Daily Archives: February 9, 2007

Pakistan and Sri lanka sign a MOU to start joint ventures

By Walter Jayawardhana


Sri Lanka signed a memorandum of understanding with the government of Pakistan facilitating the two countries to initiate joint ventures in new fields like aviation, manufacturing, textiles and tourism.

Sri lanka’s new minister for Enterprise Development Dr. Sarath Amunugama is leading a Sri lanka delegation to Islamabad in an effort to promote Pakistani investment in Sri lanka.

This deal was finalised between the senior investments officials of both the countries during two days of detailed discussions held in Islamabad.

Secretary Board of Investment Pakistan Talat M Miyan and Chairman BOI Sri Lanka Prof. Lakshman R. Watawala have signed the agreement, respectively, on behalf of their governments. Dr Sarath Amunugama, Minister for Enterprise Development and Investment Promotion Sri Lanka was also present on occasion.

Other members of the Sri Lankan delegation are Mano Wijeratne, Minister of Enterprise Development, T Hewage, Secretary, Ministry of Enterprise Development and Investment Promotion, Prof. Lakshman R Watawala, Chairman BOI, Dr. Nihal Samarappuli, Executive Director (Research), BOI and Duminda Ariyasinghe (Promotion) BOI.

Both sides also agreed to further simplify the visa regime for the tourists and businessmen. They clarified that the visas to tourists are being issued on the demand and at the arrival at entry points for 3 months period.

Pakistan on Thursday expressed its readiness to provide rolling stock for the Sri Lankan Railways.

In line with discussing the modalities, a meeting between Minister for Railways Sheikh Rashid Ahmed and Minister of Investment Sri Lanka Dr Sarath Amunugama was held in the Railways Ministry here.

Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said that Pakistan Railways was ready to provide rolling stock and technical assistance to Sri Lanka railways according to their requirement.

He recalled that Pakistan had supplied 40 wagons to the friendly country during 2001 while it was ready to provide more rolling stock to help meet with requirements in the sector.

The Sri Lanakan minister thanked the Government of Pakistan for provision of rolling stock to their railways and expressed the hope that same gesture would continue in future.
A proposal for supply of 24 Tank wagons to Sri Lanka was being actively considered by Pakistan Railways.

Secretary and Chairman Pakistan Railways Shakil Durrani and senior officers of the ministry also attended the meeting


More than 300 Asians in a drifting freight ship off Africa

By Walter Jayawardhana


A freight ship carrying at least 400 possible illegal immigrants the majority of whom are believed to be Asians is stranded off the waters of the West African nation of Mauritania, reports said.

The ship named Marine 1 started its troubles, the reports said when its engines broke down near Senegal on February 2 and now it has been towed by the Spanish Coast Guard Vessel near the coast of Mauritania the reports added.

According to some estimates 305 passengers of the freight liner are from Kashmir and the others are from Myanmar, Sri Lanka ivory Coast, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

International Organization of Migration said their organization together with Mauritiana Red Crescent and Spanish Red Cross traveled to the stranded ship and delivered about five tons of drinking water food and humanitarian supplies to the stranded passengers of the ship. .

The people who went to the stranded ship to deliver the supplies were unable to board the ship due to high seas but delivered the goods IOM said.

The people in the ship communicated with the people who went to deliver the supplies by radio and said the passengers were sea sick and suffering from diarrhea . Some of the passengers were so desperate two of them jumped from the ship and picked up by the boats the reports added.

The ship was carrying these passengers to the Spanish canary islands. The ship without the engines is just drifting on the high seas currently since so far no country has allowed the ship to enter any of their ports.

The U.N. refugee agency UNHCR on Thursday added its voice to calls for the freighter to be allowed to enter a safe port.

“At this point in time, the main priority should be to help these people and not let them drift on the high seas in precarious conditions,” George Okoth-Obbo, UNHCR Director for Protection, said in a statement from Geneva.


Love Hate relationship of two former political colleagues coming to an end?

By Walter Jayawardhana


In an obvious reference to his estranged cabinet colleague Anura Bandaranaike President Mahinda Rajapaksa said that the ruling Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) is not a heritage of few individuals but of the people.

He made the statement at a function held at his official residence, Temple Trees, to hand over letters of appointment to newly selected electoral organizers of the SLFP of which he is the President.

The strange love hate relationship between the Bandaranaikes-Chandrika and Anura  and Rajapaksa developed after Rajapaksa won the party nominations for the last Presidential election to the chagrin of the Bandaranaikes, whose father formed the ruling party after crossing over from the then ruling United National Party (UNP) about half a century ago. Mahinda’s father D. A. Rajapaksa followed in the footsteps of the Bandaranaike patriarch, the late S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike in the crossing over. Bandaranaike later said, "When I was crossing over to the other side of the isle in parliament I thought it was only my shadow following me.  But when I looked back it was DA."

Since then Bandaranaikes and Rajapaksas have been friends. When Mahinda took the hand of a bride Anura Bandaranaike was the obvious choice of the best man at the wedding. But there have been many differences between Anura and Mahinda. When Anura quarreled with his own family, once with mother Sirima who became the world’s first woman Prime Minister and sister Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, former President of Sri Lanka and left the party several times later to rejoin Mahinda waited patiently laying a stronger foundation for him to stand. Once before, even sister Chandrika left the party to form another political breakaway party under her matinee-idol husband Vijaya Kumaratunga. After the husband was assassinated she left the country in a self-exile to London and came back to recapture party leadership when the time was ripe. Then Anura Bandaranaike for the second time left the party heart broken over lost leadership to re-join the UNP. While the Bandaranaikes were leaving and re-joining the party in style Mahinda remained in the party very patiently cultivating his grass-root level support base. The quarreling siblings joined together only during the last Presidential election this time in recent history’s  most astounding political coup intended to defeat the official candidate of their own party for President, Mahinda Rajapaksa. Both brother and sister started a secret campaign to defeat Mahinda Rajapaksa and make Ranil Wickremesinghe the President of the country. It was customary for Mahinda Rajapaksa to tell people during the campaign that his own party people were campaigning against him. He therefore asked his friends to work more hard.

Defeating own party candidate for the continuance of the Bandaranaike clan power over the SLFP was not something new. Earlier it has been done to defeat an aristocratic relative of Mrs. Sirima Bandaranaike called Hector Kobbekaduwa, successfully. The resultant effects of the defeat of the party then helped keep the political rivals of the party, the UNP for three decades in power.

But it did not work so well this time although the Bandaranaikes were so sure. Anura Bandaranaike even filled his membership forms on the request of UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe to rejoin the UNP and mended his fences with a UNP strong man, the editor of the Sunday Leader, organ of Ranil Wickremesinghe. But in the morning when all votes have been counted Mahinda Rajapaksa has won. No one expected Mahinda to give Anura a portfolio. But being a compassionate man Mahinda though never gave Anura the earlier promised Prime Ministership  gave his best man the Ministership of Tourism, a portfolio that would accommodate the bachelor minister’s favorite trips to Los Angeles and London.  Although the trips continued to his loveable destinations, not his new political alliance with sister Chandrika and his unsavory comments about Mahinda ever ceased. The political demotion as the Minister of Heritage, a portfolio created to give him a cabinet salary, but restrained to a small government department in Mahinda Rajapaksa’s reshuffled cabinet seems like the final stage of decades old political alliance of two political families unless a miracle could save Anura, from oblivion. Graying and obese it was almost comical to watch him standing up and stating in parliament that the Secretary of his Ministry does not even have a place to keep her desk! What am I to do? Watch all those half naked Sigiriya ladies from a hotel room there? he asked


Rain halts Jayasuriya and Sri Lanka

Is it made of iron?
Sourav Ganguly inspects Sanath Jayasuriya’s bat as Marvan Atapattu, and umpire Suresh Shastri leave the ground as rain falls over Eden Gardens stadium during the first one-day international cricket match between India and Sri Lanka in Calcutta, yesterday. (AP Photo/Aman Sharma)

Sanath Jayasuriya hit an unbeaten 63 off 61 balls to lead Sri Lanka to 102-3 before the predicted rain stopped play in the first one-dayer against India in Calcutta yesterday.

Upul Tharanga played on to Munaf Patel, who then had captain Mahela Jayawardene caught for a duck early on.

Jayasuriya dominated a stand of 52 with Kumar Sangakkara before the latter edged Shanthakumaran Sreesanth behind.

With 18.2 overs bowled, the heavens opened to halt proceedings in the first game of a four-match series.

With little movement on offer in the opening overs, Tharanga and Jayasuriya were quick to seize the initiative by getting on to the front foot against Patel and Zaheer Khan.

But Tharanga perished trying to pull a delivery which wasn’t short enough to attack and got a thick inside edge into his stumps before Jayawardene mis-timed a drive off his fourth ball to Rahul Dravid at mid-on.

Veteran left-hander Jayasuriya had no such problems and was ruthless with anything short or too full, cutting and pulling with real authority as he collected 13 boundaries.

Sangakkara saw little of the strike in their 63-ball partnership, but did play a couple of handome strokes off Sreesanth before giving his wicket away by trying to cut an innocuous delivery.

– via … The Island


Sri Lanka

U Tharanga b Patel 14

S Jayasuriya not out 63

M Jayawardene c Dravid b Patel 0

K Sangakkara c Dhoni b Sreesanth 12

M Atapattu not out 5

Extras (lb 2, w 6) 8

Total (3 wickets; 18.2 overs) 102

To bat TM Dilshan, R. Arnold, F. Maharoof, M. Bandara, L. Malinga, N. Zoysa

Fall of wickets1-34, 2-44, 3-96

Bowling: Z. Khan 5-0-32-0 (1w), M. Patel 7-1-25-7, S. Sreesanth 4.2-0-36-1 (1w), Harbhajan Singh 2-0-7-0

India: R Uthappa, S. Ganguly, R. Dravid, S. Tendulkar, V. Sehwag, M. Dhoni, D. Karthik, Harbhajan Singh, Z. Khan, S. Sreesanth, M. Patel


killers of the hindu priest could expect serious consequences

By Walter Jayawardhana


Sri lanka Army Commander Lt. General Sarath Fonseka warned that the terrorists of the Liberation Tigers of the Tamil Eelam (LTTE) who shot and killed the innocent Head Priest of the Pulliar Hindu Temple at Sandiveli will have to face severe consequences very soon.

According to the Police investigations the LTTE gunmen forcibly dragged head Priest Chelliah Kurukkal Paremeshvaram out of his residence and killed him by shooting. The Police said the terrorists came from the Thoppigala terrorist camps deep inside the Ampara jungles. Few moments after he was dragged out of the house, his wife and three children heard gunshots.

Later his body was left in a nearby place, the police said. It was left in a ditch behind the government school at Sandiveli near Batticaloa.

His wife said he garlanded and blessed Mahinda Rajapaksa, when he visited Vakarai after the LTTE was driven out of the place after the terrorist group dominated the place after ten years. Before that he helped the the Vakarai refugees to be settled down after they escaped from the war ravaged area. The LTTE has been threatening the priest ever since then.

LT. General Sarath Fonseka said that the assassins are known to have come from the Tamil Tiger camps in the dense jungles in the Thoppigala area and very soon they will have to face the consequences of the ruthless murder of a harmless religious personality.

Fonseka said, in this instance, the LTTE has failed even to consider that the priest was a Hindu religious personality respected by the majority Tamil people of Sri Lanka. It only exhibited the barbaric nature of the LTTE.

He said it was the duty of the security forces to protect all citizens alike of the country irrespective whether they belonged to any religion or race. So, the killing of the priest could have very serious implications for the terrorists, he said.

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Army says they received training and weapons from LTTE but free media says they are journalists

By Walter Jayawardhana


While Sri Lanka’s politically motivated Free Media Movement demanded that three radicals attached to a Railway trade union bi-monthly newspaer be immediately released the Sri Lanka Defense Ministry website put up video clips of the three making confessions that said they have received three consignments of weapons and explosives from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) after short term weapons training by the terrorist group.

The three belonging to the majority Sinhalese ethnic group and Marxist oriented were arrested by the Sri Lanka Army on Monday , were planning to kill at least one Minister called Sreepathi unsuccessfully for the Tamil Tigers and were working for the publication of a trade union although their kind of journalism did not belong to regular professional journalism.

The Free Media Movement has also listed the support of world organizations such as Reporters without Frontiers and other such bodies to obtain the support for their cause.

The three Sinhalese men Lalith Seneviratne, a former journalist attached to the Hiru but now working for the union publication, Akuna (thunderbolt), Sisira Priyantha and Nihal Serasinghe were no full time journalists but the Free Media Movement listed the support of international bodies as the Reporters Without Frontiers for their release from the custody.

According to a seven minute video clip put up by the Defence.lk website Seneviratne speaking probably from a prison cell said they had made several trips to the LTTE held Kilinochchi area and had received three consignments of arms and ammunition from the LTTE through somebody who brought them to Welisara, a suburb of Colombo.

They had also made several failed attempts to explode a claymore mine targeting a Minister called Sripathy and also other targets. Thousands of web viewers saw Lalith Seneviratna, now working for Akuna who had undergone weapons and explosive training under LTTE was confessing to the Army following his arrest that they have used the C4 explosives sent by the LTTE for simultaneous explosions in Kiribathgoda, Rajagiriya, Nugegoda and Dehiwala areas.

H e said, in his confession, showed in a video put up on the web, that two years ago a team comprising himself, Shamal, Jagath, Janaka, Priyantha and Habali underwent weapons training, physical training and explosives training for seven to eight days at an LTTE facility. He said he was a former member of the JVP and contested on the party ticket in the 1994 election but later went out of the party due to party differences. He did not give a new name to his new group of Marxists and said they were determined to free Sri Lanka from the mew colonialism of the imperialists.

Seneviratna said the LTTE contact Ravi has given them Rs. 10 to 11 lakhs for expenses. He said he lived in Canada and returned there.

A second batch including Sujeeva, Sarath and Keerthi led by Shamal also underwent weapons and explosive training under the LTTE.

He said that an attempt to explode two claymore mines in Koggala by them also failed and then they attempted to attack the Indian Oil Company filling stations but later dropped the idea

He also revealed that they have received three consignments of weapons and explosives including T-56 rifles, C4 explosives, pistols, ammunition and claymore mines from the LTTE for various missions in the City and suburbs.

According to his confession they are responsible for placing claymore mines in the Kadawatha, Kirindiwela and Koggala areas recently, but their IED’s did not work..

Sisira Priyantha a railway worker and also the Treasurer of the Joint Front of Railway Trade Union who had also worked as a journalist in his confession revealed that he had transported two kilograms of C4 explosives to Galle.

Nihal Senasinghe, who had done graphic work for newspapers was also arrested along with the other two journalists and said he was married to a Tamil woman from the Ragala area called Pakya lakshmi..

The Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists demanded the release of the three men.

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Sri Lanka Media freedom and rule of law must coexist!

There is a furore over the arrest of some journalists. They have been taken in, the Defence Ministry says, because of their alleged links with the LTTE. Three of them, the Defence Spokesman says, have confessed that they have been trained by the LTTE to use firearms and explosives, presumably for high profile assassinations. Investigations are on, the government says, to find whether they were involved in the recent bomb blasts in buses. These are very serious charges.

Several media rights groups have launched a protest campaign against their arrests, which they say amount to abductions. Some of them are demanding the immediate release of the suspects.

The issue has led to an ethical dilemma of unprecedented proportions, which warrants a serious discussion on a number of questions about journalism and journalists in this country. The broad definition of a journalist is fairly well known. In the conventional sense of the term, anyone who works for or edits newspapers etc. is a journalist. The word ‘etc’ is of import, as it leaves the term flexible vis-`E0-vis the branching out of the mass media and the attendant exponential expansion of the field. Whoever thought of ‘online’ journalists some decades ago?

The question is not so much who a journalist is, but how one becomes a journalist in this country. We have two fields where no selection criteria are adhered to at all—politics and journalism. By way of qualifications, anything goes in journalism just like in politics. Anyone—a greenhorn or a shady character—could be catapulted to the top notches in a media organisation overnight just the way National List MPs are appointed and made ministers! No qualifications—educational, professional or otherwise—are required! Journalism has thus become a mixed bag of real practitioners and quacks. There’s the rub!

A good journalist believes that he is neither above nor below anyone else. But, there is a new breed of journalists who seem to believe that they are above all others. They are the ones who flash their media accreditation cards at police/military checkpoints or when booked for speeding. They appear to cherish the delusion that they are above the law as well. Ironically, they are the very ones who campaign for stripping politicians of their legal immunity! To them, the so-called press card is a passport to unrestricted access—even to heaven. They need to be reminded that by virtue of holding the media accreditation card, they don’t become ‘more equal than’ others. Nor can they use their position as journalists to rise above the law.

There are some media persons to whom security checks have become something like a red rag to a bull. What a noise they make on being challenged to prove identity or being frisked! But, strangely, they were as meek as house mice at Prabhakaran’s press conference (2002) at Killinochchi, where they were made to stand with their tongues lolling out, noses being squeezed and earlobes pulled by Tiger cubs to ensure that there were no hidden weapons that would pose a threat to Prabhakaran’s life.

Journalists, no doubt, deserve freedom to carry out their duties and functions without let or hindrance. But, they ought to realise that sky is not the limit. Similarly, it behoves the powers that be to desist from using the prevailing situation as an excuse to harass the members of the fourth estate and deny them access to information. There are political and military bigwigs who are trying to have us believe that exposing corruption in the Defence establishment poses a threat to national security!

Some worthy members of the fourth estate have placed themselves at the disposal of politicians as propaganda hit men. And they are being propped up by the slush funds of social undesirables. They are campaigning to make the politicians declare their financial assets without setting an example by practising what they preach. There are disturbing reports of some journalists being in the pay of certain foreign powers aiding and abetting terrorism in this country and it is incumbent upon the champions of media freedom to initiate an investigation and let the public know the truth. Such unsavoury elements in the garb of scribes, if any, must be named, shamed and kicked out of the profession.

We cannot afford to lose sight of the fact that there is already one ‘journalist’ in remand over his alleged involvement in the assassination of Major Tuan Muthaliff. The suspect is reported to have even covered Parliamentary proceedings.

Media freedom and rule of law must co-exist for democracy to flourish. They mustn’t be brought on a collision course, if it is the wellbeing of democracy that we seek. Unfortunately, that is exactly what is happening as could be seen from the unfolding drama. As much as it is the duty of the law enforcement authorities to act with responsibility in dealing with the press, it is imperative that the media rights groups be able to separate journalism from terrorism and help identify terror advocates masquerading as journalists. That is the greatest service that they can render to the real media men and women who have done their profession proud.

-The Island Editorial


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