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Key political risks to watch in Sri Lanka

Dec 1 (Reuters) Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa this week signed off on a 30-month prison term against his erstwhile army commander and political arch-rival, in a case critics say shows the president is becoming more authoritarian. Following is a summary of key risks to watch in Sri Lanka: * FISCAL REFORMS: The IMF released the fifth tranche of Sri Lanka's $2.6 billion loan in September and said the country's economic reform plans would boost its more..

Today is World AIDS Day: Sri Lanka has nearly 1,285 positive cases of AIDS

Dec 1 (DN) World Aids Day on December 1, 2010, comes at an important time when we have broken the trajectory of the AIDS epidemic, as we begin to see fewer people being infected with HIV. Among young people, in 16 of the most severely affected countries, the rate of new HIV infections has fallen by more than 25 percent as a result of young people adopting safer sexual practices. more..

Release Fonseka: Ranil makes fresh appeal

Dec 1 (DM) UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe made a fresh appeal in Parliament yesterday to release former Army Commander Sarath Fonseka from prison immediately. Quoting a speech by visiting Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, Mr. Wickremesinghe said there were no political prisoners in Pakistan too. “The visiting Pakistani President made an interesting speech. I thanked the Speaker for inviting the Pakistani President to the Parliament Complex. more..

Browns Beach hotel to be demolished

Dec 1 (ST) The Browns Beach Hotel, one of the landmark tourism beach properties on the west coast, will be demolished by end March 2011 and a new 200-room built on the same location, Aitken Spence Hotels which manages the property said. “The hotel is about 40 years and needs a change. The Browns Board took a decision to build a new resort on this location which would (probably) go by the same name,” said Malin Hapugoda, Managing Director, Aitken Spence Hotels, more..

Rs.20m gold and Rs.30m foreign currency seized by customs

Dec 1 (AD) Over 5kg of gold worth around 27 million rupees and foreign currency have been seized by custom officials. A foreigner and two local airport staff have also been arrested for attempting to smuggle the items on a flight to Dubai today morning. They had intended to smuggle the large quantity of gold and the foreign currency on board the 1.40am flight to Dubai today, Customs Director Parakrama Basnayake explained. more..

Govt to produce seeds

Dec 1 (DN) The Agriculture Ministry has drawn up plans to produce all seed requirements of the country by 2013, Agriculture Minister Mahinda Yapa Abewardena said. He said certain countries are trying to undertake the task of producing seeds for Sri Lanka. However, the Government will not give them any opportunity to carry out this national requirement, he said. The Minister was addressing the media and the Seed Task Force members at the Agriculture Ministry yesterday. more..

Cabinet: Their job description

Dec 1 (DM) The coordination and promotion of the Ministries would be the role of the Senior Ministers, according to the gazette notification on the subjects of the Ministries. Senior Minister of Good Governance and Infrastructure will have to coordinate with highways, electricity, telecommunication, transport, agriculture and irrigation. The Senior Ministries of Human Resources will have to coordinate with education, vocational training, health, sports, more..

'Some ministers also trying to grab IDH land'

Dec 1 (DM) Health Minister Maithripala Sirisena charged that some elements including certain ministers were attempting to grab valuable state land belonging to the Mulleriyawa Infectious Diseases Hospital (IDH) and he had to wage a war to protect these lands. He made this hard-hitting allegation when he visited the IDH for the opening of the newly built complex to house the radiographic unit, blood bank, maternity ward more..

11 Sri Lankan fishermen held by the Indian Coast Guard

Dec 1 (Hindu) Eleven Sri Lankan fishermen found illegally fishing in the waters off Mamallapuram coast were apprehended by the Indian Coast Guard on Monday. The men and the two trawlers they came on were handed over to the city police. Sources said that the Sri Lankan fishing boats were initially spotted by a Dornier aircraft of the Coast Guard and information in this regard was passed on to Coast Guard ship Sarang. more..

Sri Lankan sentenced for defrauding charity

Dec 1 (ABC) A Sri Lankan national has been jailed for defrauding a Queensland charity of more than $1.7 million to fund his online gambling addiction. Dinesh Enoka Abeysuriya stole the money over the 12 months to March last year from Uniting Care Queensland which trades as Blue Care. Abeysuriya skimmed money from inflated invoices and then spent it on online gambling. The court heard that at the time the 29-year-old took the money he was suffering from more..

'Lesser number seeking admission to grade one'

Dec 1 (Island) The number of students seeking admission to grade one classes has gradually decreased in recent years due to the decline in the birth rate. Education Minister Bandula Gunawardena said that the number of children who sought admission to grade one classes in 1994 stood at 353,189. It had come down to 326,364 in 2009. He said that birth rate of the country is on decrease due to success of population control and family planning methods. more..

No more mini hydro power plants

Dec 1 (LBO) Sri Lanka's irrigation ministry is planning to restrict future hydro power development on small river systems in the country in a bid to address environmental concerns, a media report said. Sri Lanka's The Daily Mirror newspaper quoted irrigation minister Nimal Siripala de Silva as saying that investors get permits from local authorities to set up mini-hydro plants in a "haphazard" manner which was harmful to the natural habitats. more..

Minister warns trade mafia

Dec 1 (DN) The Trade, Consumer Affairs and Cooperatives Ministry yesterday announced that it would be left with no other option other than to import essential food commodities if traders continue to charge exorbitant prices from consumers. Trade, Consumer Affairs and Cooperatives Minister Johnston Fernando yesterday said that a traders mafia is in operation and consumers have to pay more for essential commodities. more..

Dengue control week from today

Dec 1 (Island) The Health Ministry announced its third dengue control week from today (1) to December 7. Health Minister Maithripala Sirisena said that this would be the third dengue control week since April and that it was being conducted as a preventive measure in the wake of monsoonal rains. He said the number of dengue deaths had been high at the beginning of this year. It reached peak level in the months of June and July with 36 and 30 deaths respectively. more..

'82 state establishments under President'

Dec 1 (DM) Eighty two state establishments have been put under the purview of President according to the gazette notification on the ministry subjects, DNA MP Anura Kumara Dissanayake charged in Parliament yesterday. Speaking during the Committee Stage debate on the budget in the House yesterday Mr. Dissanayake said it was unhealthy to put under such a host of establishments under one person as problems as management problems occur as a result. more..

Mahindapala tells Diaspora: Forget returning to post-Nanthikadal situ

Dec 1 (Island) H.L.D. Mahindapala, former editor of The Sunday Observer, says the Tamil Diaspora and the LTTE rump should be made to understand that a separate State in the Northern and Eastern Provinces would never be a reality. He insists that those who still harbour separatist sentiments should realise a post-Nanthikadal scenario isn’t realistic. The LTTE collapsed on May 19, last year on the banks of the Nanthikadal lagoon. more..

John questions delay in PC

Dec 1 (DM) Chief Opposition Whip John Amaratunga questioned the delay on appointing the Parliamentary Council which was introduced under the 18th Amendment of the Constitution even after the Opposition Leader and the Speaker had named their nominees. He said Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe had nominated D.M. Swaminathan to the Commission while the Speaker had nominated A.H.M Azwer, though the council had not been appointed yet. more..

Sri Lanka exports up 16.7-pct in September, trade gap widens

Dec 1 (LBO) Sri Lanka's exports rose 16.7 percent to 662.9 million US dollars in September 2010, helped by higher commodity prices and a surge in apparel exports while imports grew at a faster 35.9 percent widening the trade gap, Central Bank data showed. "While earnings from garment exports to the EU increased by 1.5 per cent, garment exports to the USA grew by 13.4 percent," the Central Bank said. more..

'Senior ministers mere non-entities'

Dec 1 (DM) The main Opposition UNP yesterday charged that the government had reduced the senior ministers to mere non -entities by not allocating a single cent for them to carry out their duties. Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, prior to the commencement of the Committee Stage Debate on the votes of the President, said it would be advisable for the government to establish a ‘Vishramapaya’ for the senior ministers to discharge their duties. more..

Sri Lanka rejects latest Channel 4 video

Dec 1 (AD) The High Commission of Sri Lanka in the UK has rejected the latest video aired by British Channel 4 News TV which is an extended version of what the Channel aired last year of bound men being shot execution style. The High Commission of Sri Lanka categorically denies that the Channel 4 News TV video is authentic. Last year when Channel 4 News telecast a similar video the Government of Sri Lanka clearly established, by reference to technical considerations, that more..

Rain blights Pallekele's Test debut

Dec 2 (CI) The early dismissal of Chris Gayle was as good as it got for Sri Lanka in the 23.3 overs possible before tea, as a fluent Darren Bravo eased West Indies to 69 for 1 before it rained again in Pallekele. Kumar Sangakkara had opted to field, expecting early assistance for the seamers after weeks of rain and overcast conditions, but the West Indies batsmen were largely untroubled on the first day of the third Test. more..

Drug suspect hurls grenade in Nuwaraeliya police station, wounding 16 and killing himself

Dec 2 (AD) 16 persons were injured and one killed from the Nuwaraeliya police station blast today. Of the 16 injured 14 were policemen and two civilians. The suspect who was arrested for the alleged possession of weed had died in the blast. The suspect is said to be an army deserter and had been arrested with 16g of ganja. Once the suspect was arrested he had been brought to the Nuwaraeliya police station for further questioning. more..

Fonseka’s Jailor Reported Sacked

Dec 2 (SL) Jailor E.K.D. Duminda who accompanied former Army Commander Gen. Sarath Fonseka to courts has been interdicted yesterday without any given reason. Reliable prison sources told The Sunday Leader on line that Jailor Duminda was sacked without any charges and claimed that it is believed the reason behind the interdiction was because the jailor could not prevent Gen. Fonseka from talking to the media at the court house. more..

Sri Lanka property project resumed by Shing Kwan

Dec 2 (LBO) The Singapore-based Shing Kwan group has re-activated its big Havelock City residential and commercial property project in Sri Lanka with plans to build 800 more apartments, its chairman S P Tao said. "This country is going to get better, and better and better," Tao said at the formal launch of the remaining phases of the 350 million US dollar project in the heart of Colombo. Construction work has begun on the second phase of the project, more..

Sri Lanka war-zone students tour ICT firms

Dec 2 (LBO) Computer students from Sri Lanka's northern Jaffna University an area that was caught up in a three decade war has visited software and outsourcing firms in the island's capital, for the first time in 20 years. Twenty four computer science undergraduates had toured IFS, Virtusa, MIT, eCollege, Cinergix Research and Sabre Technologies in Colombo, the Sri Lanka Association of Software and Service Companies (SLASSCOM) said. more..

'FTA favours India '

Dec 2 (ST) The Balance of trade between Sri Lanka and India continues to be highly in favour of that country since the signing of the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the two nations, Parliament was told today. In 2009 the balance of trade in favour of India stood at $1385.1. Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bathurdeen said in response to a question raised by UNP MP Ravi Karunanayake. The Indo-Lanka FTA was signed in December 1988 and more..

Politicians obstruct erecting elephant fence at Dahaiyagala

Dec 2 (LT) A group of ruling party politicians are obstructing the construction of an ‘elephant fence’ connecting Dahaiyagala and Udawalawe National Parks to keep away elephants from adjacent villages say reports. The Supreme Court has given a judgment to erect the fence. The Supreme Court ordered the Forest Department to erect an ‘Elephant Fence’ connecting Dahaiyagala and Udawalawe National Parks in response to a petition filed by more..

Decision on CEPA after discussion – Govt.

Dec 2 (AD) A decision on the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) between Sri Lanka and India will be taken after the ongoing discussions, Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen said in parliament today. Bathiudeen said this answering an oral question posed by UNP MP Ravi Karunanayaka today. The Minister stated that the CEPA agreement is aimed at improving the bilateral trade between India and Sri Lanka. more..

Reduce the number of holidays: UNP

Dec 2 (DM) The UNP today stressed the need to reduce the number of holidays for a year to attract foreign investments. UNP MP Ravi Karunanayake said that the number of working days in Sri Lanka is 277 whereas it is as high as 301 days in India. “Investors think twice before deciding on investments in Sri Lanka. We have to correct such shortcomings in our system to lure more and more foreign investors,” he said. more..

Sri Lanka to raise Wikileaks data

Dec 2 (NN) The Sri Lankan government says if the contents by Wikileaks reveal any material relevant to Sri Lanka’s interests it will be taken up through diplomatic channels. The Ministry of External Affairs said that it is in the process of obtaining the contents of the documents allegedly pertaining to Sri Lanka put in the public domain by Wikileaks. The Ministry further said that in principle it does not wish to comment publicly on privileged communications of a foreign government and more..

UNHCR donates vehicles for North Resettlement Activities

Dec 2 (GDI) Seven vehicles donated by the UNHCR to assist resettlement activates in the North were ceremonially handed over to Hon. Basil Rajapaksa, MP Minister of Economic Development and Chairman of the Presidential Task Force for Resettlement, Development and Security in the Northern Province at the Presidential Secretariat today. These vehicles are for the use of the two District Secretaries and five Divisional Secretaries in Kilinochchi & Mullaithivu Districts. more..

Doctors put life during conflict under microscope

Dec 2 (IPS) During the last phase of Sri Lanka’s civil war in 2008, information on the intensified fighting had slowed to a trickle. But in their November 2010 submissions to a government commission looking into the final days of the conflict, a group of doctors who served in the war zone have shed light on living conditions that were "not fit for even animals". With government forces cornering the LTTE, into an area in the north, it had become close to impossible for more..

Sri Lanka News Debrief - 01.12.2010

EDITORIAL: President Rajapakse would have done better to visit Saudi Arabia rather than London

Dec 2 (LG) Whatever the purpose that President Rajapakse wanted to achieve by going to London is not really very clear. Anyway, disclosures by WikiLeaks stole the media attention of the entire world from everything else, including President Rajapakse's visit. Thus, the whole London affair became a non-event except for the fact that thousands of protestors haunted him from the airport to every place he has visited. more..

Government urged to act rapidly for the release of Rizana Nafeek

Dec 2 (LG) The Mothers and Daughters of Lanka, a well known human rights organisation joined with many others who are demanding the immediate release of Rizana Nafeek, a young Sri Lankan girl who has been held in a prison in Saudi Arabia for over five years, allegedly for the killing of an infant; a charge which she has denied. Globally, many organisations have joined the call for Rizana's release. more..

Defence Secretary sanctions resettlements of northern people in HSZ

Dec 2 (GDI) Sri Lankan Deputy Minister of Resettlement Vinayagamoorthi Muralitharan said that since the Defence Secretary has approved the resettlement of people in the northern high security zone steps will be taken to resettle the people who lived there previously. He told that there were around 62,000 people belonging to over 24,000 families displaced from time to time in Jaffna. more..

A lesson on bilateral relations in the subcontinent

Dec 2 (DM) I am not a student of political science. I can’t claim to have had any formal training in the field of international relations. I am not a historian. Nor a ‘South Asianist’ (yes, there are people who call themselves that). I am appalled sometimes, though, by the pronouncements and by the sheer absence of integrity and shame on the part of those who are. Still, since I am acutely aware of my deficiencies, academic ones in particular, more..

Japan's leadership test in Sri Lanka

Dec 2 (JT) U.S. President Barack Obama's announcement last month that the U.S. would support an Indian bid for a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council may reinvigorate the process of Security Council reform. Japan too has made permanent membership in the Security Council a high priority in its foreign policy. As such, it might consider how its handling of the Sri Lanka file reflects upon its leadership potential. more..

Oxford Union cancels address by Sri Lanka president over security concerns

Dec 2 (Guardian) The Oxford Union has cancelled an address by the president of Sri Lanka, Mahinda Rajapaksa, citing security concerns posed by the threat of protests by Tamil activists. The president arrived in the UK on Monday but yesterday it was revealed that lawyers working for Tamil groups were attempting to obtain a war crimes arrest warrant against him and senior members of his entourage. more..

Whose reality in Sri Lanka?

Dec 2 (GV) No one will deny that Sri Lanka has experienced dramatic changes over the past 18 months. The military defeat of the LTTE came as a surprise to many defence and security analysts, including myself. But the issues that gave rise to the vicious rebellion – and in some ways provided it with the fuel to persist and expand – have basically remained untouched. Even the former General and Commander of the Sri Lanka Army, Sarath Fonseka believed that the LTTE could be defeated in a more..