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  News

Sonali wins international award


Sonali receiving her award from one of the Judges, Sandra Bartlett

 

Make or break cases for Govt.
before SC tomorrow

 

Govt. imposes cess on fuel

 

Thousands of Wanni civilians
in grave danger

 

Co-Chairs may meet in New York

 

France concerned over Wanni situation

 

Treasury to provide Rs.3 bn
for Mihin in 2009 budget

 

Islandwide celebrations to commemorate Intíl. Childrenís Day

 

More News....

Sonali Samarasinghe, the Editor of The Morning Leader and Consultant Editor of The Sunday Leader won the Global Shining Light Award-2008 for Investigative Journalism at a grand ceremony in Lillehammer, Norway, last week.

Samarasinghe was one of the five journalists shortlisted for the global award at a ceremony which saw the participation of 88 countries and over 500 journalists.

Sonaliís work to reveal misuse of power and corruption in Sri Lanka made her the second winner of the Global Shining Light Award at the Gobal Investigative Journalistsís Conference held this year in Lillehammer, Norway.

"I cannot accept this prize without remembering my colleagues in Sri Lanka. During the last two years 12 journalists have been killed according to statistics documented by the Free Media Movement in Sri Lanka. One of my colleagues from another newspaper, Mr. Tissainayagam is being held under the Prevention of Terrorism Act even as I speak.

"Despite all efforts by local and international media organisations for his release there appears to be no hope of his release any time soon. It will be nearly 180 days he has been in custody," Samarasinghe said when she was brought to stage to receive the Global Shining Light Award, stating Tissainayagam worked for another newspaper, The Sunday Times.

Samarasinghe was awarded for a series of articles she wrote on "Gangsterism and the faulty legal system" for The Sunday Leader.

In presenting the award to Samarasinghe, the judges stated in their citation "Sonali Samarasinghe and The Sunday Leader decided enough was enough. What started out as an attempt to follow-up on the beating up of a bar patron by the son and body guards of a powerful government minister became an investigation that exposed how that government minister used his power and connections to the Prime Minister, to run roughshod over the media and the justice system. Samarasinghe tracked down all the people connected to the beating and in the process found many other people, including police officers and lawyers with stories of corruption and brutality by the government minister and his son.

"This global award sends a signal to the authorities that our work does not pass unnoticed internationally, and it sends a signal to Sri Lankan journalists they are not alone in their struggle to ensure freedom of expression," the prize-winning journalist said on stage.

The winner was selected by a three member panel of international judges and comprised The jury :Professor Rune Ottosen, Oslo University College, Norway; national reporter Sandra Bartlett, CBC National Radio, Canada and Nils Mulvad, researcher and analyst, Kaas and Mulvad, Denmark.

The international award for Samarasinghe and The Sunday Leader came in the backdrop of Sri Lankaís own journalism awards organised by the Sri Lanka Press Institute, the Editorsí Guild and the Newspaper Society keeping the Leader Group out of its awards scheme this year.

The Leader Group had topped the Editorsí Guild Awards every year it participated since the inception in 1998, but were excluded from this yearís awards. At the time of the local awards ceremony in July this year, The Sunday Leader reported that the SLPI organised awards by excluding The Leader Group had made it akin to staging the Cricket World Cup without Australia.Winning the Global Shining Light Award-2008 has vindicated that stand of The Leader Group.

The five short listed finalists were:

(1)1"Child Alert," Anas Aremeyaw Anas, Crusading Guide, Ghana.

(2) "Gangsterism and the faulty legal system," Sonali Samarasinghe, The Sunday Leader, Sri Lanka.

(3) "The Government 60 bn Rands Arms Deal," the Investigation team, Mail and Guardian, South Africa.

(4) "The Minister and the Mining Sector," Edik Baghdasaryan, Hetq Online, Armenia.

(5)"Abuja Environmental Task Force," Solomon Adelbayo, Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria.


Make or break cases for Govt. before SC tomorrow

A number of cases which are vitally important for the government and civil society including the implementation of the Constitutional Council are to be taken up before the Supreme Court for argument tomorrow.

The Supreme Court has already issued notice on President Mahinda Rajapakse in the Constitutional Council case stating nobody is above the law in the country.

The Supreme Court issued notice on the President notwithstanding an application by the Attorney General that no notice should be issued since the Chief Executive enjoys immunity.

In this case a declaratory order is sought from the Supreme Court calling upon President Mahinda Rajapakse to appoint the Constitutional Council and activate the 17th Amendment to the Constitution.

Supreme Court Justice Saleem Marsoof making the K.C. Kamalasabayson Memorial Oration last month said the failure to implement the 17th Amendment to the Constitution impacted negatively on the rule of law.

 It is learned the fundamental rights application filed by the Centre for Policy Alternatives challenging a Gazette notification issued by the President giving him the authority to extend the retirement age of any public servant beyond the age of 60 years is also to be supported in the Supreme Court tomorrow.

 The CPA in its petition has alleged such authority vested in the President is arbitrary and against the rule of law. The President last month extended the services of Attorney General C.R. de Silva by six months under the said Gazette.

Another application challenging the right of the Defence Secretary to issue a detention order detaining a person at a place specified by him for 18 months as opposed to 90 days under emergency regulations is also coming up for support tomorrow.

The Sunday Leader learns another motion is to be filed in the Supreme Court tomorrow challenging a government directive demanding all persons who have moved out from the

north and east in the last five years to get registered with the police by today, September 21.

This directive is applicable to all persons who have even registered earlier, it is learned

The government it is learned, had given an undertaking to court when the earlier eviction of Tamils from Colombo was challenged that such discriminatory practices would not be adopted in the future.

Police Spokesman SSP Gunasekera on September 18 at a press conference announced the new directive prompting the filing of a motion in the Supreme Court tomorrow challenging the order.

Informed sources said an application is also to be made in the Supreme Court tomorrow to file an affidavit of a man who was abducted in a white van but later found in the custody of the police.


Govt. imposes cess on fuel

By Mandana Ismail Abeywickrema

The government has introduced a Rs. 15 and Rs. 10 import cess on petrol and diesel respectively from last Wednesday (17).

Trade unions attached to the CPC say that the governmentís decision to introduce the new cess would have a direct impact on any possible reduction of local fuel prices in the near future. CPC Chairman, Asantha de Mel told The Sunday Leader that the cess on petrol and diesel is now in effect as the Gazette notification has already been issued. According to the Gazette notification, a cess of Rs. 15 has been added to a litre of petrol and Rs. 10 to a litre of diesel imported into the country.

According to de Mel, the cess would be applicable to the CPC as well as the LIOC.

De Mel also ruled out any chances of reducing local fuel prices any time soon saying the Corporation needed to recover over Rs. 50 billion of the money lost by the CPC.

We cannot bring down prices immediately as we are burdened with outstanding dues and until we recover these dues the CPC is not in a position to bring down fuel prices, he said.

De Mel added that if the world oil prices remained the same or continued to decline, the government might be in a position to reduce local fuel prices through the next budget.

CPC trade unions however claim that the government should not burden the consumers with high fuel prices due to the outstanding dues amounting to billions of rupees.

Secretary, Jathika Sevaka Sangamaya CPC branch, Ananda Palitha told The Sunday Leader that recovering outstanding dues of the CPC was a matter the government had to deal with without burdening the people.

The CEB owes Rs. 40 billion and other state institutions have to pay the CPC Rs. 10 billion. The government has to find a way of recovering the money and increasing prices is not the answer, Palitha said.

He also said that the new cess on petrol and diesel would prevent the local fuel prices from being reduced.

"When the world market prices increase, the government is quick to increase local prices, but when there is a decline, local fuel prices remain the same and new levies are added to it. The government should immediately bring down local fuel prices, Palitha said.

According to Palitha, the government could sell a litre of petrol for approximately Rs. 111 after purchasing a barrel of petrol at US$ 108 and adding all the relevant taxes.

Petroleum and Petroleum Resources Minister A.H..M. Fowzie was not available for comment.


Thousands of Wanni civilians in grave danger 

The pull out of UN and other international relief groups from the Wanni has placed tens of thousands of civilians in grave danger a report by the Christian Solidarity Movement (CSM) said. The report filed on the basis of eyewitness accounts from priests and lay persons in the Wanni or with access to it, said that there was the threat of forced recruitment, civilians being used as human shields and ending up with collateral damage as well as the lack of supplies and shortages. 

The report said that there were no independent witnesses to ensure that international humanitarian norms are followed in these areas and added that it was likely that both the government and the LTTE would disregard the civilian concerns in the absence of monitors. 

The CSM report also said that the Tigers had intensified their recruitment with even the elderly persons being recruited into the organisation. "The present policy of one person recruited per family seemed to be strictly implemented and there were fears that this would be extended to cover two per family.

"Even older men are being recruited by the LTTE," the report said.The Tigers have also imposed strict restrictions on those who are leaving the Wanni. "It is clear the LTTE doesnít want the civilian population trapped in the Wanni to leave, as it is likely that this population would serve as a buffer (or human shield) from an all out attack from the Sri Lankan armed forces.

"The report further stated that people especially the children and pregnant mothers were in desperate need of food, medicine, sanitation facilities and shelter."Priests and aid workers told CSM members that they leave vehicles and motorbikes at Omanthai and walked across the checkpoint to avoid the intensive checking.

If they cross on motorbikes, they have to remove and reassemble all the parts of motorbike, including tank, seat and petrol tank, which might take up to three hours. The number of vehicles given permission to cross Omanthai had reduced and it is increasingly difficult to get permission for aid workers and priests, even for the Bishops," the CSM also said.


Co-Chairs may meet in New York

By Arthur Wamanan

An informal meeting of the Tokyo donor Co-Chairs is tentatively scheduled on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly Sessions during the last week of September, Western diplomatic sources said. The agenda for the meeting, which has been tentatively scheduled, is still being discussed, the sources added.

The meeting comes in the backdrop of the pullout of humanitarian organisations from the LTTE controlled areas in the north. The UN agencies and the INGOs were asked by the government to relocate to Vavuniya on September 8, as they could not guarantee the safety of these organisations within the Tiger controlled areas. The last of the UN convoys left the Wanni on September 16.


France concerned over Wanni situation

The French government last week expressed its serious concern over the humanitarian situation in the Wanni.

"Faced with the massive displacements of the population triggered by recent fighting in the north and east of Sri Lanka, it is necessary to continue humanitarian access to this population," the French Foreign Ministry said in a statement on September 18. The statement also expressed the French governmentís concern over the directive issued to humanitarian agencies to pull out of the Wanni.

"France expresses its concern over the directive issued by Sri Lankan authorities  to international humanitarian agencies to evacuate  from areas of combat," it was stated

The statement added the humanitarian workers played an essential role during times of combat. France holds the current Presidency of the European Union.


Treasury to provide Rs.3 bn for Mihin in 2009 budget

The Aviation Ministry has asked the Treasury to provide a sum of Rs. 3 billion to Mihin Lanka in the 2009 budget, The Sunday Leader learns.

Aviation Ministry Secretary Thosapala Hewage confirmed that this amount was requested by the ministry and that a confirmation from the Treasury had not yet been received. He added that Mihin "could manage" with this amount.

The state-owned budget airline is currently non-functional with a stagnant debt of over Rs. 3.7 billion rupees. The Treasury has earlier this year invested Rs. 450 million on the airline, which still owes Rs. 645 million to the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation and over Rs. 1.2 billion to the Bank of Ceylon.

The airline is hoping to lease or procure new aircraft with which to restart operations as soon as possible.

Aviation Minister Chamal Rajapakse has proposed to cabinet that Mihin be allowed to acquire six ageing A-60 aircraft from a Chinese corporation, with financing provided by a Chinese bank.

The main opposition UNP has opposed the move to re-finance Mihin Lanka. UNP MP, Ravi Karunanayake, told The Sunday Leader that the opposition is planning to debate the plight of the state aviation industry in parliament on Tuesday.


Islandwide celebrations to commemorate Intíl. Childrenís Day

By Shezna Shums

The Department of Probation and Child Care Services has organised events at national, district and regional level to commemorate International Childrenís Day which. falls on October 1.

The Commissioner of Probation and Child Care, D.M.S.Abeyagunawardena told The Sunday Leader that the Ministry of Child Development and Womenís Empowerment along with the Probation Department is carrying out various events to celebrate this day with the children.

The national event is being celebrated in the Moneragala District and there will be a three-day camp organised for the children. About 350 children from the districts of Moneragala, Ampara, Badulla, and Hambantota will participate in the events.

Some of the children attending would be from state homes as well. This three day camp will be held at the Moneragala Mahanama school.

Cultural, health and other events will be held at this camp which will be free for all the attending children attending the camp.

To mark the International Childrenís Day a special flag will be distributed islandwide, and the first to receive this flag would be President Mahinda Rajapakse.

Along with these events, the District Secretaries and the Regional Child Care Probation Officers have also been instructed to organise events in their areas for the children to celebrate International Childrenís Day.


Tigers prevent Wanni residents from leaving

Wanni residents working in international NGOs were prevented from leaving the Wanni by the Tigers, the Danish Refugee Council (DRC), one of the INGOs that relocated last week said.

The DRC relocated to Vauniya together with the other humanitarian agencies on the request of the government on September 16.

The DRC however said that the local nationals were not allowed to relocate to Vavuniya by the LTTE. "We are extremely concerned at the plight of the displaced persons in this area. We are looking at all options to be able to provide them with further support as soon as possible. We hope that the displaced peoplesí rights to freedom of movement will be respected in order for them to be able to move to safer areas," Head of the Europe-Asia Section at DRC, Rikke Friis said.

DRC said that its national staff continued to remain in the Wanni region adding that most activities were on hold. DRC has been unable to bring out national staff due to the LTTE pass system that currently does not allow local residents to leave the area.

"It is a terrible situation also for our national staff. We are doing everything we can to be able to evacuate them and hope that we will find a solution soon," he added.

Currently, it is estimated that 200,000 IDPs are affected by the current escalation of the conflict between the Sri Lankan Government and the LTTE. Further multiple displacements are expected in the very near future, the DRC said.

 


Police to register those fleeing the north

By Shezna Shums

The Police has informed all persons fleeing some of the areas in the north to register themselves at the relevant police stations in the south today (21).

The persons who are fleeing these districts from the north and are making their way to the south are being advised to register with the police department.

Police Spokesperson SSP Ranjith Gunasekera told The Sunday Leader that the registration of persons can be done from 8 a.m. till 6 p.m. today at any of the police stations.

"All persons fleeing the districts of Jaffna, Kilinochchi, Mullaitivu, Vavuniya and Mannar have to register themselves with the police department," he said.

This registration process is only applicable to persons who have fled these districts within the last five years. The police stations would require the individualís temporary address, their identity cards numbers and other basic information.

The persons who are fleeing their homes in the north will be given an official form to be filled and returned to the police station to be registered.

According to the police, in the case of persons who have fled their homes some time ago, they need not register again if they have registered themselves at the time they arrived in the south.

While a large number of civilians are fleeing the areas of Jaffna, Kilinochchi, Mullaitivu, Mannar and Vavuniya many of them are seeking shelter with relatives and friends and even in lodges in various places within the Western Province.

"The main purpose is to have systematic records and data on the civilians who have arrived from the North and the Wanni. This would help the public and the police as there are instances where INGOís, NGOís and government organisations request police for statistics and details of the refugees living in the Western Province in order to provide assistance and welfare. The system is legally approved and applies to all communities," Gunasekera said.


Soldiers in FDL get gas masks

The army has provided gas masks to soldiers fighting in the forward defence line (FDL) in the north.

Military Spokesperson Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara told The Sunday Leader that following last Mondayís CS gas attack on soldiers fighting in the Northern FDL by the LTTE, the army decided to provide them with gas masks.

He said although gas masks are part of a soldierís kit, it was never incorporated with the Sri Lankan soldiers, as the army had never experienced gas attacks previously. "Till now only the Commandos and the special forces personnel were provided with gas masks. However, now gas masks have been provided to all soldiers fighting in the Northern FDL," Nanayakkara said.

(MIA)


Two youth killed

Two youths have been shot dead by unidentified gunmen in separate incidents in Kotahena and Negombo yesterday.

According to the police, the youth killed in Kotahena has been identified as Gajan Kuhanendran (22).

Kuhanendran was shot by two unidentified gunmen riding a bike around 8.30 a.m. yesterday. He had succumbed to his injuries upon admission to hospital.

Another youth was killed in Negombo around 11.30 a.m. yesterday, once again by unidentified gunmen.


Hantana, Karagahatanna declared prohibited zones

Two mountain ranges, Hantana and Karagahtanna were declared prohibited areas for the public by Gazette notification last week .

"The Secretary to the Ministry of the Minister in charge of Defence  shall be the Competent  Authority," for the two ranges, the Gazette states.

"No person, other than a person to whom the Competent Authority has in terms of Section 15  issued permit, may enter or remain within,Karagahathanna/Hantana  Mountain Range (s) Prohibited Places," the Gazette notifications signed by President Mahinda Rajapakse said.

"Any person authorised to enter or remain within the Karagahathanna/ Hantana Mountain Range Prohibited Place shall within such place engage only in such purpose and subject such conditions as shall be specified in the permit," they said.


Teachers refuse to call off trade union action

By Nirmala Kannangara

The government approved teacher / principal services salary anomaly rectification scheme, will not meet the 11 year old demands of the teacher services trade unions in the country.

The government last week decided to rectify the salary anomalies in the teacher services. But the trade unions claimed that the minor adjustments proposed by the government were not acceptable and demanded that the proposals put forward by them be implemented instead.

"Since the government has had to face an uphill task in getting the A/L papers evaluated, they are now trying to lobby us by proposing a minor salary adjustment. Although the government claims that it has allocated a large sum of money for the rectification of the salary anomaly, the proposal benefited only a few in the education sector, and a majority would not get a salary increase of more than two hundred rupees per person," President Ceylon Teachersí Union (CTU) Joseph Stalin told The Sunday Leader.

According to Stalin this dubious salary anomaly rectification structure, was first proposed by the Salaries and Cadre Commission on March 8 this year. It was brought up again on August 19 but was turned down by the trade union representatives.

"When we met President Mahinda Rajapakse on June 26 seeking his intervention to get the 11 year old salary anomaly rectified, we put forward our proposal to have the issue resolved. We presented the same proposals to Presidentís Secretary Lalith Weeratunge last month.

But, the government without considering our proposals is trying to push us to accept the government proposal which will not be beneficial to our members. We will not give up our struggle till we win our demands," claimed Stalin.

Criticising the governmentís unsuccessful attempts to lobby the teachers to get the examination scripts evaluated, the General Secretary, Ceylon Teachersí Service Union (CTSU) Mahinda Jayasinghe told The Sunday Leader that the trade unions had refused to accept the proposals put forward by the government.

"Although the government claims that it would rectify the salary anomaly it is not willing to implement our proposals, but only theirs. We are therefore not ready to call off our struggle," claimed Jayasinghe.

Education Ministry Secretary N. Bandara was not available for comment.


Punished for divulging land grab deal to the media

By Mandana Ismail Abeywickrema

Trade unions attached to the Sri Lanka Land Reclamation and Development Corporation (SLLRDC) allege that following several exposes made by the media with regard to the alleged land grab in the Kelaniya area, two union members have been given transfers with immediate effect by the Corporation head.

The SLLRDC Workersí Union charges that two of its members have been transferred from their present office due to their alleged involvement in revealing details of the alleged land grab in Kelaniya by Minister Mervyn Silva to the media.

President, SLLRDC Workers Union, W.R.A. Priyankara told The Sunday Leader that when the union members met one of the Corporation general managers last Thursday, they were informed that he had no knowledge of the said transfers.

"He asked us to speak to the chairman and when we went to the chairmanís office we were told that he was not in. We then went to meet the other general manager. She said the Corporation had the mandate to transfer any employee at any time it wishes," he said.

Priyankara said that when they inquired from her the reason for the transfers, she had redirected the question to them and asked the unionists as to what they felt was the reason for the transfers.

"She asked us and we said that it was due to the recent media exposes on the illegal land grab in Kelaniya. She said that the union had given the details to the media and that was the reason for issuing the new circular preventing any one from giving details relating to the activities of the Corporation to the media," Priyankara charged.

Priyankara also said that the Corporation had issued a circular to the workers preventing them from giving any details to the media.

According to Priyankara, the two employees who had been transferred were the Treasurer and Assistant Secretary of the SLLRDC Workersí Union.

He said that while the Treasurer has been transferred to the Corporationís head office the Assistant Secretary has been transferred to one of the Corporationís land sites in Mudun Ela, Kelaniya.

Incidentally, the Mudun Ela land in Kelaniya is one of the lands that have been allegedly taken over by Silva to build a temple complex.

According to Priyankara, transferring one of the union members to the Mudun Ela project would place his life under threat as the alleged land grabbers would harm him.

However, SLLRDC Chairman, Karunasena Hettiarachchi told The Sunday Leader that the transfers were made for management reasons and said they were in no way connected to the stories in the media with regard to the alleged land acquisition by Silva in Kelaniya.

Hettiarachchi said that a separate inquiry is being held at the Corporation to find out how internal information reached the media.


Two sick zoo animals die following treatment

By Risidra Mendis

Animal rights activists have criticised zoo authorities for the recent deaths of two animals.

Animal rights activists have alleged that a ring tailed coati and a patagonium cavy died after veterinary surgeons injected the animals with a medication.

Speaking to The Morning Leader animal rights activists said the ring tailed coati died around two days ago while the patagonium cavy died about a week ago. "The ring tailed coati had a problem with its leg. But after the veterinary surgeon injected the animal with medication it died. The patagonium cavy suffered a similar fate," animal rights activists said.

The pair of ring tailed coati and three pairs of patagonium cavy were brought to the zoo from the Praha zoo in the Czech Republic on June 10. The ring tailed male coati is around four years old while the female is around two years old. The male patagonium cavy are between the ages of two to four years old while the females are between three to four years old.

Zoo director Duminda Jayaratne was not available for comment.


Police beat wood-cutter to death

Muslims in Pothuvil, Ampara have raised concerns over the arrest of 26 Muslims who had gone to cut wood. One person who was arrested had been beaten to death allegedly by the police.

The victim has been identified as 30 year-old Mohammed Aliyar Saleem, a father of two.

A relative of the victim who did not want to be identified said that the arrested Muslims were asked to pose for photographs by the police holding guns.

The persons were arrested by the police a month ago by the Moneragala police. They had gone into the jungle to collect wood, the relative added.

They were labelled as LTTE supporters, the relative said.

The relative also said that the others who were arrested were badly beaten by the police.

The Moneragala police stated that there were no such incidents reported.


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