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What's up? Only prices seems to be the answer given by Consumer Affairs Minister Bandula Gunewardena to former Consumer Affairs Minister Ravi Karunanayake on the state of the economy. The duo were snapped exchanging notes on the economy at the funeral of former colleague Anura Bandaranaike - Photo by Thushara Dassanayaka

 

General election by Aug. warns JVP

 

Tigers blast Dvora, 10 sailors missing

 

Sirasa accuses Minister of
criminal intimidation

 

Chief Minister must be a Tamil says TMVP

 

Select Comm. report on 17th
Amendment in May

 

JVP backed NTUC does
somersault on strike issue

 

 

 

 

 

Eastern Provincial poll

Basil offers CM post to TMVP and SLMC

The UPFA has offered the Chief Minister post to both the TMVP and the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) in separate meetings last week, The Sunday Leader learns.

Informed sources said Senior Presidential Advisor Basil Rajapakse had invited TMVP Leader Pillayan to contest in alliance with the UPFA on the assurance the Chief Minister post will be offered to Pillayan if his nominees win the highest number of seats in the council.

The TMVP has already informed the Government that the Eastern Province Chief Minister must be a Tamil. Pillayan had told Rajapakse that if the Government faced problems with its Muslim allies due to the TMVP, they could contest separately and unite after the election to capture the Council.

The three districts in the Eastern Provincial Council, Ampara, Batticaloa and Trincomalee are to elect 14, 11 and 10 members respectively with the party polling the highest number of votes entitled to two bonus seats.

However, The Sunday Leader learns, Rajapakse has also offered the post to SLMC politburo member and former Minister M.L.M. Hizbullah at a separate meeting where Ministers Rishard Badiudeen and Ameer Ali were also present.

Rajapakse had told Hizbullah that if the SLMC contests with the UPFA and secures the largest number of seats in the council, the Chief Minister post would be offered to him.

It is learned Hizbullah had forwarded Rajapakse's proposal to SLMC Leader Rauf Hakeem.

Following this invitation, Rajapakse and Minister Milinda Moragoda met with Hakeem and MP Basheer Segu Dawood to discuss the invitation but no agreement was reached.

Meanwhile, Hakeem also had discussions with UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe on Wednesday, March 19 where a possible alliance was discussed.

The Sunday Leader learns a formidable group in the party are in favour of an alliance with the UNP or to go it alone due to the negative impact any alliance with the TMVP would have with the Muslim voters.

A senior SLMC member, Nizam Kariappar told The Sunday Leader that Karuna and Pillayan were responsible for the massacre of Muslims inside a Mosque in addition to severe harassment, and any alliance with that group or a party associated with Pillayan would be disastrous for the SLMC.


General election by Aug. warns JVP

The JVP has warned that the present government would not be able to present a budget for 2009 and that the government would be dissolved and a general election called by either July or August.

JVP politburo member and parliamentarian Anura Kumara Dissanayake addressing a rally in Matara also said that the economic policies of the government were pushing the country further into an abyss.

Dissanayake had pointed out that the people whose income levels have not increased in line with the rising cost of living were finding it hard to survive under the present conditions while the government was engaged in wasting public funds. He had said even the business community was finding it difficult to carry out their work due to the government's economic policies.

"People cannot survive today. Three wheelers don't have hires. Farmers do not get a good price for their produce. Fishermen do not get a good price for their fish. Businesses can no longer function.

Even though the people are suffering, the government has not stopped its corruption. There has been a large-scale fraud at the Fertiliser Corporation. The MiG and SLT transactions and Mihin Air are shrouded in corruption. No one asks why Mihin Air was launched," Dissanayake has said.

Dissanayake referring to the deterioration of the rule of law in the country and the alleged misdoings of Minister Mervyn Silva has also charged that the government and the SLFP has worked to justify the actions of the underworld.


Tigers blast Dvora, 10 sailors missing

A Navy Dvora fast attack craft was sunk and 10 crewmembers were listed as missing off the Mullaitivu coast yesterday morning, defence authorities said.

The Navy said that the locally built craft bearing the serial no P-438 had begun to list after an under water explosion hit the hull and sank around 2.00 am off the waters east of the Nayaru lagoon south of Mullaitivu.

Six crewmembers including the commanding officer were later rescued by another craft that was patrolling close by.

However, Tamilnet quoting Tiger sources said that the craft had been rammed by Sea Tiger suicide crafts.

“The boat being caught in the explosion started to take in water making it difficult for the crew to manoeuvre it to safe area. The impending consequence was unavoidable peril leaving the crew with no alternative other than abandoning the craft. Then they got onto life rafts and started drifting. Six members of the crew have thereafter been rescued by other boats,” the Navy said.

A search operation had been launched in the area where the craft sank but there was no information of the missing crew 12 hours after the sinking. Air Force jets also carried out raids on Tiger bases in the Nayaru area later yesterday afternoon.

Survivors from the craft had later said that they heard a loud underwater explosion before the boat started taking in water and listing precariously.

According to the Defence Ministry, the crew later abandoned the craft after sending out a distress call. Crewmembers were later rescued by crafts that responded to the distress call.

Unconfirmed reports said that the craft was on patrol with another when the explosion took place. The Army said that the craft had been routine patrol duty in the area.

The Defence Ministry blamed the sinking on a ‘mystery blast,’ probably a sea mine and ruled out an attack by the Sea Tigers.

“The survivors have reported an underwater blast that damaged the boat’s hull and caused it to be sunk in a short time. According to the survivors there has been no sea confrontation nor any LTTE craft were present in the area. Navy suspects the blast was caused by a possible sea mine or due to some underwater weapon developed by the terrorists.”

The Tigers are known to use floating and underwater mines to target naval crafts. However, the Tigers said that P-438 was sunk after suicide boats rammed it.

Tamilnet quoting LTTE sources said that the craft was hit during a sea confrontation between Sea Tigers and naval vessels that went on for 45 minutes. It said that the craft was sunk at a location between Nayaru and the Mullaitivu lagoon around 2.00 a.m. Tamilnet said that three Sea Tigers, Anpumaran, Niranjani and Kaninila had been killed in the suicide attack.

Sporadic clashes between government troops and Tigers were reported from areas south of Nayaru last week.

Defence Ministry said that clashes had been reported at Kokillai, Kokkuthuduwai and Anadankulam (in the Mullaitivu District) on three consecutive days from March 17.

The Tigers said that artillery fire had been directed into their areas from camps in Weli Oya just outside the FDL, on March 16. The shellfire had been directed at Andankulam on the coast of the Nayaru lagoon and the Tanimirupukulam tank further west.

P-438 was the second locally built fast attack craft that was lost in northern seas in the last three months. On December 26, 2007, P-413, a similar Dvora was sunk during a night confrontation with a flotilla of Tiger boats south of Delft. Twelve crewmembers were listed as missing in the attack while several others including the commanding officer were rescued.

The Tigers said that P-413 was sunk after being rammed by suicide crafts, but the Navy said that it sank while being towed after listing. P-413’s engines had been immobilized after suicide crafts exploded in close vicinity.

On February 4, a Navy jet was lost and six crewmembers listed as missing in seas just north of Mannar. A survivor later said that the boat was fired upon when it tried to aid an Indian fishing trawler that had indicated it was in Trouble


Complaint against Mervyn before police

Sirasa accuses Minister of criminal intimidation

Sirasa TV lodged a police complaint of criminal intimidation against Labour Minister Mervyn Silva on Friday.

The complaint lodged by Director, News of MTV/MBC, Susil Kindelpitiya follows a threat issued by Minister Silva on Thursday, March 20 in Kelaniya.

Minister Silva threatened News First journalists of Maharaja Television when they went to cover an event on the new flyover in Kelaniya.

"Today I point my finger at you. Hereafter I will raise my hand. Therefore in the future, do not let me see you attending any function held in my electorate. I ask you who spread evil to find a place to hide," Minister Silva said referring to the News First journalists.

Silva's threat came barely 24 hours after he gave an assurance to President Mahinda Rajapakse that he will not threaten any media personnel.

Following the threat issued by the Minister, News Director Kindelpitiya wrote to IGP Victor Perera and brought to his notice Silva's threat.

"Given the numerous past instances of public violent attacks against citizens and media institutions by Minister Mervyn Silva, we are seriously concerned about threats to life and property of our News First staff," Kindelpitiya wrote.

He also said a public threat by a constitutional authority is an assault on democracy itself and constitutional principles and creates a fear psychosis in the minds of the public.

Kindelpitiya followed up his letter with a complaint to the Kelaniya police calling for an investigation into the criminal intimidation threat issued by the Minister.


TMVP and Govt. are partners

Chief Minister must be a Tamil says TMVP

The TMVP last week insisted that the Chief Minister to be elected at the forthcoming provincial council elections must be a Tamil speaking person.

TMVP spokesperson Azath Moulana told The Sunday Leader that the party insisted on a Tamil Chief Minister, as the east was predominantly a Tamil area and added that Muslims and Sinhalese should also be given equal importance.

"We stress that the Chief Minister should be a Tamil person.

We say this because the majority of those who live in the east are Tamil people. There are also people of other races. However, Sinhalese and Muslims should be given equal importance in appointing the provincial councilors," Moulana said.

The TMVP however stated that it had not decided whether to contest with the UPFA or alone.

The decision was to be taken following a meeting of the TMVP high-rankers yesterday, he said.

He however stated that the TMVP would continue to be partners of the UPFA even if it is decided that it would not contest under the same banner. "We have not decided whether to contest with the government or not. However, even if we contest alone, it does not mean the TMVP is at loggerheads with the UPFA. We are partners of the government," he said.


Select Comm. report on 17th Amendment in May

Constitutional Affairs Minister D.E.W. Gunasekera says that the report on the amendments to the 17th Amendment would be finalised and handed over by May.

President Mahinda Rajapakse has already stated that he would not appoint the Constitutional Council (CC) until the select committee report on the amendments to the 17th Amendment are presented to him.

However, during the last parliamentary session, Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe warned of an impending crisis the House would face in appointing a new secretary general to parliament due to the non-appointment of the CC.

"At present the CC is defunct. So, there is no possibility of appointing a new official to the post when it falls vacant," he said.

Gunasekera, who heads the select committee, said that they have already met once on March 7 where the UNP has presented its proposals to the committee.

According to Gunasekera, the committee had agreed to majority of the proposals put forward by the UNP excluding two, which are to be taken up for discussion when the committee meets next.

"The hold up in finalising the report was the fact that the UNP delayed presenting its proposals to the committee. Now that they have come we can finalise the report after meeting for two more sessions. I hope to present the report by May," he said.

Gunasekera said that the proposals of the UNP were imperative since the amendments could receive the two-thirds majority in parliament only if the main opposition was agreeable to it.

He also said that the fundamental point that has been taken up for discussion to be presented as an amendment to the 17th Amendment is the fact that in future, the delay in appointing one member to the CC should not in anyway hamper the formation of the CC.

However the Opposition as well as civil society have blamed the president for the non appointment of the CC stating a Constitutional provision cannot be suspended pending the outcome of a select committee proceeding.


JVP backed NTUC does somersault on strike issue

By Nirmala Kannangara

The proposed one-day token general strike planned by the JVP affiliated National Trade Union Centre (NTUC) has been postponed indefinitely, Convener NTUC Samantha Koralarachchi told The Sunday Leader.

Chairman NTUC and JVP Parliamentarian K.D. Lalkantha at a press briefing last week warned of an impending one-day token general strike at the earliest in order to urge the government to put a halt to media and trade union suppression in the country. But according to Koralarachchi the proposed  trade union action has been postponed indefinitely.

"Although all our trade union leaders gave their support to resort to a severe trade union action and to launch a one day token general strike with the participation of all public sector employees, it was later decided to give one more chance to the government to stop the suppression by the national steering committee members last Wednesday," claimed Koralarachchi.

When questioned as to why the NTUC changed its decision  even before the lapse of 24 hours Koralarachchi  said that since the government had  given an assurance to make every possible effort to call a halt to the suppression of the media and trade unions,   the steering committee had decided to give one more chance to the government to stick to its promise.

"It is an open secret that  the attacks on Rupavahini employees was instigated by the Labour Minister. If the country's Minister in charge of workers has failed to protect the lives of the workers then there is no other option but take stern trade union action. 

 "Basil Rajapakse has openly said that Mervyn Silva was the person behind these attacks. But when the government has assured the Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation (SLRC) trade union leaders that their lives would be protected, it is unfair by the government to launch a one day token general strike without giving the government a chance to implement its assurance.

"As a result the national steering committee decided to postpone the trade union action; but we will launch a lightening striking in the event the government failing to uphold its promise," said  Koralarachchi.


Economies of the north and east can bounce back -study

The regional economies of the north and east could still bounce back despite the adverse effects of government imposed economic embargos and Tiger illegal taxations pushing them to lowest levels in the country, a recent study found.

The book titled - Economy Of The Conflict Region In Sri Lanka: From Embargo To Repression, by Sri Lankan researcher Muttukrishna Sarvananthan has been published by the East West Centre in the US.

It identified the government imposed embargo between 1990 and 2001 as the single largest contributor to the economic downturn in the north east.

"The single most important cause of the economic and social decline in the Northern and Eastern Provinces was the economic embargo imposed by the Sri Lankan government between 1990 and 2001," it said.

However the chances of a revival after the 2002 ceasefire were pegged back by taxes imposed by the Tigers. "Following the Ceasefire Agreement signed in February 2002, economic repression by the LTTE, including illegal tolls on vehicle traffic, custom duties, and sales taxes - along with the earlier expulsion of the entrepreneurial Muslim community - seriously impeded economic recovery before renewed hostilities broke out in December 2005 and the formal end of the ceasefire in January 2008."

The study however said that the economies could revive, not as agricultural or fishing hubs, but by making use of newer global economic trends.

"Due to national and global economic changes since the beginning of the civil war, the study argues against a return to the economic conditions and structure of the pre-war period. Rather, Northern Province has the opportunity to take advantage of the human capital and strong Tamil diaspora to play a significant role in the global knowledge-based economy, and the Eastern Province is well-positioned to become a highly productive industrial region with a significant tourism industry."

The Customs  Department last week detained complimentary copies of the book sent to the author, to check whether there were any anti-government material. The author has not been informed when they would be released. The book is freely available as a download on the East West Centre site.


Cader to settle defamation issue with Rupavahini

Former Kandy District UNP MP A.R.M. Abdul Cader has decided to settle with Rupavahini Corporation the issue with regard to the defamatory statements made on its news telecast in 2007, without monetary payments.

In a letter to the Chairman of Rupavahini, his lawyer has stated that Abdul Cader had expressed his willingness to settle the issue without monetary payment as he valued his reputation more than money.

The defamatory statements against Former Co-operatives Minister, Abdul Cader were telecast on July 9, 2004 in Rupavahini and Channel Eye.

It was stated in the news items that the former minister was involved in fraudulent transactions, acts of misappropriation and cheating, during the time he was the Co-operatives Minister.


Mano briefs Canadian Ambassador on ethnic conflict

Canada should lead the international community in the Lankan issue, Mano Ganesan told Canadian Ambassador Angela Bogdan. 

 The international support to the legitimate government of Sri Lanka in the past has led the people to political depression and blunt human rights violations, Civil Monitoring Commission (CMC) Convener and Parliamentarian Mano Ganesan said.

He made this statement during a meeting with Canadian Ambassador Angela Bogdan on Wednesday (19) at the Canadian High Commission.

A media communiqu‚ issued from Ganesan's office stated that he had also told Bogdan during the meeting that the international community should become conscious that achieving peace in Sri Lanka is achieving Tamil aspirations. It is nothing but fundamentalism that stands between war and peace in Lanka.

Ganesan has also told Bogdan during the meeting that the international community should become conscious that achieving peace in Sri Lanka is achieving Tamil aspirations.

"It is nothing but fundamentalism that stands between war and peace in Lanka. It created Tamil extremism and Tamil terrorism," he has said.

"International community stands for the unity and integrity of Sri Lanka and it has been supporting the legitimate government over the last many decades. But this support has led our people into a stage of political depression and blunt human rights violations. It is time that the international community strikes up a parallel and balanced approach between the unity of Lanka and Tamil aspirations."

He also stated that the government cannot address the ethnic issue,  with mock solutions.

"It is also imperative that the government is made to realise that it cannot simply dismiss the grave human rights violations. International participation is a must in view of the total collapse of the state sponsored human rights commission and other institutions," he had said.


Floods destroy crops

Hundreds of thousands were hit by flash floods last week, mainly in the war hit areas while government and other relief officials warned that destruction to crops could be very high.

Rains in the early part of last week affected 173,000 persons from 44,000 families in nine districts according to the National Disaster Relief Services Centre (NDRSC) by March 19 morning.

It said that 120,000 had been affected in the Batticaloa district while 44,000 were affected in Mannar, the focal point of recent battles between the armed forces and the Tigers. Over 16,000 had been affected in the Mantai west Division in Mannar. Heavy fighting has been reported in the northern parts of the division.

UN and other relief agencies had said earlier that new travel procedures beyond Medawachchiya had curtailed access and transportation of goods into Mannar since February 3.

Government officials said that most persons had remained at their homes despite the floods and NDRSC said that only six IPD camps had been set up in all of the districts, five in Batticaloa and one in Badulla. A little above 1800 families had moved into the IDP camps, it said.

However damages to crops and other livelihoods are likely to be high, officials said. "Over 12,000 acres of paddy in Mannar went under water. They were just about to be harvested," Mannar GA, A. Nicholas- pillai said.

There were reports that a similar number of paddy land may have been hit in the Tissamaharama area, in the deep south as well.

"Not only the loss of harvest but we would have to look at providing seed paddy for the next season," Nicholaspillai said.

"Some areas in the east-central districts were inundated following torrential rain, affecting livelihoods, particularly rice production," the World Food Programme said in a hot spots report on March 19. No immediate WFP intervention is required, but WFP is monitoring the situation, it added.

The Sri Lanka Red Cross (SLRC) said crop losses were reported from the Badulla district as well. The government had allocated Rs. 4.5 million for immediate relief measures.

The weather had eased by the end of the week, but the Meteorological Department said that more showers were expected in the flood hit areas.


Govt. blamed of spiralling hikes

By Nirmala Kannangara

The government's inability to control the price of rice is set to further impact on current prices resulting in another hike before the end of March, the Eksath Udara Lanka Jathika Govi Peramuna (EULJGP) predicted.

The government's continuous failure to compete with private traders in order to purchase the paddy harvest has now created a paddy monopoly which has directly impacted on the soaring cost of living, EULJGP sources said.Accusing the Rajapakse administration for its covert support to two government heavyweights controlling the rice market, General Secretary, EULJGP, Priyankara Dheera- singhe told The Sunday Leader that the price would go up to Rs.100 in the next few days.

"Why can't the government purchase paddy at Rs.30 per kg to compete with private traders and bring down the rising prices? They have failed to stock the bumper paddy harvest. Even if the Paddy Marketing Board purchases paddy at Rs.30 they can still  earn a profit by selling rice at Rs.40. Instead of giving relief to the public the Rajapakse administration has allowed the government heavyweights - the Agriculture Minister's brother and deputy minister, Gamlath to purchase paddy at Rs.30 and then sell rice at a much higher price," Dheerasinghe said.  According to him the rice monopoly was a creation of parliamentarian Basil Rajapakse who receives a 10% commission from the two government ministers. "This is an open secret and this is why the President or the Consumer Affairs Minister have failed to bring down the rice prices," Dheerasinghe further said.

He also accused the government of failing to waive off import taxes in order to sell Indian rice at a much cheaper rate. "If the government is really concerned about the people they could waive off the import taxes. We also have statistics as to how the lands used for paddy cultivation have increased since 2002. In 2004 the country produced an excessive stock. Since then although paddy cultivation and the harvest have increased the Rajapakse administration has ruined the rice market," he said.


Minister favours constituents - JVP

By Nirmala Kannangara

The Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) employees have accused Power and Energy Minister, John Seneviratne of recruiting employees to the CEB from his constituency - the  Ratnapura district.

The JVP affiliated Lanka Viduli Sevaka Sangamaya (LVSS) accused Seneviratne of bypassing government rules and regulations with regard to recruitment and said that almost 2000 vacancies have been filled from the Ratnapura district.

"There were 7000 clerical and subordinate vacancies at the CEB but despite the employees vehement protests Minister Seneviratne's party supporters from the Ratna- pura district have being recruited," convener, LVSS, Ranjan Jayalal alleged. Jayalal told The Sunday Leader that this has been the practice since 1977 and this has prevented other job seekers from getting employment at the CEB.

"Although previous regimes recruited their supporters to government institutions against laid down procedure the United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA) was elected in 2004 to put a complete stop to these irregularities. If this government which pledged to de-politicise government departments so as to provide an efficient service is now engaged in such malpractices then there is no difference between the present and past regimes," Jayalal said. According to him, although all the new recruits have stated that they are from various parts of the country it has come to light that they are from the Ratnapura district.

Minister Seneviratne and CEB GM, Ranjith Pulleperuma were not available for comment. 


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