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something to smile about


The main opposition UNP held its 53rd Annual Convention on Saturday. Photo shows UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe sharing a light moment with party chairman Rukman Senanayake and Muslim Congress leader Rauf Hakeem during the session
Photo by Thusitha Kumara

 

 

TNA wants Pranab to ensure ceasefire

 

Circular to curb govt. expenditure issued

 

Sajith backs Karu for Deputy Leader

 

Tourism industry on the verge of collapse

 

Tea industry facing severe crisis

 

SL 'most dangerous' for aid
workers says EC

 

Petrol prices reduced

 

Retail rice traders warn of
imminent price increase


More.....

UNP to submit No Faith motion tomorrow

Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe will under his own name submit a motion of no confidence against the government on Monday citing primarily the controversial hedging deal.

The government has run into a storm of controversy over the hedging deal which will cost the state over US $ 400 million in losses.

The deal had led to infighting in the government with some ministers blaming Petroleum and Petroleum Resources Minister A.H.M. Fowzie and former Chairman, Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC), Asantha de Mel while Minister Fowzie told parliament last week that the entire hedging deal was the brainchild of Central Bank Governor Ajith Nivard Cabraal and cabinet approval was later signified for the same.

Meanwhile, the UNP submitted a separate motion to parliament bearing the signatures of Chief Opposition Whip, Joseph Michael Perera and Parliamentarians Ravi Karunanayake and Dayasiri Jayasekera seeking two full days parliamentary debate on a host of items ranging from corruption to abductions.

The motion was originally a no confidence motion but at the last moment, Chief Whip Joseph Michael Perera had on his own initiative deleted the no confidence aspect of the motion and called for a debate.

The original motion approved by the UNP leader said in the concluding paragraph that, "This House resolves that this House has no confidence in the ability of this government to continue in office any longer."

The motion submitted to the Secretary General of Parliament on Friday (5) reads as follows:

We, the undersigned Members of Parliament do hereby give notice of the following motion to be placed on the Order Paper of Parliament and for necessary action thereafter.

Whereas the Government of President Mahinda Rajapakse through the implementation of the dubious Mahinda Chinthana has brought the country into a state of misery and to the brink of disaster and

Whereas the government through the corrupt "MIG aircraft" deal caused our defence establishment to purchase outdated aircraft jeopardising the air force and its personnel and

Whereas the government through the wasteful and irresponsible Mihin Lanka Project has committed a colossal sum of rupees, Rs. 6,000 million to resurrect the insolvent Mihin Lanka airline which has already squandered Rs. 3,250 million of public funds in all totalling to Rs.9, 250 million and

Whereas the government through the highly suspicious 'Hedging' deal entered into by the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation with foreign commercial banks and our own Peoples' Bank, without the supervision of the Auditor General to purchase the fuel requirements of this country when the oil prices in the world market rose to 147 dollars a barrel in September 2008 which dramatically slumped to 47 dollars a barrel in December 2008 thereby depriving the public of enjoying the benefit of the declining oil prices in the oil market  as the Sri Lanka Petroleum Corporation had committed itself and this country to a massive foreign debt of Rs. 2.5 billion to the banks and

Whereas if not for the timely intervention of the Supreme Court, the government in order to recoup the losses running into billions of rupees incurred in the 'Hedging' deal and would have imposed a further burden on the already suffering masses and

Whereas the Central Bank and the Finance Ministry are implicated in this "Hedging' transaction and

Whereas this government in furtherance of maintaining its precarious balance of power in parliament has dubiously, willfully and surreptitiously changed the peoples' mandate by purchasing corrupt Members of Parliament and

Whereas the government in order to maintain its political balance has created a jumbo cabinet of 110 ministers hereby making the people to bear the burden of maintaining these ministers by expending billions of rupees to sustain its flagging artificial majority in parliament and

 Whereas all the monies which is being robbed from the people and squandered on wasteful exercises could be better used to alleviate the sufferings of the masses and

Whereas the government through intimidation, harassment, terror, abduction and the white van scourge has muzzled the media and unleashed a spate of violence and

Whereas the government through its notorious record of human rights violations has brought this country into disrepute in the eyes of the international community thereby pushing the European Commission to consider blacklisting the country resulting in the danger of losing the GSP + facility afforded to the garment industry of this country causing an imminent threat to nearly 250,000 persons employed in this sector, and

Whereas over the last three years the government of President Mahinda Rajapakse, has inflicted nothing but misery and agony on the people ad installed a culture of bribery, corruption, waste and nepotism and

Whereas the government has callously and surreptitiously increased the President's allocation to as much as Rs. 6,800 million for the year 2009 whilst denying the people their welfare benefits such as 'Samurdhi,' health, education and transport, and failed to give the promised salary increase to the public sector, the estate sector and the private sector and

Whereas the government has failed to provide any relief to the victims of the tsunami who are still living in refugee camps and

Whereas the government has failed to provide any relief for the thousands and thousands of internally displaced persons distributed in several refugee camps and

Whereas despite the fact that the government is fully aware that the opposition is fully supportive of the government in its war effort, it goes on to rely on the war to camouflage its misdemeanors and mismanagement and continues to foster ethic hatred and violence through the state controlled media.

We hereby request that the opposition be given two full days at the earliest opportunity to debate the matter set out above.

 


TNA wants Pranab to ensure ceasefire

The Tamil National Alliance last week reiterated that the visit of Indian Foreign Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee should pave the way for an immediate ceasefire in the country.

TNA Parliamentarian Suresh Premachandran told The Sunday Leader that there would be no purpose in Mukherjee's visit if the war was to continue in the north.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday agreed to send Mukherjee to Sri Lanka to hold discussions with President Mahinda Rajapakse on the issue.

"There will be no point in Mukherjee's visit if the war continues to go on," Premachandran said.

The Indian Premier agreed to send Mukherjee following a meeting with the delegation of all party members of Tamil Nadu headed by Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi last Thursday (4).

Several parties including Congress, PMK, CPI and Dalit Panthers accompanied the Chief Minister.

The members had called for the intervention of the central government in the Sri Lankan issue and to press for an immediate cessation of hostilities in the north.

Meanwhile, the Indian High Commission in Sri Lanka said that there had been no official information with regard to Mukherjee's visit.

"Nothing has been told to us so far with regard to Minister Pranab Mukherjee's visit," Spokesperson for the Indian High Commission, Dinkar Asthana said.

 


Circular to curb govt. expenditure issued

By Dilrukshi Handunnetti

The Finance and Planning Ministry has issued a Budget Circular dated November 11, 2008 calling for urgent measures to curb state spending in the backdrop of a global recession and locally, the high prices of food and fuel, maintained subsidies and high defence expenditure.

The Finance Ministry under the signature of Secretary, Finance and Planning Ministry, S. Abeysinghe, on November 11 issued budget Circular No: 141 (My Ref: BDA/965/1/508) to all ministry secretaries, secretaries of provincial councils, heads of departments, heads of statutory boards and chairmen of government corporations instructing them on how best to ensure state fiscal management for the remainder of the year 2008.

According to the circular, in the backdrop of both international and domestic economic trends, it has been necessitated that expenditure be drastically curbed for the remainder of this year.

The circular seeks to give expression to a cabinet decision reached on November 5, 2008.

The circular notes that in the backdrop of the global recession impacting on the domestic conditions, the recent escalation of prices in fuel and food causing the government to subside both fuel and food items, the incurring of additional expenditure to maintain the fertiliser subsidy and for national security, the government has decided to utilise state funds with utmost care.

According to the said circular, it is advised that expenditure is to be curtailed in four ways.

Accordingly, all supplies and services not committed, be differed for the time being, to suspend all capital investments that have not been committed in all construction work, machinery and capital investments such as vehicles, no additional commitments to be made with regard to recurrent expenditure and the money allocated for recurrent and capital expenditure not be utilized for other expenses during the remaining period of the year.

 


Sajith backs Karu for Deputy Leader

UNP Hambantota Parliamentarian Sajith Premadasa has vowed to support Public Administration Minister Karu Jayasuriya for the post of deputy leader if he returns to the party.

Premadasa told The Sunday Leader he will fully back Jayasuriya for the deputy leader's post and work closely with him if the Minister returns to the party.

Speculation was rife last week of Jayasuriya's impending return to the UNP after he indicated to the UNP defectors at a meeting convened on Wednesday, December 3 that he had a lot of issues with the government and that it was time to take a decision on his political future.

Jayasuriya told the defectors he had not yet decided to return to the UNP, but would take a decision on his political future very shortly.

The Minister had explained his disillusionment over, amongst other matters, the manner in which Government Agents were appointed, the failure to implement the 17th Amendment to the Constitution and the humiliation he was subjected to at a joint press conference with the President during the North Central Provincial Council elections.

Last week three senior UNP MPs, Alick Aluvihare, Ranjith Maddumabandara and Ravi Samaraweera submitted a letter to the UNP recommending Premadasa for the post of deputy leader.

However, UNP General Secretary Tissa Attanayake later said there was no decision to appoint any person to the post until the report of the committee of party seniors is submitted.

Premadasa told The Sunday Leader, notwithstanding his name being recommended by three members he will openly support Jayasuriya for the post if he returns to the party.

Earlier, MPs Vajira Abeywardene and A.R.M. Cader had forwarded their names for the post of deputy leader but have indicated they will withdraw in favour of Jayasuriya if he returned to the party.

It is learned UNP Chairman Rukman Senanayake too had informed Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe he would support Jayasuriya's appointment as deputy leader and even propose the name to the Working Committee.

 


Tourism industry on the verge of collapse

By Nirmala Kannangara

The tourism industry in the country is facing the worst ever crisis situation and is in doubt whether it would collapse beyond redemption, the Tourist Hotels Association of Sri Lanka (THASL) told The Sunday Leader.

With the global financial recession, the leisure industry has hit rock bottom and advance bookings have seen a steep decline for the past few months and any further downward turns would result in closing down many resort hotels in the country, according to the THASL. 

"This is the worst ever crisis situation the country's tourism industry has ever had to face as even after the disastrous tsunami and airport bombings, still the industry had the determination to bounce back and were able to recover fast, but the present global financial recession has already forced our leisure industry to suffer immensely," President, THASL, Srilal Miththapala told The Sunday Leader.

According to Miththapala, the surveys that he has carried out during the past few months have clearly shown that the industry would be in great trouble from January as there are hardly any bookings coming through and the usual extra staff that was absorbed during the season have now been put on hold. 

"In December there are only a few arrivals which is a huge decline compared to the previous years. But the present situation would be completely different from January as there are hardly any bookings coming through," Miththapala added.

According to him, of the nine Russian charter flights that were to bring leisure seekers to the country in December, two charter flights have cancelled their bookings and more cancellations are likely.

Speaking further Miththapala said that not only are those who are directly involved in the industry facing a total loss but also the dependents and those who are indirectly involved which amounts to more than 400,000 people.

"Although the industry suffered enormously in 2007 this year's figures could be rated as the worst ever as it is a 15% drop compared to last year and the THASL expects a further downward trend in the years to come. Even the World Tourism Organisation (WTO) in mid 2008 expected a growth of 6.8% in tourism but within a few months they have down graded it to 3%, which clearly shows what an impact it would have on our country's tourism industry that once was the third largest foreign exchange earner for the country," Miththapala said.

 


Tea industry facing severe crisis

By Nirmala Kannangara

The Mahinda Rajapakse administration has failed to save the country's single largest foreign exchange earner, the tea industry, the Tea Small Holders Joint Convention (TSHJC) alleged.

The failure of the Rajapakse administration to uplift the tea industry and provide relief to the tea small holders has resulted in the present crisis in the industry, the TSHJC said. They also said that unless urgent measures are taken to revive the industry, 'Ceylon Tea' would become history in the near future.

"Over the past three years tea production has declined and is on the verge of collapsing. Tea factories are now about to close down and would result in severe repercussions if the government does not take any measures to uplift the industry and boost  production," Chairman TSHJC and JVP Parliamentarian Chandrasena Wijesinghe told The Sunday Leader.

According to Wijesinghe, tea small holders represent 75% of the tea growers in the country and the government's failure to appoint an energetic and responsible Minister to look after the tea industry is the main cause of the present situation.

"During the previous regime an energetic person who could look after the industry was appointed as the minister in charge of the tea industry. But President Mahinda Rajapakse has not only failed to honour his promise to uplift the tea industry, but has also failed to appoint a minister who is well versed in the tea industry," Wijesinghe alleged.

"It was in 2005 that the industry produced a bumper crop of 317 million kg of tea, but since then it has dropped by 6.4 million kg and 12.6 million kg in 2006 and 2007 respectively. This year the situation would be worse since the crop has been badly affected as a result of the subsidised fertiliser given by the government, which was harmful to the tea plantations," claimed Wijesinghe.

Accusing the government of rejecting the proposals forwarded by the tea small holders to uplift the present situation, Wijesinghe said that unless the six proposals they have forwarded are considered favourably there would be no way to revert the downfall of the tea industry.

"Since we are unable to sell the produce we requested the President to initiate a programme where we could exchange our buffer stocks with another foreign production, like the pact we had with China where both the countries exchanged rice and rubber. But although we have made this suggestion it seems that President Rajapakse is not interested in addressing this important issue," Wijesinghe stated. Officials at the Plantation Ministrywere not available for comment.

 


SL 'most dangerous' for aid workers says EC

Sri Lanka is one of the most dangerous places for aid workers, the European Commission (EC) last week said.

European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid, Lois Michel had said that at least 29 aid workers had been killed in Sri Lanka since 2006.

The latest victim was A. Vigneswaran, a 28 year old aid worker attached to the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC).

"I am appalled by the assassination of this brave and committed young aid worker in Sri Lanka, with at least 29 aid workers killed since 2006."

"Sri Lanka is one of the most dangerous places for aid workers in the world. The perpetrators of such horrendous acts must be brought to justice. There can be no impunity," Michel had said in a statement.

Vigneswaran was the third staff member of the organisation to have been abducted or killed in Batticaloa.

He also said that the humanitarian workers were helping Sri Lankans in an impartial and neutral manner.

"They must be able to do their work without risking their lives. It is the responsibility of all those involved in this conflict that under International Humanitarian Law they are obliged to ensure the safety of civilians, including aid workers," he said.

 


Petrol prices reduced

The government on Friday announced its decision to reduce petrol prices by Rs. 20.

Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake told parliament that the price of a litre of petrol will be reduced by Rs. 20 with effect from Friday and the price of furnace oil will be reduced by Rs. 10.

 


Retail rice traders warn of imminent price increase

By Nirmala Kannangara

Retail traders will be forced to increase the selling price of rice to over Rs 70 per kilo following a decision by the mill owners to increase their prices to Rs 67 per kilo.

The Sunday Leader learns that the mill owners have decided to increase their rice prices, as they are not earning a profit.

Speaking to The Sunday Leader Old Moor Street Importers Association President, K. Palaniyandi said mill owners sold their rice at Rs 65 per kilo and the wholesale traders sold the rice at Rs 67 per kilo to the retail traders prior to this decision.

"However, with the present situation where mill owners are planning to sell their rice at Rs 67 per kilo, the wholesale traders will be forced to increase their selling price of a kilo of rice causing a problem to the retail traders. At present retail traders have to sell a kilo of rice at a maximum of Rs 70", Palaniyandi said.     

He alleged that although the government could intervene at this stage and request the mill owners to sell a kilo of rice at Rs 65, they are not doing so because the mill owners are government supporters.

"If the government doesn't intervene at this stage and solve this problem, there could be a shortage of rice during the festive season. The other option would be for the government to allow the retail traders to increase their price for a kilo of rice by a small margin," Palaniyandi said. 

 


Three wheeler fares reduced

Risidra Mendis

The All Island Three Wheeler Drivers Welfare Association (AITWDWA) has reduced taxi fares by Rs. 2 per kilometre effective from Saturday (6).

The reduction in taxi fares comes after a government decision to reduce a litre of petrol by Rs 20 from yesterday.

An AITWDWA spokesman told The Sunday Leader that they had taken this decision despite incurring losses.

 


India admits 'lapses' over Mumbai

India's new home minister has admitted that there were security lapses in last week's militant attacks on Mumbai.

Palaniappan Chidambaram said the lapses were being "looked into" and their "causes would be addressed soon." Officials have now revised the death toll - they say 172 people died, including nine gunmen, in the attack on multiple targets in the city.

India has blamed Pakistan-based militants for the attacks. Islamabad denies any role. On Friday Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said Indians were "angry as never before" over the attacks.

The Indian government has faced growing criticism at home over its handling of the attacks. Chidambaram took over as home minister on Monday after his predecessor Shivraj Patil was forced to quit amid media and opposition criticism that he was taking a "soft approach on terror."

"I would be less than truthful if I said there were no lapses," Chidambaram told reporters in Mumbai. "These are being looked into. We will address the causes that led to the lapses." Chidambaram refused to give any details of the investigation into the attacks.

"Work is under way. A lot of evidence has been gathered. Many aspects are being checked... and when the full picture is drawn up I expect to be able to make a statement in parliament," he said.

When asked about the possible involvement of Pakistan's spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence, Chidambaram said: "There is ample evidence to show the source of the attacks was clearly linked to organisations which have in the past been identified as behind terrorist attacks in India."

US media said this week that Washington had warned India in October that Mumbai could be targeted by militants arriving by sea.

Many of the 293 people who were injured are still undergoing treatment.

Meanwhile, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev - who is on a visit to India - offered to help India fight terrorism and investigate the attacks in Mumbai.  "Terrorism is a common enemy. We are ready to help India in fighting this menace," India's national channel Doordarshan quoted him as saying.

Following talks with Medvedev, Singh said it was "the obligation of all concerned that perpetrators of this horrible crime are brought to book." He added: "The people of India have felt a sense of hurt and anger as never before due to the Mumbai terror strikes."  On Thursday, India said it had decided to put "on hold" all official initiatives to boost trade with Pakistan.

"Quite clearly, the environment being what it is now, we have put everything on hold," the Indian Express newspaper quoted Minister Jairam Ramesh as saying.

 


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