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‘Only 50 percent of media freedom in the country’

Unsuppressed thoughts on Media Freedom in Sri Lanka

Media activists are concerned by what they term as a fresh wave of suppression in the form of legislation being introduced to regulate online media. It was to highlight this and a spate of other concerns relating to media freedom, that the Collective of Media organizations organized a protest in Colombo recently. This report brings you highlights from this event as well as views from the Government and academia on the matter.

‘Peace Quest’ Overcome anger by love and evil by good

S. T. Arasu says… Now, the time is ripe for us to realise and be good! Everybody inidp our country prefers absolute national unity, peace and harmony, to prevail for all of us to joyfully live without any fear, panic, tension and anxiety! All religions too preach the very same in the interest and betterment of humanity! As my contributions to the needed peace let me quote here the following gems of great sayings that may be very useful in a little way at this juncture to the whole nation in order to solve the ethic conflict and misunderstandings that are indeed still visible:

‘Peace Quest’

“Overcome anger by love and evil by good;
Overcome the miser, by generosity, and the liars by truth!”
Dhammapada (223)

“Genuine peace can only be solved by cultivating the feelings of consensus and fraternity. Hatred and revenge can achieve nothing!”
S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike, (Ex-Prime Minister of Sri Lanka)

“The new and terrible dangers, which man has created, can only be controlled by man!”
John F. Kennedy, (Ex-President of USA)

“Democracy’s real test lies in respect for minority opinion!”
Ellery Sedgwick

“The voice of conscience is the voice of God, and it is the final judge of the righteousness of every deed and every thought!”
Mahatma GandhiIndia’s Father of the nation (Bharatha Matha)

“You can fool all the people some of the time,
And some of the people, all the time,
But you cannot fool all the people,all of the time!”
Abraham Lincoln, Ex President of USA and Father of Liberty

“How amazing is the spirit of man, in spite of immeasurable failings, man throughout the ages, has sacrificed life and all he held dear, for an ideal, for truth, for faith for country and honour! That ideal may change, but that capacity for self-sacrifice continues and because of that much may be forgotten to man and it is impossible to lose hope for him!”
“- Great things can be accomplished by great sacrifices only!”
Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Ex-first Prime Minister of India (Bharatha Matha)

“Where there is no vision, the people perish!”
A Biblical Proverb

“Let our advance wearying, become advance thinking and planning!”
Sir Winston Churchill, Ex-Prime Minister of England War period!

“Do not be afraid to advance forward
God is with you!”
The Koran

“Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!”
“Arise, awake and stop not till the goal is reached!”
Swami Vivekanandaji

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Sripathi killed in accident

sooriyarachchiSripathi Sooriyaarachchi, former Sri Lankan Port Development Minister and Chief Co-ordinator of Sri Lanka Freedom Party’s (SLFP) Mahajana faction, a splinter group of SL President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s SLFP, was killed Saturday at 1:40 p.m. when his vehicle met with an accident at Madegama on Anuradhapura Galgamuwa road, Police said.

Mr. Sooriyaarachchi, a former naval officer turned lawyer and a close associate of former Sri Lankan president Chandrika Kumaratunga, has been a key player in challenging Mahinda Rajapaksa regime.

via Topix Sri Lanka

Clive Haswell says Govt. spending must be controlled

“People in virtually every sphere are becoming wealthier and their requirements, as far as banking services go, are now more sophisticated…” – Clive Haswell in LMD.

The CEO of Standard Chartered Bank Clive Haswell recently illustrated to business magazine LMD the banking sector’s rapid expansion in Sri Lanka. Identifying the ever-changing needs of customers, Haswell says that levels of service, rather than the products per se, are heading the list of consumer priorities.

In a wide ranging interview in LMD’s February edition, which is now available at leading supermarkets and bookstores, Haswell stresses that the industry has to keep innovating in order to keep customers satisfied. Client retention, therefore, is now the name of the game in banking.

Haswell also speaks of the local banking sector vis-à-vis international banks. Acknowledging that local banks do face stiff competition from international banks, he adds that since of late, the local banks have become much tougher competition.

Looking into the future, Haswell cautions: “It is wise to manage change at a reasonable pace.” Identifying Sri Lanka as being a country with one of the highest inflation rates in Asia, he emphasises the need for this to be brought under control before any changes in the banking sector can be implemented. He adds: “The biggest challenge for the Government is to get its public spending under control.”

Provided that this is kept under control and interest rates decline, “practical measures can help develop the financial-services market”, he tells LMD.

Araki expressed hope for better economic relationship between Sri Lanka and Japan

Japanese Ambassador Kiyoshi Araki expressed his hope for an improved and betterKiyoshi Araki economic relationship between Sri Lanka and Japan at a Fellowship Evening held recently by the Sri Lanka-Japan Business Co-operation Committee (SLJBCC). He added that the agreement to establish a ’Government-Private Joint Forum’ between Sri Lanka and Japan augured well for Sri Lanka’s economy.

“There are about 60 Japanese companies operating here in Sri Lanka. These companies are engaged in various industries such as services, manufacturing, construction sectors etc. They have contributed immensely to the development of the entire Sri Lankan economy in terms of creation of employment opportunities, promotion of export from Sri Lanka, transfer of advanced technology and so forth”, added Araki.

The Fellowship evening was organized by the SLJBCC with the aim of promoting and encouraging interaction amongst members and other key stake holders and to record the Sri Lanka-Japan Business Co-operation Committee’s appreciation to the Japanese business community, in particular investors who continue to maintain confidence in Sri Lanka despite the current security concerns.

“We are confident of greater linkages in the future with the SLJBCC constantly endeavouring to promote and facilitate trade and investment between the two countries. We look forward to the 15th Joint meeting scheduled to be held in Sri Lanka as an opportunity to realize this,” stated President of SLJBCC, Das. H.T. Wijeratne.

The SLJBCC website was inaugurated by the Japanese ambassador at this event.

Open letter to Arbour: Why not issue a warrant on Prabakaran?

LouiseArbour05Ms Louise Arbour
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
OHCHR, United Nations
Palais Wilson, Geneva
Switzerland

Dear Madam:

Re: United Nations Justice Tribunal – Velupillai Prabhakaran (Leader of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) aka Tamil Tigers)

Your communiqué on the human rights situation in Sri Lanka piqued our interest since we too have had an on going concern that the mandate your office was given to provide relief and safeguard the lives of children particularly in theatres of war, as in the North and East of Sri Lanka had not been forthcoming.

We have long questioned why Velupillai Prabhakaran has not been charged with war crimes, while Charles McArthur Taylor, former President of Liberia has been arrested by the United Nations Justice Tribunal for using child soldiers during his tenure as the President of Liberia from August 2, 1997 to August 1, 2003.

In comparison to Charles Taylor’s six year involvement in recruiting child soldiers, Velupillai Prabhakaran has been abducting and recruiting children for almost 25 years since late 1983, and the numbers as recorded by UNICEF and Human Rights Watch are in the thousands.

We believe that your organization should invoke the Security Council Resolution 1612, which is meant to take punitive action against violators of the rights of children in armed conflicts. Which, in this case, the leader of the LTTE, Velupillai Prabhakaran is the perfect candidate to be charged for such ‘war crimes’.

While we may be repeating information which you already have in your files, it is incumbent upon us to bring to your notice that Velupillai Prabhakaran as leader of the LTTE has committed four grave violations against children in the North and East of Sri Lanka for over two decades, which are offences chargeable as ‘war crimes’. They are: (i) Attacks against schools and civilians centers; (ii) Abduction of children; (iii) Denial of humanitarian access to children; and (iv) Use of children in armed conflict.

In March 2005, following strong criticism and condemnation from the United Nations Security Council for continued recruitment of child soldiers; the LTTE launched an offensive to get UNICEF expelled from Sri Lanka. By then UNICEF had reported more than 4,700 odd cases of recruitment and re-recruitment of children by the LTTE, by force, abducting children while on their way to school or during religious festivals, et cetera.

UNICEF is also on record as having stated that the LTTE conscripted more than 1,600 children out of the Tsunami displaced camps in 2005 itself.

What should not go unnoticed is that, according to Human Rights Watch, almost all the suicide bombers, over 200 of them were trained from the ranks of the child soldiers.

While we value your timely reiteration that such violations are indeed ‘war crimes’ and of systemic grave violations of the Rights of the children in the North and East of Sri Lanka, we now await your action in exercising you rights as the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to issue a warrant for the arrest of Velupillai Prabhakaran and charging him for war crimes in the International Criminal Court.

The time has arrived for such an action and anything less would be a disappointment to us as well as the growing consensus at the UN for not taking punitive actions against the violator of the rights of the Tamil children in this armed conflict.

If Liberia’s Charles Taylor has been charged for his six-year violations on children for recruiting them as child soldiers, so should Sri Lanka’s Liberation Tigers of Tamil (LTTE) leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran for his violations of Tamil children for the past 25 years.

We shall be looking forward with interest on your progress in bringing this war criminal to Court, which will bring immense solace not only to the Tamil children but also to their parents and immediate family members.

President – Society for Peace, Unity and Human Rights of Sri Lanka (SPUR), Victoria

President – Sri Lanka United National Association (SLUNA) of Canada

President – Society for Peace, Unity and Human Rights of Sri Lanka (SPUR),NSW

President – Western Australian Society for Peace Unity and Rehabilitation, (WASPUR) in Sri Lanka

President – Sri Lankans Against Terrorism- NSW

President – Sinhala Cultural and Community Services F. Vic

President – Apey Shakthi- New Zealand

Coordinator – Hela Muthu Ketaya, New Zealand

President – Canadian Association for United Sri Lanka-Canada

President – Sri Lankan United National Association-Canada

President – Sinhala Centre- U.K

President – The International Campaign for the Liberation of the Sinhala Nation- U.K

President – Sinhala Association of Sri Lankans in the U.K

President – New York Society of United Sri Lankans-U.S.A

President – United Sinhalese Association in Italy- Rome.

President – Pacific Alliance for Peace in Sri Lanka, Vic (National Office), Australia

President – Alliance Against Tamil Domination, UK

President – Veera Parakramabahu Foundation (VPF), NSW, Australia

President – First Society of Sri Lankan Professors in American Universities

President – First Society of Sri Lankan Professionals in Japan

President – Society for Peace, Unity and Human Rights of Sri Lanka (SPUR), UK

President – FOSUS – FRIENDS OF SRI LANKA in US

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Sri Lanka’s Brandix goes Organic

Internationally-certified organic cotton ladies’ pants, manufactured by Sri Lanka’s brandixsrilankaBrandix Group, have broken into the 2008 spring and summer collection of top international retailer NEXT, opening up a lucrative new category for the country’s largest apparel exporter.

The Group’s lead casualwear production facility for NEXT in Giritalé has already supplied more than 10,000 ‘semi-cargo’ pants to the retailer and anticipates continuing orders as the season progresses, Brandix Casualwear CEO Pravin Kalpage said.

A unique feature of the orders executed for NEXT is the fact that the organic fabric used is processed in Sri Lanka at the Brandix Textiles factory at Makandura, Pannala, which received Organic and Fair Trade certification from the Institute for Marketecology (IMO) of Switzerland recently.

NEXT is the third major international chain to place orders for organic garments from Brandix, he said. The Group has also received orders for 37,000 pieces of organic apparel from Marks & Spencer (M&S), the top notch UK retailer, and from Woolworth in South Africa. The organic fabric for these orders is imported from India.

“This is just the first phase of initiatives within the group to establish a fully-integrated organic-certified supply chain that will enable Brandix to produce 100 per cent organic apparel for leading global brands,” Kalpage said. Seven Brandix Casualwear operational locations in Sri Lanka are on course to receive GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) certification in the final quarter of 2007-08.

The Group’s garment finishing operation Brandix Finishing Limited (BFL) is also in process of obtaining organic certification, on receipt of which Brandix expects to be fully geared to provide organic textiles, organic manufacture and organic washing, he added.

Brandix Casualwear’s Head of Supply Chain Samal Dissanaike said, consumer preference for organic-certified clothing, a ‘conscience-driven’ choice, is expected to grow in the years ahead, and buyers would want vendors who can produce organic apparel when needed. “Manufacturers who do not have organic certification will lose out in this area of business, which could become a significant segment,” he said.

Organic certified fabrics could cost up to 30 per cent more than standard fabric, and garments produced with such fabric retail at higher prices than their non-certified counterparts and cater to discerning niche markets, Dissanaike said.

Lincoln Fernando, Divisional Merchandise Manager and Head of the Next account at Brandix Casualwear said the company’s factory at Giritale is geared to respond to repeat orders from Next for organic cotton pants with lead times of just eight weeks.

The GOTS certification is the definitive global certification for organic textiles and covers the production, processing, manufacturing, packaging, labelling, export, import and distribution of all natural fibres. The aim of the standard is to define requirements to ensure the organic status of textiles, from harvesting of the raw materials, through environmentally and socially responsible manufacturing up to labelling in order to provide a credible assurance to the end consumer.

Brandix (www.brandix.com) pioneered the concept of total solutions in the Sri Lankan apparel industry and is Sri Lanka’s largest apparel exporter with a consolidated annual turnover of over US$ 320 million (2006-07). The winner of two Presidential Export Awards in 2007, the Group has integrated Clean Technology, Waste Management, Energy Management and Environmental Conservation into its operations on the basis of a strong belief that sustainable industrial development can drive its ultimate goal of being a completely green business concern. Brandix is a preferred solutions provider to some of the world’s best brands, including Gap, Marks & Spencer, Victoria’s Secret, NEXT, Lands End, Ann Taylor, Abercrombie & Fitch and Tommy Hilfiger. The Group specializes in casual bottoms, intimate and active wear, textiles, knitted fabrics, sewing and embroidery thread, accessories and hangers and also offers wet processing and finishing and fabric printing. via eMail

Sri Lankan defense minister endorses media repression

cpjThe Committee to Protect Journalists is alarmed by Sri Lankan Defense Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa’s brazen public call yesterday to censor the media and reintroduce criminal defamation laws. The comments were published in a Sinhala-language interview by Sri Lanka’s largest weekly, Sunday Lankadeepa, according to Free Media Movement spokesman Sunanda Deshapriya and veteran Sri Lankan journalist Iqbal Athas.

Rajapaksa, who is the brother of Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, told the Sunday Lankadeepa that he advocated press censorship, harsh punishments for critical reporting on the military and military expenditures, and a criminal defamation law, according to extracts from the article translated by the Free Media Movement.

“If I have the power I will not allow any of these things to be written,” the minister said in reference to reporting on the military, according to the Free Media Movement translation.

“This is an open intimidation of the media,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “The Sri Lankan press sorely needs space to report independently on the escalating instability in the country, free of government intimidation.”

CPJ documented the case of a reporter who said she was personally threatened by Rajapaksa last year, but this is the first time his aggressive attitude toward the media has been publicly demonstrated.

The newspaper group Wijeya, which publishes the Sunday Lankadeepa and several other widely circulated publications—including the English-language Sunday Times—and the broadcasting conglomerate Maharaja were singled out by the minister as examples of privately owned media groups that abuse their existing freedoms by reporting critically, according to the Free Media Movement translation.

Govt. has no right to Celebrate Independence

60thindisrilankaUNP Gen.Secretary, Tissa Attanayake, addressing the Media at the UNP Media Unit today (28 Jan) lamented that this Govt. is trying to celebrate Sri Lanka’s 60 years of independence on the 4th of Feb. 2008 after defeating every purpose for which independence was achieved by the Father of the Nation, Late D.S. Senanayake, the first Prime Minister and Leader of the UNP in1948. No Govt. has ever turned the clock back on all the progress and development of this country as did this dismal and despotic Rajapakse Govt., he added.

The main objectives of independence of a country is to establish freedom for the people, freedom from the fetters of colonialism, banish poverty and ignorance, and foster peaceful existence as a nation bound by laws.

With the Rajapakse Govt., what we witness in our very midst is poverty, education muddle, erosion of freedom, panic, tyranny and despotism, leave alone the dire dangers to the lives of the people and the sovereignty of the country, he asserted.

In the circumstances, the UNP is compelled to reject the Govt.’s invitation to celebrateTissa Attanayake the Independence Day, he said. However, the Party has decided to engage in religious worships and activities at all religious places: Temples. Mosques, churches and Kovils. The Party therefore urges all to visit their places of worship and perform religious acts on the day of independence. The UNP is to have its religious services at Kandy Dalada Maligawa at 9.00 a.m.under the patronage of the Leader of Opposition and UNP, Ranil Wickrmesinghe. All Organisers of the Party are also instructed to perform religious activities in their own areas, he explained.

The President had realized only now that it is the 13th amendment to the Constitution introduced by the UNP is the answer to the ethnic conflict after 20 years! But, when the UNP signed the Indo Lanka accord and introduced the 13 th amendment, it was the President, then, a Minister along with his Leader Sirimavo Bandaranayake who shouted hoarse against it under the Pettah Bo-tree which led to a country wide unrest. This eventually led to 6600 UNP members losing their lives and mass destruction of National wealth and property.

Had Rajapakse realized this solution 20 years ago, all this damage to person and property could have been saved, he regretted. Similarly, Rajapakse is certainly going to say after 20 years the best thing that could have happened to the ethnic crisis in Sri Lanka is the UNP’s Ceasefire agreement (CFA). But, by that time the whole Nation will be devastated and decimated, he concluded

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