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Colombo AIDS event reveals a 'safe pearl in ocean'

Aug 21 (IANS) Every morning, A.H. Sheriffdeen, one of the chief organisers of a large regional AIDS meeting being held in the capital of war-ravaged Sri Lanka, says a little prayer. 'My first prayer of the day is that things shouldn't flare up,' said Sheriffdeen, co-chair of the International Conference on AIDS in the Asia Pacific. His prayer is not a bit out of place, nor a day too late. more..

UN announces initiative across Asia to expand HIV programs for IV drug users

Aug 21 (AP) The United Nations announced Tuesday a new initiative to expand HIV prevention programs across Asia for intravenous drug users, whose use of shared needles is one of the major drivers of the disease in the region. In some countries in the region, IV drug users account for as much as 70 percent of new HIV infections, and the increased use of heroin in South Asia poses a risk that the disease will spread further, more..

Billions in public funds for MPs vehicles

Aug 21 (LNP) All parliamentarians except JVP members have imported duty free super luxury vehicles incurring an expenditure of more than US$ 8 million and causing a loss of Rs. 2.5 billion to the Treasury or public funds - due to the duty waiver, a highly placed Customs official said yesterday. The government has paid more than Rs. 13 million each as duty for the super luxury vehicles imported by JHU parliamentarians, Ven Ellawala Medhananda, Ven. Athuraliye Ratana and Ven Kotapola Amarakitti Theras, more..

Tamil lawmaker's brother shot dead in eastern Sri Lanka

Aug 21 (DPA) A Tamil legislator's brother was shot dead by an unidentified man in eastern Sri Lanka, a family spokesman said Tuesday. The killing occurred in a region of the country of which government troops claimed to have gained full control after nearly six months of military operations. S Thiyagachandran, 54, was returning home after work Monday evening when he was gunned down at Oaddamaavadi, 260 kilometres east of Colombo. more..

Five killed amid heavy shelling in Sri Lanka's Jaffna

Aug 21 (AFP) Government forces and Tamil Tiger rebels exchanged artillery fire in northern Sri Lanka Tuesday as five people were killed in other violence, military officials and rebels said. Security forces were firing multi-barrel rocket launchers towards positions of the LTTE in the Jaffna peninsula, officials said. The pro-rebel website said there had been long-range attacks on Monday night too, but there were no reports of casualties. more..

Sri Lanka credit crunch drives rates up, foreign names sell bonds

Aug 22 (LBO) Sri Lanka's Central Bank eased access to its discount window with overnight rupee rates hitting 40 percent, while the spot dollar hit an intra-day high of 112.10 rupees Tuesday, dealers said. Interbank money markets are facing liquidity shortages stemming from an outflow of foreign exchange. The monetary authority has been trying to hold the rupee up with moral suasion and heavy intervention through state banks. more..

Sri Lanka, U.S. militaries talk justice in counter-terror wars

Aug 22 (LBO) Military officers from Sri Lanka and the United States, two countries faced with tough suicide terrorist wars, discussed human rights and justice in counter-terrorism operations at a meeting in Colombo last week, the U.S. embassy said Tuesday. The three-day meeting, hosted by the U.S. Pacific Command, in partnership with the American Embassy, was to exchange ideas on ways to improve transparency, accountability and human rights in military justice, it said in a statement. more..

Drugs, conflict spur HIV in Asia Pacific region

Aug 22 (Reuters) HIV infections are increasing at a worrying 10 percent a year in the Asia Pacific region, a top UN AIDS official said on Tuesday, putting the rise down to intravenous drug use, sex workers and conflicts. Governments need to spend more money on prevention programmes and look at bypassing patents to produce affordable generic drugs to ensure prevalence rates remain low compared to Africa, said Prasada Rao, UNAIDS regional director for Asia and the Pacific. more..

Charges cannot be proved; Sripathi released

Aug 22 (LeN) The magistrate of Kaduwela, Lakmal Wickramasuriya today (21) acquitted Sri Lanka Freedom Party - People's Wing Co-Convener and Gampaha district MP Sripathi Suriyaarachchi from the charges of misuse of a vehicle belonged to the Department of Posts and Telecommunication. The magistrate considering the case said that the CID could not prove the charges leveled against the accused. more..

UNP calls on People's Bank to stop payment on MIG deal

Aug 22 (ML) The main opposition UNP yesterday called for the immediate suspension of further payments by the Peoples’ Bank on the controversial MiG 27 deal and urged the deal be referred to the Committee on Public Enterprise (COPE) for an urgent probe. The UNP also said that the deal steeped in controversy included a third party, Belimissa Holdings that allegedly transacted on behalf of the Ukrainian government and was now under investigation by the very government. more..

A government of contradictions

Aug 22 (ML) Even as the government got itself embroiled in a diplomatic brawl over the risk humanitarian aid workers face in Sri Lanka, another Tamil relief worker was shot dead by unidentified gunmen in Jaffna. The killing came amidst renewed violence in Vavuniya over the weekend that by Monday had claimed over 14 lives in an official count. The government continues to earn international disgust as ceasefire monitors said last Sunday they had received several complaints of army involvement in abductions in the north. more..

A glimmer of hope in Muttur

Aug 22 (ML) While another aid worker was shot dead Monday in Jaffna, just one week after UN under secretary general called Sri Lanka one of the most dangerous places for relief workers, in Muttur, where it all began, there remains a glimmer of hope. It was in Muttur that seventeen local aid workers, 16 Tamil, one Muslim, from the Paris based aid agency Contre La Faim were brutally massacred in the first week of August last year. It was in Muttur that terrible history was made. more..

Govt. will stick to unitary state

Aug 22 (ML) The government yesterday reiterated in parliament that any solution to the ethnic question by the UPFA administration would fall well within the unitary framework irrespective of any submissions by the APRC to the contrary. Responding to a special statement by JVP Parliamentary Group Leader, Wimal Weerawansa, Chief Government Whip Jeyaraj Fernandopulle insisted that the government was mindful of the mandate received and that this was the official position. more..

Plane diverted after Tigers fire at air base

Aug 22 (DPA) Tamil rebels fired artillery at a military air base yesterday in northern Sri Lanka, prompting security forces to retaliate and forcing the diversion of a civilian passenger plane, military and airline officials said. The rebels fired at least 10 rounds of artillery towards the military complex in Palaly, 420km north of the capital, yesterday morning, but all of them fell short of their targets, a military official in Colombo said. more..

Three Tamils produced in Oslo court; lawyer says it was an internal fight for hegemony

Aug 22 (AT) Yesterday three of the four Tamil suspects charged for the Oslo shootout appeared in court. The fourth suspect is hospitalized after injuries sustained in the Oslo shootout. Heavily armed police officers guarded the courtroom. All those entering the court hearings had to show ID documents and pass a metal detector. The court was packed with journalists covering the court hearings. more..

Australian radio stations raise funds for Tiger terrorists

Aug 22 (AT) Australia is now a gold mine for Tamil broadcasters to glorify the internationally banned Tamil Tiger leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran and raise funds. Often the radio stations in Melbourne and Sydney are open to Tamil Tiger leaders in the Vanni who come on line regularly to plead for funds by glorifying the terror tactics of the Tamil Tigers. more..

If Western Nations Continue to Crack Down on Fund Raising LTTE Will Totter - Jane’s Intelligence Review

Aug 22 (AT) The Jane’s Intelligence Review in a special edition available only to their subscribers revealed if the Western law enforcement crackdown on LTTE financial and procurement continues, the group's ability to fight may be weakened in the medium term, degrading its ability to withstand the Sri Lankan government's offensives and further undermining its combat capabilities. more..

Lodge owner threatened for informing Police about claymore mines

Aug 22 (GDI) An owner of a lodge in Wellawatta received threats from the LTTE for giving valuable information to the Police to track down two claymore mines hidden in his lodge by an occupant. Police Spokesman Senior DIG Jayantha Wickramarathne revealed to media this information today (22) at the weekly held press briefing on current security situation. more..

Military Law Exchange Programme to promote military law

Aug 22 (GDI) Ministry of Defense with the collaboration of the American Embassy in Colombo, hosted a three day Military Law Exchange programme through which ideas on ways to improve transparency, accountability and human rights in military justice were exchanged. A five-member American team met with thirty five Sri Lankan Army, Navy and Air Force personnel last week at the Galadari Hotel to foster the mutual exchange of ideas and discussion of law affecting military commanders. more..

Ford Supermodel of the World - Sri Lanka 2007

Aug 22 (GDI) The Model Network (Sri Lanka) in joint collaboration with the ART television Broadcasting Corporation is set to launch a wide model search on a reality series platform. The contest known as ‘Ford Supermodel of Sri Lanka 2007’ is a new venture which will include an all island search for local talent for launch into the international arena. This project is replicated in over 45 countries making it the largest and most prestigious talent search in the world. more..

Sri Lanka maintains low profile in AIDS

Aug 22 (GDI) Despite the epidemic disease Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) shows a dramatic increase in Asia and in the Pacific region, countries like Sri Lanka and Philippines have succeeded in maintaining a low profile at the infection rate of this disease. While explaining the global inclination of AIDS with regard to other countries Deborah Landey, Deputy Executive Director, UNAIDS said that more..

LTTE London protest flops

Aug 22 (GDI) An attempt made by the LTTE terrorists to protest against the Government of Sri Lanka in London was washed off as the participation was far below the expectations of the organizers. According to official news sources the protest was organized by an LTTE front leader, Kanagalingam Kannan. It was held opposite the Westminster House Parliament on last Monday (20). more..

Opposition leader’s statement on media is unethical – Media Minister

Aug 22 (GDI) Minister of Media Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena requested all the media personals including the editors of the newspapers to respond to the allegations leveled against them by the opposition leader. “They should come out with their comments in response to the allegations made by the UNP leader. They should also clarify whether the Government has made any pressure on media,” he said. more..

Sri Lanka fisheries still neglected after decades of development

Aug 22 (LBO) Sri Lanka's fisheries sector is still neglected and makes an inadequate contribution to the economy despite decades of development and the island being surrounded by the ocean, an expert told an international conference last week. "Despite considerable development programmes since the 1960s, fisheries infrastructure is still inadequate," Champa Amarasiri, acting director of research and development of the National Aquatic Resources R&D Agency (NARA), said. more..

Sri Lanka central bank opens discount window to primary dealers

Aug 22 (LBO) Sri Lanka's Central Bank opened its discount window to primary dealers allowing them to get overnight cash after overnight rates hit 49 percent in early trade Wednesday, dealers said. The monetary authority had cut primary dealers off the window earlier in a bid to stop arbitrage on rates with an artificially low policy rate of 12.00 percent. more..

JVP warns President of a grave political mistake

Aug 22 (LD) The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) sounded yet another dire warning to the government today (August 22nd). “It would be a grave political mistake if the government fails to act before the forthcoming budget presentation, in consideration of trade union demands and implement the ‘Mahinda Chintana’ as agreed at the presidential election,” JVP Propaganda Secretary of the Wimal Weerawansa said in Colombo. more..

SC has no right to question my statement on Year One admissions - Ranil

Aug 22 (LD) Opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe says that the petition filed before the Supreme Court, questioning his recent statement in Parliament regarding the admission of Year One students to government schools, had violated his parliamentary privileges. Making a special statement in the House today (August 22nd), Wickremesinghe said that he never made certain statements attributed to him in the petition. more..

People shoved into ditches to make way for Gotabhaya

Aug 22 (LD) Pedestrians walking the busy and crowded Armour Street in Colombo were in for an unpleasant and surprising experience at around 10 a.m. today (August 22nd). They were unceremoniously shoved into every available corner - shops, alleys and even into drains - by armed soldiers. Even respectably dressed ladies were not spared, as all these people were subjected to incomprehension, shock and humiliation. more..

Five held for supplying diesel to LTTE

Aug 22 (Hindu) The Navy and Customs on Tuesday busted a racket in selling diesel reportedly to the operatives of the LTTE. This came to light when a joint patrolling party headed by Rajiv Kumar, Leading Patrol Man of Indian Navy based at Rameswaram seized a mechanised boat and arrested 5 fishermen with Sri Lankan currency. The arrested fishermen have been identified as S. Kumar (30), A. Paltha (45), F. Robert (23), S. Packiaraj (32) and A. Anbukilavan (24). more..

Three constables arrested

Aug 22 (Hindu) Three police head constables — two attached to the crime wing of Cantonment station and the third to the crime wing of Navalpattu station (rural district) — were arrested on Tuesday night by a team of CB CID police when they reportedly attempted to extract Rs. 1.3 lakh from a Sri Lankan Tamil family in K.K. Nagar. The police sources said that the trio had gone to collect the money from Ramesh, a Sri Lankan Tamil, who arrived here from London on August 3 on a visit to his aunt’s house. more..

India-Sri Lanka submarine cable link still a long way

Aug 22 (PM) PTC India Ltd (formerly Power Trading Corporation of India Ltd) is seriously contemplating a submarine cable link between India and Sri Lanka to supply electricity to the power-deficit island nation. PTC has mooted the idea to the Government of Sri Lanka and is waiting for a response from across the Palk Strait. There has been none so far. A senior official at PTC admitted that a proposal to link the two countries by a submarine cable was on the cards but nothing concrete has emerged. more..

Did Tiger artillery target Army chief?

Aug 22 (LNP) The LTTE and the military were involved in a barrage of artillery exchanges in Jaffna yesterday forcing Army Commander Sarath Fonseka to suspend a scheduled visit to Palaly. The LTTE however played down the incident saying it was just part of a `routine exchange of shelling.` Commander Fonseka was scheduled to leave Katunayake for Palaly on board a military helicopter last morning when bad weather resulted in the flight being delayed. more..

Tough line on teacher unions

Aug 22 (SAMN) The Department of Examination took a tough stand Tuesday on teacher unions disrupting the evaluation of A/L answer scripts by warning of arrests of saboteurs. “Any person who disrupts the marking process or any other examination duties can be taken into custody under the powers vested into the Commissioner General of Examination by the Examination Act Number 25 of 1968,” Department sources said. more..

JVP reveals state farms sales plan

Aug 22 (SAMN) The JVP charged in parliament Tuesday that the government had taken action to privatise two state owned farms located in Parasangaswewa and Oyamaduwa in the Anuradhapura District with callous disregard to the mandate given to Mahinda Chinthana policies by the people. JVP MP Anura Kumara Dissanayaka said plans are already underway to sell off these two farms to an Indian company. more..

Karuna Group to retain arms till Polls

Aug 22 (SAMN) The Karuna Group intends to retain its arms until parliamentary elections are held, Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal (TMVP) Peace Secretariat Head, K. Mahesh said, adding that the only way the group would be ensured protection was by entering parliament. "We are sure to win at least five seats and that is the only way the government could ensure our protection," he said. more..

Heavy security for Kandy perahera

Aug 22 (SAMN) Additional troops have been deployed in Kandy to strengthen security during the Esala Pageant, SSP Kandy Jagath Gunawardena said. More than 7,000 security personnel from the three armed forces, together with police and STF personnel have been sent to Kandy with new road blocks being set up at the entrance to the perahera zone, according to SSP Gunawardena. more..

'PMs derogatory remark on UN envoy insults Lanka'

Aug 22 (ANN) The main opposition United National Party today criticised Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake for using what it called language unbecoming of a person holding such high office. Galle District UNP MP Gayantha Karunathillake addressing the media in Colombo said that deregotary terms such as "devil" used by Wickremanayake to describe visiting UN Under Secretary of Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes was an insult to the whole country. more..

'Finance secretary serving his self-interest'

Aug 22 (ANN) Amidst allegations by experts and opposition political parties that the Central Bank of Sri Lanka is trying to achieve economic prosperity by printing money, its Deputy Governor raised the issue of the independence of the institution. Deputy Governor W. A. Wijewardena told a meeting in Colombo on Monday that the question of the Bank’s independence has come to the limelight due to the Secretary of Ministry of Finance sitting as a vote carrying member of the Monetary Board, the highest policy making body in the institution. more..

Drug bill to double next year

Aug 22 (DN) The country’s annual drugs bill is set to double next year due to doctors preferring to prescribe brand name drugs instead of the generic equivalents, a Health Ministry spokesman said. Another reason for the increase is the tendency by doctors to prescribe expensive drugs when drugs of the same quality are available at cheaper rates, the spokesman said adding that doctors are being influenced by multinational drug companies to follow such a course. more..

Govt incurred Rs. 9 b. loss to subsidise essentials - President

Aug 22 (DN) President Mahinda Rajapaksa stressed that in the Government’s genuine effort to lower the ‘Cost of Living’, it had lost Rs. 9 billion in revenue in the form of duty waivers on essential items. Handing over awards to traders islandwide for ‘Fair Trading’ at the Presidential Secretariat in Colombo yesterday, President Rajapaksa observed that as a Government which has a finger on the pulse of the people and knew their aspirations, they fully understood the need to alleviate the consumers’ burdens. more..

Past pupils oppose school admission circular

Aug 22 (DM) Condemning the latest cabinet-approved circular on admission of children to grade one, representatives of past pupils’ associations of over 30 schools countrywide expressed their displeasure over the matter while several filed fundamental rights petitions at the Supreme Court yesterday. Following the FR petition filed by the Ananda College OBA at the Supreme Court on Monday, the more..

No change in slots allotted on religious basis: Minister

Aug 22 (DM) Education Minister Susil Premajayantha assured Parliament yesterday that there would be no change in slots allotted on religious basis when admitting children to grade one classes for 2008 according to the new circular which received the cabinet approval on August 17. Mr. Premajayantha said that the ministry had included instructions pertaining to this case in a separate booklet to be issued to school authorities as a circular. more..

Sri Lanka hunt turns to Tigers in north

Aug 22 (AT) With the eviction of the LTTE from Batticaloa, capital of Sri Lanka's Eastern Province, and the Tigers' eventual collapse in the Thoppigala jungle area (Barron's Rock) on July 11, the expulsion of the rebels from their strongholds in the province was complete. Well before these successes, outlining the strategy of the Sri Lanka Army on January 4, SLA commander Lieutenant-General Sarath Fonseka said, "After eradicating the Tigers from the east, full strength will be used to rescue the north." more..

MiGs That Earn Their Keep

Aug 22 (SP) Sri Lanka was looking for more than low price when they bought eleven MiG-27 fighter-bombers. The MiGs were not only cheaper than the more capable (on paper) Israeli Kfirs they had also purchased, but the MiGs were cheaper to maintain and, because of their swing-wing design (similar to the U.S. F-111) able to hit targets more accurately at low altitudes. The MiGs were also better at avoiding, or absorbing, enemy ground fire. That's what the MiG-27 was built for. more..

Sri Lanka urged to rise above 'ethnic, chauvinist interests'

Aug 22 (IANS) The Tamil Tigers may have been routed in Sri Lanka's eastern wing but the new found normalcy there exists "at the point of the gun", a rights group has said, urging Colombo to rise above "ethnic or chauvinist interests". In a scathing criticism of the situation in the volatile and multi-ethnic region, the Coalition of Muslims and Tamils for Peace and Coexistence (CMTPC) has said the Sri Lankan government needed to bring about peace sincerely. more..

US helps to improve Sri Lankan military's rights record

Aug 22 (IANS) Military law professionals from the US Pacific Command have hosted a programme to improve the human rights record of the Sri Lankan military. Officially, the Military Law Exchange Programme is being described as one aimed at exchanging 'ideas on ways to improve transparency, accountability and human rights in military justice'. more..

The voice of a migrant

Aug 22 (IHT) Maya Arulpragasam's Brooklyn apartment was a neglected mess when she finally returned to it last month after six months abroad. But it took only a day to straighten it up and turn it into her version of a pied-à-terre, a makeshift multimedia headquarters. An audio mixing board, film canisters and shiny dancing outfits stood on one side of the apartment, and half of an uneaten papaya waited on a table in the back. more..

Sri Lankan fighter jets bomb Tamil rebel naval base in north, says military

Aug 22 (AP) Sri Lankan warplanes pounded a Tamil Tiger naval base in the volatile north Wednesday, the military said, but the rebels said a civilian area was hit. Air force fighter jets launched airstrikes on the base in rebel-held northern Mullaitivu district, said military spokesman Brig. Prasad Samarasinghe. "There was a lot of damage to the Tiger base," said Samarasinghe. more..

Sri Lankan stocks close lower, hospital play excite retail investors

Aug 22 (LBO) Sri Lankan stocks closed lower Wednesday but analysts said activity could pick up with retail investors getting excited over a recent take over bid for a hospital firm. The All Share Price Index fell 3.37 points or 0.14 percent to close at 2,454.76 on a turnover of 85 million rupees. The Milanka index also fell by 13.28 points or 0.40 percent to 3,325.03. more..

Self-sustenance lessons for Lankan farmers

Aug 22 (NIP) In a move aimed at raising the socio-economic profile of fishermen beyond India, Central Institute of Freshwater Aquaculture (CIFA) here kicked off a capacity building exercise for Sri Lankan farmers on Tuesday. CIFA has been identified as the regional lead centre in Asia-Pacific to train the community in the region in various aspects of fishing and raise production to fight poverty and malnutrition. more..