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Editorial

June 10, 2007  Volume 13, Issue 51


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President Mahinda Rajapakse left for Geneva on Wednesday to address the International Labour Organisation sessions. Photo shows the President arriving in Geneva clad in suit, a sharp contrast to his trademark national dress and satakaya -- Photo by Sudath Silva

• President given tough message by UN

UN offers to send HR monitors to SL

By Amantha Perera

The UN has once again offered its services to monitor human rights violations in Sri Lanka during a meeting between President.....

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SL in major arms deal with China

  > CJ accuses Police of making money from lodgers

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UNP plans for People Power campaign in July

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JVP decides to take on the govt.

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LTTE plan to destroy port unearthed claims CID

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International pressure mounts for UN 
resolution on Sri Lanka

President given tough message by UN

UN offers to send HR monitors to SL

By Amantha Perera

The UN has once again offered its services to monitor human rights violations in Sri Lanka during a meeting between President Mahinda Rajapakse and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour in Geneva on June 15.

"Arbour relayed the international community’s concerns about the situation in the South Asian country and explained how her Office could assist in promoting national human rights protection in the South Asian country," the office of UN Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon said.

The UN’s latest offer comes just a day after Amnesty International (AI) called for UN human rights monitors to be deployed in Sri Lanka during a similar meeting.

"AI urges President Rajapakse to open an immediate dialogue with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to set up an international field operation. The government’s efforts to date have been woefully inadequate," AI head Irene Khan said soon after her meeting.

Arbour also raised similar concerns during the meeting that she described as "very productive." It is the first such meeting between Rajapakse and UN human rights officials since the latter made calls for international monitors.

"The High Commissioner also underscored the importance of accurate and independent reporting of the human rights situation on the ground," the UN said adding that recent fighting had affected three million people, forcing 500,000 out of their homes and killing 4,000.

The government has resisted calls for international human rights monitors since calls intensified with the rising wave of abductions, extra judicial murders and killings of aid workers. It has said that the Special Presidential Commission investigating selected cases of rights violations and the group of eminent international persons assisting it were adequate to investigate allegations. During his address to the International Labour Organisation on the same day as the Arbour meeting, President Rajapakse indicated that the government had not deviated from its policy.

"A Presidential Commission of Inquiry has been set up to investigate into some of the killings that had happened in the past. Its work is being observed by an International Independent Group of Eminent Persons. All the observers came on our invitation as we want to establish the truth," he said during his speech.

He in fact said that international watchdogs were making unreasonable demands.

"Very few governments would have done what we did and none has done it so far. We are open to scrutiny because we respect human rights, democracy and the freedom of the people. Unfortunately, it is our flexibility and sincerity that seems to encourage the global non governmental community to demand further involvement."

The very day the President made his address, the Chairman of the IIGEP, Justice N. Baghwati issued a statement in Colombo raising serious issues with regard to the independence and impartiality of the Commission of Inquiry.


SL in major arms deal with China

Unmindful of India’s opposition to Sri Lanka turning to Pakistan and China for military hardware to bolster its offensive against the Tamil Tigers, Colombo has recently inked several significant defence agreements with Beijing.

Citing exclusive access to an internal Sri Lankan cabinet document, Britain’s renowned Jane’s Defence Weekly reported that Sri Lanka had signed a classified $37.6 million deal with China’s Poly Technologies in April to supply its defence forces with ammunition and ordnance for the army and navy in addition to varied small arms.

Gotabaya Rajapakse, the Sri Lankan defence secretary and a brother of President Mahinda Rajapakse, told Indian authorities May 30 that ‘security compulsions’ were driving Colombo to seek military equipment from China, Pakistan and other suppliers.

He is also believed to have informed India’s security establishment that Colombo ‘understood’ New Delhi’s internal political compulsions, foreclosing enhanced military co-operation between the neighbours.

The Sri Lankan official was reportedly making a direct reference to Tamil Nadu, which is separated from Sri Lanka by a strip of sea and where there is considerable support for the Tamil guerrillas. Senior security officials concede that a bilateral defence agreement between Colombo and New Delhi drawn up over two years ago remains ‘hostage’ to India’s Tamil concerns. This, in turn, forces Colombo to seek alternate weapon suppliers.

Janes’ current edition says that Colombo has declined to renew its long standing agreement with China’s North Industries Corporation (Norinco) for defence equipment, opting instead for Poly Technologies, founded as a rival in 1984 by Beijing’s military establishment. While outwardly a subsidiary of the China International Trust and Investment Corp, military analysts said that in reality the Beijing-based Poly Technologies was a ‘front company’ for China’s military-industrial complex.

It reports to the armament department of the People’s Liberation Army General Staff Department and is authorised to sell conventional military equipment including short and medium-range ballistic missiles.

While the reasons for the Sri Lankan government switching to Poly Technologies appear unclear, it seems the change was prompted by the debt of $200 million it owed Norinco, which has maintained a bonded warehouse in the southern port city of Galle since 1993.

Colombo’s long-standing agreement with Norinco was exclusive, prohibiting it from sourcing specific military items from any another Chinese supplier.

The contract with Poly Technologies, however, contravenes this clause, seemingly invalidating the earlier agreement providing the Sri Lankan military an alternate materiel supplier, Jane’s states.

The agreement with Poly Technologies, however, ‘aims to avoid the development of any debt through a system of staggered payments,’ Jane’s says, necessitating an advance 25 percent payment and the balance payable in 10 quarterly installments.

The largest single order with Poly Technologies is for 120 mm mortar shells for the army, of which 70,000 rounds are priced at $10.4 million.

Additional imports include 68,000 rounds of varied 152 mm artillery shell worth nearly $20 million besides 50,000 81 mm high-explosive mortar bombs for $3.7 million, all of which the army needs to reinforce its ‘pro-active’ military strategy against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

The Sri Lankan navy’s requirement valued at $ 2.7 million includes a varied range of ammunition like 100,000 14.5 mm cartridges, 2,000 RPG-7 rockets and 500 81 mm airburst mortar shells.

There are also 50 Type 82 14.5 mm twin-barrel naval guns, 200 Type 85 12.7 mm heavy machine guns, 200 Type 80 7.62 mm multipurpose machine guns, 1,000 Type 56-2 7.62 mm submachine guns and 1,000 Type 56 7.62 mm submachine guns, Jane’s reports.

China, meanwhile, is also helping Sri Lanka augment its air defence capability following four recent strikes by the fledgling Tamil Tiger air force that has resulted in international airlines declining to operate night flights to Colombo.

Jane’s declared that the China National Electronics Import Export Corp is to provide Sri Lanka a JY 11 3D radar for $5 million over the next few weeks once the site for its location near Colombo is ready.

It was Gotabhaya Rajapakse, the defence secretary who concluded the contract for the radar for the Lanka Logistics and Technologies Co Ltd that he heads.

Colombo had initially ordered the JY 11 radar two years ago, making payments in advance but was forced to call off the deal following Indian protests that the system would ‘over arch’ into its air space.

Thereafter, India supplied Sri Lanka two Indra IN-PC-2D radars free of charge and is believed to have agreed to Colombo’s request for at least one more following the spate of LTTE air raids.

The Indra radars have become a source of tension with India, with some Sri Lankan officials claiming they failed to detect the ingress by a Tamil Tiger propeller aircraft to an air force base outside Colombo in March. Three airmen were killed and 16 wounded in the attack. Sri Lanka is also negotiating with the Chinese conglomerate for three additional mobile radars for use across the country as the second Tiger air strike was conducted against the government’s Palaly military base in Jaffna peninsula.

In an associated development, Sri Lanka is also planning on acquiring an unspecified number of MiG 29 fighters to boost its air power. The director of Aeronautical Engineering, Air Vice Marshal Prashantha de Silva, is scheduled to visit Moscow to discuss the acquisition, states Jane’s.

Indian defence sources said New Delhi, which also operates at least three MiG 29 squadrons, could play an ‘important’ role in Sri Lanka’s proposed purchase of similar fighters by agreeing to provide training, spares, servicing and other logistic back-up. Sri Lankan officials are also planning visiting Ulan Ude in Russia to negotiate the purchase of four helicopter gunships and to Ukraine for talks on overhauling and possibly upgrading An 32 transport aircraft.

— IANS


CJ accuses Police of making money from lodgers

Chief Justice Sarath N. Silva last week charged that the police was making money when registering Tamils living in lodges adding that was why the Supreme Court had to intervene to prevent them from being evicted from lodges.

Addressing a ceremony to mark a book launch by senior Attorney Kandiah Neelakandan, the Chief Justice observed that there are number of lodges in Colombo and that the people living in these lodges were registered everyday. However, he noted the police was creating difficulties and making money.

"In Colombo city, the majority of people living are Tamils. There is no pressure of ethnic cleansing. There are a number of lodges in Colombo. People living in the lodges are registered daily. The police try to make difficulty and make money, that is why the Supreme Court has intervened in the matter," he said.

The Chief Justice also said there was no point in talking of constitutional reforms since what needed to be done was to bring all communities together.

"There is no point in talking of constitutional reforms, you have been talking of various theories of constitution. What we must do is to bring all communities together," he said.

Silva observed that commerce was the best way to bind together people of different races and religion and called on the business community to bring all the communities under the umbrella of commercial activities.

"By developing commercial law, we can achieve that purpose," he said. Commenting on Neelakandan’s book on the new Companies Act, which came into effect May this year, Silva said it would explain to people in a simplified manner, the concepts of the new law.

The new act, Silva said is meant to create a new legal atmosphere for the companies to be managed properly.

"The company directors and others should know what the new law is. In that sense, this first book on this new law written by Mr. Neelakandan is useful for all those who are involved in running businesses," he said.


UNP plans for People Power campaign in July

The UNP is to launch a massive People Power campaign against the government end July with a public rally in Colombo.

Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe last week announced the UNP will take the battle to the government from Parliament to the streets shortly.

A series of protest rallies by the UNP in the provinces are already underway as a build up to the Colombo rally. A protest rally was also held yesterday in Pelmedulla in the Ratnapura district spearheaded by the party’s national organiser S.B. Dissanayake.

UNP General Secretatry confirmed a massive protest rally will be held in Colombo in July to protest the " Dooshanaya, Bheeshanaya and the Rajapakse Poshanaya" of the Government.

The UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe has told the party membership to prepare for a relentless street campaign after the July rally.Wickremesinghe is to launch a major attack on the Rajapakse brothers on June 22 at a public rally.


JVP decides to take on the govt.

The JVP last week decided to launch a series of massive protest campaign against the government in the coming weeks over its failures on the economic and military fronts including the failure to combat corruption.

The party’s politburo that met Friday also decided to vote against the supplementary estimates for several ministries the government is planning to present in Parliament on Tuesday.

According to JVP sources, the party plans to hold a series of protests against the government commencing this week. A press conference is to be held today by party leaders to inform of the party’s latest decisions.

It is learned there will be some dramatic moves in Parliament this week.


LTTE plan to destroy port unearthed claims CID

The CID has claimed in a report it unearthed an elaborate plan by the LTTE to attack Colombo and destroy the port.

The plan was according to the CID discovered in a shop at Vavuniya and is 80 per cent complete.

The CID report reveals the LTTE plan was hatched by its Leader Velupillai Pirapaharan with special groups given specific tasks to perform.

According to the CID report the area between Galle Face and the Colombo Port has been identified as an area under threat of an attack.

It has been said that the aim of the attack is to create an impact on the economy and thereby destroy the balance in the security forces.

The attack was planned to be implemented on a day in mid 2007 the CID report also states. It further names two TNA MPs who have agreed to assist the operation by providing safe houses to the Tiger attack team.

The CID also states the LTTE is to deploy five separate teams to launch the attack and destroy the Port of Colombo.


International pressure mounts for UN resolution on Sri Lanka

By Amantha Perera

International human rights watchdogs last week warned that the country was fast heading for lawlessness unless the government steps in to halt the rising violations, while renewing calls for the induction of international human rights monitors.

"If the government does not begin to reassert the rule of law, it may find itself unable to bring under control the violent forces that have been unleashed — including the TMVP, other Tamil paramilitaries and criminal elements. The nature of the campaign against the LTTE has spawned a rise in general lawlessness," the Geneva based International Crisis Group said in a report last week.

President Mahinda Rajapakse too was in Geneva to address the sessions of the International Labour Organisation and meet top human rights activists.

The report titled Sri Lanka’s Human Rights Crisis urged the international community to be more assertive and push for action from the government.

"The international community can no longer afford simply to repeat formulaic criticisms of the government’s human rights violations and express hope that political proposals will be forthcoming. More urgent action is needed, including support for a resolution in the UN Human Rights Council, an across the board reassessment of aid policies and support for more international involvement in monitoring abuses. Until that action is forthcoming, the victims of violence perpetrated by the state, the LTTE, and other armed groups have nowhere to turn," the ICG said.

The 44-page report dealt with the human rights violations, abductions, extra judicial killings and other violence.

The report said that the Special Presidential Commission investigating the selected cases of rights abuses was inadequate to face the challenges.

"Many human rights advocates say they would prefer to see the CoI die a quick death, so the government could no longer use it to block stronger measures, such as an international human rights monitoring mission," it said.

The report however said that the commission should try to record as many statements as it could and widen investigations, adding that in any case, the CoI is no substitute for proper action by the law enforcement agencies and judiciary to investigate and prosecute abuses. The national Human Rights Commission is deeply flawed and has lost all credibility after being stocked by political appointees, it was also said.


Traders can’t keep to prices set by govt.

By Shezna Shums

The Essential Food Commodities Importers and Traders Association has stated that it cannot abide by the maximum retail prices issued by the government.

The association observed that uncontrollable factors including transportation costs would affect the retailers who buy the 10 items listed as essential by the government last week.

However, the association hailed the government’s move to bring down the VAT percentage of these essential items.

Media Secretary, Essential Food Commodities Importers and Traders Association, Hemaka Fernando told The Sunday Leader that their main concern would be with regard to big onions and potatoes.

"These two essential items would be in short supply very soon owing to rising international costs," he said.

These two essential items are imported mainly from Pakistan and India where prices are soaring. The association believes that this would pose a big problem for Sri Lanka very soon.

Currently big onions are listed at Rs 48 and in the Pettah market they are sold at Rs 52. The listed price for potatoes is Rs 55 and in Pettah they are sold wholesale at over Rs 55.

The association on June 8 had written to the President requesting a meeting to discuss this issue.

"We will be asking for some government intervention to seek redress for these two listed items that are going to be a problem very soon," Fernando said.

Fernando explained that the association is confident that they will be able to arrive at some agreement with regard to the cost factors in order to keep within the guidelines of providing the essential items at reasonable rates for the public, especially with regard to big onions and potatoes.


JVP says govt. supporting corruption

By Nirmala Kannangara

The JVP last week accused the Rajapakse administration of encouraging corruption within the government.

The JVP accused Highways and Road Development Minister Jeyaraj Fernandopulle of supporting corruption within the government by denying punishment against those whose names have been revealed in the COPE report. JVP Parliamentarian Piyasiri Wijenayake told The Sunday Leader that Fernandopulle’s recent remarks on safeguarding those who have been exposed in the COPE report has irritated the entire law abiding population in the country.

"Who is Fernandopulle to deny action against the corrupt government officers and politicians who have robbed government money amounting to Rs.150 billion? This clearly shows the government’s attitude on corruption," claimed Wijenayake.

According to Wijenayake, it is clear that the government’s main aim is to protect political stooges and the big wigs who have crossed over to the government to receive a state pardon.

He further reiterated that the country’s future would be bleak unless stern action is taken against these law-breakers immediately.

"The government’s annual income is Rs. 400 billion and corruption has exceed Rs.150 billion which is a little less than half the annual income. With all this why is Fernandopulle trying to safeguard the culprits?" Wijenayake further stated.

"Will Fernandopulle keep silent if any of the government officers rob his personal assets? Like wise the people in this country will not tolerate further when political stooges are robbing their money. When Fernandopulle was heading COPE he could not reveal the government corruption but when the present COPE under the chairmanship of their own MP Wijedasa Rajapakse uncovered the facts and figures he is now coming out denying probes against them. This clearly shows what the government’s stance is," added Wijenayake.


Railway unions to protest land lease by cabinet

By Nirmala Kannangara

Railway employees are to hold a protest campaign against the cabinet decision to lease out prime railway lands along the coastal belt.

The JVP affiliated All Ceylon Railway Workers General Union (ACRWGU) said the Transport Ministry has decided to lease out prime railway lands from Maradana to Panadura on a 50-year lease and the railway employees are to agitate against the decision on July 4 followed by trade union action if the plan is not dropped.

ACRWGU is of the view that the government’s arrangement is to sell the railway lands to prospective foreign and local investors after a few years, which would be the initial step in a railway privatisation programme.

Although Transport Minister Dulles Alahapperuma plans to improve the Sri Lanka Railway (SLR) from the lease money, Secretary ACRWGU, Sumathipala Manawadu told The Sunday Leader that the railway could improve through proper management if the government could put a halt to the corruption at the SLR.

"The government is to uplift the SLR through leasing railway lands to private parties. At a time when the SLR has failed to maintain lease agreements of shanty dwellers how can it do so with investors," Manawadu questioned.

Meanwhile, Manawadu said that since Minister Alahapperuma has so far failed to address the railway salary issue the trade unions have decided to take it up at the proposed protest on July 4.


Police to act against vehicles parked on pavements

By Risidra Mendis

Pedestrians have been advised to complain to the police regarding problems due to parking of vehicles on side roads.

Due to the parking of school vans and trishaws on pavements along bylanes pedestrians are forced to walk on the roads.

Speaking to The Sunday Leader SSP Traffic, Y.G.M.R. Laffir said vehicle owners have no right to park their vehicles on pavements. "The pavements are for the pedestrians. If vehicles are parked on the pavements pedestrians can complain to the traffic division," he explained.

The SSP added that the public has to write a letter of complaint with details of the name of the road to the traffic division. "Police officers from the traffic division will look into the matter and take necessary action against the traffic law violators.

A senior official from the Colombo Municipal Council (CMC) said they had erected poles on some pavements in the city to prevent vehicles being parked. "We cannot afford to erect these poles on all payments. It is the traffic police who have to take action against these people," the official said.


Controversy surrounds UAV deal

Controversy surrounds government moves to purchase an Israeli built Blue Horizon II UAV system at a cost of over US$ five million by the Sri Lanka Air Force based on an unsolicited offer.

The controversy stems from allegations that the system is untested and had been decided upon without calling for other offers.

An inspection tour to verify its suitability ended in tragedy when a member of the Sri Lanka Defence delegation conducting a performance test died in Israel last week.

Dr. Munindradasa a technical and UAV expert died last Tuesday (12) in a Tel Aviv hospital, following an attack of pneumonia.

The four member delegation including Professor Munidradasa were staying at the Marina Hotel in Tel Aviv when he was found ailing by other members of the delegation.

The Professor was taken in an ambulance following an examination by a doctor to the Icholov Hospital near the city centre.

Dr. Munindradasa was attached as a senior lecturer to the Department of Electronic and Telecommunications Engineering of The Moratuwa University,

He was in Israel to conduct a performance test on the Blue Horizon together with recently promoted Air Commodore PB Ratnayake, Squadron Leader KGDN Jayasinghe and the local agent for the Blue Horizon UAV system Arjuna Gunawardena.

Earlier EMIT Aviation Consult Ltd Israel carried out a presentation of the Blue Horizon II UAV system in October 2005.

The Commander of the Air Force had appointed a six member team to evaluate their system and based on the recommendations of the evaluation team, a delegation of four officers were sent to carry out an in depth evaluation including on site evaluation.

A team comprising Group Captain PB Ratnayake, Wing Commander M.D.J Wasage, Squadron Leader K.G.D.N Jayasinghe and Flt Lt WMA Warnasooriya were in Israel from March 4 - 15, 2006 to physically inspect and evaluate the BHII system.

However the team had been unable to carry out endurance altitude and range testing due to aerodrome restrictions reportedly imposed by the Israel authorities. Defence experts say these are vital parameters and some sources allege EMIT Aviation has little experience in the field.

However the TEC had recommended the purchase of the Blue Horizon system subject to a performance test of the vital parameters in Israel prior to release of the first 50% of the payment. It was to this end the team including Dr. Munindradasa had left to Israel on June 7 but due to his untimely death the vital performance test was not carried out.

Meanwhile experts question why despite awaiting the test results, a tender has already been called on June 1, 2007 to purchase a colour day observation payload for Blue horizon II UAV system. Experts asked why the Air Force had already made moves to purchase the system despite the TEC recommendations which called for a second performance test of the vital parameters such as endurance range and altitude.


UN to declare International Non-Violence day

By Dilrukshi Handunnetti

The United Nations General Assembly is to declare October 2 - the birth anniversary of India’s freedom fighter and the promoter of non violent protests, Mahatma Gandhi as the ‘International Day of Non-Violence’.

The day is to be so declared in recognition of Mahatma’s role in promoting the message of peace around the world.

A resolution reaffirming the universal relevance of non-violence initiated by India and co-sponsored by more than 120 of the 191 members of the assembly was to be adopted last week unanimously.

The day will be observed for the first time on October 2 this year following which it is to become an annual event.

Indian Minister of State for External Affairs Anand Sharma participated in the formal adoption of the resolution on Friday 15.

Many countries including Russia, China, United Kingdom, France and Germany, are among the co-sponsors. From the subcontinent, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Bhutan also sponsored the resolution.

The resolution stresses non-violence, tolerance, respect for human rights and fundamental freedom for all, democracy, development, mutual understanding and respect for diversity.


Govt. intimidating media — UNP

By Kumuthu Amarasingham

The UNP yesterday warned the recent assault on Maubima Journalist Munusamy Parameshwari was an attempt to threaten and intimidate the media into further silence.

"Given that the incident happened in broad daylight in the heart of the city where security personnel abound – in addition to which Parameshwari had said one of the persons who abducted her the first time was also involved in the incident, the government must be held responsible," UNP MP and Media Spokesman Gayantha Karunathilleke said.

He said this was particularly evident since Parameshwari had already been imprisoned by the government and released after being proven innocent.

Parameshwari was accosted in Borella last week and her passport and NIC were taken away.

"This is one of a string of incidents, including the assault on a Lakbima photographer, killing of two Red Cross workers and a series of other human rights abuses aimed at silencing opposition," Karunathilleke said.


Clergy condemn HR situation

The Congress of Religions on Friday strongly condemned the current human rights situation in the country, citing in particular the recent move to evict Tamil lodgers and the killing of two Red Cross workers.

The organisation, which comprises religious leaders including ranking members of the Buddhist, Hindu, Christian and Muslim clergy, came out strongly against the violation of fundamental and human rights that have been taking place for over a year, at a press conference last Friday.

 

 


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