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Editorial: Oil hike crisis: Time for opposition to act

Feb 19 (SL) Sri Lanka has plunged into one of the worst economic crises in recent times. It is being felt by the poorest of the poor – the village child studying by the light of the humble kerosene oil lamp – to the fat cats stepping out of their luxury homes to plush super air conditioned vehicles to be carried to equally ostentatious offices. It is in the order of nature that the poor get the worst beating while it would hardly have an impact in the life styles of the affluent. more..

'West wants to maintain political hegemony'

Feb 19 (SO) Senior Minister D.E.W. GunasekAra said the decision taken by the US to support the proposed move against Sri Lanka at the forthcoming UN Human Rights sessions in Geneva was not a surprise. The Minister said that the US was not concerned about the plight of the Tamil people here. They are only concerned about geopolitics and global strategies. So in pursuance of those strategies and geopolitical interests, they take a stand. more..

Editorial: Who feels your pain

Feb 19 (LB) There is a serial assault on the poor man’s pocket, but does anybody feel the pain? Can this go on like this, or is there any end anywhere in sight? Here are the workers, hoping for that private sector salary increase that has not come in ten years. But what do they get? A bus fare hike, a knock-on price increase in all commodities due to the diesel increase, a probable increase in gas prices, and a general weakening of industry as a result of the plummeting rupee more..

Editorial: Stop scripting insurrection

Feb 19 (NS) Human beings are perennial and happy victims of the Oliver Twist syndrome: asking for and wanting more is almost part of our DNA. Those who complain of difficulty are silent on subsidies they enjoy, from pre-birth (courtesy midwives) through childhood and youth (education and health) and throughout life (food, fuel and other subsidies). Expectation oozes out of the city seams. It is also about poverty. Although less than 9% are said to be below the poverty line, more..

'Govt must stop shooting down the people’s right to live'

Feb 19 (TC) The present govt came into power promising to dawn a glorious future to the country and its people. Instead of fulfilling the promise, the government has started to repress using iron bars and bullets, those people who agitate for the right to live and rise as humans. The death of a 38 year old person, a father of two children, who participated in the agitation in Chilaw on the 15th against the exorbitant increase in fuel prices, is the latest incident. more..

Editorial: Protests and counters

Feb 19 (Island) There is nothing the govt can do to control rising global oil prices and consumers here have to bear at least a part of the brunt of these developments. That is unavoidable. But the edge of public anger about prices hitting unbearable heights would be blunted even somewhat if the ruling political establishment reins in its rampant profligacy. By all accounts Friday’s fracas in the Fort area over the UNP organized protest began after a giant propaganda hoarding was more..

Editorial: Belt-tightening must start at the top

Feb 19 (ST) It was just the other day that the Minister of Economic Development, the second-most powerful member of the Cabinet, announced that in a world gripped with economic slowdowns, Sri Lanka's growth rate was second only to China, which we all know has a booming economy. The Central Bank Governor, not to be outdone, kept assuring and re-assuring the country that all was well with the economy, and that foreign reserves accounted for four months of imports, more..

Police use tear gas and water cannons to disperse UNP led protest in Colombo

Feb 19 (DBS) The Fort and Pettah areas of Colombo city became a battlefield of sorts on Friday Feb 17th when Police cracked down on a mass demonstration of opposition parties led by the UNP protesting over issues like the recent steep rise in fuel prices, increasing cost of living and mismanagement of the country. Although the Army and STF were also called in to supplement Police efforts in controlling the demonstration it was the more..

Austin’s Solution: Abolish the 13th Amendment!

Feb 19 (Island) On Saturday morning, the present columnist had a phone call from Palitha Fernando, retired senior media personality, who wanted to know whether this govt was totally daft. The govt increased fuel prices one day, bus fares the next day, electricity charges the day after that and there was now speculation that water rates were going to be increased. This is without mentioning the concomitant increases in everything else following upon the increase in the price of diesel. more..

A sack-load of trouble

Feb 19 (LB) A gitation against fuel price hikes, the falling rupee against the dollar, and the threat of a resolution at the Geneva UN Human Rights Commission at the end of the month – all seemed to be much more than any govt could weather easily in a week. Obviously then, it was one of the toughest weeks since the Mahinda Rajapaksa UPFA administration came to power in the November of 2005. The question largely unasked so far but badly needs an answer, is whether the govt would more..

Square cutting the blockheads and driving the point in

Feb 19 (ST) A few weeks ago we announced that the present Sri Lanka Cricket administration had done away with the scheduled Provincial Cricket 4-day tournament for this year. Generally it is the most disposable item that is removed from the agenda and according to the present SLC principles, the provincial 4-day tournament would have been so. Yet a few days later former Sri Lanka Cricket captain Kumar Sangakkara who is also a member of the ICC more..

The ides of march comes around to a Rajapaksa regime

Feb 19 (SL) Last week was one that President Mahinda Rajapaksa wished had never come by. The years of telling the West to “go fly a kite” had come home to roost. It is the way of the international community. They do not have a gallery to play to. The powerful and influential “watch lobbies” bide their time, and the time surely comes around. To most Sri Lankans (within the majority community), the pressures used by the West to investigate the alleged war crimes, more..

Govt moves on LLRC protest leads to shooting

Feb 19 (NS) Unease prompted by US plans to move a resolution against Sri Lanka at the Human Rights Council meeting was overshadowed by a spate of protests following the fuel price hike, leading to clashes between demonstrators and the police. Various groups, including fishermen, private bus operators as well as political parties organised protests. One protestor was shot dead and many, including dozens of policemen were injured as teargas, batons and water cannons were used to more..

State banks face cash crunch

Feb 19 (ST) Sri Lanka's two state banks are bracing for a possible financial crisis after being directed by the cash-strapped govt to lend more than Rs 180 billion to cushion steep losses of state enterprises including the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) and the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB). Losses have been mounting in these two institutions owing to high crude oil prices in the world market and the depreciation of the rupee, official sources said. more..

5th column: Four hikes and a funeral- Don’t ever leave us again!

Feb 19 (ST) My Dear Mahinda maama, I thought I must write to you because a lot has happened while you were away in Pakistan and Singapore and having orchids named after you and I am almost sure you have no idea about what has been happening in Paradise, because if you did, you wouldn’t have let any of this happen anyway. It has been a busy week, Mahinda maama and it began with that chap Cabraal doing something to the rupee. You know that he was telling anyone who would more..

Sri Lanka CERT joins APCERT to mitigate cyber threats

Feb 19 (Island) The Sri Lanka Computer Emergency Readiness Team Coordinating Centre (Sri Lanka CERCC) coordinated with the Asia Pacific Computer Security Incident Response Team (APCERT) recently for mitigating cyber threats. This global coordination exercise took place when APCERT successfully completed its annual drill to test the response capability of leading Computer Security Incident Response Teams (CSIRT) from Asia Pacific economies. more..

Dew asks government to face up to rapidly developing crisis

Feb 19 (Island) A constituent of the SLFP-led UPFA yesterday warned the government to address a rapidly developing crisis fueled by economic and external factors or face the consequences. The warning came in the wake of the burial of 35-year-old Anthony Fernando, a father of two, killed by a police commando firing at fishermen engaged in a violent protest against the unprecedented increase in the price of diesel last Saturday. more..

Fuel fuels tour operator anxiety

Feb 19 (LB) Tour operators who had made reservations for inbound tourists prior to the hike in fuel and power rates will not be able to adjust their costs, and instead will have to bear the operational costs in the coming months, said sources from the tourism sector. “Local operators will have to work without expected profits as these tours are planned some months in advance,” said the President, Sri Lanka Association of Inbound Tour Operators, Nilmin Nanayakkara. more..

Taken for a white van ride – MERVIN

Feb 19 (LB) A known underworld drug lord was abducted at gun point by armed men who arrived in a white van whilst being escorted from his court hearing back to Welikada prison. The victim is a leading drug trafficker in the country, who had deployed hundreds of men to smuggle and distribute boatloads of heroin smuggled from India, according to the Police Narcotic Bureau. While his abductors are not known, there is little dispute that these druglords are a group to be reckoned with. more..

Birds detected at BIA raises Interpol concern

Feb 19 (ST) The recent detection at the BIA of an attempt to smuggle several exotic varieties of birds into the country has triggered interest of the Interpol that is probing whether this was part of a global live animal trafficking trade. Interpol’s Environmental Crime Committee in a letter to the CID has requested any intelligence that the CID may have gathered from investigations into the illicit trafficking of birds, the Sunday Times learns. more..

Low quality fuel contributes to pollution

Feb 19 (SL) The quality of fuel in the country, especially that of diesel, needs to improve in order to control vehicle emissions, informs the Director of Air Resource Management and International Relations Division of the Ministry of Environment, Anura Jayatileka. According to him, the level of sulphur in Diesel is 3,000 parts per million (ppm) and the reason this level has remained consistent since the year 2005 is because of the costs the refinery will incur in upgrading. more..

Govt saving billions says Basil

Feb 19 (SL) Minister Basil Rajapaksa says the kerosene subsidy to be given to low-income households without electricity is a minimal expenditure for the govt given the saving of Rs. 5 billion due to the price revision. Rajapaksa explained that the govt had to spend around Rs. 6 billion to subsidize fuel sales and that the price adjustment has helped minimize this expenditure. He said that the govt had to spend less than Rs. 1 billion to pay the kerosene subsidy to low-income households without more..

Govt. evades Tax payments

Feb 19 (SL) The government has evaded paying taxes to the Colombo Municipal Council (CMC) to the tune of over Rs. 1.2 Billion, Deputy Mayor Titus Perera revealed to The Sunday Leader. The President’s House in Fort, Visumpaya (Prime Minister’s House) at Union Place, the Presidential Secretariat at Galle Face, Temple Trees in Colpetty and the Treasury in Fort are among the government owned properties in Colombo which owe millions of rupees in taxes to the CMC. more..

English and IT education to receive priority in school curriculum

Feb 19 (Island) Education Minister Bandula Gunawardena was the chief guest at the awards ceremony to fete teachers and outstanding students at last week’s Microsoft/UNESCO Teacher/Student Innovative Training Programme. The Minister said the education system in the country would see enhanced priority for English and IT education. Plans included about 5,000 schools to be initially included in an all-round system that would have priority access to his envisaged system. more..

Two teledrama actresses fined for prostitution

Feb 19 (NS) Two popular teledrama actresses arrested and produced before a Colombo court on charges of indulging in prostitution have been fined and given a suspended jail term, Police disclosed. The two women have been arrested at a leading hotel in the suburbs Colombo and on being questioned they have confessed that they catered to a 'high class' clientele in addition acting in teledramas. Police declined to divulge the identity of the two actresses but noted they were more..

Grave shortage of vital medical supplies due to meddling with tenders

Feb 19 (Island) With tender procedures going haywire as a result of what industry officials termed as "interference by persons with vested interests", a critical dearth of sterile and examination gloves, syringes and cannulas have hit govt hospitals placing lives as risk as even dengue-related cases cannot be effectively treated. Just as much as sterile gloves are mandatory for surgical procedures, dengue patients, most of whom are children, more..

Crackdown on bribery and corruption intensifies

Feb 19 (ST) The Commission to Investigate Allegations on Bribery or Corruption since its appointment in May 15, 2011 has arrested 48 persons, the highest number of arrests since its inception in 1994, in its effort to crack down on bribery and corruption in Sri Lanka, Dr. Jayantha Wickremaratne, one of the Commissioners in the Bribery Commission told the Sunday Observer. Dr. Wickremaratne said their investigation officers had arrested 11 persons from January to February 15, more..

IDPs may lose voting rights at local polls

Feb 19 (CT) Nearly 3,000 people languishing in Menik farm are likely to lose the chances of voting at the March 24 local polls as local government laws are still not amended. According to the Local Govt Election Act, the Elections Commissioner is prevented from establishing a cluster polling system or temporary polling stations, enabling the IDPs to cast their votes. This according to well placed govt sources will seriously hamper the IDPs from exercising their franchise as more..

Govt. goes for US$ 1 Billion loan facility

Feb 19 (CT) The government is holding discussions with Global Investment Bank Goldman Sachs to obtain a US$ 1 billion loan facility to finance Ceylon Petroleum Corporation that incurs heavy losses, Ceylon Today reliably learns. A delegation from Goldman Sachs has already met officials of the Petroleum Industries Ministry and the Central Bank. The delegation has also met Petroleum Minister Susil Premjayantha to discuss the loan facility. more..

'PSC talks will conclude in six months'

Feb 19 (SO) Senior Minister Prof. Tissa Vitharana who refuted TNA claims that the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) on power devolution was a delaying tactic of the Govt said that the PSC has been mandated to conclude its deliberations within six months. A report would be submitted by then recommending constitutional amendments to further strengthen unity and communal amity in the country, he said. Prof. Vitharana who chaired the previous APRC) said that more..

HRW refutes SL govt officials’ allegations

Feb 19 (CT) The US based right organization Human Right Watch (HRW) refuted allegations levelled by the Sri Lankan govt officials over their recent statement on Sri Lankan army’s announcement to appoint a five-member court of inquiry to investigate serious violations of the laws of war. Sri Lankan government indicated that the HRW tried to hoodwink the international community and promoting Pro LTTE propaganda prior to UN Human Rights Council (HRC) session in Geneva. more..

More price hikes, officials warn economic crisis may explode

Feb 19 (ST) Increased taxes on essentials and non essential goods are on the cards as urgent revenue measures while other cost-cutting measures are also planned to reduce the Govt’s rising debt, a Finance Ministry official said. These measures come amidst proposed increases in prices of bread, gas and milk powder with producers awaiting approval from Trade Minister Johnston Fernando. Bakery Owners’ Association President N.K. Jayawardena said bakers had asked more..

UNHRC delegation will leave next week

Feb 19 (CT) A 52 member strong delegation led by Minister Prof. G.L. Pieris and Plantations Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe will leave for Geneva next week for the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) sessions that commences on 27 February. The delegation is likely to include several senior ministers including John Seneviratne and Dilan Perera who both led ministerial delegations to Latin American UNHRC member states to canvass their support for Sri Lanka at the February-March session. more..

SC orders Ceylinco directors to formulate plan to repay GK depositors

Feb 19 (Island) The Supreme Court last week directed the 16 sitting directors on the board of companies under the Ceylinco Consolidated umbrella to sit together with their counterparts of the collapsed Golden Key and formulate a repayment plan in consultation with the Attorney General’s Department to repay all depositors within a six-month timeframe. The final repayment scheme should be placed before the Supreme Court (SC) on March 22, 2012, and should come into more..

Govt. braces for attack at UNHRC

Feb 19 (ST) The temperature outside the Serena Hotel in Islamabad last Tuesday afternoon was near zero. The main engagements finished the previous day, President Mahinda Rajapaksa and senior members of his entourage were relaxing at the presidential suite. Later that day, two more dignitaries -- the Defence Minister of Pakistan and the Chairman of that country's Board of Investment were to call on Rajapaksa. External Affairs Minister G.L. Peiris told more..

Two bodies found in Dambulla

Feb 19 (CT) Two bodies were found near the Dambulla international cricket stadium this morning, the police media unit told Ceylon Today Online. The bodies were discovered in an abandoned well by villagers from the area. The causes of the deaths are still unknown. They were identified as a 51 year old male who lives in the neighbouring house and a 26 year old watchman who is also from the area. The 51 year old male had disappeared last evening (18) and a complaint was made with more..

Three Tamil fishermen arrested by Sri Lankan police

Feb 19 (PTI) Three Tamil Nadu fishermen were arrested in Sri Lankan waters on charges of smuggling narcotics, official said here on Sunday. The fishermen Manoharan, Senthil Kumar and Saravanan, hailing from Arkattuturai in Nagapattinam district were arrested yesterday by a patrolling Sri Lakan police team for allegedly straying into Sri Lankan waters. Some packets of ganja were also seized from them, the officials said, adding that the fishermen were lodged in a prison in Jaffna.

Talk at the Cafe Spectator

Feb 19 (ST) Virtually all Norwegian media on February 16 carried the Norwegian apology to Sri Lanka for the issuance of LTTE stamps by the Norwegian postal service. The apology termed LTTE images and symbols as illegal and inappropriate. VG (Verdens Gang), Norway's newspaper with the largest readership, carried a story headlined "Norway Apologized for Tamil Tiger-Stamps" that includes some quotes attributed to the Sri Lankan Ambassador in Oslo. more..

Abducted businessman sought Rs. 90 m in FR case; wife threatened with Rs. 100 m ransom

Feb 19 (ST) Police investigating the abduction of a Tamil businessman in Wellawatte last Saturday are yet to make any significant breakthrough, while his family keeps silent vigil for his safe return home. Ramasamay Prabhakaran, 42, was bundled into a white van by a group of seven persons armed with assault rifles and handguns, from his residence at Canal Bank Road in Wellawatte and sped away towards Bambalapitiya. more..

Fashion feast soon

Feb 19 (ST) Come February, there’s a date that every fashionista makes in her diary. This year taking place a little later than usual, the much anticipated HSBC Colombo Fashion Week 2012 makes its entrance on February 24, 25 and 26 at the Hilton Colombo for the fifth consecutive year. Turning the fashion spotlight on our island, the HSBC Fashion Week has steadily earned a place in the region’s fashion calendar, more..