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Up, up, and away: the prices of essential items continue to escalate. The price of rice, an item declared as an essential commodity by the government last week in a bid to control its prices, continues to increase. The price of a kilo of the cheapest rice is marked as Rs. 78 while the highest price is marked at Rs. 150 in this wayside shop -- Photo by Thusitha Kumara

 

FM, Deepthi withdraw cases against Leader

 

Govt. decides not to reduce fuel prices

 

LTTE denies hand in southern killings

 

Many govt. departments owe CPC billions

 

JVP continues to threaten TU action

 

'Rice shortage due to govt. not providing fertiliser subsidy'

 

 

 

 

 

Following nine month sentence for travelliing on forged DPL passport

Karuna to be charged for war crimes in UK

By Ruan Pethiyagoda

The British Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has indicated that it is considering prosecuting former TMVP head and LTTE renegade Eastern Commander Karuna Amman for war crimes and human rights abuses on the basis of evidence forwarded to them by the Metropolitan Police, including reports forwarded by leading human rights organisations.

CPS Spokesperson Ben Harding told The Sunday Leader that further investigations are the responsibility of the police, and anti-terrorism units would likely be leading the investigations.

He said they are already in receipt of reports from Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the Coalition to Stop Child Soldiers forwarded by the Metropolitan Police.

A spokesman for the British Metropolitan Police informed The Sunday Leader that several agencies are involved in considering a coordinated effort to file charges against Karuna on the basis of available evidence. "It is being considered at this time. Several agencies are involved and I can only confirm that the Metropolitan Police is one of them. I cannot comment further as this is a sensitive process," he declared.

The renegade LTTE deputy was on Friday sentenced by Judge Hezlett Colgan of the Islworth Crown Court to nine months imprisonment for violating the UK ID Card Act of 2006 after pleading guilty to charges a week prior to entering the UK on a forged diplomatic passport. Karuna's conviction follows his arrest by the British Borders and Immigration Agency on November 2, 2007, as exclusively reported by our sister paper The Morning Leader, for entering the United Kingdom on diplomatic passport number D1944260 issued under a false name, Kokila Gunawardena.

Karuna's passport bore his photograph and the name 'Kokila Dushmantha Gunawardena' and the visa application facilitated by the Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry through a Third Party Note (TPN) falsely declared him as being the Director General of the Wildlife Conservation Department. Mounting evidence that Karuna's passport was not forged but instead issued by Sri Lankan authorities has caused a strain in relations between Sri Lanka and the United Kingdom.

It is learnt that Karuna himself has testified to UK authorities on the circumstances by which he was issued his diplomatic passport. By pleading guilty to charges, Karuna was able to avoid the prospect of a long drawn out case where the swelling amount of evidence against him could be produced in court which would have also been a source of embarrassment to the Sri Lankan government.

Given the possibility of the Sri Lankan government's complicity in Karuna's illegal migration, the Metropolitan Police were hesitant to commit to extraditing Karuna to Sri Lanka after he has served his sentence.

"Under the circumstances, an extradition request received from the Sri Lankan government would need to be carefully considered," warned the spokesman, who confirmed that no such request has yet been received. 


Claims for Rs. 600mn and Rs. 125mn dismissed

FM, Deepthi withdraw cases against Leader

The District Court of Colombo Friday dismissed two defamation cases filed against The Sunday Leader by Minister Rohitha Bogollagama and his wife Deepthi after an application was made to court by the plaintiffs to withdraw the cases.

Minister Bogollagama and Deepthi Bogollagama had filed the defamation suits claiming Rs 600 million and Rs125 million respectively by way of damages following the publication of an article titled 'Rohitha's Waterloo' in The Sunday Leader of February16, 2003.

 Minister Bogollagama who had concluded his evidence in chief on an earlier date was due to be cross examined on Friday by Senior Counsel for the newspaper, President's Counsel Romesh De Silva when the application to withdraw the cases was made by counsel for the plaintiffs, President's Counsel Mohan Pieris.

When the defamation cases filed by Minister Rohitha Bogollagama and Deepthi Bogollagama against Leader Publications came up for trial finally on Friday before the District Judge of Colombo, Sisira Ratnayaka, counsel for the plaintiff informed Court that although this case is fixed for cross examination of Minister Rohitha Bogollagama his client was willing to withdraw the case if the defendants were willing to waive off the cost already awarded to the defendants and also the future costs.

In addition to the above conditions, counsel for the plaintiff also insisted that it should be recorded it is a settlement by both parties and also requested for it to be considered whether it is possible to state in the proceedings that the defendants regret any inconvenience caused to the plaintiffs due to the publication.

Counsel for the plaintiff also insisted that what will be recorded in court today should not be published in any media and especially in The Sunday Leader newspaper.

 Defendants' Counsel, Romesh de Silva, PC, vehemently objected to the conditions put forward by the plaintiff's counsel and submitted that his client is not agreeable to record the withdrawal of the action as a settlement and also that he has specific instructions from his clients that his clients are not agreeable to express any regret in respect of the publication of the article in issue.

 De Silva also told court that he has no control whatsoever on media reporting and therefore he cannot give any undertaking to the effect that no proceedings will be published in the newspapers.

He said however if the plaintiff is making an application to withdraw the case the newspaper is agreeable to waive off the heavy cost which has already been awarded in favour of the defendants and also the future cost. De Silva said, otherwise he was ready to cross examine the Minister.

Having heard the submissions made by the newspaper's counsel, plaintiff's counsel agreed to withdraw the case without laying any condition and made an application to court to withdraw the case.

Accordingly, court dismissed the plaintiff's action without cost and also recorded the defendants have waived off the cost already awarded to the defendants, and also the future cost, and directed Minister Bogollagama and his wife Deepthi Bogollagama to sign the case record.

Minister Rohitha Bogollagama and his wife instituted two defamation actions based on an article published in The Sunday Leader newspaper under the heading "Rohitha's Waterloo" on February 16, 2003.

The Minister and his wife alleged that the following paragraphs in the said newspaper article are defamatory:

"Abusing his power as a project minister, his vehicles and security staff, The Sunday Leader learns that Industries Minister, Rohitha Bogollagama is threatening physical assault and death on a young female doctor he had an intimate relationship with for over a year."

"Despite having professed undying love and marriage to this young doctor, Bogollagama after the relationship broke, has begun to verbally abuse this young lady (name withheld) threatening her with death and using ministerial security to intimidate her."

"In desperation, the lady in question has now appealed to Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe for help. On Tuesday, February 11, she begged the Premier to intervene stating she is convinced her life is in great danger 'as, these threats are coming from no less a person than a minister.'" (See box).

"She alleged that after she ended her relationship with Bogollagama 'based on various reasons' he began to abuse her over the phone and threatened to kill her if she failed to return numerous love letters sent by him."

"In her complaint she states that Rohitha Bogollagama has even threatened to harm her three teenage step-sons. She adds in her police complaint that both Rohitha Bogollagama and his sister-in-law, Jayanthrei Samarakoon have continued to threaten her with death.

"Violence in the Bogollagama household is a common occurrence. It is common knowledge that Bogollagama is repeatedly beaten by his wife Deepthi, who has been known to even spray detergents into his eyes. Showing the scars and wounds from his beatings to this young doctor is how the two initially met, as Bogollagama pleaded with her to find '.help for his wife' ..who he said 'had inherited . genes, coming from a family of three . sisters.'"

In view of the withdrawal of Minister Bogollagama's case, his wife Deepthi Bogollagama also withdrew her case.

 Romesh de Silva PC, with Sugath Caldera, Attorney-at-Law instructed by G.G. Arulpragasam, Attorney-at-Law appeared for Leader Publications.

 Mohan Peiris PC, instructed by Pushpa Narendran, Attorney-at-Law appeared for Minister Rohitha Bogollagama and his wife Deepthi Bogollagama.


Despite sharp decline   in global prices

Govt. decides not to reduce fuel prices

By Mandana Ismail Abeywickrema

The government has decided not to reduce local fuel prices in line with the decline recorded in global fuel prices.

Petroleum and Petroleum Resources Minister A.H.M. Fowzie says that although the global market prices have seen a decline in prices, Sri Lanka was not in a position to reduce fuel prices as the new shipment was yet to reach the island.

"Global fuel prices have declined from US$ 91 to US$ 85, but we cannot reduce prices in Sri Lanka as the country is yet to get the new shipment and even when we do get the new shipment, the CPC will still incur losses," he said.

According to Fowzie, even if Sri Lanka purchased fuel at the reduced global market rate, the CPC would still incur a monthly loss of Rs. 650 million. The loss would be mainly due to the sale of diesel and kerosene at lower rates.

"We did not increase the prices of fuel for a period of six months and during that time the global prices saw a sharp increase. The losses incurred by the CPC were heavy at the time. The local fuel prices have now been increased partially, but there is still a loss on diesel and kerosene," he said.

After six months, the government increased fuel prices this month and said that even after the recent price hike, the CPC was still incurring a loss of Rs. 1.2 billion per month.

It was said that after increasing fuel prices, the CPC was incurring a loss of Rs. 10 on a litre of diesel and Rs. 23 on a litre of kerosene.

Fowzie said that due to the previous losses incurred by the CPC the government would not be in a position to offer immediate relief to the people where fuel prices were concerned, but said there was a possibility of reducing prices in a few months if the global prices continue to decline.

Meanwhile, coalition partner of the UPFA government, the JVP last week charged that the government was not interested in reducing the burdens of the people and was using the war as an excuse.

JVP General Secretary, Tilvin Silva told the media last week that although the government increased the burdens on the people when there was an increase in the global fuel prices, it does not make any effort to reduce local prices and relieve those burdens laid on the people when global fuel prices decline.


LTTE denies hand in southern killings

The Tigers last week denied any involvement in the attacks against the civilians in the south.

LTTE's denial came 48 hours after President Mahinda Rajapakse told the media he did not believe the LTTE were behind the bomb attacks in Colombo or the attacks in the south. The President said he believed it was the work of a political group and interested business parties.

LTTE military spokesperson Rasiah Illanthirayan told The Sunday Leader that the government's allegations against the LTTE on civilian attacks were totally false.

"The LTTE has no connection at all with the civilian attacks in the south," Illanthirayan said. 

Ilanthirayan also said that the government continued to attack civilian areas in the Wanni.

"The LTTE is being accused of carrying out attacks on civilians in the south, which is totally false. At the same time, the Sri Lankan government forces continue their strikes on civilian areas in the Wanni," he said.

One civilian was killed and three were injured due to air strikes in the Krishnapuram area, Ilanthirayan added.

He stated that Krishnapuram was populated with up-country people who had settled in the area in the 1980s.

Speaking on the discovery of 16 bodies in Kebethigollewa last week, Ilanthirayan stated that the discovery could contain the answer to the disappearances of civilians in Vavuniya and Colombo.

"That is our view. It was reported that the recovered bodies were of youths. This might be the answer to the disappearances of civilians in the north and south."

Attacks on civilians intensified in the south following the abrogation of the Ceasefire Agreement by the government.

However, the Tigers had expressed their willingness to be a part of the CFA despite the government's decision to withdraw.


Many govt. departments owe CPC billions

By Nirmala Kannangara

The failure to reactivate the UNP initiated pricing formula to control fuel prices has led to the present price hike in petroleum products, the Jathika Sevaka Sangamaya, Petroleum Branch (JSSPB) said.

The previous UNP regime, in 2003, introduced the pricing formula system under the Public Utility Commission (PUC) in view of regulating the fuel prices in the country, but the UPFA government's decision to deactivate the pricing formula system has resulted in the present price hikes according to the JSSPB sources.

Secretary, JSSPB, Ananda Palitha told The Sunday Leader that if the  pricing formula system then initiated was in operation, the spate of fuel price hikes by the government would not have happened.

"Before introducing the pricing formula by the then UNP government it was the Treasury that had the authority to revise petroleum prices. In order to regulate the oil prices in the country the UNP government in 2003, activated the pricing formula system in which the powers vested in the Treasury to revise prices was withdrawn and given to an independent body that consisted of the CPC, Lanka Indian Oil Company (LIOC) and an independent member," claimed Ananda.

According to Ananda, this independent body had the authority to calculate the expenditure and after leaving a 1.5% profit margin could decide on the prices - either an increase or a decrease.

"But since this system did not help the government to reap any revenue the PA government deactivated the system which has resulted in the present spate of price hikes in petroleum products," added Ananda.

Meanwhile, Ananda further stated that since the pricing formula was deactivated the CPC had to supply the CEB, police, the three armed forces, CGR, CTB, SriLankan and Mihin Air, fuel on credit.

"That was the reason for the downfall of the CPC. Since the government took charge of revising the petroleum prices it ordered the CPC to release fuel to the government departments on credit, which have not been settled as yet. Thus, the CPC has lost billions in revenue and instead of instructing the respective government departments to settle their overdue bills the government keeps on increasing fuel prices, thereby passing on the burden to the general public," stressed Ananda.


JVP continues to threaten TU action

By Nirmala Kannangara

Subsequent to the series of JVP protests on the rising CoL, bribery, corruption and inefficiency within the government, the JVP affiliated National Trade Union Centre (NTUC) too is to hold island wide protest campaigns against the government's misdeeds, NTUC sources said.

Convener, NTUC, Samantha Koralarachchi told The Sunday Leader that the government's failure to find a solution to the skyrocketing CoL and put a complete halt on bribery, corruption and its inefficient management which has resulted in the present economic crisis, has compelled the trade unions to launch a series of protests island wide.

"The people are suffering immensely due to the  government's bad economic policies which has directly affected the CoL. We as a responsible trade union cannot ignore the government's failure to address the core issues and as a result we would be holding a series of protests in front of all government departments starting early February, followed by a massive protest rally to urge the government to provide relief to the public," Koralarachchi added.

Meanwhile Koralarachchi further said that in order to solve the long standing salary issues of all public officers the NTUC has requested a meeting with the President and if the President fails to meet the trade union representatives the JVP affiliated trade unions would take action against the failure to rectify the salary anomalies.

"With the present situation in the country we had to postpone the planned trade union action on the government's lethargic attitude towards solving issues pertaining to the public service salary anomalies. But if the President still fails to rectify these anomalies we would have no other option but to launch a strike," Koralarachchi added.


'Rice shortage due to govt. not providing fertiliser subsidy'

By Nirmala Kannangara

The government's failure to provide subsidised fertiliser to farmers in the Hambantota District on time has resulted in the region harvesting a poor crop over the past few seasons, Eksath Udara Lanka Jathika Govi Peramuna (EULJGP) said.

Although the government assured subsidised fertiliser to the farmers before the presidential election in 2005, EULJGP claims that the government has failed to provide the necessary fertiliser on time, which had resulted in a poor crop, mainly in the Hambantota District.

General Secretary, EULJGP, Priyanka Dheerasinghe told The Sunday Leader that the government's failure to keep its promises has placed the farmers in great difficulty.

"As the government promised, if they had given the fertiliser subsidy then the region would have produced a bumper paddy harvest and the rice prices would have come down considerably," Dheerasinghe said.

Accusing the government of selling its paddy stock to Prima for poultry food, Dheerasinghe further said that unlike during the previous regimes, the Mahinda Rajapakse administration is always seeking to protect its supporters than the people as a whole.

"It was Deputy Minister, Siripala Gamalath of 'Nipuna' rice and Minister Maithripala Sirisena's brother of 'Ari' rice who suggested that the government sells its paddy stock to Prima for a better price and this resulted in a severe shortage of rice in the country," charged Dheerasinghe. He alleged the two government-backed paddy mill owners have purchased the entire Yala crop last year at Rs.16 per kg and had sold it to Prima at Rs.25 per kg.

"During the UNP regime of 2002-2004 the country produced an excessive crop and the people were requested to consume rice for all three meals so as to save foreign exchange on wheat flour, but the Rajapakse policy is completely different to that of the UNP. Instead of protecting the general public, the government has allowed its political stooges to make money and has made way to import rice at a higher price, passing on the burden directly to the general public," Dheerasinghe added.


Victims bodies highly decomposed

The ethnicities of the Kebethigollewa massacre victims may never be known due to the extreme state of decomposition of the bodies, Director, Anuradhapura Hospital, Dr. Sarath Weerabandara said Friday.

Dr. Weerabandara told The Sunday Leader that they might also have difficulties in determining the cause of death.

However, he said that an autopsy would be conducted to ascertain how the 16 victims had died.

Military Spokesperson, Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara told The Sunday Leader that 16 bodies were recovered from near the Horowpothana-Kebethigollewa main road on Thursday.

He said that the bodies could not be identified but affirmed that they were all males in their youth.

Brig. Nanayakkara also said that investigations would be carried out together with the area police and the magistrate.

When contacted the Kebethigollewa police said that the bodies were handed over to the Anuradhapura Hospital to conduct the autopsies.

The 16 bodies were discovered on Thursday afternoon following information provided by a civilian when he saw a hand and a head sticking out from the ground.

Unofficial reports suggest that those killed were from a minority community.


Opportunity to become IT hub not exploited

The country's IT literacy rate is said to be less than 5% of the population, according to industry sources.

This, coupled with the deteriorating security situation and economic conditions in the country have resulted in Sri Lanka's IT sector lagging behind neighbouring SAARC countries.

Sources claim that the overall IT industry has suffered a setback in recent times with marginal growth, despite the fact that Sri Lankans are becoming more technology savvy, while SAARC countries are averaging an annual growth of around 20% year on year.

Industry sources also stated that the mushrooming IT training centres have so far not done anything significant to improve the IT literacy rate as most do not offer professional training.

One source stated: "Though tariffs on computers have been reduced, and more penetration of high bandwidth internet has been made available, more foundation work needs to be done to further increase mass IT penetration."

EPSI Computers, CEO, Niranjan Canagey told The Sunday Leader that Sri Lanka had all the ingredients in becoming an IT hub, but the opportunity was not exploited at the right time.

He said, "In order to truly become an IT hub, several factors needs to be taken into consideration, such as more infrastructural development on low cost, high speed data bandwidths, adequate office space availability in close proximity to the city, complete duty waiver on IT products, more venture capitalists, measures to increase overall IT literacy, increase in scale of IT graduates and marketing Sri Lanka as an IT hub."

Science and Technology Minister, Tissa Vitharana was not available for comment.  


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