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December 2008 exports fall sharply

Feb 20 (LBO) Sri Lanka's total exports in December 2008 fell 19.1 percent to 681 million dollars from a year ago, dragged down by a sharp fall in its main product tea, as well as garments, the central bank said. "The performance of agricultural and industrial exports appears to have been affected by the adverse global economic circumstances," it said in a statement on the island's trade performance. Total imports fell 9.7 percent to 1,049 million dollars in December more..

Sri Lanka’s corporate earnings may recover in late 2009: analysts

Feb 20 (LBO) A stock brokerage is forecasting Sri Lankan listed company profits will rise eight percent this year led by an earnings rally late in 2009, if the northern conflict ends and the economy turns the corner later this year. Acuity Stockbrokers – which combined the stockbroking businesses of HNB and DFCC - forecast a 70 percent chance of a second half turnaround that will boost stock prices 34 percent this year. more..

Sri Lankan stocks attract foreign investors

Feb 20 (LBO) Sri Lankan shares closed down Thursday but foreign investors have begun taking medium to long-term positions on blue chips like John Keells Holdings (JKH), Hemas Holdings and Dialog Telekom, brokers said. The All Share Price Index eased 0.78 percent (13.52 points) to end at 1,724.42 while the more liquid Milanka lost 0.71 percent (13.21 points) to close at 1,837.32. Turnover was 156.6 million rupees. more..

Painting the tomb white

Feb 20 (GV) Now that the armed conflict of the LTTE is supposed to be approaching its end, it behoves those concerned with the future of the Tamils in Sri Lanka, to reflect seriously on the options available to redeem their future. In that context, the speech delivered at the seminar organized by NIPU on December 21, 2008, by Sumanasiri Liyanage on“Reformist Perspective on Constitutional Change“, assumes relevance and significance. more..

The boy who became an enigma

Feb 20 (CI) "Not naughty but a clever child," says Ajantha Mendis' mother, Ranjani. We are in the large living room of a lovely duplex house in a nice neighborhood in Moratuwa, near Colombo. Mendis is expected in 10 minutes. I showed up uninvited. Two stuffed tigers lie on the floor, a showcase brims with trophies, two decorative rocket shells stand adjacent to the large sofa, and a staircase winds up at the far end of the room. more..

Detailed response to Jeevan Thiagarajah’s ‘ article

Feb 20 (GV) When I read Jeevan Thiagarajah’s piece published on Groundviews a few days ago several questions sprung to mind. Why is the article trying so desperately to be apolitical? How can we solve conflicts if we cannot even acknowledge that certain groups, i.e. the government, the LTTE, the paramilitaries, are responsible, in different ways, for the humanitarian emergency and rights violations we are faced with? The author mentions preventable deaths- how would he define them? more..

What’s wrong with Michael Roberts’ enthusiasm for a “knock-out blow?”

Feb 20 (GV) After reading Michael Roberts’ “Dilemmas at wars end” and his subsequent “Clarifications & Counter-offensive” my curiosity above all was to find out what kind of logic could have led an academic of his calibre to end up in prescribing in effect to the world to be patient until the government’s Sinhala forces (my adjective) annihilate the Tigers’ “conventional fighting machine” (I shall use double-quotes to indicate Roberts’ words.) even at the risk of sacrificing thousands of Tamil civilians. more..

LTTE fighting fiercely for its last bastion

Feb 20 (DW) Heavy fighting erupted at Puthukudirippu over the last two days. Around 200 casualties are reported from the Army, which includes around 25 soldiers KIA as the Army takes on close to 600 hardcore Tigers backed by a growing softcore comprising mainly of forcibly recruited civilians. Fighting erupted particularly along the A-35 Parantan-Kilinochchi-Mulaitivu road on the western flank as TF-4 attempts to recapture the road from the Tigers. more..

'There was shelling every day. We barely escaped with our lives'

Feb 20 (IRIN) For Kandiah (not his real name), one of more than 35,000 ethnic Tamils to flee to Vavuniya in northern Sri Lanka in recent weeks, the grim reality of being displaced is now sinking in. Trapped in the crossfire between government forces and fighters of the LTTE, the 26-year-old’s future is more uncertain than ever. Today he sleeps on the floor of a school classroom with more than 30 others and has no information about what will happen next. more..

Rebels deny UN war crimes claims

Suresh decision set for March 5

Feb 20 (TR) An accused terrorist supporter from Waterloo will find out early next month if he has to stand trial in the United States. An extradition hearing for Suresh Sriskandarajah, 28, concluded in Toronto this week, with a decision scheduled for March 5. U.S. officials want Sriskandarajah - the alleged leader of four suspects with ties to the University of Waterloo - turned over to face charges he helped the Tamil Tigers in their civil war for independence in Sri Lanka between 2004 and 2006. more..

CMC urges Sri Lanka to join the Convention on Cluster Munitions

Feb 20 (NPA) In an open letter to president Mahinda Rajapaska the Cluster Munition Coalition urges Sri Lanka to join the Convention on Cluster Munitions. Dear President Rajapaska, On behalf of the members of the Cluster Munition Coalition in over 80 countries, I respectfully urge you to sign and ratify the Convention on Cluster Munitions without delay. As you know some recent media coverage of the conflict between Sri Lankan armed forces and the LTTE focused on more..

'Deserters join underworld'

Feb 20 (LT) he soldiers who have deserted and are being jailed for such offences have linked up with ruthless criminals in the prisons and this would lead to a calamity in the future says Commissioner General of Prisons Maj. Gen. Vajira Wijegunawardene. This situation could be avoided by having prisons for these offenders inside the military camps points out Maj. Gen. Wijegunawrdene. There are 2014 deserters in Welikade and other prisons at present. more..

SL issue rocks Indian Parliament

Feb 20 (AT) The Sri Lanka issue Wednesday rocked Lok Sabha with the government stonewalling the demand of two TN parties, PMK, a constituent of the ruling alliance, and MDMK, an ally of Jayalalithaa's AIADMK that India intervene to stop the military offensive against the LTTE 'Tigers'. PMK and MDMK members forced two adjournments but External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee stuck to his ground on the Delhi line vis-à-vis Colombo, while making a statement on the situation in Sri Lanka. more..

Sri Lanka: What after the LTTE?

Feb 20 (Sify) The LTTE, is in big trouble. With the relentless military crackdown having cut the area under its control to less than 140 square km, the rebel outfit is now trying to defend its shrinking fiefdom by holding over 100,000 Tamil civilians within the area under its control. The Sri Lankan security forces continue their offensive without any regard to the collateral damage, and there have been large scale civilian casualties over the last few days. more..

Sri Lanka maintains position on British Special Envoy

Feb 20 (LG) Rohitha Bogollagama apprised the Cabinet yesterday on his discussions with his counterpart David Milliband regarding the United Kingdom’s appointment of a Special Envoy to Sri Lanka. Foreign Secretary Milliband’s request that the position of the Government of Sri Lanka on the said appointment be reconsidered was discussed by the Cabinet. Having examined if a change of view was warranted in the context of the need for the appointment of a Special Envoy, more..

Chandrika disapproves of military campaign in Sri Lanka

Feb 20 (PTI) Former Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga on Thursday appeared to disapprove of the manner in which the military campaign is being pursued in northern part of the island nation. "I don't believe in bombarding people and killing thousands of civilians and rendering hundreds of refugees," Kumaratunga told reporters here when asked how she would have dealt with the situation and LTTE chief V Prabhakaran. more..

'Prevent Sri Lanka civilian casualties'

Feb 20 (AP) The United Nations' top humanitarian official urged the Sri Lankan government and Tamil Tiger rebels on Thursday to do everything possible to avoid civilian casualties amid heavy fighting in the country's civil war. John Holmes was to travel to near the northern war zone Friday to discuss the conditions of more than 30,000 displaced ethnic Tamils currently in government-run camps south of the fighting and the plans for tens of thousands of others expected to join them in coming weeks. more..

Kohona says it’s best for MIA to stay with music

Feb 20 (TC) In an exclusive conversation, via satellite from Colombo, Sri Lanka, Foreign Secretary Dr. Palitha Kohona responds to comments about the Sri Lankan government made by Oscar and Grammy -nominated hip-hop artist M.I.A. during her recent appearance on the Tavis Smiley show. In '07, Dr. Palitha Kohona was appointed Foreign Secretary for the government of Sri Lanka, more..

UNFPA: Caring for the needs of women caught in Sri Lanka ’s crisis

Feb 20 (TC) Women and girls caught up in the ongoing warfare in northern Sri Lanka are at grave risk. UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, is assisting civilians who have escaped the combat area but remains greatly concerned for the health and safety of the tens of thousands who remain, particularly those who are pregnant. Some 32,000 displaced persons have reached Vavuniya district this month; more..

War refugees to be detained in huge “welfare camps”

Feb 20 (wsws) Despite its claims to be waging a war to "liberate" the country's Tamil population, the Sri Lankan government in Colombo has drawn up plans for detention centres to house up to 200,000 Tamil civilians currently caught in the fighting between the army and the separatist LTTE. Aid agencies estimate that up to a quarter of a million civilians are trapped in the remaining pocket of land held by the LTTE in the north eastern Mullaithivu district. more..

Lack of antibiotics force doctors to re-amputate patients in Vanni

Feb 20 (TN) "If we are not going to receive at least IV antibiotics, anesthetics and surgical consumables in minimum amounts ASAP, we may not be able to provide even emergency first aid to the war wounded," writes Dr. T. Varatharajan, the Regional Director of Health Services (RDHS) in Mullaiththeevu district to the Sri Lankan Ministry of Health, in a letter sent to Colombo five days ago. The letter, leaked through a dissent-friendly government official also states: more..

Wanni: Some people revel in stolen material and information

Feb 20 (LG) A few days ago Dr Thaya Thiagarajah, a psycho-social consultant and the wife of the Rt Rev Dr Daniel Thiagarajah, Bishop of the Jaffna Diocese of the Church of South India, returned from Wanni and shared her experience to give an idea of exactly what is happening there with a view how best this unfolding tragedy could be handled. She will be returning to Wanni soon to be fully involved in helping the victims along with her colleagues. more..

What undue humanitarian concerns? - Responding to Michael Roberts

Feb 20 (GV) Michael Roberts in an article published on Groundviews recently suggests that in the context of “an uncertain number of Tamil ‘civilians’ trapped within the beleaguered and shrinking LTTE territory…emotion and humanitarian concerns have eclipsed realism and factuality”. Are humanitarian concerns ever undue? In fact Michael’s position is lacking not only in ‘humanitarian concerns’ but also in ‘reality and factuality’. more..

A recent trip to Vavuniya: For the future looks dark and gloomy

Feb 20 (GV) Though I have been following the news about the war in Vanni, and the damages made to human lives and properties, I never thought it would be so bad until I went in person. I got a call from one of our parish members from one of the interim camps saying our foster son Rev. Daniel was killed in the war. The first time I experienced the steps in grief, which I had lectured several times to my students. more..

'Stop increasing water charges'

Feb 20 (LT) In a special statement in Parliament todayregarding increase in water charges JVP MP Anura Dissanayake called upon the government to withdraw its decision to increase water charges and revoke the gazette No.1588/16 issued on 13th February. He further said in a situation where states all over the world are conferring relief to industries to overcome the global economic crisis burdening the local industries cannot be accepted. more..

Treasure hunting Major General & two others re-remanded

Feb 20 (LT) Maj. Gen. Parakrama Pannipitiya and businessmen Athula Wijesekara and Shiran Duminda who were arrested on suspicion of attempting to excavate treasure from the historic ‘Dhanavkande’ in Weliweriya area have been remanded till the 26th of this month by the Additional Magistrate of Gampaha M.Y.M. Izerdeen. The three suspects were ordered to make statements to ASP Gampaha. more..

Fire at Mawanella CTB depot – 6 buses damaged

Feb 20 (LT) 4 buses were completely gutted and two others damaged in a fire that erupted at about 2.30 p.m. yesterday at Mawanella CTB depot. Four buses that were brought for repairs and 2 buses that were rejected from service were caught in the fire say Mawanella Police. A fire set to the shrubby area near the depot by an unknown person would have spread to the depot suspect the police.

SB prefers to remain in PC

Feb 20 (LT) He has no intention of resigning from the Central PC and entering Parliament says National Organizer of the UNP S.B. Dissanayake. He says he is prepared to raise his voice in the PC that would re-echo in the Parliament. Mr. Dissanayake responding to a statement made in the Parliament by UNP MPs stating that Mr. Dissanayake would be made a MP said he thanks those MPs who wanted to bring him to the Parliament but would remain in the PC where he could do a better service to the country.

UNP bases not only rocked, but also cracked

Feb 20 (GDI) In 1956, facing one of the worst election defeats for the UNP in history, many feared that the UNP base had been cracked, but President JRJ, a UNP stalwart, cited statistics proving that the UNP badly hurt but still alive. He not only reassured UNP voters, but led them to victories later. “But the situation is not so now. Election statistics clearly prove the fact that the UNP base has been cracked. They haven’t been able to secure their base vote this time. more..

'It’s too late for Kirielle'

Feb 20 (GDI) The government sensed the importance of a two-thirds majority at House from the inception. It’s dire need to nullify the strange voting system that clearly fails to represent the voter at House. Then, it really hinders development at the remote corners in the island, and it’s of sheer national interest, a government source revealed. And, Mr. Lakshman Kirielle expressed his concerns and revealed the UNP intensions of extending a hand to the government. more..

Govt. vows to keep oil prices stable

Feb 20 (GDI) Minister Anura Priyadharshana Yapa said yesterday prices of refined petrol in the global market had gone up by Rs. 10 -12 a litre but that the government would absorb it and not increase petrol prices in the local market in the near future. The quantity of crude oil imported is only 50% of the total requirement of the country. The balance 50% is imported in refined form as Sri Lanka has no facilities to import its annual volume of petroleum requirements in crude form and refine it,” more..

Iran ready to develop Lankan railway

Feb 20 (GDI) Deputy Minister of Road and Transportation and Managing Director of Iran’s Rail Road said Iran is ready to cooperate with Sri Lanka on construction and development of railway there. To follow the signed agreements between the two countries in the year of 2008, Hassan Ziari discussed the issue of cooperation on rail transportation with his Sri Lankan counterpart here Wednesday. more..

Sri Lanka and Iran's fast growing relationship

Feb 20 (GDI) Sri Lanka admires the achievement of Iran and its steady economic development despite the difficulties it encountered as Sri Lanka too has been able to defeat the most dangerous terrorists of the world and is moving forward with significant economic development, Minister of Fisheries Felix Perera said recently at the Iranian National Day function. He further said that the relationship between Sri Lanka and Iran date back to many centuries and more..

'No shortage of medicine'

Feb 20 (GDI) Health Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva told Parliament yesterday there is no shortage of medicine at hospitals in the North and East or any other areas of the country. The Minister said this particular medicine called "pethedine" is a narcotic and special regulations have to be followed in importing it. The particular medicine is used as an anaesthetic. It is imported from India and the next stock is due to reach the country on Friday, more..

Tamil Nadu Muslim League slams Dr. Ramadaas and PMK on LTTE issue

Feb 20 (PSM) “Some politicians in Tamil Nadu with vested interests are trying to cover up the atrocities committed by the LTTE against the Sri Lankan Muslims and trying to create dissent among the Muslims and Tamils in Tamil Nadu by spreading false allegations. Dr. Ramadaas of Patali Makkal Katchi (PMK) and similar Tamil Nadu politicians should refresh the atrocities the LTTE committed against the Muslims in the Northern and Eastern provinces,” more..

Captains the focus in welcome Test

Feb 20 (CI) It might just be a two-Test series but it will be of significant importance for both teams. Pakistan, playing their first Test in over 14 months, have experienced a serious dearth of cricket in the country owing to security reasons, and will be led by a man given his third shot at the captaincy. Sri Lanka will be captained for the last time by their most successful leader ever and will try to give him a befitting farewell. more..

Christian leaders urge protection of civilians

Feb 20 (UCAN) Sri Lankan bishops have urged the government and Tamil rebel forces to protect civilians caught up in the ongoing civil war. "As the current war intensifies and the space for civilians correspondingly shrinks, there is a real danger that the rate of civilian casualties could increase," the bishops said in a press statement. The statement was signed by Catholic Bishops Thomas Savundaranayagam, Rayappu Joseph and Norbert Andradi as well as more..

Former cadres starting a new life

Feb 20 (PISL) Situated about 20 minutes away from the main road in Welikanda, the Senapura centre is home to 74 former cadres who fought with the LTTE at various stages. Ranging from 18 to 35 years in age, they are mainly from Batticaloa, Vavuniya, Mullaitivu, Kilinochchi and Jaffna, and the programme they are following spans one year or more. Funded by the Ministry of Justice, the primary function of the Senapura centre is to provide these young people with the skills needed to integrate in society and secure employment. more..

'Tamils fear peace talks with LTTE'

Feb 20 (RW) Sri Lankan Tamils are wary of any peace talks that will give oxygen to the LTTE, said two leading Tamil rights activists, adding that the need of the hour was to give security to the mass of civilians trapped in the conflict zone. Rajan Hoole and K. Sritharan of the (UTHR-Jaffna) said in an interview that India should stop seeing the Tamil conflict from a strategic prism and instead focus on the community's long-term welfare and humanitarian concerns. more..

Rehabilitating and reconstructing North : UN assist Sri Lanka

Feb 20 (MoD) The UN is ready to assist in the rehabilitation and the reconstruction of the North, visiting UN Under Secretary General Sir John Holmes said renewing its call to the LTTE to release the civilians suffering in its fast shrinking territory. Referring to the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the North he said: "We in the United Nations, are of course ready to take our part in that, to work to make this a success, adding that it was a 'huge job' the Government had to fulfill." more..

Situation Report (Feb 20) by SLA

Feb 20 (SLA) MULLAITTIVU: TASK FORCE VIII troops operating under 58 Division in the west of PUTHUKUDIYIRIPPU, just captured were appalled to come across a hitherto undiscovered an LTTE mansion that had three layers (storeyes) deep underground Friday morning. Details with photos follow. Tigers’ Underwater Scooters Found for the First Time. MULLAITTIVU: 58 DIVISION troops after successfully completing another phase of the final offensive against remaining Tiger terrorists more..

Needed: Action not visits

Feb 20 (LNP) Sri Lanka's protracted conflict has attracted many foreign experts, like ants to honey or flies to muck, ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous. Among them are many self-styled conflict resolution and humanitarian geniuses. Their involvement in the conflict here may have served their purpose but certainly not Sri Lanka's. Each and every peace process conducted at their best came a cropper and no traces of their multi-million-dollar reconstruction, rehabilitation or more..

Star rapper's war views turn off Sri Lankan youth

Feb 20 (AFP) She's the songbird of the hit movie "Slumdog Millionaire" but in her native Sri Lanka suspicions about Oscar-nominated hip-hop star M.I.A.'s political sympathies have cost her success and fans. Born in Britain to Sri Lankan parents -- both ethnic Tamils -- the 32-year-old rapper, whose real name is Mathangi Arulpragasam, grew up in the island's conflict-ridden north. more..

Project to prevent landslides

Feb 20 (SAMN) Steps have been taken by the National Building Research Institute to implement a project preventing landslides and earth submerging in identified places of Kandy, Nuwara-Eliya and Matale districts with the assistance of Disaster Management Ministry. President of the Landslide Study Unit of the Building Research Institute R.M.S. Bandara said Peradeniya was identified one of the major vulnerable places for landslides. more..

Animals Bill passed in Parliament

Feb 20 (SAMN) Parliament Thursday unanimously passed the Animals (Amendment) Bill presented by the JVP. The Bill seeks to impose a fine of Rs. 50,000 or a three-year jail term on a person committing an offence specified in its provisions. Minister of Livestock Development C.B. Ratnayake who opened the debate on the Bill, said the new amendment is introduced to prevent the slaughter of cattle and buffaloes. more..

Some doctors forget the past: PM

Feb 20 (SAMN) It is unfortunate that some Sri Lankan doctors after qualifying through free education forget what they owe the state and the people and emigrate to greener pastures specially the west, Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayaka observed. He made this observation when he delivered the keynote address at the inauguration of the second ‘Regional Consultation on Social Determinants of Health’ in Colombo on Wednesday afternoon. more..

UN to raise US$ 155.5 m for Lankan IDPs

Feb 20 (SAMN) As major battles on the eastern flank came to a rapid end with the last LTTE bastion at Puthukudirippu on the verge of collapse, UN agencies operating in Sri Lanka are planning to raise a staggering USD 155.5 million for relief operations in the northern and eastern provinces.The Inter-agency Standing Committee Country Team in Sri Lanka Thursday called for donors’ financial support for 103 projects to be implemented this year. more..

Opinion: India on Sri Lanka

Feb 20 (Hindu) External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee has done well to articulate the government’s position on the LTTE, besides reiterating that it is a proscribed organisation in India. He is right in saying that a sovereign government cannot be forced to take a particular line. Political leaders of Tamil Nadu should understand the ground realities and stop raising a hue and cry over Mr. Mukherjee’s statement. -P. Guru Prasad, Chennai more..

Peradeniya Teacher Training Institute to be upgraded

Feb 20 (DN) Education Minister Susil Premajayantha yesterday said the Peradeniya Teacher Training Institute will be upgraded into a Centre of Excellence in English enabling it to accommodate more teachers to have better English language training. He was speaking at the awards ceremony of English Teacher Training initiative at the Education Ministry auditorium. This event is part of the Council for Business with Britain's (CBB) English Teacher Training Program carried out in more..