They were of Indian origin," he said.
The SLJA member said the members of the association had met with President Mahinda Rajapakse and the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Chandra Fernando on this issue.
"They promised that they would ensure to take necessary steps to ensure the safety of the businessmen. But, after last week’s abduction, all the businessmen are living in fear," he added.
Leader of the Western Province Peoples’ Front (WPPF) Mano Ganesan told The Sunday Leader he, together with the businessmen in Colombo will be organising a protest against the abductions on Tuesday (19).
"We have to do something to bring this to a halt. All the businessmen will come to the streets and will show their dissatisfaction by closing down the shops on Tuesday," he said.
Govt. to disconnect electricity to two MCs
By Nirmala Kannangara
Government is to disconnect the electricity supply to the Colombo Municipal Council (CMC) and the Sri Jayewardenapura Kotte Municipal Council (SJKMC) for not co-operating with the government’s power saving campaign.
Despite numerous requests made by the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) to all local authorities in the country to cut down electricity consumption by 20%, the CMC and the SJKMC are yet to response positively.
Deputy Power and Energy Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage told The Sunday Leader that although his Ministry on several occasions requested these two local bodies to help the government in its endeavour they are yet to adhere to the government’s request.
"The Dehiwela UC area could be rated as the best in the country. Up to now they have contributed immensely to make this national issue a success," claimed Aluthgamage.
When asked whether the general public is responding positively to the CEB appeal Aluthgamage said that the response has been tremendous.
"Even the Ministry did not expect such a tremendous response at short notice. Up to now a 5-10% cut on power consumption has been recorded and hope this would increase in the days to come,"said Aluthgamage.
According to Aluthgamage the Power, and Energy Ministry has already made arrangements to import quality CFL bulbs to be distributed free of charge among those who save 10% electricity for three consecutive months from their monthly bill.