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They may have saved the government from falling at the budget by abstaining from voting and the people seem to be returning the favour to the JVP. When the party launched a public collection campaign last week, there was more abstaining than participation with the people battling for survival given the  rising cost of living. They were in no mood to contribute to a party that found the budget appealing.  

 

President delays appointing CC

 

Rajitha reveals secret deal
with Wimal 

 

'President's failure to intervene
has pushed up fuel prices'

 

Abductions and killings
continue in Batti

 

New programme for
Gr.I admissions next year

 

Heavy fighting in the 
northern frontline

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Handunnetti under unofficial house arrest

JVP splits in two

JVP Colombo District Parliamentarian Sunil Handunnetti is under unofficial house arrest, it is learned.

Handunnetti was put under unofficial house arrest soon after he informed of his decision to leave the country with his family to the JVP politburo.

Before informing the politburo, Handunnetti had made arrangements to leave the country with his family first to Singapore and then to a European destination.

However, given the developments which followed his announcement to leave the country, Handunnetti has decided to leave his wife and child in a safe location.

The Sunday Leader learns the JVP has split into two factions following the decision to abstain from voting on the third reading of the budget.

One faction is being headed by the party's Propaganda Secretary Wimal Weerawansa. It was earlier reported in The Sunday Leader and its sister paper Irudina that Weerawansa was being supported by six other JVP members and Handunnetti was identified as a Weerawansa loyalist.

Upon hearing Handunnetti's decision to leave the country, the JVP's politburo has held a special meeting and it was decided at this meeting to somehow prevent the member from going overseas.

According to sources from Handunnetti's family, the hardliners in the JVP had asked the MP not to leave the country under any circumstance and has also warned him of the possible repercussions he would have to face if he decided to leave the country casting aside the party order.

It is also learnt that Handunnetti attended parliamentary sittings this month along with several so-called hardliners of the party.

Handunnetti, a member of the Weerawansa faction has on several occasions called on the party to join the government by accepting ministerial portfolios and working to strengthen the President.

It is reliably learnt that Weerawansa has sought the help of the government to help him and the members of his faction by initiating some action against the JVP hardliners.

Weerwansa had also informed several members of the government that Handunnetti was included in the party delegation that met with Japanese special envoy Yasushi Akashi last week in order to cover up the issue from the media.

The JVP, which had received information that Handunnetti's plight would be highlighted in the media, has arranged for him to appear in the Jana Handa programme telecast on TNL TV tomorrow to cover up the controversy brewing within the party.

Informed sources said the party hardliners feared Handunnetti was going to be used from overseas by Weerawansa and his loyalists to implicate anti government members in the party on various issues which would lead to their arrest and the decision to prevent him from going overseas was to overcome such an eventuality.


President delays appointing CC

President Mahinda Rajapakse is delaying the appointment of the Constitutional Council despite a written request made by Speaker W. J. M. Lokubandara.

Lokubandara has informed Rajapakse that the minority parties comprising the JVP, TNA and the Ceylon Workers' Congress (CWC) have nominated former auditor general S. C. Mayadunne as a member of the Constitutional Council and that the composition was now complete.

President Rajapakse had earlier made appointments to the independent commissions bypassing the 17th Amendment to the Constitution claiming the Constitutional Council was not constituted due to internal party conflicts within Parliament.

The Speaker in a letter dated January 10 to Rajapakse has further stated that the JHU did not agree to the nomination of Mayadunne but that according to Clause 41 A(E) in the 17th Amendment if the majority of all minority parties were agreeable, it was not necessary to get the approval of the JHU.

The President however has not yet made the appointments as required by law.

JHU MP Ven. Athuraliye Ratana Thero in a letter to Lokubandara has said that their party was not informed of the nomination of Mayadunne as a member to the Constitutional Council. "It is the JHU, the TNA and the SLMC that are known as the minority parties. Even though the JVP is presently in the opposition they contested the elections under the UPFA," Ven. Ratana Thero said.

According to Ratana Thero the JHU has nominated President's Counsel Douglas Wickramaratne as a member of the Constitutional Council. "We have no objection to the appointing of Mayadunne as a member of the Constitutional Council.

However since the JHU was not informed of the appointing of Mayadunne we have nominated Wickramaratne," Ratana Thero said.  

CWC MP and General Secretary Arumugam Thondaman, JVP MP Wimal Weerawansa and TNA MP R. Sampanthan in letters to Lokubandara have stated that their parties endorse the name of Mayadunne as a member to the Constitutional Council. Sampanthan in his letter to Lokubandara has said that despite the advice of the Attorney General, Mayadunne is yet to be appointed as a member in Constitutional Council.

The members appointed to the Constitutional Council include  Speaker W.J.M. Lokubandara, Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickramanayake,  Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, Former Supreme Court Judge C. V. Wigneswaran, President's Counsel Ranjit Abeysuriya, Kumar Nadesan, Javid Yusuf and S. C. Mayadunne.   


JVP to go along with 13th Amendment

Rajitha reveals secret deal with Wimal

A government minister has informed President Mahinda Rajapakse that JVP Propaganda Secretary Wimal Weerawansa had informed him that the Marxists would agree to resolve the ethnic conflict on the basis of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution within a period of two weeks after its presentation by President Mahinda Rajapakse.

Building Construction Minister Rajitha Senaratne had informed the President that Weerawansa had privately told him that he would get the JVP to agree to the final proposals of the APRC provided it was based on the 13th Amendment within a period of two weeks.

Senaratne had told the President that although he had clashes with Weerawansa while in the UNP, since crossing over and assuming duties as a government minister, he has built a good rapport with the Marxists.

Senaratne had also said that he has been discussing issues related to the APRC with Weerawansa and that the latter has asked him not to worry too much about the APRC proposals and the JVP's stance on it.

According to Senaratne, Weerawansa had given the assurance that like the party's change of stance during the last stage of the budget vote, the JVP would adopt a similar stance with regard to the APRC proposals and that the party would finally agree to it.

It is also learnt that Senaratne had also informed senior presidential advisor Basil Rajapakse of the latest developments.


'President's failure to intervene has pushed up fuel prices'

By Nirmala Kannangara

President Mahinda Rajapakse's failure to intervene with the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation's (CPC) revenue losses has led to the fuel price hikes , Jathika Sevaka Sangamaya Petroleum Branch (JSSPB) sources told The Sunday Leader.

Mihin Lanka, SriLankan Airlines, Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB), Lanka Electricity Company, Sri Lanka Railways, Sri Lanka Transport Board, Police and the three armed forces'  and all the government ministries' failure to pay for the fuel purchased from the CPC has led the corporation into a financial crisis, Secretary, JSSPB Ananda Palitha said.

According to Ananda the government now owes more than Rs.33,000 million for fuel that has been purchased by these government institutions.

"The CEB alone, owes Rs. 21, 000 million out of the said Rs.33, 000 million. So in such a scenario how could the CPC survive without revising fuel prices?"  asked Ananda.     

"It was President Mahinda Rajapakse as the Finance Minister who ordered the CPC to release fuel to these government institutions on credit but his failure to instruct them to pay the money, has led the CPC to increase the fuel prices to cover up its losses," added Ananda.

"When UNP handed over the government in 2004 it owed the CPC Rs.6000 million but it had now shot up to Rs.33,000 which is unbearable to the corporation," added Ananda.

"Now the government claims that the world fuel price hike has led the CPC to increase fuel prices which is completely untrue. If the President could order the CPC to release fuel on credit he himself should intervene to get the money paid to avert any financial crisis at CPC.

"All the ministers and their ministry officials too get their fuel on credit, which too have not been settled so far. If all this money was paid back on time CPC could have easily sold fuel at a much lower price than the prevailing prices," added Ananda.

Meanwhile Ananda further stated that the President's failure to intervene with the CPC crisis is a clear indication of government's incapability of managing the country's economy and the Finance Minister's inefficiency.


Abductions and killings continue in Batti

Abductions, killings and harassments continue in the Batticaloa District on a daily basis and the security situation remains tense with the presence of non-state armed persons, Inter Agency Standing Committee (IASC) made up of the UN and other humanitarian agencies last week said.

The presence of armed persons other than the security forces has created a tense situation with the local government election scheduled to be conducted in the east shortly.

The military stated that no other armed persons or groups were allowed to be present in the east except the security personnel.

Military spokesperson Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara last week said that armed persons have been arrested by the security forces.

On January 17, a hartal was organised by a political group in Batticaloa against an incident said to have occurred at the Arayampathi Hindu temple last week.

The IASC report also quoted the WFP of a possible gap (90-95%) in complimentary food items by the end of this month due to the agencies pulling out from their role of providing complimentary food.


New programme for Gr.I admissions next year

By Warren Balthazaar

The government has initiated a new programme to conduct Grade 1 Admissions for the year 2009 as the process in 2008 has caused much controversy.

The Ministry of Education said that the new system would enable admittance of students faster and that all matters would be met by the new committee that was appointed by the MoE.

Minister of Education Susil Premjayanth told The Sunday Leader that the new policy would become effective before the next year.

The new criteria will be issued to Parliament as a Bill and thereafter initiatives will be taken to start the procedure.

The new programme will be different from the one followed for 2008 in that there will be no entrance exam for admission of students.

"The children seeking admission will be just five years old and there will be no need for an  entrance exam. They will be found schsools purely on the basis of interviews," Premajayanth said.

He further said that there could be practical problems but the new programme will definitely be accurate and faster next year.

Premjayanth said that the Grade 1 Admissions for 2008 was almost complete, as 325,000 students have been admitted to schools across the country.

He added that only a few more students are to be admitted into leading schools as appeals made by parents for their children are yet to be scrutinised.

Premajayanth claimed that these students will be found schools before the end of this week and the controversy surrounding admissions to Gr.I  will come to an end soon.

There are 9200 schools islandwide that take in new students each year.


Heavy fighting in the northern frontline

Heavy fighting was reported from the northern front lines in the last two days with both sides claiming the upper hand.

The government said that at least 27 Tigers had been killed and scores more injured in clashes in Mannar, Vavuniya, Jaffna and Welioya.

The Media Centre for National Security (MCNS) said that 12 Tigers had been killed in fighting at Palakuli on January 18 afternoon.

On the same afternoon seven Tigers and one soldier were killed in fighting at Janakapura, in Welioya and Vellathaikulam in Vavuniya.

"Eight LTTE terrorists were killed including a female terrorist in the Muhamalai area, Jaffna during three confrontations," the MCNS said.

The Tigers meanwhile said that they had beaten back an attack at Palakuli on January 18 afternoon. They added that a deep penetration unit of the security forces was also detected near the Madhu Church area and beaten back.

Meanwhile, schools in Kilinochchi have been closed by the Tigers over fears of air attacks.

Last week the Tigers said that over 700 students at a school Jayapuram in Kilinochchi fled in fear when Airforce bombed a location nearby.

The Airforce said that the bombing was on a meeting point used by Tiger seniors and that anti-aircraft fire had been directed at the jets. 


Citizenship for persons of Indian origin

The Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) to look into granting citizenship to persons of Indian origin who are presently in India, will meet on February 5, PSC Chairman, JVP Parliamentarian Ramalingam Chandrasekaran told The Sunday Leader.

The meeting is to discuss on the procedures to be followed on granting residency to the persons of Indian origin.

This will be the second meeting of the com mittee. The first was held on January 9.


Schools in Uva Province closed due to the bomb blast will reopen tomorrow

By Warren Balthazaar

Schools in the Uva Province that were closed due to the bomb blast in Buttala last week will re open for normal school activities tomorrow (21).

Eight schools in the area close to where the attack took place were closed as the public was in a state of shock.

Minister of Education Susil Premajayanth told The Sunday Leader that the initiative to close schools was taken by the provincial council and the Badulla Government Agent considering the safety of the children.

"LTTE attacks will not make the schools to close in the future. Closure of schools will be considered only if there is a direct threat to the schools," Premjayanth said.

 According to Minister Premjayanth the Poya holiday on Tuesday 22 will not be a holiday for schools throughout the country.  


Private bus organisations to strike if PTA decision is not reversed

By Risidra Mendis

Private bus owners will meet officials of the Provincial Transport Authority (PTA) to reverse a decision taken by the PTA to cancel the route permits of private buses  sold to another party.

The Sunday Leader learns that the PTA has informed all bus owners in writing that their decision to cancel route permits would be effective from January 2008.

Speaking to The Sunday Leader Co Chairman and Media officer All Ceylon Private Omnibus Owners Federation (ACPOOF) Anjana Priyanjith said all private bus organisations were planning to go on strike if there is no response from the PTA within the next two to three weeks.

This decision taken by the PTA was criticised by private bus owners who say that a bus cannot be sold to another party without the route permit. 

"Most private bus operators feel that the PTA is only interested in making money by reselling the old route permits to a new bus owner. There are 9000 private bus route permits in the Western Province. A route permit is sold at Rs 10 to 15 lakhs by the PTA. What is the point of selling a bus without a route permit," Priyanjith asked.


Sicille to act as Chairman Seylan Bank

Dr. Sicille P.C. Kotelawala has been appointed to act as Chairman of  Seylan Bank from January 20.

She will act for Chairman Seylan BankDeshamanya Dr.Lalith Kotelawala whohas gone overseason an officialengagement.

Kotelawala is the current Deputy Chairman of Ceylinco Consolidatedand has been instrumental in making key decisions that have contributed to the progress of the Ceylinco empire.

Together with her husband Lalith Kotelawalashe has uplifted over 350,000 families in Sri Lanka from poverty, with the Ceylinco Grameen, a concept of Nobel Laureate ProfessorMohammed Yoonus, but with their own added features as housing and health.


Dehiwela Methodist Church celebrates 125th anniversary

The Dehiwela Methodist Church will commemorate its 125th anniversary this year.

The church was built in 1883.

Rev. B. Anthony Mendis assumed office as Minister of the Methodist Church in 1878.

He invited the few Christians of the place and told them of the need to build the city of God in Dehiwela. After earnest prayer for God's guidance, help came from different sources, and on October 23, 1880 the land adjoining Galle Road in Dehiwela was purchased for Rs. 550, and the foundation stone for the Church was laid on December 23, 1881.

In December 1882 the Church was fully furnished. A belfry  and  two school rooms were also built, and a 23 perch land was set aside for a graveyard. The House of Prayer as it was aptly called was dedicated on January 20, 1883.

Rev. B Anthony Mendis, in a booklet published by him on the "Dehiwela Chapel and how it was built", says "looking back all things clearly show that the Dehiwela Chapel was built by God himself" 'Except the Lord build the house they labour in vain that build it.'


Bomb attacks likely to affect tourism

By Nirmala Kannangara

Despite attempts to promote tourism in the country, the present spate of bomb attacks are likely to bring severe repercussions to the leisure industry leading hoteliers said.

With the end of the Cease Fire Agreement (CFA) which attracted many leisure seekers to the country, the bomb explosions since then, have caused a slight decrease in forward bookings and a few cancellations so far according to  leisure industry sources.

Vice President Tourist Hotels Association of Sri Lanka (THASL) and Chief Executive Officer / Director Serendib Leisure Management, Srilal Miththapala told The Sunday Leader that although there have been some cancellations of forward bookings with the spate of bomb attacks, the industry should  remain optimistic.

"Apart from the few cancellations there is nothing to panic  about, as we have gone through  worse periods earlier. At present the occupancy rate is very good but last week's incident could slow down new bookings," claimed Miththapala.

However according to Miththapala, the Sri Lanka Tourist Board (SLTB) should send a strong message to all tourism generating markets that the tourist destinations in the country are safe, since the abrogation of the CFA would convey a wrong image of the country to the outside world.

Meanwhile Director Operations, Amaya Resorts and Spas, Lalin Samarawickrama told The Sunday Leader that wrong interpretation of the  bomb explosions have led to the cancellation of bookings.

"When the world headlines says that a Sri Lankan minister was killed on the airport road and also about the blast opposite Nippon Hotel those who plan to visit here would certainly chose another destination. That is obvious.  Nobody wants to visit a country where there are explosions occurring especially along the airport road and also near a hotel in the heart of Colombo," added Samarawickrama. 

According to Samara-wickrama although  Germany has not updated its travel advisories the authorities there are not encouraging their citizens to travel to Sri Lanka due to the many bomb explosions occurring in many parts of the island.

"With all these explosions taking place will we get a good response at the ITB in Germany this March?  We have to see what the Scandinavians who monitored the CFA have to say. Depending on their report the Scandinavian countries would decide whether Sri Lanka is a safe destination for their citizens," Samara-wickrama said.

Samarawickrama also said that if the tourist arrivals start to decline the industry cannot depend on the locals as the present high cost of living and fuel price hikes have already hit the people very badly.

"Whenever the industry was down it was the local travellers who helped us. But with the price hikes we cannot expect  local visitors to help us out this time," Samarawickrama added.


Special arrangements for IDPs to vote at local polls in the east

Special arrangements are to be taken for the IDPs to exercise their franchise at the local government elections in the east.

Additional Commissioner of elections told The Sunday Leader that the arrangements were being planned at the moment and that the department would come up with the arrangements in the near future.

"We are still planning. Nominations are being accepted at the moment. It will go on till the 25th of this month. The election date will be decided after the nominations," he said.

He said special arrangements will be made for the IDPs in the east after the election date is decided.

"We don't know whether there would be cluster booths or another setup. We are still planning," he added.

The police have also taken measures to increase security in the region during the election period.

The IDPs are from Kiran and the surrounding areas.

Officials said that these IDPs are not in a position to return to their homes due to the de-mining efforts.

Parties contesting local government elections including the EPDP and the TMVP said the presence of IDPs would not affect the election as long as the Elections Commissioner comes up with a solution for them to cast their votes.


GMOA threatens to launch trade union action

By Nirmala Kannangara

Government Medical Officers' Association (GMOA) is to take trade union action if the Health Ministry fails to provide adequate security and transport facilities to the doctors serving in the north and the east.

Transport facilities provided for Mannar based doctors by the Regional Director of Health Services have been reduced from last week and the doctors who visit their families in the south have been badly affected  GMOA sources told The Sunday Leader.

GMOA committee member Dr. Chandika Epitakaduwa said that unless adequate security and transport facilities are provided for the doctors serving in the war torn areas all doctors in the north and east would launch a strike at the earliest.

According to Dr. Epitakaduwa following last week's alleged poisoning of a doctor attached to the Trincomalee hospital the GMOA has requested for adequate security from the Red Cross but the Health Ministry has so far failed to respond positively.

"It is the government's responsibility to provide security to the doctors working in the north and east, but if they cannot secure their lives doctors would withdraw their services," added Dr. Epitakaduwa.

However according to Dr. Epitakaduwa government's failure to allocate enough funds to the Regional Director of Health Services (RDHS) Mannar has led to the reduction of transport facilities from Mannar to Anuradhapura. "Doctors travelling from Colombo to Mannar travel via Anuradhapura in RDHS vehicles with adequate security and vice versa. But now the transport facilities have been reduced to once a week as the Health Ministry has curtailed the  fuel allowance to the RDHS. This has affected the doctors going on vacation from Mannar and the doctors reporting to Mannar after vacation," Dr. Epitakaduwa said.

It is learnt the GMOA is waiting for a favourable response from the Health Ministry failing which; the doctors serving in north and east would  launch trade union action in the weeks to come. 


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