Daily Archives: January 27, 2015

Lanka to Slash Presidential Term to Five Years

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COLOMBO: The constitutional makeover which the Sirisena government hopes to bring about in its first 100 days, includes a proposal to slash the Presidential term from six years to five.

This was announced by President Maithripala Sirisena at a public meeting in his native district of Polonnaruwa on Monday.

Sirisena said that he had suggested a four term (as in the US) but the constitutional expert who is working on the changes, said that having a Presidential election every four years would be expensive and a decision to opt for a five year term was made.

Sirisena has already declared that he will not seek a second term, in sharp contrast to his predecessor, Mahinda Rajapaksa, who had sought a third term and amended the constitution to make it possible.

Justifying a shorter term in office, Sirisena recalled that the first post-Apartheid South African President, Nelson Mandela, had brought about radical reforms in his five year term in office.

Extending a hand of friendship to his electoral opponents, Sirisena said: ” My policy is to consider those who opposed me at the election as friends as Mandela did, and get them involved in the process of building the country.”

He further said that political affiliation will not be a criterion for giving posts in his government.

“Posts will be given to individuals considering their suitability, efficiency, honesty and qualifications only,” he stressed.

TNIE

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Rajapaksa Sees Sinister Motive Behind Media Blitz Against Him

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COLOMBO: Former Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa has slammed the on-going media blitz against him and has charged that the vilification campaign is meant to mislead the public.

In a letter to the Buddhist Maha Sangha and Lankans at large, Rajapaksa said that the accusation that he sought the Attorney General’s advice on how to remain in power illegally, is by its very nature, an “absurdity”.

“I was saddened by the comments made about this alleged incident and other matters by the incumbent President (Maithripala Sirisena) at a rally in Polonnaruwa,” he added.

About the TV images of the interior of his official residence “Temple Trees” which “insinuated” that he and his family had led an extravagant lifestyle at state expense, he said that these facilities had been created to cater to foreign delegates during the 2013 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in accordance with international specifications.

About the accusation that his wife Shiranthi was trying to sell 100 kilos of gold belonging to the government Treasury, he pointed out that the police had already responded to that “ridiculous” allegation.

On the search for hidden Lamborghinis, Rajapaksa said: “Vehicles that even remotely resemble sports cars are being taken by the police from the houses of their owners in their search for Lamborghinis belonging to my sons. But no Lamborghinis have been found.”

“Two containers of personal belongings of my family have been examined by the police on suspicion of being items ‘stolen’ from Temple Trees. These items were stored in containers because I had no place to go to in Colombo after vacating my official residence,” he said.

On alleged shady deals with foreign project contractors, Rajapaksa said that all agreements had been vetted by the Attorney General and approved by the cabinet. Many parties were involved in these projects and with so many eyes watching them, it would be impossible to inflate costs, Rajapaksa argued.

Pointing out that Chinese aided projected are being specially targeted, Rajapaksa said that China has helped Sri Lanka for six decades, and suggested that such mud-slinging be stopped.

“Outrageous and totally unsubstantiated accusations against me were disseminated through various websites and social media networks such as facebook both before and after the election. I self-critically admit that my government did not take these baseless allegations seriously and counter them in time.However, I am confident that the truth will prevail one day,” the former President said.

TNIE

‘Potentially historic’ blizzard headed for US Northeast

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A “potentially historic” blizzard could dump 2 to 3 feet (60 to 90 centimeters) of snow on a large part of the US Northeast, crippling a region that has largely been spared so far this winter, the National Weather Service said on Sunday. Hundreds of cancelled flights were expected.

A blizzard warning was issued for New York and Boston, and the National Weather Service said the storm would bring heavy snow and powerful winds starting Monday and into Tuesday.

“This could be a storm the likes of which we have never seen before,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a news conference.

De Blasio held up a piece of paper showing the city’s top 10 snowstorms and said this one could land at the top of a list that goes back to 1872, including the 26.9 inches (68.3 centimeters) that fell in 2006. “Don’t underestimate this storm. Prepare for the worst,” he said as he urged residents to plan to leave work early on Monday.

Around 1,200 flights scheduled for Monday are expected to be cancelled, according to the flight tracking site FlightAware. The storm promised treacherous travel by both land and air throughout the busy northeast corridor.

Boston was expected to get 18 to 24 inches (45 to 60 centimeters) of snow, and Philadelphia could see 14 to 18 inches (35 to 45 centimeters), the weather service said. The Washington, D.C., area was expected to get a coating or a bit more.

In New York, transit officials planned to use modified subway cars loaded with de-icing fluid to spray the third rail that powers trains.

TIE

UNHCR, European Union to Help SL Tamils Return Home

COLOMBO: The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the European Union (EU) have undertaken to help the Sri Lankan government repatriate Lankan Tamil refugees in Tamil Nadu and resettle them in the Island Nation, the Lankan Ministry of Resettlement has said.

Assurance of aid was given to the Lankan Minister for Resettlement, D M Swaminathan, when he met local representatives Gulam Abbas and Igor Ivancic of the UNHCR, and Jaime Royo-Olid and Libuse Soukupova of the EU, here last week, a Ministry statement said.

The EU has already built 23,000 houses in the Tamil-speaking Northern and Eastern Provinces and an additional 3,000 houses are to be built. The EU has set aside Euro 14 million for this project in 2015. There are still 26,056 internally displaced Tamils in Sri Lanka.

Modi, Sirisena Keen

Repatriation of the refugees from India and the resettlement of the existing internally displaced persons in Lanka will both be taken up ‘on a priority basis’, as part of the Maithripala Sirisena government’s 100-day program, the Resettlement Ministry said. The programme to repatriate Lankan Tamil refugees from Tamil Nadu was discussed when Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera met Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi on January 19. Last week, the Lankan cabinet issued a statement saying the matter will be discussed during Modi’s talks with Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe when he visits Colombo in mid-March. Both governments have assured that repatriation will be voluntary.

Claim Land Rights

“The refugees have to go back to reclaim their lost rights in Sri Lanka. Repatriation is essentially a Mannai Meetpom (Recover our Land) movement,” explained S C Chandrahasan of the Chennai-based Organization for Elangai Refugees’ Rehabilitation (OfERR).

TNIE

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