Editorial : The budget and profligacy

Nov 28 (Island) The post-budget seminars held last week sent out a clear signal – the private sector is happy about the many changes that have been charted to spur investment and ginger economic activity. Nevertheless there was an undercurrent of opinion that the higher electricity charges next year will negate much of the savings made on account of the tax breaks. That may be true to some extent for hotel owners and other heavy power consumers in industry, yet more..

President Mahinda Rajapaksa: Strengths and Limitations

Nov 28 (SL) The swearing in ceremony of President Mahinda Rajapaksa following his second successive victory at the presidential elections was held on November 19. President Rajapaksa cannot be considered as a state leader who has been subjected to a just evaluation. Either we hear loud praises being sung about him or vicious and furious allegations hurled against him. This article seeks to weigh the strengths and limitations unique to President more..

'We wanted to gain a psychological advantage'

Nov 28 (CI) Kumar Sangakkara, the Sri Lanka captain, has said that he made a surprise declaration in the second innings to try and get the psychological advantage over West Indies in the drawn second Test at the Premadasa Stadium in Colombo. "We had to try and get a couple of wickets back especially we wanted to target Gayle to see if we could get him out early," Sangakkara said. "Dilshan bowled a beautiful spell with the new ball and it was a great wicket in the end for us." more..

Editorial : Region’s focus on Lanka and Lanka’s focus on region

Nov 28 (ST) The President exhorted his countrymen to 'think big' during his second term inauguration speech and immediately set the example by appointing arguably the world's most bloated Cabinet of Ministers this week. There are so many ministries now that the number of deputies is insufficient. 'All chiefs and no Injuns', appears to be the trend. While the week-long festivities connected with the inauguration coinciding with the President's 65th birthday continue in full swing, more..

'Pension scheme eyewash, EPF funds to be diddled'

Nov 28 (LB) The new pension scheme is an eyewash as far as the private sector employees are concerned as 80% of the private sector employees draw Rs.10,000 per month in average, Inter Company Employees Union (ICEU) President Wasantha Samarasinghe said. 80 percent of the private sector employees are on the wages board salary scale of Rs.6900 and with a few allowances, they get about Rs.10,000 in average per month, he noted. more..

Debating the relevant economic issues

Nov 28 (ST) Budget debates in recent years have not been very enlightening of the financial and economic issues raised by the budget. This is indeed unfortunate as the budget is the centrepiece of the government’s economic policy. Members of Parliament, especially the ministers of the government owe a responsibility to the people of the country to justify and explain the expenditures of their respective ministries and lay out the policies they expect to follow. more..

Dr.Jekyll Mahinda presents budget while Mr.Hyde Rajapaksa appoints jumbo cabinet

Nov 28 (TC) The second term of President Rajapaksa (or the ‘Mihindu Era’, as a sycophantic warbler termed it) began on an apposite note. Hours before Dr. Jekyll-Mahinda presented his ‘development budget’, Mr. Hyde-Rajapaksa appointed an anti-development cabinet, hyperinflationary in size, labyrinthine in contours and revelatory in composition. The new cabinet (with portfolios such as Senior Minister for International Monetary Cooperation or more..

Sri Lanka: interview with new Head of Delegation ICRC

Nov 28 (Island) The ICRC has had a permanent presence in Sri Lanka since 1989. In the years that followed, a Head Quarters Agreement and different MoU were concluded with the Government, which determined the ICRC status in the country and modalities recognizing the ICRC mandate to work in situations of armed conflict and other situations or violence / internal disturbances under the Geneva Conventions and the Statutes of the Movement. more..

Speaker warns Abdul Cader for using obscene language against Mangala Samaraweera

Nov 28 (SL) A governing party legislator was today (27) warned by Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa for using obscene language against an opposition party legislator. The Speaker warned UPFA MP Abdul Cader for using obscene language against UNP MP Mangala Samaraweera. Cader was asked by the Speaker to take back the comment made by him and warned him against using such language in future.

The cheers and jeers as another Budget is unveiled

Nov 28 (ST) President Mahinda Rajapaksa invited opposition members to tea after he had presented the 2011 Budget in Parliament last Monday afternoon. Asked if tea was being served “with or without sugar” by UNP member Dayasiri Jayasekera, the President replied, “with sugar.” But despite the tea, helapa and sandwiches served at the customary post-Budget tea party where the President rubbed shoulders with opposition and government members alike, the criticism levelled against more..

LTTE atrocities unearthed

Nov 28 (NS) Investigations launched following the recent sensational discovery in Mullaitivu of a mass grave of at least 26 service personnel summarily executed by the LTTE is now unfolding another weird and gruesome massacre by them. It has transpired during investigations that two of four hardcore terrorists in custody had been directly involved in the execution of the soldiers held prisoner by the LTTE. more..

Customs to reopen offices in Jaffna and KKS

Nov 28 (SO) Sri Lanka Customs will re-establish its Jaffna and Kankesanthurai offices in January next year, said its spokesperson and Additional Director General of Customs Ajantha Dias. "We will be setting up parcel post clearance units in Jaffna and Kankesanthurai and a preventive unit in Kankesanthurai," Dias said. The Customs is refurbishing its Trincomalee sub office and hopes to reopen it by the end of the year. more..

Challenging week for key political figures

Nov 28 (NS) It was an eventful week for all Sri Lankans when the first Budget, that heralded the second term of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, unfolded in parliament on Monday. Preceding this event, the new ministers were sworn in, in the morning adding several new faces to the Cabinet. Evidently, the number of ministers in the Cabinet has now shot up to 60 making it cumbersome to the people. Some think that this was more a PR exercise of the President, when more..

TV channels operating on the sly, CID on their trail

Nov 28 (LB) It has been found that many unauthorized satellite television stations were operating countrywide. An investigation carried out by the CID has revealed that there are scores of satellite television stations countrywide, operating on the sly without official approval or a valid license from the TRC, the Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation (SLRC), or the Media Ministry. more..

‘Seniors’ in spotlight

Nov 28 (NS) The much-awaited Cabinet reshuffle materialised last week, ending weeks of speculation that had invaded political circles but bringing in its wake some surprises as well. One major issue was the size of the Cabinet: 60 ministers in total, in addition to 34 others who were sworn in as deputy ministers. This was contrary to the pledge given during the elections to prune the Cabinet to a manageable size where 35 ministers were mentioned as the ‘ideal’. more..

India counters China, mindful of Sri Lanka’s ‘comfort level’

Nov 28 (ST) The cordial tenor that has characterized India–Sri Lanka relations in recent years seems to have been reaffirmed during the three-day state visit of Indian External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna that ends today. The importance of the developments in this external relationship so vital to Sri Lanka seems to be somewhat understated in the media. The formal occasion for the visit was the 7th Session of the India - Sri Lanka Joint Commission, co-chaired by more..

'Nation will never forget the sacrifices made by war heroes'

Nov 28 (Island) Paying tribute to war heroes, Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa said that the country can never forget the sacrifices made by the security forces and police in the battle to free the nation from the clutches of terrorism. "Their contribution and commitment towards eliminating terrorism are indelible and will always remain in our minds as we salute these war heroes", he said at the "Rana Viru Uttama Pooja Pranama Medal" presentation more..

President hints at Northern PC polls next year

Nov 28 (NS) Confirming that he had a political solution to the Tamil question in mind and that discussions with political parties and the people would go ahead, President Mahinda Rajapaksa told The Hindu: “[On devolution] “we must know the minds of the people… What we want is reconfirmation of what they want… The solution that I have in mind might not be good enough for them; they might not accept it. Not only the political parties, the people must accept it… more..

Nurses and PSM warn of trade union action

Nov 28 (Island) Health Professionals Front last week warned of trade union action unless nurses and other professions supplementary to medicine are included into the category of professionals. "The 2011 budget discriminates between health services by not including nurses and Professions Supplementary to Medicine (PSM), into the category of professionals who are entitled to 25% increase in their salaries," PSM, President, Ravi Kumudesh said. more..

Warm welcome for Zardari in Colombo

Nov 28 (Hindu) Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari arrived here on Saturday on a four-day state visit at the invitation of Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa. Mr. Rajapaksa, along with senior members of his government, received him at the Bandaranaike International Airport to the accompaniment of a 21-gun salute. The Sri Lankan government is marking the visit as a major event, the first by a head of a state since Mr. Rajapaksa began his second term. more..

India, Sri Lanka to resume Talaimannar-Rameswaram ferry service

Nov 28 (PTI) India today said it will help Sri Lanka to resume ferry services between Talaimannar and Rameswaram at an early date to facilitate people-to-people contacts. The resumption of this ferry service will re-establish old ties and the linkages that have existed historically between our two countries, external affairs minister SM Krishna said. The ferry services were suspended in the 80's. more..

Select men of high integrity to Bribery Commission - TISL tells President

Nov 28 (Island) Transparency International Sri Lanka (TISL) has asked the President to introduce transparent criteria to select the best possible members with high integrity to the Commission to Investigate Allegations on Bribery or Corruption (CIABOC) and select fit and proper persons with high integrity and capacity as its members. "We have no doubt that you will take serious note of this request and we at Transparency International Sri Lanka, are more..

'India will help revive livelihood of war-affected Tamils'

Nov 28 (Hindu) External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna on Saturday reaffirmed that India would stay engaged with Sri Lanka to revive the livelihoods of those in the war-ravaged Northern Province and help people rebuild their lives. He was speaking at the inauguration of the Indian consulate in Jaffna town, seen as the cultural and commercial bastion of Sri Lankan Tamils. “This is one consulate that I have pursued since the war ended. more..

Consulate opened in Jaffna

Nov 28 (BBC) In a move to expand its diplomatic influence, India has opened a new consulate in Jaffna. Another one will be in Hambantota in the south. Visiting Indian Foreign Minister S.M.Krishna declared open the new consulate on Saturday. The Minister began certain development projects that will be funded by India during his visist. He said that the Sri Lankan government should make efforts to bring a permanent solution to the ethnic issue under the provisions of more..

Blasphemy trial delay slammed

Nov 28 (GDN) Relatives of a Bahrain-based author on trial for blasphemy in Colombo have hit out after her case was adjourned again. Sarah Malanie Perera has been in custody for eight months after being arrested in Sri Lanka for the publication of a book, which described her conversion from Buddhism to Islam. Her family was hoping she may finally be released as the 38-year-old's trial resumed at the Colombo Magistrate Court yesterday. But instead the case was adjourned until December 24 after her lawyer failed to show up. more..

Seniors kicked up in jumbo cabinet

Nov 28 (ST) The first decade of this new millennium ends in just five weeks. For Sri Lanka, the dawn of a new one assumes greater significance in the light of unprecedented political developments, particularly in the recent months. In October, this year, Mahinda Rajapaksa became arguably the most powerful President under the republican constitution. Indeed, he is the most powerful in Sri Lanka today. more..

Pakistan, Sri Lanka to join hands against terrorism, strengthen trade

Nov 28 (APP) The leaders of Pakistan and Sri Lanka Sunday expressed resolve to join hands against terrorism and to build up their trade and economic relations. Prime Minister of Sri Lanka D.M. Jayaratne called on President Asif Ali Zardari here on Sunday and discussed ways to further strengthen ties between the two countries with a focus on exploring new avenues of cooperation. President Zardari who is on a four-day visit to the picturesque island nation is more..

Paper calls breach of protocol Krishna's talks with Prez first

Nov 28 (PTI) Visiting External Affairs Minister SM Krishna's meeting with Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa prior to his talks with his counterpart GL Peiris is being viewed by a newspaper here as a breach of protocol. Krishna, who is in Sri Lanka on a four-day visit, held talks with Rajapaksa ahead of his meeting with Peiris, which was contrary to the diplomatic norm, a newspaper reported. On his arrival here on Thursday, Krishna was received by Peiris at the airport. more..

‘Captaincy fight’ deepens in UNP

Nov 28 (NS) The UNP’s power struggle might be tilting in favour of Sajith Premadasa with possibility of one time diehard supporters of the incumbent leader Ranil Wickremesinghe too shifting allegiance to the former. Sajith group received an unexpected boost when party stalwart former minister Joseph Michael Perera recently hailed Sajith Premadasa as the future party leader. Another ardent defender of the leader in the past Lakshman Kiriella has gone totally silent in that respect. more..

CID steps in to probe more VAT frauds

Nov 28 (ST) A fresh probe on Value Added Tax (VAT) refund frauds amounting to Rs. 500 million has been launched by the Inland Revenue Department, officials said. The new probe related to six cases in which 20 people had been accused of fraudulently obtaining VAT refunds, they said. The preliminary finding of the probe had been handed over to the Criminal Investigations Department (CID), they said. more..

Cabinet to select fuel suppliers in bid to end CPC tender benders

Nov 28 (ST) Petroleum Minister Susil Premajayantha has submitted a cabinet memorandum to streamline the awarding of Ceylon Petroleum Corporation tenders after a series of recent revelations of tender manipulations, a senior CPC official who wished to be anonymous said. He said that hereafter the cabinet of ministers would select suitable suppliers on the recommendations made by a Cabinet-appointed tender board. more..

New faces boost Cabinet as hopes rise

Nov 28 (NS) The new Cabinet, which was sworn in last Monday (22), saw 18 new faces included in it. While some of these new faces were deputy ministers during the first term of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, some others have been appointed cabinet ministers for the first time. The Nation decided to speak to some of the new ministers to inquire about the plans and strategies they are hoping to undertake in discharging their duties at the respective ministries. more..

Budget: mixed reactions, common man unhappy

Nov 28 (LB) Over a million public servants are grossly disillusioned with the 2011 budget proposals which includes a “crumb from the table of wealthy politicians” a retired teacher said. Below, are extracts of what a few of them said: Dharamapala Wijesinghe who draws a pension for government service said that the Budget envisages an increment of Rs300 from January and an increase of Rs750 from June 2012. more..

Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith returns to a warm welcome

Nov 28 (Island) Sri Lanka’s new Cardinal, His Eminence Malcolm Ranjith returned to the country at 8.15 am yesterday to a warm welcome by Prime Minister D. M. Jayaratne and a host of Cabinet Ministers, parliamentarians, senior church and government officials at the VIP Lounge of the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA). Thousands of people waving flags gathered on either side of the Colombo-Negombo road to more..

Tamil parties push for deal

Nov 28 (NS) Tamil parties are optimistic that the government would take adequate steps to the issues they had raised when they met President Mahinda Rajapaksa last Friday. The Tamil Political Parties Forum (TPPF) had handed over a letter to him with their concerns during the meeting. The TPPF, in its letter to the President, had said that a political solution to the ethnic question should be found within a framework of a united country, more..

Govt. sop to rising cost of living

Nov 28 (ST) The Budget proposals for the coming year, submitted by the President, has done little to ease the burden of the cost of living of consumers, despite public sector salary increases, tax reductions and increases in pensions. Food prices continued to rise this week, as traders blamed adverse weather conditions for the high prices of vegetables and other food items. Furthermore, reduced spending by consumers has resulted in more..

Headache: Many ministers, one subject

Nov 28 (LB) Duplication of subjects in the new Cabinet has caused confusion in state institutions, and among ministers themselves, as to who is in charge of what subjects. Ministers, ministry secretaries and public officials alike are perusing the list of Cabinet and senior Cabinet ministers and are at a loss to sort out the confusion. However, given the subject duplication as underlined in the examples below, not much progress has been made in sorting out the issue of Ministerial responsibilities. more..

Krishna inaugurates Indian consulate in Hambantota

Nov 28 (PTI) External Affairs Minister S M Krishna today inaugurated the new Indian consulate in southern Sri Lankan coastal city of Hambantota, voicing confidence that India will take advantage of the industrial and commercial potential in the region, which has witnessed increased Chinese engagement. Krishna, who is in Sri Lanka on a four-day visit, inaugurated the Consulate General of India here, more..

Threat to Jaffna media indication of compelled self-censorship - CHR

Nov 29 (AD) The Center for Human Rights (CHR) Sri Lanka has condemned the alleged distribution of threatening letters, and an intimidation of a media person from ‘Yarl Thirukkal” in Kayts recently. A statement issued by the Center for Human Rights and signed by its Executive Director openly condemns incidents such as the attack on MP Sunil Handunnetthi and the supporters in Jaffna, distribution of threatening letters, and more..

SM Krishna cancels meet with TNA

Nov 29 (PTI) External affairs minister SM Krishna today concluded his four-day visit to Sri Lanka without meeting the country's main Tamil political party, TNA, once considered as a proxy of the LTTE. The TNA said Krishna was to hold talks with them today morning, but the meeting was put off till noon giving him time to return to Colombo from the southern town of Hambantota where he opened a consulate. "Later we were told that the minister is flying straight from Hambantota to more..

Sri Lanka hit by cascading power outage

Nov 29 (LBO) Sri Lanka was hit by cascading outage Sunday afternoon after a key transmission line tripped out of the national grid, but officials at the state-run power utility said electricity was restored before nightfall. Power failed in most part of the island after a transmission lines from the Kotmale and Victoria hydro generation complexes running to Biyagama near the island's capital tripped out of the system. more..

Political Watch – November 21st 2010

Nov 29 (Island) Karu Jayasuriya M.P. Deputy Leader United National Party writes: This refers to my conversation with you in connection with the reporting in the above column. I am a great believer in the free media and always stood up for media freedom and protection of journalists. Political columns do come out with various stories but when norms of civilized journalism is continuously violated for vested reasons, it reflects badly not on the writer but also on the newspaper concerned. more..

From the Human to the Divine

Nov 29 (LG) Father Mervyn Fernando is one of the nation’s most distinguished Catholic priests and this collection of papers honours his golden jubilee. He is best known to the larger public as the founder of the innovative educational and spiritual centre, Subodhi, lying besides the lovely Bolgoda Lake in Piliyandala. For some like me, who appreciates silence and being alone with one-self, he appears as a kindred spirit. One contributor to this volume, William Shaw, says more..

'Opposition like French Bourbons has forgotten nothing and learned nothing'

Nov 29 (TC) I had not expected to speak today, so you must forgive me, Mr Chair, if I am not as polished or eloquent as the member from Matara who spoke first today. However, having heard his misleading statements, I felt they needed refutation. Mr Chair, listening to the whole Opposition during this budget debate, one felt that they were like the Bourbon dynasty in France, in that they have learned nothing, and forgotten nothing. more..

Tamil Civilians bore the brunt of war during its last stages

Nov 29 (TC) Father Rohan Silva is a respected senior Catholic priest who has been actively involved in building bridges between the Sinhalese and Tamil communities in Sri Lanka through the Centre for Society and Religion, a Catholic charity which he heads. His work has seen him play a role in assisting Tamil civilians recover from the impact of the civil war. In this context, he told Sergei DeSilva-Ranasinghe earlier in June this year, about the impact of more..

Reshuffle shoots up blood pressure of Young and old of the SLFP

Nov 29 (SL) The American Government’s International Freedom Report highlighted the threats which were directed against the Maha Sangha by the Government of Mahinda Rajapakse when the Sangha was preparing to summon a Sangha Council on the Sarath Fonseka issue. When this report was being released, Mahinda who had taken taken oaths as the President for the second term had travelled to Kandy to meet the Mahanayakes of the Asgiriya and Malwatte Chapters personally. more..

'World economic power shifting back to Asia from the West'

Nov 29 (TC) By the 4th century BC, Asia had begun its first cycle of economic growth and power. This was the reason why Alexander the Great decided to travel eastward to establish an empire. At that time there was nothing worthwhile to the west of Greece. On the othr hand, to the east of Greece was Persia, and beyond were rich kingdoms in India and China. A Roman Emperor once complained Rome had to import all its luxuries from India and China; but more..

Complexity and Collapse

Nov 29 (SL) It is somewhat simple in practice. When things are good, we tend to spend. Companies hire, individuals find find new friends. When things go bad, however, the same lifestyle can cause everything to crash. What is complex, however, is how this applies to societies. In his study of how complex societies collapse, anthropologist Joseph Tainter found a pattern. Civilizations from the Mayans to the Romans tended to follow a curve of development, a curve that often turns into a cliff. more..

Society and a ‘Kept Media’

Nov 29 (SL) Five years in the Presidency has made Rajapaksa believe that he is God, or more likely that he is King. At a mega reception hosted last Monday, only one thought came to mind as I stood among some two thousand odd guests. Maybe there were more. Here was the King and his subjects. Nothing else could describe that reception overflowing with food of varying kinds and people from all walks of life. In fact one bemused diplomat asked me, “What does one do at a function of this kind? more..

'The numeral eight has become a lucky number for Rajapaksa regime'

Nov 29 (TC) Mr. Speaker, After indulging in a multi million dollar inauguration of his ill gotten second term 0n 19th Nov. – an extravaganza which would have made even Kim Jong Il of North Korea envious, President Rajapakse, on the 22nd presented the first budget of the ‘new era’, promising to make Sri Lanka ‘the emerging wonder of Asia.’ In order to facilitate his vision for our country, the god of the sun and the moon and the stars more..