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A people's Budget

Feb 1 (SO) A new era has dawned in Sri Lanka - the era of the common man. This fact was reflected through the interim budget presented to Parliament on Thursday by Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake. It was a budget that went a long way towards fulfilling the aspirations of ordinary people - not only those who voted for President Maithripala Sirisena, but all Sri Lankans who wish to see equality and progress in their Motherland. It was in stark contrast to the budgets previously more..

Desecration of the Temple of Justice

Feb 1 (SL) The first few days of the Maithri Yugaya (Maithri era) were exemplary. There was the smooth transition of power and no incidents of violence – spontaneous or organised – were reported. But gradually we saw the emergence of vigilantes who feared that that political criminals, wrong doers and the like may get away because of the lenience of the administration, absence of effective administrative machinery or through bribery, influence, etc. Some of these self-appointed administrators of more..

'Vicious social system, root cause of problems'

Feb 1 (SO) JVP Leader MP Anura Kumara Dissanayake said that during the Presidential Election campaign, President Maithripala Sirisena presented some proposals to strengthen the country's democratic process. He said that this democratic process was vital for the country and they will intervene to strengthen this democratic process in 100 days. We are not partners of the Cabinet and the Govt, but will contribute to more..

Takes General Election battle to SLFP Bastion

Feb 1 (NS) The interim budget statement, presented to Parliament by Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake, was election, oriented in more ways than one. At the same time, it is different from the election, oriented budget presented by former President Rajapaksa in October, last year, just days before he announced the presidential election. Finance Minister Karunanayake’s budget strongly challenges the neo-liberal outlook of the UNP, making it look like a “populist” more..

Govt having its say tripped while having its way

Feb 1 (ST) It was reality-check time for the minority govt of PM Ranil Wickremesinghe in Parliament on Friday, when it faced some stiff opposition over disagreements on a date to debate the Mohan Peiris removal/Shirani Bandaranayake reinstatement issue. One thing was clear from the outcome of the day’s proceedings which brought Parliament sessions to an abrupt end. A minority govt can have its say, but not its way. The day began with the govt side riding high following feel-good Budget more..

'Mutual understanding and Communal amity ensured'

Feb 1 (SO) Minister D.M. Swaminathan MP who is a trustee of the historically famous Sri Ponnambalawaneswarar Hindu temple in Colombo, a legal luminary and hailing from the family of the famous Tamil statesman Sir Ponnambalam Arunachalam said that the new Govt is working on concepts of equality to all ethnic and religious communities without any disparity and the current political and social trends signal more..

Breath of fresh air: Don’t let it be blown away

Feb 1 (ST) Come Feb 4 each year, it is always a useful and appropriate time for an annual stock taking on the state of the nation. Next week, Sri Lanka celebrates the 67th anniversary of her Independence – from 400 years of foreign rule. Now, we are the masters of our land, captains of our destiny. This is also the 100th year, the centenary of the defining 1915 riots in Sri Lanka. It was the watershed moment, the turning point in the history of modern Lanka; a simple skirmish that blew more..

Doing justice to a Chief Justice

Feb 1 (ST) My dear Shirani, I thought of writing to you this week to wish you well as you begin your retirement after all the drama of the last two years. I hope you are happy with what happened in the past few days — unlike some others who are also beginning their retirement in distant Medamulana! Last week’s events were not unexpected because Maithri had promised that all privileges due to you and the General would be restored. So far, he has kept most of his promises and we all more..

'Corruption in Police the highest ever!'

Feb 1 (SL) Minister John Amaratunga speaks about the culture of impunity, the high levels of corruption within the Department of Police and the increasing drug trade existing in the country. Q: What are the main changes that you are looking at during the 100-day programme? A: Under my ministry there are substantial institutions. One is the Public Peace and the departments under it, the Ministry of Disaster Management and more..

Electoral reform, anyone?

Feb 1 (NS) The existing electoral system is seen as a serious problem and one which encourages corruption and violence. This was observed by President Maithripala Sirisena in his manifesto. He also observed that it is an issue that successive govts failed to address. He pledged to abolish the existing system. The replacement would be a mix of the first-past-the-post system and the proportional representation system. Through this, he argued, every electorate would have more..

Opposition shows punching power

Feb 1 (NS) The Opposition showed its might on the third day of new parliament on Friday. They not only flexed muscles, but also had their own way proving that a govt without a clear majority in parliament is nothing but a very fragile one. Nobody knows how many members are there in the govt nor opposition because the entire 225-member House has become a hotchpotch after Maithripala Sirisena won the Presidential Election. UNP forces, which supported Sirisena, are using the euphoria more..

'Quit politics, if charges are proved'

Feb 1 (CT) MP Wimal Weerawansa, says he will quit politics if allegations against him are proved. Q: What is your response to the charges against you? A: Those who were afraid of such charges have now joined the good governance bandwagon. Q: Do you mean that all those who supported the govt after the presidential election are thieves? A: Some were terrified when it was said that corruption cases would be taken up. more..

The Ouster of Mohan Peiris

Feb 1 (Island) Nobody will have any objection to Justice K. Sripavan being elevated to the position of Chief Justice. He has been as non-controversial a member of the judiciary as one could wish for. It is our hope that his lordship will be able to bring some calm and quiet to an office that has known nothing but controversy and turbulence over the past 15 years. However, no one can possibly approve of the events that preceded his appointment. Last Thursday was a black day in the history of more..

Three players’ injuries to be assessed

Feb 1 (Island) Injuries of three players in Sri Lanka’s World Cup squad will be assessed today before deciding whether replacements should be sought from the ICC Technical Committee. All-rounder Jeevan Mendis’ knee injury that he is supposed to have sustained while sliding during the ODI series against New Zealand looks to be the most serious. Fast bowlers Suranga Lakmal and Dhammika Prasad are the other two players nursing injuries, an official said. more..

UNP changes mask: Story behind election oriented populist budget

Feb 1 (SL) Ranil Wickremesinghe now is not the Ranil Wickremesinghe in 2002, who lost the general election due to serious remedial measures he adopted to rescue the country from the economic mire it was sinking into. In 2002, Wicremesinghe attempted to resuscitate the country’s economic through Regaining Sri Lanka – a seemingly neo-liberal development plan – which finally resulted in his election defeat making way more..

Students engineer hope in Sri Lankan village

Feb 1 (KT) For Tuqa Khalid, an engineering student at the American University of Sharjah (AUS), the words ‘no’ and ‘impossible’ are never an option. Her lifelong dream and the perseverance of 10 AUS students for 10 months have put an end to the water-related woes of a village in Sri Lanka. Students braved adversities like lack of sponsors, harsh weather and managing studies simultaneously to achieve this dream. As part of first international project by ‘Engineers Without Borders’ more..

Sri Lanka to play WC quarters in Sydney

Feb 1 (NS) Sri Lanka will play their quarter-final match of the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup in Sydney provided they get through the pool stages and qualify for the knockout part of the competition. Sri Lanka are in Pool A with host nations Australia and NZ and they also have England, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Scotland in the group. The ICC in announcing the quarter-final venues states: “If the World Cup 2015 co-hosts, Australia and New Zealand, were to qualify from Pool A, more..

The Champaka-Vaas saga: The inside story

Feb 1 (ST) Wonder what’s going on inside the Lion’s camp pitched in Kiwi land. Lions getting heckled and pecked by mere Kiwis could be quite disturbing. Pack of lions, after making short work of the high riding Englishmen in a seven match series at home, roared and charged into the Kiwi country in a bid to devour them. But, the result was topsy-turvy – the lions were at the mercy of the little flightless birds. Worm turned and Lions succumbed. more..

SEC – Hunt on for new DG

Feb 1 (ST) Now with a brand new chairman at its helm, Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has ‘restarted’ its hunt for a new Director General. “There are a few names being discussed,” a SEC source said, adding that someone who previously held this post may take it up for the second time. A new set of Commissioners together with a new Director General will be appointed this week, he added. The new Chairman, Thilak Karunaratne, while not letting in on who the new SEC more..

The exit of Mohan Pieris

Feb 1 (Island) The wisdom of a folksy Sinhala saying polla haiya nisa kedenakang gahanna honda ne -because the staff is strong you must not beat (somebody) until it breaks comes to mind over the affaire Mohan Pieris. We hesitate to call him former Chief Justice because a case has been made that there was no vacancy in the office to which he was appointed and the appointment consequently was null and void. Yet there appears to have been undue haste in the manner in which he was more..

Fish exports: EU ban to cost US$ 100mn

Feb 1 (NS) Sri Lanka is likely to lose an estimated US$ 100 million annually due to the recently imposed ban on fish exports from Sri Lanka to European Union (EU). Executive Director, IPS, Dr. Saman Kelegama addressing 20th AGM of the National Chamber of Exporters (NCE) stated that Sri Lanka had earned US$ 94 million in 2013 by exporting 7,400 tons of fish, but the amount was projected to increase this year. more..

DFCC – NDB merger unlikely

Feb 1 (ST) The much talked about and much anticipated merger of NDB and DFCC banks is unlikely to go through, with highly placed govt officials saying the state entities which collectively own over 30% in each bank will not vote for the merger. “They (new govt) don’t see any business sense in this,” a high govt official said. A committee reviewing the previous regime’s banking sector consolidation process, headed by Dinesh Weerakkody, who is a Senior Advisor to PM more..

Lankan HC in London organizes event in memory of 2004 tsunami victims

Feb 1 (Island) An event was organized by the Sri Lankan High Commission in London to remember and honor those who lost their lives due to the 2004 tsunami. Religious leaders of all four faiths conducted prayers followed by the welcome address by the Acting High Commissioner, Dr. Chanaka Talpahewa. Prince Harry sent a special message, which was read out by Alistair Harrison, Her Majesty’s Marshal of the Diplomatic Corp., who also spoke. Mrs. Cherie Blair, wife of Tony Blair, more..

'Budget deficit has reduced from Rs 521 B to Rs 494 B'

Feb 1 (CT) Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake, said that the slashing of wasteful capital expenditure by the present govt had reduced the 2015 Budget deficit from the Rs 521 billion to Rs 494 billion. The 2015 Budget which was presented by former President Rajapaksa last November, which had a Rs 521 billion deficit, which was 4.6% of GDP, had been slashed to Rs 494 billion, which was 4.4% of GDP. more..

Aviation Minister kept in the dark?

Feb 1 (NS) Minister of Aviation, Faiszer Mustapha seemed to have been unaware of moves to merge SriLankan and Mihin airlines through the interim budget proposals presented on Jan 29. When contacted, Mustapha, whilst stating that no decision was taken with regard to the merger of both airlines noted that a lot of thought was however needed to be put into the amalgamation process. “We have to think of issues such as how the balance sheets of SriLankan would look when it is merged. more..

Crackdown on drugs

Feb 1 (SL) A special police unit is to be established under Western Province DIG Poojith Jayasundara to crack down on the drug dealers, drug centres, distributors and smugglers. Minister John Amaratunga said that the special police unit will monitor all points of entry to the country including points manned by Customs officers and at sea. The situation of drugs is extremely serious in the country. According to some findings Sri Lanka is identified as an ‘international drug centre’. more..

Gotabhaya hands over two baby elephants

Feb 1 (DM) Former Defense Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa has handed over two baby elephants that were kept in his care to the zoo, Deputy Minister of Wildlife Wasantha Senanayake said. Minister Senanayake stated one of the elephant calves, which is four years old – had been held in his care upon obtaining legal authorization through a valid registration. “He has handed over two elephant calves to the zoo with his own consent. more..

PM appointment rubbished by Sarath N Silva

Feb 1 (NS) A major crisis was averted when former PM D. M. Jayaratne and the previous UPFA Govt maintained silence and vacated the offices gracefully after the presidential election, former Chief Justice Sarath. N. Silva said. Silva said that the way in which PM Ranil Wickremesinghe became Prime Minister cannot be accepted. “The incumbent PM should step down or he or she should be removed and then only can a new PM and Cabinet of Ministers be appointed,” more..

Clarity needed on 15% interest for senior citizens

Feb 1 (ST) Clarity is lacking on the new 15% interest rate for senior citizens interest rate on Rs.1 million deposits in commercial banks with many banks saying they are awaiting direction from the Central Bank. This was proposed at mini budget following the last regime’s proposal to grant 12% annual interest rate for Rs 2.5 million deposits of citizens over 60 years of age, which was implemented. Those who opened deposits in early January won’t be requested to change to the new scheme. more..

Britain appeals against EU de-proscription of LTTE

Feb 1 (SO) Britain has appealed against the de-proscription of the LTTE in the EU, the visiting British Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Office Hugo Swire said. Due to the appeal, the LTTE still remains a proscribed organisation in the EU, he said and added that the UK supports the belief that the LTTE should not be permitted to clear its name from the list of terrorists. LTTE was first proscribed in the EU in 2006, more..

UK encouraged by Sri Lanka's renewed desire for reconciliation and long-term peace

Feb 1 (PRIU) UK Foreign Office Minister Hugo Swire, who concluded his three-day visit to Sri Lanka yesterday, met President Maithripala Sirisena and Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera. This is UK Minister's second visit to Sri Lanka and the first Ministerial visit since the formation of a new government in the island nation earlier this month. Mr. Swire welcomed the early commitments announced by President Sirisena to lead a more democratic and accountable govt. more..

Release of Tamil political prisoners: TNA to seek US help

Feb 1 (CT) The TNA will seek US assistance to expedite the release of Tamil political prisoners when they meet US Deputy Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, Nisha Biswal Desai this week. Desai will be the first high-profile US State Department official to visit the island since the new Govt came to power in January. She is expected to meet President Sirisena, PM Ranil Wickremesinghe and Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera, before her meeting with the TNA. more..

Huge Highway robbery for polls

Feb 1 (ST) The Highways Ministry which came under former President Mahinda Rajapaksa spent a staggering Rs. 50 billion in excess of its allocation last year — with most of the money believed to have been busted on election propaganda work of UPFA Govt. Minister Kabir Hashim said that preliminary investigations had revealed that more than 70% of these funds had been wasteful expenditure. more..

Hike not added to basic salary: Dr. Harsha

Feb 1 (NS) Deputy Minister Dr. Harsha De Silva admitted that the proposed salary increase for state employees will be paid as an allowance and not be added to their basic salaries. However, JVP WPC Member K.D Lalkantha has criticized the govt for the move claiming this is not in fact an increase in salary, but a mere allowance. “We are fulfilling the promises made to state sector employees by the increasing of the salary,” Dr. De Silva said adding that a change in the basic salary more..

Mansion tax to be revised; requires fine-tuning

Feb 1 (ST) Govt’s mini budget proposal to impose a mansion tax of one million rupees on houses that are worth more than Rs. 100 million or having 5,000 square feet will be revised, Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake said. “There is considerable confusion over this levy. People have asked me what happens to large ancestral homes that have been coming down from family to family for generations,” he said. Idea behind the levy was to “rope in tax defaulters who were building more..

More disclosures on previous govt’s private army

Feb 1 (ST) PM Ranil Wickremesinghe on Monday directed the Minister of State for Defence, Ruwan Wijewardene, to conduct a full investigation into the operation of a veritable private army run by the state-backed Rakna Arakshaka Lanka Limited (RALL) and Avant Garde Maritime Security Services Limited (AGMSL) after disclosures made in the Sunday Times. “Did you leak the story to Sunday Times?” asked a journalist more..

Judiciary and island's destiny

Feb 1 (CT) Neville Samarakoon (QC) and Mohan Peiris (PC) have only one thing in common, they were both appointees of the Executive serving at that time, to the elevated post of Chief Justice, but the similarity ends there. One was independent, while the other was not. It is, however, imperative that the Judiciary be allowed to function independently as it should and the obnoxious 18th Amendment brought by the then President Rajapaksa in 2010, which made it virtually more..

High Noon at Hulftsdorp, quiet Gazette Notification for Central Bank

Feb 1 (Island) "We cannot rewrite history, but we can right history," said Justice John C. Hayes III last week in a South Carolina Court in the US, while retroactively vacating the guilty verdicts against nine African Americans for sitting at an all-white lunch counter in a popular restaurant in Rock Hill, South Carolina, on Jan 31, 1961. They were 18-year-old high school students then and went to jail, refusing bail, and inspiring other Civil Rights activists of that era. Now in their seventies they had to wait more..

Talk at the Cafe Spectator

Feb 1 (ST) The sordid saga of an imposter, as the National Unity Govt officially described him in polite language, is over but the stink left behind by that episode is spreading. That is because Mohan Peiris, once styled as Chief Justice 44, never held that office and will not have his name in any official records other than the cases he heard. Govt said the manner in which his predecessor was removed was void. more..

Indian fishermen problem goes to central govt

Feb 1 (PTI) A Parliamentary Standing Committee today said it would submit a report to the Centre on the problems faced by fishermen, including attacks allegedly by Sri Lankan Navy, to enable the External Affairs Ministry find a diplomatic solution to the vexed issue. "The Committee visited Ramanathapuram and met affected fishermen. We will submit a report to the Centre on problems faced by fishermen, including attacks by SL Navy, more..