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'WP growth in par with China, India'

Feb 21 (SAMN) Export Development and International Trade Minister Prof. G. L. Peiris said Friday that the Western Province has achieved a 14% economic growth in 2008 which is on par with that of China and India. The overall national growth in 2008 is 6.4% based on the 14% growth in the Western province, he said. Explaining the Economic Stimulus Package (ESP) approved by the cabinet on Wednesday to the media, more..

Tiger planes shot down

Feb 21 (DM) Two aircraft belonging to the nascent LTTE air wing were shot down by the security forces last evening when they raided the Colombo skies in their ninth mission targeting the defence sectors and the economic nerve centres in the city. The wreckage of one destroyed aircraft and the body of its pilot were found near the Katunayake Air Force base while the other crashed onto the Inland Revenue Department building. The pilot wore a cyanide capsule round his neck and hand grenades strapped to his chest. more..

Troops find another luxury bunker

Feb 21 (DM) Another luxury three-storey underground “mansion,” believed to have been used by LTTE Leader Velupillai Prabhakaran, was found by the military, West of Puthukkudiyiruppu, as the Army gradually encircled the LTTE’s last redoubt in Puthukkudduyirppu town, the military said. “This well built bunker is a luxury building and definitely was one of the hideouts of the LTTE leader,” a senior military official said. more..

Mahela and Thilan hammer Pakistan

Feb 21 (CI) On a warm day in Karachi, when Test cricket returned to Pakistan after 16 months, the Sri Lankan top order indulged themselves to reach a strong position by the end of the opening day. Mahela Jayawardene presented a visual treat, Thilan Samaraweera and Kumar Sangakkara accumulated steadily, and Malinda Warnapura thrilled with a breezy knock as the visitors cashed in after winning the toss on a perfect batting pitch. more..

Civilians 'pawns' in Sri Lanka's civil war

Feb 21 (NYT) CIVILIAN deaths have risen sharply in the past six weeks in Sri Lanka during intensified fighting between Government troops and ethnic Tamil fighters, and both sides have committed "numerous violations of international law", Human Rights Watch says in a new report. An estimated 2000 civilians have died and another 5000 have been wounded as the Government attempts to rout rebel fighters from their last stronghold — a small strip of land on the northeastern coast. more..

Sri Lanka rebels call airstrike a success

Feb 21 (AP) Tamil Tiger rebels said Saturday the two planes they sent on a daring air attack over Sri Lanka's capital that killed four people, including the two pilots, were on a kamikaze mission and were not shot down. Meanwhile, a visiting top U.N. humanitarian official called on the government and the rebels to avoid a "final bloodbath" in the country's civil war saying that many civilians are being killed as the conflict is believed to reach its final phase. more..

Tigers used torch for air attack: military

Feb 21 (AFP) Tamil Tiger rebels who staged a suicide air raid on Sri Lanka's capital used a pocket torch to navigate, but their planes were packed with high explosives. One of the Tigers' two light aircraft was shot down before it could hit its intended target -- the main airforce base at Katunayaka -- the military said. A search of the wreckage found that the pilot had no night vision equipment to fly in pitch darkness and instead used a pocket torch and a hand-held global positioning device. more..

India pitches for political solution

Feb 21 (ZN) A day after LTTE aircrafts bombed government buildings in Sri Lanka, India on Saturday asked both parties to reach a political solution for lasting peace in the island. External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee said that military solution is not the only way to resolve the decade long problem in the country. India favours a political solution to the LTTE issue and wants the Sri Lankan government and Tamil Tigers to arrive at negotiated settlement, he added. more..

Sri Lanka needs more statesmen, not soldiers

Feb 21 (WSJ) After a clang and a crash, a sub machine gun lay at my feet. An Uzi, I recall. A black perforated barrel pointed at my right shoe. I looked up from my chair to see a sinewy man, an armed guard in his early twenties, staring quizzically at a broken shoulder strap. A few fellow security guards chuckled. They seemed grateful for a break standing sentry for the Sri Lankan government's most important turncoat: Col. Karuna Amman, the nom de guerre of a former Tamil Tiger commander. more..

Sri Lanka rebels call suicide air raids successful

Feb 21 (Reuters) The Tamil Tiger rebels on Saturday called a defiant air raid on the Sri Lankan capital a success, despite the planes missing their stated targets the night before. The surprise attack late on Friday by two small Tiger air craft set off hails of anti-aircraft fire across Colombo. One slammed into the main government tax office in central Colombo, killing at least two people and wounding 53, the military said. more..

Sri Lanka foils 'major disaster' in Colombo

Feb 21 (AFP) Sri Lanka stepped up air defences on Saturday, a day after averting a major disaster in Colombo by knocking out two Tamil Tiger aircraft packed with explosives before they reached their targets. Police and military officials said authorities expected the LTTE militants to try more suicide attacks as they steadily lose territory to advancing government forces. "They could try more desperate attacks like this," a military official here said. more..

Proposed Anti-Conversion Legislation: A Road to Therocracy

Feb 22 (TC) The anti conversion bill, introduced by the Buddhist JHU in 2004, was approved in January 2009, and thus Sri Lanka’s parliament is expected to vote on the bill either in February or March, depending on the impending re-occupation of the entire Northern region. Sri Lanka’s Supreme Court in 2004 rules that the bill does not contravene the Constitution and it is arguably inconsistent with international law concerning religious freedom. more..

The Tigers’ ticking time bomb

Feb 22 (TC) Velupillai Prabhakaran is about to be defeated but he has left a time bomb hidden in plain sight which must be defused if he is not to wreak a posthumous revenge. This is the time bomb placed under a strategic four lane intersection, that between the Sinhalese and the Tamils and Sri Lanka and the world. The time bomb can be seen in the epidemic of demonstrations by the Tamil Diaspora and the statements critical of Sri Lanka that flood the international media. more..

Pro-LTTE supporters in Denmark attacked peaceful demonstration

Feb 22 (AT) The Sri Lankan community in Denmark organized a huge demonstration on Friday against the LTTE activities in Sri Lanka in front of the Danish Parliament in Copenhagen. In the meantime as a turn of event, several LTTE supporters suddenly emerged with Tiger flags, banners and Prabakaran’s photos and started shouting aggressively provocative slogans against Sri Lanka Government with the view to disturb the peaceful demonstration. more..

The Special Envoy from Britain to Sri Lanka

Feb 22 (AT) Britain has decided to send Des Moines, a Member of the UK Houses of Parliament as special envoy to Sri Lanka to solve the problem that the Government of Sri Lanka is facing in the North. The North of Sri Lanka belongs to Sri Lanka a sovereign country and the Sri Lankan Government has not requested Britain for any such Envoy. The Government of Sri Lanka has protested vehemently at this infringement of its sovereignty. more..

The Victory of the Buddhists Monks at the NWP and CP Provincial Elections

Feb 22 (AT) The most outstanding factor that led to the resounding victory of the UPFA at the Central and North Western Provincial elections was the infusing the minds of the voters for the need of protecting the nation and the religion by the Buddhist monks and the organizations. Although their activities were low key, unorganized disconnected and confined originally to the temple and office premises their impact was felt all over the provinces paving way for the massive election victories. more..

Eastern village attacked

Feb 22 (BBC) Ten civilians were killed and many others injured when gunmen attacked villagers in Nelliyadda, Igniyagala. The incident took place on Saturday evening. Chena cultivators from a village close to Inginyagala in the eastern province said gunmen who stormed their village set fire to their dwellings while shooting at them. Reporter Wasantha Chandrapala who went to the village was told by the police that the attackers were suspected to be LTTE carders. more..

The world’s first tea bungalow in Bogawantalawa wins global award

Feb 22 (LP) Ceylon Tea Trails, the world’s first tea bungalow resort connected by walking trails in Bogawantalawa Tea Estates, Hatton has been selected for the TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice Award (2009) in the categories of Best All Inclusive Hotel (World) and Best Hidden Gems (Asia). TripAdvisor is an operating company of Expedia Inc. of USA, the world’s largest Internet based travel company with more than 32 million visitors every month. more..

Mihin all set to piggyback on SriLankan

Feb 22 (SL) SriLankan Airlines has been muscled into agreeing to a bail-out package which will give Mihin Lanka another fresh lease of life despite the multi billion rupee losses this venture has so far incurred. SriLankan Airlines confirmed to The Sunday Leader that it will be procuring a narrow bodied aircraft to be wet leased to Mihin Lanka. However Mihin's Acting Chairman claimed ignorance. more..

Making Holmes happy while bashing Browne

Feb 22 (SL) The government's classification of 'patriots' and 'traitors' is not only confined to the Sri Lankan citizenry but extends beyond its shores and applies to diplomats and politicians alike, when opportune. While former Scottish Secretary, Des Browne found himself caught in an embarrassing diplomatic row recently over the British government's decision to dispatch him to Colombo on a fact finding mission, a move strongly opposed by the Sri Lankan government and more..

Fall of the pretenders

Feb 22 (SL) A week after the North Western and Central Provincial Council elections were concluded, there is still intense discussions going on among the people on the outcome of the polls. The recently concluded provincial council polls have taken a different turn from the North Central and Sabaragamuwa Provincial polls held last August. The people in the North Western and Central Provinces have shown less interest in casting their votes. more..

'UNP is ready to take up any challenge'

Feb 22 (SL) UNP MP Ravi Karunanayake in an interview with The Sunday Leader said the party has been constantly revamping its machinery and that sometimes people tend to disbelieve them when they say that significant happenings are taking place. "I am looking at it from a party point of view as well as from a people's point of view and I think it is the common intention that we have to get a 'winning' team going. more..

Karuna reaches deal with President

Feb 22 (LNP) Vianaygamoorthy Muralitharan alias Karuna has put forward three main conditions including the halt of government-sponsored colonization programmes in the Eastern Province before he joins the SLFP. An understanding between Mr. Muralitharan and President Mahinda Rajapaksa has been reached, Karuna aide Tachchinamoorthy Kamalanathan said. In terms of the deal, any colonization prorgramme should be in keeping with the pre-1983 ethnic ratio of the province, he said. more..

The last hurrah in Sri Lanka ?

Feb 22 (LNP) In what may well be its last hurrah, the LTTE on Friday night attempted a suicide attack on the headquarters of the Sri Lanka Air Force in Colombo by trying to dive bomb into the premises using two of their remaining light aircraft. In the event, one of these planes was shot down near Katunayake while the second, apparently disabled by the air defenses, crashed into the headquarters of the Inland Revenue Department near SLAF HQ. more..

Plans to evacuate civilians

Feb 22 (SAMN) A Donor-Co-chair-backed humanitarian operation, spearheaded by the United States, to evacuate civilians trapped in the fighting in the Wanni is now taking shape. A high-level team of the United States Pacific Command (US PACOM) from their headquarters in Hawaii is now in Colombo for this purpose. The exercise, informed sources said Saturday, will involve US military assets, including those of the Air Force and the Navy. more..

Displaced children cry for family

Feb 22 (SAMN) Fourteen displaced children from the North now under treatment at the Lady Ridgeway Children’s Hospital, last week pleaded for their kith and kin to be traced as they wanted to return home. The children, who were injured in the fighting, were airlifted to Colombo by the government for treatment. They were living with their families in Kilinochchi, Mullaitivu and Pudukudyrippu areas and were displaced in the fighting between the security forces and the LTTE. more..

PCs: Nurseries for kith & kin?

Feb 22 (SAMN) Close relatives of parliamentarians, former parliamentarians and sitting politicians are among those elected at the Central and Wayamba Provincial Council elections. In the Kurunegala district Minister Jayaratna Herath’s son, Attorney-at-law Piyumal Herath, Minister Anura Priyadharashana Yapa’s brother Attorney-at-law Chandana Yapa, Minister Salinda Dissanayaka’s wife Manjula Dissanayaka, and Sri Lanka Mahajana Party General Secretary Ranjith Nawaratna’s son Asanka Nawaratna were elected. more..

Better schools with new Education Act

Feb 22 (SAMN) Educationists are expected to welcome the revised Education Act, which promises greater transparency while addressing all aspects of primary and secondary school education. According to Ministry of Education sources, the new Act will see a restructuring of the schools system. Curricula and examinations will be modified; resources allocated in a fair way, and the recruitment of teachers and school principals will be more closely monitored. more..

'Four stage development program for IDPs'

Feb 22 (SO) The Government’s commitment is to give its best to the civilians fleeing the LTTE-held areas. They will be resettled as soon as possible, MP Basil Rajapaksa, who is in-charge of the Eastern and Northern resettlement programs said. Outlining the overall resettlement plan for the Vanni IDPs and the proposed IDP villages, he said that there is no space for anyone to `sell’ these civilians who would be provided maximum security for their own safety. more..

Situation Report (Feb 22) by SLA

Feb 22 (SLA) A GROUP of fifteen civilians consisting of four men, five women and six children reached MAMUNAI in JAFFNA Army controlled area. They came by boat crossing the sea of MULLAITTIVU today (22), escaping from clutches of LTTE terrorists in MULLAITTIVU un-cleared areas. Another group of eight civilians including four men, two women, two children have also arrived at VATHIRAYAN, south of THALAIADY in a boat. more..

Holmes whitewashes Sri Lanka’s ‘slaughter’

Feb 22 (TN) Within a day of Human Rights Watch’s damning report stating that “Sri Lankan forces are shelling hospitals and so-called safe zones and slaughtering the civilians there,” the UN Under Secretary General, Sir John Holmes, went out of his way to avoid criticising the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime and instead praised the “good cooperation” between the government and the UN agencies vis-à-vis the needs of the displaced Tamil population. more..

Unchecked, unbridled: School vans have free run

Feb 22 (SO) A large percentage of schoolchildren travel to leading schools in Colombo and in the outstations, by school vans but the owners and drivers are not aware of the great responsibility cast on them as there is no registration or regulations to ensure that the van service provides schoolchildren with safety and comfort that such a service should render, a study made by the Sunday Observer had found. more..

Maha Sivarathri: Long fast and night long vigil

Feb 22 (SO) Maha Sivarathri which is one of the most important festivals of Hindus will be celebrated at Shivan temples and at various Hindu organisations tomorrow. On this day devotees will fast and keep vigil throughout the night repeating the words of "Om Sivaya Nama." Poojas will be conducted at Shivan temples during the four qualities of the night accompanied with devotional songs; Mantara recitation, lighting of the Sacred Homa Fire and the rendering of classical dances dedicated to Lord Shiva. more..

Symbolic harvest festival held in Karadiyanaru

Feb 22 (SO) A traditional harvest festival symbolic of thanksgiving to the deities to celebrate paddy harvest in 131,000 acres in the Eastern Province was held yesterday at Karadiyanaru, a former LTTE bastion, with the participation of Senior Presidential Advisor Basil Rajapaksa MP as the chief guest. More than 10,000 people belonging to all three communities attended the event zealously marking a new era of communal harmony and brotherhood in the province, more..

Five star lights guided aircraft

Feb 22 (LB) Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) sources said that SLAF could have easily shot down the LTTE aircraft before it crashed into the IRD building Friday night, had a five star hotel in the vicinity virtually not given the directions to the Tiger flight by switching on lights in the hotel building and compound. The whole of Colombo was in darkness after radars detected two LTTE aircraft heading for the city, after taking off from Mullaitivu. more..

'SLFP must groom Tamil leaders'

Feb 22 (NS) United People’s Freedom Alliance recorded a massive victory in the Central Provincial Council election, even winning the Nuwara Eliya District where the rival UNP has always enjoyed election victory. Power and Energy non-Cabinet Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage in an interview with The Nation said the SLFP must groom Tamil political leaders, without having to go behind other parties. more..

State of play government well away

Feb 22 (LB) The fact that regular dyed-in-wool pro UNP columnists were last week berating the UNP, was indication enough of the disturbing nature of the UNP’s defeat to the party faithful last week. The UNP polled an average of 15 to 10 thousand votes in a majority of the seats polled —— and lost two thirds of the vote in roughly stated terms, to the UPFA. This was what prompted the government to state that it would strive for a five sixths majority in a future general election. more..

Heckling the name of the game!

Feb 22 (LB) What a fuss about one minister not having passed his ordinary level examination! I mean, have any of them? (Shortly after making the above rather frivolous and irresponsible remark, I checked with a few people and found that, yes, some ministers do have their o/levels...) This talk about Mahindananda Aluthgamage not doing his o/levels came up in parliament last week during a session of something our MPs regularly engage in — i.e., heckling. more..

Girl killed watching anti aircraft fire

Feb 22 (LB) A 14 year-old schoolgirl died as a result of anti aircraft gunfire aimed at the two LTTE aircraft Friday night. Police spokesman, DIG Ranjith Gunasekara said that the incident occurred when the victim, Hansi Udeshika was watching the anti aircrft fire from her home. She was with her family outside her house in Rajagiriya at the time of the incident. An anti aircraft projectile is said to have fallen on her and caused serious injuries to her neck. more..

The 'last-night-flight'- Security forces nail LTTE's rudimentary 'air wing'

Feb 22 (MoD) Now cornered in a mere land patch in the Mullaittivu district the psycho terror chief Prabakaran may have thought to showcase a stunt out of his sleeves on Friday (Feb 20) in the Colombo skies pushing for a turn of tables, drawing skeptical analysis from the 'Colombian elites' and draconian media stooges, while simultaneously bluffing out the war mongering diaspora community with an action package for consumption. more..

People have given me a clear mandate – S.B.

Feb 22 (NS) In the aftermath of the Central Provincial Council election, the United National Party (UNP) National Organiser and Chief Ministerial Candidate for the Central PC, S.B. Dissanayake spoke at length about the outcome of the election. Despite the UNP’s defeat, Dissanayake believes he is in the right party and asserted that the UNP is the only party that is capable of developing the country. more..

Why weren’t flying Tigers intercepted?

Feb 22 (NS) Questions are once again being asked as to why the Air Force failed to intercept the LTTE aircraft before they reached Colombo, on their ninth air raid on Friday night. This is in the light of the service publicly stating that it was well prepared to meet any challenge from the rudimentary aircraft operated by the Tigers. Some are of the opinion that they should have been intercepted before reaching Colombo knowing the fact the threat they pose to the vital installations in the Commercial Capital. more..

Dayan Jayatillake returns home

Feb 22 (NS) Somewhat controversial Sri Lankan Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva, Dr. Dayan Jayatillake, who has, at times, gone out of his way to defend the country’s interests, in answering foreign critics of the government’s ‘war on terrorism,’ will return soon to Colombo, after completing his two-year term there. The revolutionary politician turned university academic, more..

Indian pat on Pillayan’s back as battle with Karuna hots up?

Feb 22 (Island) As the battle between Karuna Amman, UPFA MP, and Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan alias Pillayan, Chief Minister of the Eastern Provincial Council hots up, India has stepped in with additional development assistance for Pillayan. The two LTTE breakaways are engaged in a running battle for supremacy in the Eastern Province with Pillayan seeking Indian assistance to strengthen emergency relief measures undertaken by his administration. more..

In attempt to create world record: Police disallow Rambukwella to drive car using his feet

Feb 22 (Island) Motor racing enthusiast Buddhika Rambukwella’s bid to set a new Guinness World Record by driving a car using his feet from Kandy to Colombo was prevented by police yesterday on the advice of the Attorney General. When Rambukwella arrived in front of the Sri Dalada Maligawa-Queen’s Hotel Junction with his supporters, police told him that he cannot be permitted to accomplish his feat. more..

Smiling through burning Flames

Feb 22 (Island) "I will send you a photo of me in a saree once I go home, doctor…" she said with a smile of hope bursting through the unimaginable pain she suffered in her young life. Late in the night it was another request for an intensive care bed. This time it was for a young lady of 23, in respiratory failure after sustaining kerosene oil burns. There were no unoccupied beds and a stable patient had to be transferred back to the ward to make space for her. more..

Sinhalisation of the SLFP

Feb 22 (ST) The February 14 provincial polls ended as expected with significant victories to the ruling UPFA. Even more significant, as one poll gives way to another, are the unexpected realities that have dawned. They give a new face to politics in an embattled nation and portend to change the course of contemporary history. The SLFP, the predominant component of the UPFA, has changed from the days of its founding father, the late S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike. more..

'Implementation of 13th Amendment would settle the conflict in the N&E'

Feb 22 (Island) The one time rebel and the commander of the Eastern Sector of the LTTE, Vinayagamoorthy Muralitheran alias Karuna now an MP entrusted with the responsibility of developing the Eastern Province, said that it would be desirable to implement the 13th Amendment to penetrate the present impasse to settle the conflict in the North and East. more..

Save Bundala

Feb 22 (ST) The flamingoes have flown from Bundala. The National Park on Sri Lanka’s south-eastern coast, known for its water birds and picturesque landscapes of lagoons, water reeds, forest and wildlife is in crisis. Once a hot favourite with foreign and local tourists, the park now has few visitors. The ecological significance of Bundala National Park as a habitat for water birds, and in particular, migratory shorebirds was recognized when it was named a RAMSAR site in 1991. more..

Sub-standard drugs: A serious case of overdose

Feb 22 (ST) Large quantities of sub-standard drugs are flowing into the country unchecked, say medical sources. As long as there is no monitoring and no proper controls in place in the import of drugs, patients will continue to suffer and the country will lose money, these sources say. In 2008, more than 35 drugs were found to be sub-standard. These included anti-epilepsy drugs and a number of antibiotics, as well as drugs used to treat brain tumours and rheumatoid arthritis; more..