Complaint Filed Against Rajitha Senaratne On Alleged Financial Fraud
2016-Jun-10 | By Sihara Colombage

Complaint Filed Against Rajitha Senaratne On Alleged Financial Fraud

National Freedom Front Politburo Member and UPFA MP Niroshan Premaratne filed a complainst against Minister Rajitha Senaratne with the Anti-corruption Committee yesterday.

The complaint claims that Senaratne is responsible for the misuse of Rs 177 million when he was the Minister of Fisheries.

The said misuse occurred regarding the payment of consultant fees to a private company during the construction of Silavathura, Gurunagar and Gandara Fisheries Harbours, the complaint further said.

The money was allocated through the Project Implementation and Monitoring Unit of the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, the complaint said.

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COPE Report Covering 19 Institutions Presented To Parliament
2016-Aug-10 | By Sihara Colombage

COPE Report Covering 19 Institutions Presented To Parliament

JVP MP and Chairman of the Committee of Public Enterprise Sunil Handunneti presented to Parliament a report containing an overview of investigations by the COPE on 19 public institutions.

He said that the report was an overview of the investigations carried out from January to April 2016.

Fifteen more institutions have been summoned before COPE, he added.

Handunnetti also said that the investigations are hampered by certain Standing Orders. Parliament should take note of this and the COPE should be more accessible, Handunnetti said.

Unable To Hand Over Notice To Udayanga Weeratunga, Foreign Ministry Informs Court
2016-Aug-10 | By Sihara Colombage

Unable To Hand Over Notice To Udayanga Weeratunga, Foreign Ministry Informs Court

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday informed Colombo Fort Magistrate that the ministry is unable to handover the notice issued to former Sri Lankan Ambassador Udayanga Weeratunga to appear at court over the alleged financial fraud during the purchase of MiG aircrafts to the Sri Lanka Air Force.

The Ministry said that Weeratunga was not residing at his address in Ukraine.

The court had earlier directed that Weeratunga must be handed over the notice through the Foreign Ministry if he was residing abroad.

Meanwhile the court also directed the police to inquire n to the misplacement of the original documents pertaining to the deal.

The court also directed police to utilize the records of a case related to the MiG deal which was heard for several years at the Mount Lavinia Magistrate's Court.

Thalatha Athukorale Claims Government Will Be In Power For 15 Years
2016-Aug-10 | By Sihara Colombage

Thalatha Athukorale Claims Government Will Be In Power For 15 Years

The power rewarded by the people for 05 years cannot be changed for another 15 years says Minister of Foreign Employment Promotion and Welfare, Thalatha Atukorale.

She expressed this while participating at a United National Party membership promotion programme at Nivithigala electorate.

“Our leaders did not steal. Did not cultivate families. Without a disgust demonstrate in protest marches," Athukorale said. She asked it the the government has done anything wrong, like in the Rajapaksa era.

"During those days democracy was not there, the police was politicized, the government service was politicized. After ending an era when the Rajapaksa family including the former President Rajapaksa considered only about themselves, the government has started a new journey. With the consent of the President and the Prime minister, both main parties came together without any party division to build the country through a directive. After this the Rajapaksa-clique somehow try to seize power" she said.

"I declare with responsibility, this government will be in power for another 15 years, not just five" the Minister added.

Isura Devapriya Claims Dallas Alahapperuma May Leave Joint Opposition
2016-Aug-10 | By Sihara Colombage

Isura Devapriya Claims Dallas Alahapperuma May Leave Joint Opposition

Several 'Joint Opposition' members are prepared to support President Maithripala Sirisena, Western Province Chief Minister Isura Devapriya claimed yesterday.

Answering a question raised by the media during a press conference, Devapriya said UPFA MP Dallas Alahapperuma could be one of the MPs who will join.

"He could be one of them. I cannot confirm it now. But he is a good SLFPer," Devapriya said.

He also commented on the recent burning of letters sent by the party to some former local councilors. Devapriya claimed that it was done under the influence of a key member of the 'Joint Opposition' from Kurunegala.

Fulfill Promises Before Party Membership Drives, Namal Rajapaksa Challenges President, PM
2016-Jul-28 | By Sihara Colombage

Fulfill Promises Before Party Membership Drives, Namal Rajapaksa Challenges President, PM (VIDEO)

UPFA MP Namal Rajapaksa said that the President and Prime Minister should carry out the promises made to the people before conducting party membership programs to disrupt the 'Joint Opposition.'

Speaking to the media outside the Getambe Temple, Rajapaksa said that the UNP suddenly organized party membership drives to disrupt the protest march by the 'Joint Opposition.'

None of these obstructions will achieve the government's goal of disrupting the march, he said.

Rajapaksa claimed that huge numbers were already turning up for the march to Colombo. The march is expected to reach Colombo on August 1.

CID Completes Investigations Against Tissa Attanayake Over Allegedly Forging Signatures
2016-Jul-27 | By Sihara Colombage

CID Completes Investigations Against Tissa Attanayake Over Allegedly Forging Signatures

The CID today informed court that the investigations against Tissa Attanayake on the alleged forging of the signatures of Maithripala Sirisena and Ranil Wickremesinghe have been completed.

The matter has been referred to the AG for his advice, the CID also said.

Attanayake is accused of preparing a document claiming to have the signatures of the then common candidate of the opposition Maithripala Sirisena and the then Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe during the 2015 Presidential Election campaign. The document was said to be a secret agreement between the two.

Attanayake, who was a long serving General Secretary of the UNP, defected to the government side during the election campaign. However the then President Mahinda Rajapaksa was defeated in the January 2015 election.

Attanayake was arrested in February 2015 over the incident.

High Court Issues Notice To FCID, AG Over Basil Rajapaksa's Bail Application
2016-Jul-26 | By Sihara Colombage

High Court Issues Notice To FCID, AG Over Basil Rajapaksa's Bail Application

The Colombo High Court today issued notice on the FCID and the AG to appear in court on August 1 for the revision application filed by former Minister Basil Rajapaksa.

On July 22, Rajapaksa filed a revision application in Colombo High Court seeking bail over alleged misappropriation of Divineguma funds for the supply of GI pipes to local government authorities.

The bail application seeks the overturn of the decision by the Kaduwela Magistrate on July 18 not to grant him bail. Rajapaksa was arrested that day by the FCID and charged under the Public Properties Act.

President, 'Joint Opposition' Avoid Jana Satana
2016-Jul-26 | By Sihara Colombage

President, 'Joint Opposition' Avoid Jana Satana

President Maithripala Sirisena and SLFP MPs of the 'Joint Opposition' have not discussed the contentious 'Jana Satana Pada Yathra' protest march when they met yesterday at the President's official residence in Colombo.

The discussion was focused on several factors including the UNP-SLFP agreement and the economy.

President Sirisena did not oppose the stance taken by the SLFP MPs who decided to oppose the government, MP Gamini Lokuge told media. However, he asked the MPs not to divide the party through their politics, Lokuge added.

The Joint Opposition MPs also opposed Sirisena's move to extend the UNP-SLFP agreement to five years.

Some SLFP seniors have urged drastic action against the SLFP members who take part in the Jana Satana Pada Yathra protest march which will be launched in Kandy on July 28. It is to arrive in Colombo on August 1. 

President Summons 'Joint Opposition' MPs, Days Before Kandy-Colombo Protest March
2016-Jul-25 | By Gehan Jayaratne

 

File Photo

President Maithripala Sirisena has invited 'Joint Opposition' MPs who support former President Mahinda Rajapaksa for a discussion this evening.

Only the SLFP MPs of the 'Joint Opposition' have been invited.

It is expected that the discussion will focus on the forthcoming protest march 'Jana Satana Pada Yatra' from Kandy to Colombo.

A section of the SLFP are demanding drastic action against any SLFP member who joins the march against the government.

Speaking at a recent meeting in Polonnaruwa, UPFA MP Dallas Alahapperuma said that he expects one million participants at the protest rally to be held on August 1 in Colombo. Alahapperuma is also a SLFP member.

The 'Joint Opposition' has the support of around 50 MPs, most of the SLFP members.

Ranatunga Tells UNP, SLFP: "Contest Separately, Join Afterwards"
2016-Jul-25 | By Gehan Jayaratne

 

Ranatunga Tells UNP, SLFP: "Contest Separately, Join Afterwards"

Minister Arjuna Ranatunga stated that the UNP and the SLFP should contest the forthcoming Local Government Election separately and join afterwards to form governments.

Speaking at an event in Payagala, Ranatunga said that the national government concept should extend to the local government bodies.

However, the main parties should also preserve their individual identities and therefore must contest the election separately, he added.

According to the government, the local government elections have been delayed due to issues in delimitation process to introduce a new electoral system. However, the opposition claims that the government is intentionally postponing the election.

    Maithri Reiterates Commitment To Fully Abolish Presidency: Rubbishes 'Constitutional Deathtrap' Claims
    2016-Jul-25 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    Maithri Reiterates Commitment To Fully Abolish Presidency: Rubbishes 'Constitutional Deathtrap' Claims

    President Maithripala Sirisena reiterated his commitment to fully abolish Executive Presidency with comprehensive constitutional reforms. 

    He gave this assurance, addressing the Dharmasiri Senananayake commemoration ceremony, in Kegalle, today. 

    He said changing the current constitution was a timely need and the SLFP, over the years, had pushed for it. 

    The President also lashed out at those who dub the reform process as a "constitutional deathtrap". 

    "They sit at meetings where we discuss constitutional reforms. They don't utter a word against it. The moment they step out, they start shouting about constitutional deathtraps," the President said, directing his criticism at the UPFA rebel group. 

    The President also added that the Sri Lankan politics had lost "gentlemen' of the late Dharmasiri Senanayake's caliber. 

    Sri Lanka Starts Talks With Chinese Investors On Hambantota Project
    2016-Jul-25 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    Sri Lanka Starts Talks With Chinese Investors On Hambantota Project

    Sri Lanka has started talks with Chinese investors on the $10 billion Hambantota Economic Project to be implemented in the southern region of the island nation.

    The project would encompass the establishment of oil refineries, a power generation plant and industrial zones, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said.

    Four projects — the Kandy Mega Development, Wayamba (North-Western) Industrial and Tourist Development Project, Western Megapolis and the Southern Tourist and Industrial Project — will be implemented by the government in 15 years.

    The Prime Minister, while addressing an event in Singapore recently, said the projects would form part of a bigger programme. The Kandy–Colombo–Hambantota Corridor, he said, would “reshape the country’s urban landscape with two airports and two seaports.”

    Megapolis project

    Estimated to cost $40 billion, the Megapolis project is aimed at developing the Western Province as a megapolis on a global scale. It would have an expected population of 8.5 million by 2025 with Colombo as a business and financial hub to attract foreign investors.

    Modernisation of the Colombo Port and further expansion of the Bandaranaike International Airport in Katunayake had also been planned. The Colombo Port City, which would be a financial city essentially, would be set up by reclaiming 269 hectares of land from the sea. Mr. Wickremesinghe said that there was the “vacuum for a financial city” along the trading route between Singapore and Dubai.

    The country’s third port would be developed in Trincomalee of the Eastern Province. The government had entered into agreements with Singapore’s leading consultancy firm, Surbana Jurong Private Limited, to prepare a master plan for Trincomalee based on shipping, manufacturing and tourism.

    The area of 175 km to the south of Trincomalee would also be developed as high-end tourist resorts, the Prime Minister said. He said the plan was to put in place infrastructure for high-value tourism and the further develop the hilly region. The government plans to open eastern beaches and implement offshore projects such as yachting and cruises — stretching from uninhabited small islands in the Northern Province to the historic Galle city in the South.

    Joint Opposition Wants One Million Participants At 'Jana Satana' Protest Rally: Alahapperuma
    2016-Jul-25 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    Joint Opposition Wants One Million Participants At 'Jana Satana' Protest Rally: Alahapperuma

    UPFA MP Dallas Alahapperuma said that the 'Joint Opposition' wants to see one million people on the streets of Colombo on August 1, taking part in the 'Jana Satana Pada Yatra' rally.

    Speaking at an awareness meeting in Polonnaruwa yesterday, he said that the government has a two thirds majority in Parliament, which makes it difficult for the opposition to oppose it inside the Parliament.

    Therefore, the struggle against the government must come out of the confines of the Parliament on to the streets, he added.

    The Pada Yatra or the protest march will begin on July 28 in Kandy and arrive in Colombo on August 1, culminating with a rally.

    PM makes threats to media - Namal
    2016-Jul-25 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    PM makes threats to media - Namal

    The Prime Minister makes threats to media, Hambantota District MP Namal Rajapaksa says.
    The observation was made while speaking to reporters after an event held in Matara last evening.
    “This is Yahapalanaya and democracy, making threats to media and to the opposition as well,” he added.
    He also accused the Prime Minister of failing to establish the so called democracy that they promised to restore during the election period.
    Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe yesterday (23) accused the certain print media of backing the former President Mahinda Rajapaksa with a view to see him back in power. Addressing his United National Party (UNP) members in the central district of Kandy, Wickremesinghe said he would name the media personnel who had benefited during the Rajapaksa presidency and who are now bidding for his return.

    Only Joint Opposition is there to protect people now - Dinesh
    2016-Jul-24 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    Only Joint Opposition is there to protect people now - Dinesh

    The Joint Opposition has become the “guardians of the people”, MP Dinesh Gunawardena says.


    The observation was made while speaking at an event held in Maharagama. He also added that efforts of the Joint Opposition ended up making so many “good” changes during recent times.


    Meanwhile, MP Dullas Alahapperuma invited the general public to take part in the Joint Opposition’s protest march from Kandy to Colombo from July 28.

        
    “This protest march is against the Government, not against the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP),” he added.

     

    PM slams media for backing Mahinda Rajapaksa
    2016-Jul-24 | By Gehan Jayaratne

     

    PM slams media for backing Mahinda Rajapaksa

    Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe today accused the certain print media of backing the former President Mahinda Rajapaksa with a view to see him back in power.

    Addressing his United National Party (UNP) members in the central district of Kandy, Wickremesinghe said he would name the media personnel who had benefited during the Rajapaksa presidency and who are now bidding for his return.

    Naming the newspapers, he said that they had called for the removal of Mangala Samaraweera, the foreign minister and was trying to undermine the government’s economic management.

    “I have no issues of media becoming critical of the government, do it as you please but do not try to call for the return of rogues,” Wickremesinghe said.

    “If they are trying to topple this government and bring him (Rajapaksas) back, we are ready for it,” he was quoted as saying by PTI.

    Referring to the Rajapaksa groups opposition protest march from Kandy starting next week, Wickremesinghe said, “Let them walk, we are ready, we too can bring people to the streets”.

    Fundamental Rights Petition Filed Against Wickremesinghe's Request On Singarasa Judgement
    2016-Jul-23 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    Fundamental Rights Petition Filed Against Wickremesinghe's Request On Singarasa Judgement

    Attorney-at-Law Nagananda Kodithuwakku filed a Fundamental Right petition yesterday seeking a direction to Speaker Karu Jayasuriya to suspend any further action on the request made by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe urging a ruling from the Speaker on the constitutionality of a Supreme Court Judgment popularly known as the Singarasa case.

    The petitioner also requested for an interim order against any action by the Speaker on Wickremesinghe's request until the determination of the petition.

    Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, President Maithripala Sirisena through the Attorney General and Speaker Karu Jayasuriya are named as respondents.

    The Petitioner stated that on the 07th July 2016, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, requested a Ruling from the Speaker on the constitutionality of the Supreme Court Judgment popularly known as the Singrasa case which directed that the local laws shouls prevail even in the case when the country becomes a signatory of an international agreement. Wickremesinghe made a request to change this provision on the basis that the jurisdiction for constitutional competence of the President to acceded to the optional protocol of the ICCPR is with the Parliament and not with the Supreme Court.

    The Petitioner stated the statement of the Prime Minister and the action proposed by him, becomes a direct violation of the inalienable sovereign rights of the people, enshrined under Article 3 of the Constitution.

    The petitioner further said failing to prevent the course of action demanded by the Prime Minister, it shall be a breach of petitioner’s Fundamental Rights and rights of the other citizenry of the Republic guaranteed by the Article 12(1) of the Constitution. 

    The Supreme Court in the Singarasa case agreed that the government of Sri Lanka had set out the correct legal position which stated its responsibility to the Human Rights Commission (HRC) as follows. “The constitution of Sri Lanka and the prevailing legal regime do not provide for release or retrial of a convicted person after his conviction is confirmed by the higher appellate Court. Therefore the state does not have the legal authority to execute the decisions of the HRC to release the convict or grant a retrial. The government of Sri Lanka cannot be expected to act in any manner which is contrary to the constitution.

    Basil Rajapaksa Fails To Appear For Court Case
    2016-Jul-22 | By Gehan Jayaratne

     

    ?Basil Rajapaksa Fails To Appear For Court Case

    Former Minister Basil Rajapaksa and former Director General of Divi Neguma Department Kithsiri Ranawake failed to appear at the Colombo High Court today for the trial on printing almanacs during the 2015 Presidential Election campaign and incurring a loss of Rs. 29 million to the state.

    Their lawyers told court that they were not able to attend as they were in remand custody over a different case.

    The court directed that they be brought to court for the next day of trial on December 6, even if they are in remand custody.

    Rajapaksa and Ranawaka were indicted on December 15, 2015, on six counts, covering alleged offenses under the Presidential Elections Act and the Penal Code.

    Accordingly, they have been accused of engaging in an an act of bribery under the Presidential Elections Act, by distributing almanacs with the image of the then President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

     

    "President Prepared To Appoint Chamal Rajapaksa Government Minister"
    2016-Jul-22 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    Chamal Rajapaksa (L)Chamal Rajapaksa (L)

    UPFA General Secretary Mahinda Amaraweera said that the President is always prepared to appoint UPFA MP Chamal Rajapaksa as a government minister if the latter is willing to accept it.

    Speaking at a press conference yesterday, Amaraweera commended Chamal Rajapaksa as a good political leader.

    He explained that he replaced Rajapaksa as a co-chairman of the Hambantota District Development Committee since some people did not let Rajapaksa carry out his duties in his capacity. However, he is willing to relinquish the post in favor of Rajapaksa at anytime, Amaraweera also said.

    Rajapaksa, the elder brother of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, is a former Speaker. He has attended several 'Joint Opposition' rallies in support of the former President, but has largely been a silent figure in the 'Joint Opposition' camp.

    JVP Secures Two Top Slots In Manthri.lk Ranking: SLFP, JO Not Even In Picture
    2016-Jul-22 | By Gehan Jayaratne

     

    ?JVP Secures Two Top Slots In Manthri.lk Ranking: SLFP, JO Not Even In Picture

    JVP leader and Chief Opposition W hip Anura Kumara Dissanayake became the most active politician in Sri Lanka's Parliament, according to manthri.lk rankings. 

    Dissanayake's party colleague, Parliamentarian Sunil Handunnetti was ranked second, securing the two top positions for the country's largest centre-left political party. 

    UNP Matara District Parliamentary secured the third position while Prime Minister Ranil wickremesinghe, the most influential policy maker in the House was ranked fourth. 

    JVP Parliamentarian Nalinda Jayatissa became the fifth most active policy maker in the country. 

    Three of the six JVP Parliamentarians were among the top five policy makers listed by manthri.lk, a website operated by Verite research.

    Interestingly, none of the SLFP or Joint Opposition MPs was among the top five most active policy makers in the House, despite the SLFP having 95 seats in the country's legislature.

    Govt To Launch Crackdown On Samurdhi Officials, Regional Police Heads Supporting Opposition March
    2016-Jul-22 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    Govt To Launch Crackdown On Samurdhi Officials, Regional Police Heads Supporting Opposition March

    The government has received information that Samurdi officials and regional Police heads are involved in the organisation of the Joint Opposition's protest march, a senior Cabinet minister told. 

    He said independent observers would be sent out to several districts to gather information about public officials engaging in political activities. 

    "We will take tough action against them, regardless of their positions," the Cabinet minister asserted, adding that the details of errant officials had already been sent to relevant authorities.

    He said a considerable number of Samurdhi officials had exerted pressure on Samurdhi beneficiaries to attend the protest march organised by the Joint Opposition group supporting former President Mahinda Rajapaksa. 

    "There are allegations that members of the SLFP who hold positions under the current government are supporting the Joint Opposition march, covertly," he added. 

    The Joint Opposition protest march is expected to commence from Kandy on July 28.

    Rajapaksa Ally Sri Ranga Facing Imminent Arrest Over Fatal Accident
    2016-Jul-22 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    Rajapaksa Ally Sri Ranga Facing Imminent Arrest Over Fatal Accident

    Former Parliamentarian and Rajapaksa ally J. Sri Ranga is facing imminent arrest over an accident happened in March, 2011, top Police sources said.

    Ranga is accused of driving an unregistered vehicle that ended up in an accident, killing one Policeman, in Mannar.

    The Policeman who died was a bodyguard of the former Parliamentarian.

    There were allegations that Police did not conduct a proper investigation into the accident due to political pressure, under the previous administration. The inquiry, however, was revived after the new government came to power. 

    The Police sources said the investigation team had requested the Attorney General Department's advice to arrest the former Parliamentarian in connection with the incident. 

    Sri Ranga, a journalist by profession, lost his Parliamentary seat after the last Parliamentary election, in August, 2015. 

    UNP-SLFP "Marriage" Will Last Until 2020: General Secretary Assures
    2016-Jul-22 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    ?UNP-SLFP "Marriage" Will Last Until 2020: General Secretary Assures

    The Sri Lanka Freedom Party today announced that it would continue the "understanding" with the United National Party until 2020. 

    The current understanding between the two parties will extend in September, 2017. Addressing a press conference today, SLFP General Secretary Duminda Dissanayake said his party would continue with the same agreement for another three years. 

    "The national unity government will exist until 2020," Dissanayake said. 

    The Minister, at the same press conference, indicated that a fresh agreement would be signed between the two parties next year. 

    He also said both the President and the Prime Minister were on the same page about the matter. 

    Dissanayake quipped that the coalition between the UNP and the SLFP was similar to an "arranged marriage."

    "Although there are differences of opinion about some matters, the agreement is solid," he said. 

    The minister's assurance came in the wake of demands made by Rajapakasa loyalists to form an SLFP-only government in 2017. 

    Lak Sathosa Former Chairman Remanded Over Vehicle Misuse Featured
    2016-Jul-21 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    Lak Sathosa Former Chairman Remanded Over Vehicle Misuse

    Former Chairman of Lak Sathosa Nalin Fernando was remanded till July 28 by Colombo Fort Magistrate's Court today over the alleged misuse of state vehicles.

    He is allegedly involved in using Sathosa vehicles for the 2015 Presidential Election campaign. He is accused of transporting election related documents to Gampaha from the SLFP Headquarters and incurring a loss of Rs 37,888 to the government.

    Fernando is charged under the Public Properties Act.

    He informed court that he is willing to plead guilty for the charge.

    He was arrested earlier in the day by the Colombo Crime Division.

    Don’t make Sri Lanka a colony of the United States - Amarasekera
    2016-Jul-21 | By Gehan Jayaratne

     

    Don’t make Sri Lanka a colony of the United States - Amarasekera

    An effort is underway to make Sri Lanka a colony of the United States, Convener of the Jathika Emamuthuwa Dr. Gunadasa Amarasekera says.


    The observation was made while speaking at a press conference held in Colombo this afternoon (21).


    He also went on to say the government is conspiring to change the policies of the country amid international pressure.


    “They are eyeing to westernise the judicial system of the country as well,” Amarasekera added.


    He also pointed out that not only the policies, but steps have already been taken to amend the Constitution too according to the needs of foreign elements.

    DV Upul Blames Amaraweera For His Removal
    2016-Jul-21 | By Gehan Jayaratne

     

    DV Upul Blames Amaraweera For His Removal

    Former Southern Province Minister D.V. Upul yesterday blamed UPFA General Secretary Mahinda Amaraweera for recommending his removal from the provincial ministerial portfolios.

    Speaking to the media, he said that he was removed because he supported former President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

    Meanwhile, he added that the new appointee is a relative of Amaraweera.

    HW Gunasena was yesterday appointed as a Southern Province Minister removing DV Upul.

    Mahinda’s determination helped army to defeat LTTE - Gotabaya
    2016-Jul-21 | By Gehan Jayaratne

     

    Mahinda’s determination helped army to defeat LTTE - Gotabaya

    Former Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa says it was former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s determination that ultimately helped the army defeat the Tamil Tigers. 


    In an exclusive interview to V K Shashikumar, Indian Defence Review,  Gotabaya reveals the crucial decisions of the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) that led to the successful completion of Sri Lankan Armed Forces’ combat operations against the LTTE, the Sify News reported.


    “Mahinda Rajapaksa took several brave decisions. In the final analysis, it was the cumulative effect of those decisive, brave decisions that enabled Sri Lankan Armed Forces (SLAF) to liquidate the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Usually in a military operation the world outside the conflict theatre, domestic and international, see only soldiers fighting. They see tanks, guns, armoured vehicles, artillery weapons and men and women in battle fatigues,” he says. 


    “What is not visible to the people, to the outside world, is the strategy. What is also not visible immediately and also not recalled at that moment in time is the history that led to the current context of military operations. What was that context? Eight previous governments led by four different Presidents had failed to end the war. They had failed to rein in the LTTE. It is not as if those eight governments and four presidents did not have under their command good military leaders and soldiers. In fact, when President Rajapaksa’s government assumed charge in 2005, around 26,000 SLAF soldiers had already sacrificed their lives,” he adds.


    Gotabaya says, ‘When Rajapaksa assumed office in 2005, we studied all previous war operations: Eelam War I (1976-1987); Vadamarachchi Operation; IPKF intervention; Eelam War II (1990-1995); Operation Sea Breeze; Operation Thrividha Balaya; Operation Balavegaya I, II; Eelam War III (1995-2002); Operation Riviresa; Operation Jayasikurui; Operation Rivibala; Operation Ranagosa; Operation Rivikirana; and Operation Kinihira I, II, III/IV, V/VI, VII, VIII, IX. 


    ‘The objective of our study was to arrive at conclusive reasons for our previous failures to comprehensively finish the war against the LTTE in the last 30 years. All four previous presidents had resorted to military means and yet had failed. So a political decision was made by President Rajapaksa to comprehensively study all previous war operations and arrive at a solution for every factor of failure or inability to win to the war. For every factor we found a solution,’ he says. 


    ‘We found that there was really no ‘failure factor’ attached to the military. In fact, we realised a simple fact in 2005, that if we launched war operations against the LTTE then we would have to fight with the same military that had fought the LTTE in the last 30 years. 


    We were confident of winning with the same military and its Special Forces and commandos. They were already there! Yet, what explained the inability of the previous governments led by four different presidents to utilize the country’s military strength effectively?’ He adds, ‘We came to the conclusion that the solution was to increase the force strength. The key factor of SLAF’s previous inability to finish the war was inadequate numbers. We realised the expansion of military would have a definitive impact on LTTE.’ Therefore, the second decisive political decision was to expand the SLAF, he reveals.


    The final political decision was an internal political choice that President Rajapaksa made. In 2005 when he took over as President he was entrusted with the responsibility of stitching together a coalition alliance to ensure political stability. This factor led to his decision to create a jumbo cabinet. He increased the cabinet, the biggest in Sri Lanka’s history, by providing positions to leaders from all political parties in the coalition alliance. ‘His only condition was that he wanted a stable government till the end of the war,’ says Gotabaya.

     

    Chamal Rajapaksa Replaced As Hambantota District Development Committee Co-chairman
    2016-Jul-20 | By Gehan Jayaratne

     

    ?Chamal Rajapaksa Replaced As Hambantota District Development Committee Co-chairman

    Minister Mahinda Amaraweera has been appointed as Co-chairman of the Hambantota District Development Committee, replacing MP Chamal Rajapaksa.

    Rajapaksa had attended the two previous meetings of the committee in this capacity.

    However, the Presidential Secretariat has notified the District Secretary that he was replaced with Amaraweera.

    Chamal Rajapaksa supports the 'Joint Opposition' and has attended several of its rallies and protests.

    ‘Office of Missing Persons’ to betray the armed forces - Mahinda
    2016-Jul-20 | By Gehan Jayaratne

     

    ‘Office of Missing Persons’ to betray the armed forces - Mahinda

    The draft legislation to set up an “Office of Missing Persons” is meant to be an integral part of the judicial mechanism to deal with allegations of war crimes that the Yahapalana government has undertaken to establish, says former President Mahinda Rajapaksa.


    Issuing a statement, he said that if this draft legislation becomes law, every member of parliament who votes for it will be held responsible by the people for betraying the country and the armed forces.


    Full statement:


    In the midst of all the political and economic chaos in the country, the government has placed before parliament draft legislation to set up an Office of Missing Persons. This is one of several institutions to be established ‘to deal with the past’ in terms of the UNHRC resolution that the yahapalana government co-sponsored with the Western powers in September last year. 


    The Office of Missing Persons Bill has many provisions designed to persecute our armed forces and I wish to highlight some of them as follows.

     

    1.       The Office of Missing Persons will not be a part of Sri Lanka’s State law enforcement and justice system, but an independent body incorporated by parliament which gives its members the power to function outside the normal rules and regulations that guide state institutions.


    2.       Even though it is described as an ‘office’ the proposed OMP will be a tribunal for all practical purposes which can examine witnesses, issue summons and hold hearings. Its officers can enter without warrant, at any time of day or night, any police station, prison or military installation and seize any document or object they require for investigations. Anyone who fails or refuses to cooperate with the OMP may be punished for contempt of court.


    3.       The seven ‘members’ of the OMP are to have experience in fact finding and expertise in human rights law and international humanitarian law which means that the appointees will for the most part be representatives of Western funded NGOs or those who have worked with Western sponsored international war crimes tribunals.


    4.        According to Section 21 of the draft legislation, the OMP will have the power to receive funding directly from any foreign source.


    5.        The OMP can acting on its own, enter into agreements with foreign persons or organisations concerning its work.


    6.       The ‘members’ of the OMP can establish units and divisions and delegate their powers and functions to those entities. They can also can appoint and dismiss staff and consultants. It is not specified in the draft law that the members or staff of the OMP have to be Sri Lankan citizens.


    7.       Complaints can be received not only from relations and friends of missing persons but from any interested party both local and foreign.


    8.       Government bodies at all levels including the armed forces and intelligence services are mandatorily required to render fullest assistance to the OMP and the provisions of the Official Secrets Act will not apply to the proposed institution.


    9.       According to Section 12 (c) (iii) the OMP can admit as evidence any statement or material disregarding the criteria laid down in the Evidence Ordinance.


    10.   The provisions of the Right to Information Act will not apply to the work of the OMP. No court, not even the Supreme Court can order any officer of the OMP to submit to courts any material communicated to him in confidence.


    The foregoing makes it clear that this Office of Missing Persons is meant to be an integral part of the judicial mechanism to deal with allegations of war crimes that the Yahapalana government has undertaken to establish. If this draft legislation becomes law, every member of parliament who votes for it will be held responsible by the people for betraying the country and the armed forces.

    Govt has a ‘Jana Satana phobia’ - Gammanpila
    2016-Jul-20 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    Govt has a ‘Jana Satana phobia’ - Gammanpila

    UPFA MP Udaya Gammanpila claims that the government clearly has a phobia of the Joint Opposition, members of the Rajapaksa family and the “Jana Satana Pada Yathra” movement. 

    He stated that the government has contracted a “very dangerous disease” which is a “Jana Satana phobia” 

    “This is a critical illness. It cannot be cured,” he said, adding that the only way to cure this is to “send the government home.”  

    Gammanpila assured that the ‘Joint Opposition’ will launch the Jana Satana, which will defeat the government and thereby allow President Maithripala Sirisena to “comfortably sleep” in his hometown of Polonnaruwa.

    The Pivithuru Hela Urumaya (PHU) leader stated that they have received information that another 7 members of the Joint Opposition before the 28th of July, the scheduled date for the launch of the ‘Jana Satana Pada Yatra’.

    “I heard that these days the Special Investigations Unit is preparing the documents necessary for my second holiday,” he said.                                                                                                          

    Responding to a question from a journalist, he said: “We are not against implementing the law. Even if Mahinda Rajapaksa has committed a crime and is punished for that we will not criticize it. What we are also saying is that the law must be implemented. What we are criticizing is the implementation of this lawlessness.” 

    Mervyn Silva Ready To Work With MR
    2016-Jul-19 | By Gehan Jayaratne

     

    Mervyn Silva Ready To Work With MR

    Former Minister Mervyn Silva said that he was ready to work again with former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, if he distances himself from his brothers who have damaged him.

    Speaking at a recent press conference, Silva said that Basil Rajapaksa was responsible for all the disputes in Kelaniya.

    Mervyn Silva was a former Sri Lanka Freedom Party Chief Organizer in Kelaniya electorate.

    He has accused Basil Rajapaksa of corruption and former Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa for 'white van abductions.'

    Both Basil and Gotabaya are younger brothers of Mahinda Rajapaksa.

    Mervyn Silva stressed that he has kept silent about Mahinda Rajapaksa and his son Namal Rajapaksa.

    Basil Rajapaksa remanded until August 01
    2016-Jul-18 | By Gehan Jayaratne

     

    Basil Rajapaksa remanded until August 01

    Former Minister of Economic Development Basil Rajapaksa, who was arrested by the Financial Crimes Investigation Division (FCID), has been remanded until August 01.


    The former Minister was arrested on charges of misappropriation of Divi Neguma funds earlier on Monday (19). He was remanded after being produced before the Kaduwela Magistrate.


    Basil Rajapaksa’s lawyer, Jayantha Weerasinghe, told Reuters police had taken his client to court regarding the supply of building materials to district councils when he was a minister. “There is nothing illegal and it is an utterly false allegation,” Weerasinghe said. Neither Basil Rajapaksa nor his family members were immediately available for comment.


    Rajapaksa and three other senior ministry officials were also arrested on April 22, 2015 in connection with a complaint alleging financial fraud in the Divi Neguma Department, which came under the purview of the Economic Development Minister.    


    Rajapaksa, who left the country for the US on 11 January, 2015 following the defeat of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa at the January Presidential Election, returned to the island on April 21, 2015.

     

    Basil Rajapaksa arrested by FCID
    2016-Jul-18 | By Gehan Jayaratne

     

    Basil Rajapaksa arrested by FCID

    Former Minister of Economic Development Basil Rajapaksa was arrested by the Financial Crimes Investigation Division (FCID), a short while ago on Monday (18) morning.


    The former Minister was arrested on charges of misappropriation of Divi Neguma funds, an official said. He will be produced before a Magistrate this afternoon.


    Rajapaksa and three other senior ministry officials were also arrested on April 22, 2015 in connection with a complaint alleging financial fraud in the Divi Neguma Department, which came under the purview of the Economic Development Minister.   


    Rajapaksa, who left the country for the US on 11 January, 2015 following the defeat of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa at the January Presidential Election, returned to the island on April 21, 2015.

     

    Fort Magistrate grants bail to Namal
    2016-Jul-18 | By Gehan Jayaratne

     

    Fort Magistrate grants bail to Namal

    Hambantota District MP and former President’s son Namal Rajapaksa, who was in custody, has been granted bail.


    The suspect was released on a cash bail of Rs.50,000 and three personal bails of Rs.500,000 each after being produced before the Fort Magistrate a short while ago on Monday (18).


    A protest was also staged in Tangalle in protest over the decision to arrest and remand the Hambantota District MP yesterday.


    Namal Rajapaksa was arrested as he arrived at the FCID to give a statement on a financial irregularity on July 11. He was questioned by financial police investigating the $650m high-end project in the capital, Colombo.

    Namal’s arrest sparks protests in Tangalle
    2016-Jul-18 | By Gehan Jayaratne

     

    Namal’s arrest sparks protests in Tangalle

    A protest has been staged in Tangalle in protest over the decision to arrest and remand Hambantota District MP and former President’s son Namal Rajapaksa this afternoon (17).


    Many parliamentarians had joined the protest which was organized by the Joint Opposition.


    Namal Rajapaksa was arrested as he arrived at the FCID to give a statement on a financial irregularity on July 11. Namal Rajapaksa was questioned by financial police investigating the $650m high-end project in the capital, Colombo.

    PM leaves for Singapore
    2016-Jul-17 | By Gehan Jayaratne

     

    PM leaves for Singapore

    Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has left for a 3 day official tour to Singapore on Sunday (17). 


    He will be accompanied by his wife Prof. Maithri Wickramasinghe and a delegation including several ministers. During his visit to Singapore, the Prime Minister plans to meet President of Singapore Tony Tan Keng Yam and Prime Minister of Singapore Lee Hsien Loong for bilateral discussions.  


    Wickramasinghe is also scheduled to deliver a speech as the Guest of Honour at the 3rd South Asian Diaspora Convention which is to be held at Raffles City Convention Centre in Singapore on July 18 and 19. This summit will bring together many honoured guests, Civil Society Leaders, Business Leaders, Academics and more than leading policy makers of 50 regions. 


    Geopolicts of South Asia, Law and Business in South Asia, Diaspora and Citizenship and Captains of Industry: Catalyst for Change will be some of the topics discussed at the 3rd South Asian Diaspora Convention. 


    Minister of Foreign Affairs Mangala Samaraweera, Minister of Development Strategies and International Trade Malik Samarawickrama and Deputy Minister for Justice and Buddha Sasana Sarathi Mithrapala are expected to accompany the Prime Minister during the visit.

    95% of Sri Lankan Tamils want federal system - Thavarasa
    2016-Jul-16 | By Gehan Jayaratne

     

    95% of Sri Lankan Tamils want federal system - Thavarasa

    Ninety five percent of Tamils living in the Northern and Eastern Provinces of Sri Lanka have asked for a federal constitution, says S. Thavarasa, a member of the government’s Public Representations Committee (PRC) which interviewed thousands of citizens on what they would like to see in the new constitution that is to be drawn up soon.

    Refuting the reported contention of PRC chairman Lal Wijenayake, that most Tamils did not seek federalism, Thavarasa said that he could produce documentary proof to show that the North-East Tamils demanded federalism.

    “I have copies of all the submissions,” he told Express on Saturday.

    Wijenayake had made the statement attributed to him at a hurriedly convened press conference on Friday.

    Patali Champika Ranawka, a member of the Lankan cabinet and leader of the Sinhalese-rights party, Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU), recently asked the Tamils to give up the demand for federalism if they want a solution to the ethnic conflict.

    It is in view of the Sinhalese opposition to a federal constitution that S. Thavarasa’s party, the Eelam Peoples’ Democratic Party (EPDP), proposed to the PRC that a middle of the road solution may be sought if the Sinhalese parties give up their insistence on a Unitary constitution.

    “The EPDP suggested that a middle of the road structure, which is neither fully federal nor fully unitary, could be worked out if there is agreement that the controversial terms ‘federal’ and ‘unitary’ are not used,” Thavarasa said.

    He pointed out that there is a thirst for devolution in all Sri Lankan provinces and not just in the minorities’ dominated Northern and Eastern Provinces.

    “At a conference of Chief Ministers called by the Prime Minister on July 9, all the six Chief Ministers who attended sought devolution as decreed by the 13th Constitutional amendment including power over lands and the police,” Thavarasa said.

    The 13 th.Amendment enacted at the instance of India following the India-Lanka Accord of 1987, created elected Provincial Councils with powers over land and the police also. But powers over these two important subjects were never actually devolved, thus effectively crippling the Provincial Councils.

     

    President appalled by ‘cowardly nature’ of Nice attack
    2016-Jul-15 | By Gehan Jayaratne

     

    President appalled by ‘cowardly nature’ of Nice attack

    Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena today extended condolences to the “grief-stricken” French nation in the wake of the Bastille Day terror attack in Nice.

    At least 84 died, according to French media, when a truck plowed into a crowd just after a fireworks show in celebration of Bastille Day -- a national holiday and France’s equivalent to July 4.

    “Appalled by the cowardly nature of #Nice attack. My condolences are with the grief-stricken French nation,” Sirisena wrote on his Twitter account.

    Former Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa has also condemned the attack and called for the world to unite and put an end to such “senseless acts of terror.”

    “Strongly condemn the heinous attack in Nice. The world must come together to put an end to these senseless acts of terror,” he wrote on his official Twitter account.

    Statements of condolence have poured in from leaders across the globe.

    Among those condemning the attack and expressing sympathy for the victims were U.S. President Barack Obama, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, South Korean President Park Geun-hye, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel, and Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

     

    MR Hits Out At Puravasi Balaya: "Those Who Have Been Taken Over With Dollars Can Say Anything"
    2016-Jul-15 | By Gehan Jayaratne

     

    Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa today hit out at the 'Puravasi Balaya' organization saying that those who have been taken over by dollars can say anything.

    He was responding to a question from a journalist outside the Colombo remand prison where he visited his son Namal Rajapaksa.

    The journalist asked about the claim by Puravasi Balaya Co-convener Gamini Viyangoda that Shiranthi Rajapaksa's role in financial fraud has to be also investigated.

    Rajapaksa said that it is not Shiranthi Rajapaksa but he who has to be taken into custody.

    Speaking about the arrest of his sons, Rajapaksa said that he was himself arrested in the 1980s on trumped up charges. "That was done by the Dharmishta Samajaya government. This is done by the Yahapaalana Government. Both are the same."

    Basil Rajapaksa Indicted On Financial Misconduct Amounting To Rs 33 Million
    2016-Jul-15 | By Gehan Jayaratne

     

    Basil Rajapaksa Indicted On Financial Misconduct Amounting To Rs 33 Million

    Indictment was served on former Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa and three others on charges of financial misconduct amounting to Rs 33 million of the Divi Neguma Department funds.

    The other accused are former Secretary to the Economic Development Ministry Dr. Nihal Jayathilake, Divi Neguma Department Director Kithsiri Ranawaka and Assistant Director Bandula Thilakasiri.

    They are accused on five counts.

    It is alleged that they have misused Rs 33 million in supplying roofing sheets to Divi Neguma Development Officers.

    Namal Rajapaksa's Mother Should Be Questioned, Says Puravasi Balaya
    2016-Jul-15 | By Gehan Jayaratne

     

    Namal Rajapaksa's Mother Should Be Questioned, Says Puravasi Balaya

    Puravasi Balaya Co-convener Gamini Viyangoda said that Namal Rajapaksa's mother, former First Lady Shiranthi Rajapaksa, should also be questioned over the allegations of financial fraud currently being investigated.

    Speaking at a press conference yesterday he also said that the pro-Rajapaksa camp is trying to portray arrests made by police as political witch hunts. However, they also criticize the government for lack of progress on allegations of fraud when the alleged perpetrators are not arrested, he added.

    He also called for the establishment of a special tribunal for the judicial process regarding serious financial fraud.

    Meanwhile, Convener of National Movement for a Just Society Sarath Wijesuriya said that the investigations on allegations must be carried out without any political interference. However, he said that this government also seems to be protecting certain people regarding such allegations.

    Tamil Diaspora Struggles To Maintain Identity
    2016-Jul-15 | By Gehan Jayaratne

     

    Tamil Diaspora Struggles To Maintain Identity

    Despite contributing heavily to the making of modern world, Tamil diaspora is struggling hard to retain its identity and existence across the world especially in countries like Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Myanmar and Fiji. This was stated by Sunil Amrith, Mehra Family, professor of South Asian Studies and professor of History at Harvard University, and joint director of the Harvard Center for History and Economics.  The expert on diaspora studies was delivering a lecture on “Global TamilScapes” at Loyola College in Chennai.

    Almost 28 million migrated from South India to Southeast Asian countries and they live in hellish conditions, he said. “Tamil migrant labourers played an essential role in the development of global capitalism and their contributions in Southeast Asia is immense. There must be steps to ensure inter-cultural interactions exploiting avenues of globalisation,’’ he added. He also recalled that the Tamil diasporic modernity was shaped in continuous dialogues and engagements with Chinese, Malay, and European ideas.

    Amrith, author of the book Crossing The Bengal which narrates Tamil migration from South India to Southeast Asia said the Tamil diasporic studies assume importance as they will provide strong ideological base to massive political ongoing struggles involving the diaspora across the world. Migrants in countries like Sri Lanka are in conflict with given situations and circumstances, he said. Such studies will strengthen the notion of Tamil identity, especially because Tamil diasporic studies have been neglected in Indian disaporic studies and global diasporic studies dominated by European and Chinese migrations,’’ he said.

     “After the independence in Sri Lanka, the newly formed government denied citizenship to Tamil migrants by creating a division between citizens by descent and citizens by registration”, he said. This excluded majority of Tamil migrants from citizenship rights as no documentary proof for the number of generations they have worked and lived in these plantations were available. Among the 80,000 Tamils who applied for citizenship, only 16 per cent has got it and new forms of discriminations evolved.

    The programme was jointly organised by Centre for Diaspora Studies (CDS),  Manonmaniam Sundaranar University (MSU), in partnership with Loyola Institute of Social Sciences Training and Research and Department of Journalism and Communication, Madras University.

    Brexit opens up new opportunities for nations outside EU – Mahinda
    2016-Jul-15 | By Gehan Jayaratne

     

    Brexit opens up new opportunities for nations outside EU – Mahinda

    Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa says that the recent experience of the European Union has demonstrated that political instability in one country can spread throughout a region and have a devastating impact on far off nations as well.

    He said that though many have expressed dismay over Britain’s departure from the EU, many Commonwealth nations including Sri Lanka have already shown keen interest in negotiating trade agreements with Britain and this new situation undoubtedly opens up new opportunities for the larger body of nations outside the EU.

    In a message congratulating Theresa May on her appointment as Prime Minister of Great Britain, Rajapaksa said she has been entrusted with “the onerous task of steering your country through the process of leaving the European Union and charting a new course in the world.”

    “Given her central role in the Commonwealth, Great Britain has a major role to play in taking the lead to ensure the sovereignty, stability, territorial integrity and prosperity of Commonwealth nations,” he said.

     

    Sri Lanka to increase tax on tobacco companies to 90%
    2016-Jul-15 | By Gehan Jayaratne

     

    Sri Lanka to increase tax on tobacco companies to 90%

    Sri Lanka’s Minister of Health Dr Rajitha Senaratne today said that the government plans to increase the tax imposed on tobacco companies all the way up to 90 per cent.
     
    He stated that the relevant cabinet paper will be submitted to the cabinet of minister for approval next week as a joint request from both himself and President Maithripala Sirisena, who was the former health minister.

    Taxes on cigarettes currently range from 67%-72% of purchase price. An increase in tax would likely cause cigarette prices to soar.

    Referring to Australia’s use of plain packets for cigarettes, the minister said he would submit a proposal for a similar legislation to the cabinet.

     

    Two More Rajapaksas Rumored To Be Arrested, Says UPFA MP
    2016-Jul-14 | By Gehan Jayaratne

     

    Two More Rajapaksas Rumored To Be Arrested, Says UPFA MP

    UPFA MP Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena said that two more Rajapaksas were rumored to be arrested in near future.

    He made this claim speaking to media after he visited UPFA MP Namal Rajapaksa, who was recently remanded over the alleged misplacement of Rs 70 million.

    Abeywardena pointed out that he has nothing against the rule of law if it is implemented in the proper manner. However, the police could not answer questions on the investigation into Namal Rajapaksa's alleged money laundering and he was remanded only based on the grounds that the investigations were not complete, he added.

    Several politicians including former President Mahinda Rajapaksa and several SLFP ministers visited Namal Rajapaksa in prison yesterday.

    Joint Opposition Challenges VAT (Amendment) Bill In Supreme Court ?
    2016-Jul-14 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    Joint Opposition Challenges VAT (Amendment) Bill In Supreme Court

    UPFA MP Sisira Jayakody filed a Special Determination petition with the Supreme Court on the VAT (Amendment) Bill tabled in Parliament on July 8.

    In his petition, the MP argues that clauses 2 to 15 of the bill are in contravention of a number of Articles in the Constitution including Articles 3, 4, 12 (1), 12 (2), 72 to 75, 80, 148, 149, 150 and 152.

    The petition requests the Supreme Court to declare that the two thirds majority in Parliament and a referendum is required to approve the bill in the present version.

    The government had earlier planned to take up the debate on the bill on July 20. However, the debate will now be delayed due to the court process.

    US Election 2016: Trump To Announce Running Mate On Friday
    2016-Jul-14 | By Gehan Jayaratne

     

    US Election 2016: Trump To Announce Running Mate On Friday

    Presumptive Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump will announce his running mate on Friday in New York.

    Indiana Governor Mike Pence, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and former speaker of the House of Representatives Newt Gingrich are believed to be on the short-list of vice president candidates.

    He has campaigned with all three recently and has a long-running relationship with Gingrich and Christie.

    Trump's choice will be one of his most consequential decisions up to this point in the race to the White House.

    As newcomer to politics and policy making in Washington, the billionaire businessman is searching for a partner he can lean on for political experience.

    At the same time, he needs to pick a candidate that will attract the Republican Party's conservative base and ease concerns among some in the party about a Trump presidency.

    The Republican Party will meet in Cleveland, Ohio next week to select the presidential candidate to go up against Hillary Clinton in the November 8 election.

    Local Councilors Meet With MR, Discuss New Party 
    2016-Jul-14 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    ?Local Councilors Meet With MR, Discuss New Party

    Local Councilors supporting former President Mahinda Rajapaksa met with him at his office in Battaramulla and expressed their willingness to launch a new movement under his leadership.

    Former Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa also took part in this meeting.

    The participants expressed their support for a new party led by Rajapaksa.

    It was also decided to take part in the Kandy-Colombo protest march 'Jana Satana Pada Yatra' organized by the Joint Opposition.

    Writ Petition Seeks Suspension Of Export Of Elephant To New Zealand
    2016-Jul-14 | By Gehan Jayaratne

     

    Representative image

    A write petition has been filed by several civil organizations and individuals including Dharmavijaya Foundation, Bodhiraja Foundation and Omalpe Sobitha Thera seeking an order against the export of a five year old baby elephant, Nandi, to New Zealand.

    Sri Lanka agreed to gift the elephant in February when New Zealand Prime Minister John Key visited the island. The elephant was to be gifted to the Aukland Zoo in New Zealand.

    The petitioners argue that exporting Sri Lanka’s elephants to be displayed in zoos abroad for commercial purposes is ill conceived.

    They added that the elephant's welfare will be obstructed by a move to send it abroad.

    When the petition was taken up for hearing yesterday by the Court of Appeal, the Attorney General gave an undertaking that the elephant will not be exported till the next hearing date.

    Theresa May becomes Britain’s PM as David Cameron resigns
    2016-Jul-14 | By Gehan Jayaratne

     

    Theresa May becomes Britain’s PM as David Cameron resigns

    Theresa May has emerged from Buckingham Palace as Britain’s second female prime minister, after paying the traditional visit to the Queen to be invited to form a government.

    May’s appointment at the palace, to “kiss hands” with the Queen, as the ceremony is known, came shortly after David Cameron went to Buckingham Palace to tender his resignation.

    Cameron, who stepped down after the electorate rejected his pleas to vote to remain in the European Union in last month’s referendum, had earlier congratulated May as he left 10 Downing Street for the last time with his wife and children.

    May swept to her party’s leadership, when her final opponent, the pro-Brexit Andrea Leadsom, dropped out this week after making controversial comments about motherhood. May had served Cameron as home secretary throughout his six years in government.

    The new prime minister was expected to make the first senior appointments to her government on Wednesday evening, including a minister for Brexit. 

    David Cameron addressed his people for the last time as Britain’s prime minister on Wednesday afternoon, before leaving for Buckingham Palace to tender his resignation to Queen Elizabeth II and hand over power to his successor, Theresa May, the home secretary.

    “It has been the greatest honor of my life to serve our country as prime minister over these last six years, and to serve as the leader of my party for almost 11 years,” Mr. Cameron said outside 10 Downing Street in London, joined by his wife, Samantha, and their three children. “My only wish is continued success for this great country that I love so very much.”

    Mr. Cameron cited the nation’s economic recovery as his top legacy. “With the deficit cut by two-thirds, two and a half million more people in work, and one million more businesses, there can be no doubt that our economy is immeasurably stronger,” he said.

    He also cited among his accomplishments the legalization of same-sex marriage, in 2013; changes to the education system; and reduced wait times for operations in Britain’s much loved National Health Service.

    “I’m delighted that for the second time in British history, the new prime minister will be a woman, and once again a Conservative,” Mr. Cameron said. “I believe Theresa will provide strong and stable leadership in fulfilling the Conservative manifesto on which we were elected, and I wish her well in negotiating the best possible terms for Britain’s exit from the European Union.”

    Mr. Cameron and his family set off for the palace at 4:48 p.m. and arrived only five minutes later. The palace confirmed the resignation less than a half-hour later, and Ms. May, 59, immediately left for the palace to meet the monarch. She will be the 13th prime minister to serve the queen; the first was Winston Churchill.

    Hours earlier, in his final parliamentary duty, Mr. Cameron took part for the last time in prime minister’s questions, the weekly ritual in which lawmakers interrogate the leader in often combative exchanges.

    On Wednesday, the discussion was more respectful — and lighthearted — than usual, as Mr. Cameron’s political adversaries and allies paid tribute to him as he prepared to leave his office in 10 Downing Street for the last time as prime minister, a position he has held for six years.

    “I’m told that there are lots of leadership roles out there at the moment: There’s the England football team, there’s ‘Top Gear,’ there’s even across the big pond the role that needs filling,” Danny Kinahan, a lawmaker from Northern Ireland, told Mr. Cameron jokingly, referring to the country’s soccer team, a popular television show and the United States presidential election.

    Jeremy Corbyn, the embattled leader of the opposition Labour Party, congratulated Mr. Cameron for his support for same-sex marriage and for his efforts to secure the release of Shaker Aamer, a Saudi citizen and British resident, from Guantánamo Bay last fall. He pressed Mr. Cameron, however, on his record on homelessness; the affordability of housing; and the rise of “zero hour” contracts that can exploit low-wage workers.

    Mr. Cameron said his government had reduced child poverty and cracked down on mistreatment of workers.

    Ahead of his parliamentary appearance, Mr. Cameron told The Telegraph newspaper, “As I leave today, I hope that people will see a stronger country, a thriving economy and more chances to get on in life.”

    Though Mr. Cameron won a general election only last year, he finds himself out of power at age 49. Mr. Cameron will be the youngest prime minister to relinquish the job since Archibald Primrose, the Earl of Rosebery, in 1895.

    Before leaving Parliament on Wednesday, to laughter and applause, Mr. Cameron appeared to reflect on the transience of power, telling lawmakers: “I was the future once.”

    More than a decade ago, when his party was in opposition, he had notably taunted the Labour prime minister, Tony Blair, telling him that Mr. Blair had been the future once.

    Mr. Cameron will mainly be remembered as the prime minister who gambled — and lost — by holding a referendum in which he called on Britons to continue more than four decades of European integration.

    When 52 percent of voters decided they wanted to leave the bloc in last month’s referendum, Mr. Cameron was left with little alternative but to resign.

    After that appointment, Ms. May is scheduled to arrive at Downing Street, where she is likely to make a brief statement before beginning work on constructing her government. The new government’s main task will the highly complex one of withdrawing Britain from the 28-nation European Union.

    Ms. May, who has served as home secretary for six years, is expected to promote several women to central positions in her cabinet, though it remains unclear whether those will include the jobs of chancellor of the Exchequer or foreign secretary.

    Because she argued for Britain to remain inside the European Union, she is expected to give powerful positions to several of those who took the opposing view, to create a politically balanced cabinet.

    One of her most delicate decisions will be what positions — if any — to offer figures such as Boris Johnson, the former London mayor, and Michael Gove, the justice secretary. Both men took leading roles in the campaign for withdrawal from the European Union, or “Brexit.”
    The two men, in their final joust at Westminster, tangled over the respective challenges their leadership has faced. Mr. Cameron announced his resignation in the aftermath of Britain’s tumultuous referendum on June 23 to leave the European Union, while Mr. Corbyn, only 10 months into his term as the head of Labour, faces a challenge to that leadership.

    Mr. Cameron said his governing Conservative Party had swiftly picked his successor, while saying of the opposition party, “They haven’t even decided what the rules are yet.”

     

    President’s view should be government’s stance - Mahinda  
    2016-Jul-13 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    President’s view should be government’s stance - Mahinda

    While referring to an observation made by the President on not allowing foreign judges into the judiciary in the country, former President Mahinda Rajapaksa asserts this stance should be the view of the Government as well.


    The observation was made while responding to the reporters after an event held in Colombo this morning (13).


    “As the observation was made by an executive president, this view also should be the stance of the Government. However, some people try to point out this as a personal view,” said Rajapaksa.
    The former President also went on to say that it is still uncertain whether the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) would extend its support to the vote on Value Added Tax (VAT) bill or not.

     

    Government Can Obtain Two Thirds Majority For VAT Legislation, Joint Opposition Acknowledges
    2016-Jul-13 | By Gehan Jayaratne

     

    Government Can Obtain Two Thirds Majority For VAT Legislation, Joint Opposition Acknowledges

    UPFA MP Dallas Alahapperuma said that the government can easily obtain the two thirds majority regarding the VAT legislation.

    Speaking at a press conference yesterday, Alahapperuma said that the Joint Opposition and the JVP have opposed the VAT legislation. However, the total number of votes these two groups have is only 56, he pointed out.

    He added that the position of the TNA was still not evident.

    The government will be able to obtain the necessary support with the help of the SLFP MPs who joined the government, Alahapperuma said. He added that the SLFP MPs have a responsibility in ensuring that the government is unable to introduce drastic measures which could affect the ordinary people.

    Mohomad Muzammil's Bail Application Rejected, Remanded Further
    2016-Jul-13 | By Gehan Jayaratne

     

    Mohomad Muzammil's Bail Application Rejected, Remanded Further

    National Freedom Front Spokesman Mohomad Muzammil's bail application was rejected by Colombo Fort Magistrate Lanka Jayaratne who ordered him to be further remanded till July 27.

    His lawyers had submitted a written bail applications on two grounds. They argued that he was arrested without investigations being complete. Furthermore, they informed court that Muzammil's child is suffering from skin disorder and that he was required to be present for the medical treatment.

    The Magistrate refused both arguments and said that according to doctors' recommendations, the mother's care was adequate for the child's medical treatment.

    The Magistrate also ordered the FCID to expedite the investigations as the suspect was in remand custody.

    Mohammed Muzammil further remanded
    2016-Jul-13 | By Gehan Jayaratne

     

    Mohammed Muzammil further remanded

    Media Spokesman of the NFF, Mohammed Muzammil, who was arrested by the Financial Crime Investigation Division (FCID), has been further remanded until 27 July.    
    The former MP was remanded after being produced before the Fort Magistrate a short while ago on Wednesday..   
    Mohammed Muzammil was arrested as he arrived at the FCID to give a statement on 20 June.  The arrest was made in connection with an investigation on the misuse of vehicles belonging to the Presidential Secretariat Office. 
    The suspect will be produced before the Court again on 27 July.

     

    FCID Visits Residence Of Weerawansa's Brother Reportedly To Arrest Him
    2016-Jul-13 | By Gehan Jayaratne

     

    Wimal WeerawansaWimal Weerawansa

    A police FCID team visited the residence of National Freedom Front leader Wimal Weerawansa's brother Sarath Weerawansa this morning, reportedly to arrest him over an alleged misuse of a government vehicle.

    Wimal Weerawansa told media today that his brother had been summoned to the FCID yesterday. However, since he was suffering from ill health and has been bedridden, he could not appear at the FCID, Weerawansa added.

    He also said that his brother informed of the matter and requested an alternative date.

    Irrespective of this fact the police surrounded his brother's residence this morning to take him to the FCID, Wimal Weerawansa said. However, the police left the house after it was clear his brother was not in a position to leave the house, Weerawansa added.

    Police sources claimed that Sarath Weerawansa is likely to be arrested soon.

    JVP Will Take Up Arms Again If Banned: Provincial Councilor
    2016-Jul-12 | By Gehan Jayaratne

     

    JVP Will Take Up Arms Again If Banned: Provincial Councilor

    If prescribed, the JVP will definitely take up arms again, Southern Provincial Councilor Nalin Hewage said.

    This was stated during a heated debate between Hewage and several councilors of the UPFA.

    Hewage claimed that the former government obtained loans which have not been properly recorded, which led to the heated debate.

    Provincial Minister Weerasumana Weerasinghe blamed the JVP for destroying public property during the 1987-89 insurrection and claimed that the JVP was now speaking as if they have forgotten the past.

    In response Hewage said that the JVP will take up arms again if prescribed.

    Following independence, the country was ruled by four elite families and they see the people as servants, he claimed. No ruler is serving the people, he charged.

    It was Security Council’s decision - Brigadier Jayaweera
    2016-Jul-12 | By Gehan Jayaratne

     

    It was Security Council’s decision  - Brigadier Jayaweera

    The decision to replace the part of military security detail of former Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa with police personnel was taken by the Security Council, Military Spokesman Brigadier Jayanath Jayaweera says.
    “This decision was taken after considering the peaceful situation in the country at the moment,” he added.
    He also said that the replaced STF personnel are trained for VIP security.
    Almost half of the military security detail of the former Defence Secretary was replaced with the Special Task Force (STF). Gotabaya Rajapaksa told Ada Derana that 25 out of 50 military detail provided for his security was replaced with the STF personnel as of this morning (12).

     

    Basil Rajapaksa 'Sidelined' From Joint Opposition
    2016-Jul-12 | By Gehan Jayaratne

     

    Basil Rajapaksa 'Sidelined' From Joint Opposition

    Several key members of the 'Joint Opposition' have expressed their opposition to the increasing involvement of Former Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa, which has led to him being sidelined, political sources said.

    Accordingly, the 'Joint Opposition' has decided to discontinue the series of public meetings recently launched under the leadership of Basil Rajapaksa.

    Meanwhile, the planned protest march from Kandy to Colombo, the 'Jana Satana Pada Yathra', will be organized by a committee including former Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage. Basil Rajapaksa is expected to make a limited role in this pada yatra, political sources said.

    The Pada Yatra is scheduled to begin from Kandy on July 28.

    Half of Gotabaya’s military security detail replaced by STF
    2016-Jul-12 | By Gehan Jayaratne

     

    Half of Gotabaya’s military security detail replaced by STF

    Almost half of the military security detail of former Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa has been replaced with the Police Special Task Force (STF).
    Gotabaya Rajapaksa told that 25 out of 50 military detail provided for his security was replaced with the STF personnel as of this morning (12).
    However, he earlier had urged the Defence Secretary not to replace his military security with police personnel due to life threats against him.  
    The former Defence Secretary also pointed out former President Mahinda Rajapaksa and he face life threats due to “strict decisions” they got in their bid to eliminate terrorism.
    Military security provided to former President was replaced by the STF personnel earlier as well.
    However, responding to this, the Prime Minister said at the Parliament, “it is not the military personnel, but the STF that provide security for me and the President.”

     

    Gammanpila admires President’s views on foreign judges
    2016-Jul-12 | By Gehan Jayaratne

     

    Gammanpila admires President’s views on foreign judges

     

    Pivithuru Hela Urumaya (PHU) leader MP Udaya Gammanpila has admired the President over his view not to allow any foreign court, judge or organization to interfere into the internal administration and judiciary in the country in future too.


    The observation was made while speaking at a press conference held in Colombo this afternoon (11).


    “We should appreciate this fact,” Gammanpila added.


    However, he accused Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera of attempting to go beyond the powers of President Maithripala Sirisena by calming that foreign court, judge or organization would be interfered.


    “Therefore, either the Foreign Minister should step down from his post or the President should take a decision about him,” he added.

     

    No bail for Namal Rajapaksa, remanded until 18 July
    2016-Jul-12 | By Gehan Jayaratne

     

    No bail for Namal Rajapaksa, remanded until 18 July

    Hambantota District MP and former President’s son Namal Rajapaksa, who was arrested by the FCID, has been remanded until 18 July by the Fort Magistrate, Ada Derana reporter said.


    Namal Rajapaksa was arrested as he arrived at the FCID to give a statement on a financial irregularity this morning. The MP was summoned to obtain a statement regarding a financial transaction with Indian real estate company ‘Krrish Group’, an official said.


    The FCID and the special Presidential Commission of Inquiry had recorded statements from the MP in previous occasions as well. 


    However, earlier today, Namal Rajapaksa in a Facebook status update said, “Yahapalanaya” ministers appear to be deciding who to arrest. This is “good governance” at its best, taking the law in to its own hands. We will never stop our struggle for a people’s government.

     

    SC order will not impact Govt.’s revenue collection - PM
    2016-Jul-12 | By Gehan Jayaratne

     

    SC order will not impact Govt.’s revenue collection - PM

    This interim order which was issued by the Supreme Court today (11) is not expected to have any adverse impact on the government’s revenue collection, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe says.


    Issuing a statement, the Prime Minister asserted the revised rates of the Value Added Tax (VAT) and the Nation Building Tax (NBT) will be applicable with effect from 02 May 2016, since the VAT (Amendment) Bill has already been presented to the Parliament for the first reading on 08 July 2016.


    The Supreme Court issued an interim order to suspend the Value Added Tax (VAT) increase this morning.


    Full statement:


    On 11 July 2016, the Supreme Court of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka has issued an interim order preventing the implementation of the recent revisions made to the Value Added Tax (VAT) and the Nation Building Tax (NBT) until the relevant legislation is passed by the Parliament. 


    This interim order is not expected to have any adverse impact on the government’s revenue collection. The VAT (Amendment) Bill has already been presented to the Parliament for the first reading on 08 July 2016, and the second reading is expected on 23 July 2016. The Unity government, which has a clear majority in the Parliament, expects the legislative process to be completed before the end of the month of July 2016. Thereafter, the revised rates will be applicable with effect from 02 May 2016.

     

    Namal Rajapaksa arrested by FCID
    2016-Jul-11 | By Gehan Jayaratne

     

    Hambantota District MP and former President’s son Namal Rajapaksa has been arrested by the Financial Investigation Division a short while ago on Monday (11), an official said.

     

    Gammanpila's Fundamental Rights Petition Granted Leave To Proceed
    2016-Jul-11 | By Gehan Jayaratne

     

    Gammanpila's Fundamental Rights Petition Granted Leave To Proceed

    The Supreme Court granted leave to proceed for the Fundamental Rights petition filed by UPFA MP Udaya Gammanpila seeking an order against his arrest.

    The case will be taken up on August 15.

    However, the court said that it will not interfere with the legal proceedings currently taking place in the Magistrate's Court.

    Gammanpila filed this petition on June 9, seeking an order to prevent him being arrested by the police Special Investigations Unit.

    Through his petition, Gammanpila said that two complaints have been filed by an Australian named Brian Shaddick and his Power of Attorney Lasitha Perera with the SIU against him on false basis.

    He added that this was done under influence by associates of Minister Patali Champika Ranawaka, who is a political rival.

    Gammanpila also requests Rs 500 million as damages to his good name caused by the allegations.

    Gammanpila was arrested on June 18 and was remanded by the Fort Magistrate's Court. He was released on bail on July 1.

    Namal, Gotabaya Appear Before FCID
    2016-Jul-11 | By Gehan Jayaratne

     

    File Photo

    Former Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa and UPFA MP Namal Rajapaksa appeared before the Financial Crimes Investigations Division this morning to record separate statements.

    Gotabaya Rajapaksa arrived at the FCID earlier in the morning and Namal Rajapaksa arrived a short while ago.

    Namal Rajapaksa is said to be summoned concerning a complaint regarding the misplacement of Rs 70 million during the former government's era.

    TGTE Hits Out At Mangala: Says SL Foreign Minister Fails To Acknowledge UNHRC Chief's Report
    2016-Jul-11 | By Gehan Jayaratne

     

    TGTE Hits Out At Mangala: Says SL Foreign Minister Fails To Acknowledge UNHRC Chief's Report

    Transnational Government of Tamil eelam (TGTE) criticised the statement made by Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera before the UNHRC session in Geneva, saying the latter had failed o acknowledge the conclusions made by the UN Human Rights High Commissioner's report, last year. 

    TGTE also added that the Sri Lankan Foreign Minister did not utter a word about withdrawing Army from the North and East. 

    The full statement made by TGTE, on Sunday, is as follows,

    1) The statement of Mr. Mangala Samaraweera contradicts the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) resolution 30/1. He repeats what President Maithripala Sirisena said, namely, that the Government of Sri Lanka wants to implement the Resolution in order to protect the dignity of the State, people and the security forces. This means that the GOSL wants to protect those who have allegedly committed war crimes, according to the OISL Report presented by the High Commissioner for Human Rights in September 2015. Thus Sri Lanka’s rationale for transitional justice is preposterous and the international community should insist that the GOSL changes it. 

    2) The High Commissioner in his oral report has, of course, noted some incremental progress in Sri Lanka’s measures for implementing the resolution. But he has also pointed out the danger of the commitment for justice getting stalled and dissipated. He has expressed concern that the PTA continues to be used mostly against Tamils; those accused to have committed systemic crimes of kidnap and murder had been allowed to continue to hold public office and enjoy impunity. Samaraweera has failed to respond to these serious averments. 

    3) Mr. Mangala Samaraweera has failed to acknowledge the conclusions reached by the High Commissioner in his September 2015 Report. He has failed to acknowledge the charges of forced disappearances, kidnap and murder, sexual violence and the detention of former LTTE cadres without charges. According to him, the government’s policy with regard to reconciliation and justice is one of ‘slowly making haste’. He has spoken to the effect that even if there is a justice mechanism seven years after the commission of the crimes, the final stages of the war would not be inquired into. Is this not making a mockery of the UNHRC moves to this date, the September 2015 OISL Report and the October Resolution co-sponsored by Sri Lanka itself?

    4) Mr. Mangala Samaraweera cannot explain why there was no consultation with the victims before setting up the Office of Missing Persons (OMP), and why individual reparations are denied to the victims of forced disappearances as provided for by the relevant international convention.

    5) The Foreign Affairs Minister utters not a word about withdrawing the army from the North and East. Not even a token effort has been made to effect demilitarization of the Tamil homeland. 

    6) Sri Lanka has not implemented its commitment in the resolution 30/1 to repeal the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). Mr. Suamanthiran, MP says he learnt the new counter-terrorism law promised by the GOSL may be even worse than the old law.

    7) The Monitoring and Accountability Panel (MAP) consisting of five independent international experts has concluded that Sri Lanka lacks the political will and leadership to meet its accountability and related transitional justice needs. In spite of the High Commissioner repeatedly urging the GOSL that international judges be included in any domestic mechanism as promised by Sri Lanka, the President Mr. Sirisena is consistently ruling out such a possibility at all. Mangala Samaraweera just explains it away by deft wordplay. It is a case of Sri Lanka hoodwinking the international community.

    8) The revival of democracy claimed by Mr. Samaraweera is confined to Sinhala polity and has made no difference to the national oppression of Tamils. The nationhood of Tamils and the right to self-determination are basic to all other democratic and individual rights. No meaningful change is possible until Sri Lanka recognizes and respects them. Mr. Mangala Samaraweera while referring to the measures for adopting a new Constitution has been careful about even mentioning federalism, on the basis of which the Tamil leadership back home is looking forward to an early political solution. Let alone federalism, the Sinhala leadership is not even willing to settle for a meaningful devolution of powers. Their goals are quite different. For instance, The GOSL is at present engaged in assimilation in the name of reconciliation. The mixed marriages and the Army goodwill villages in the traditional Tamil homeland are a few cases in point. 

    9) It is more than seven years since the worst atrocity of this century took place whereby nearly hundred thousand lives were lost. The light of hope for justice to victims is growing dimmer by the day. The TGTE has very little faith in Sri Lanka delivering justice and giving up oppression and repression Tamils. We earnestly appeal to the international community to bring pressure on the GOSL to deliver justice without further delay. 

    10) The TGTE, while continuing its quest for justice through the UN, is determined simultaneously to pursue the endeavor outside the UN, too, with the help of all justice-loving peoples of the world. 

    Selection of SLFP candidates for LG polls tomorrow
    2016-Jul-11 | By Gehan Jayaratne

     

     

    Selection of SLFP candidates for LG polls tomorrow

    The selection of candidates for the forthcoming Local Government election to contest under the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) ticket will be held on 12 July. 
    The first round of interviews will be commenced in Badulla district tomorrow.
    According to General Secretary of the SLFP, Minister Duminda Dissanayake, the party headquarters has received over 10,000 applications for the upcoming election. 
    He added that there is huge interest especially among the youth to contest the election under the SLFP ticket.

     

    People Will Elect Maithripala Sirisena President For Another Five Years: Harrison Featured
    2016-Jul-11 | By Gehan Jayaratne

     

    People Will Elect Maithripala Sirisena President For Another Five Years: Harrison

    President Maithripala Sirisena will be elected by the people of the country to be the President for the next five years, Minister P. Harrison said today, adding that even if Sirisena refuses to run for Presidency again, he will not be able to refuse the requests coming from the people.

    Speaking during an inspection tour of the Dambulla market, Harrison said that none of the plans of the 'Joint Opposition' will have any purpose as Sirisena will remain president.

    Harrison pointed out that the 'Shadow Cabinet' introduced by the 'Joint Opposition' has proven to be a shadow literally, as the Shadow Prime Minister, former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, has resigned.

    "We also engaged in such pointless activities when we were in opposition and we know that those things will not work," he said.

    Our only weakness is slow pace of corruption probes - Rav
    2016-Jul-11 | By Gehan Jayaratne

     

     

    Our only weakness is slow pace of corruption probes - Ravi

    Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake says that the “Joint Opposition” is appointing a Shadow Cabinet because its members are living in a different world after siphoning public funds for the past 11 years.  

    “These rouges will have no place to hide very soon,” he predicted.  

    Our only weakness is that corruption investigations are moving at a very slow pace, the minister said, speaking to reporters after a ceremony organised to commemorate the 43rd death anniversary of former minister V. A. Sugathadasa in Colombo today (10).

    He said that even though the investigations into corruption allegations against the former government are moving very slowly, justice will be done and the people’s aspirations will be fulfilled. 

    Karunanayake claimed that bankrupt politicians who are expected to go to prisons very soon are now “struggling” with this shadow cabinet. “Those who are struggling the most are the biggest rouges.”

    He said they are living in a “fairy tale world” are attempting to get a small satisfaction out of such shadow ministerial posts. 

    It was this shadow cabinet together with Mahinda Rajapaksa pushed the country to the brink of bankruptcy during the past 11 years, the Finance Minister charged.  

     

    Proposal To Axe MR And Basil From SLFP To Be Presented To President This week
    2016-Jul-10 | By Gehan Jayaratne

     

    A group of SLFP will present a proposal to President Maithripala Sirisena to expel former President Mahinda Rajapaksa and former Minister Basil Rajapaksa from the party, this week,  informed party sources told Asian Mirror. 

    "The expulsion is likely to happen as a prelude to drastic party reforms," a senior SLFP Parliamentarian told on Sunday. 

    The move comes in the wake of discussion held by former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga with the re-organisation committee of the SLFP at Heritance Hotel, Ahungalle, last week.

    SLFP General Secretary Duminda Dissanayake, Athauda Seneviratne, Nandimithra Ekanayake, Mahinda Amaraweera, Shan Vijayalal de Silva and several other seniors of the party attended the discussion.

    Many who attended the meeting raised concerns over former minister Basil Rajapaksa's attempt to form a new party, causing a division in the SLFP. They said the former Economic Development Minister had held a round of meetings in the Badulla district, to mobilise support for their new political campaign.

    Re-organisation committee members who attended the meeting stressed that stern action had to be taken to ensure discipline among party members.

    They also agreed that the party had to embark on a comprehensive reforms programme, to strengthen its position at the grassroots level, before the next Parliamentary election.

    The former President, at the meeting, said she would discuss the matter with the President and make necessary decisions to expedite the reforms programme.

    Govt preparing to arrest 10 Joint Opposition MPs - Mahindananda
    2016-Jul-10 | By Gehan Jayaratne

     

    Govt preparing to arrest 10 Joint Opposition MPs - Mahindananda

    Former Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage claims that the government is preparing to arrest and imprison 10 parliamentarians who are part of the “Joint Opposition” before a protest march against the government will commence on July 28. 

    He also said that attempts are being made to sack several members of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) who are siding with the Joint Opposition. 

    He stated that in fear of the protest march, dubbed “Jana Satana Pada Yatra,” the government is preparing to oppress Joint Opposition members.

    Addressing an event held in Udugampola this morning, Aluthgamage said that their struggle cannot be halted no matter what challenges are put before them and that they would lead the fight against the government. 

     

    Sri Lanka Shows Poor Implementation Of UNHRC Resolution: Study
    2016-Jul-10 | By Gehan Jayaratne

     

    Sri Lanka Shows Poor Implementation Of UNHRC Resolution: Study

    Even after nine months have passed since the adoption of a resolution by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) on accountability and reconciliation concerning Sri Lanka, a Colombo-based think tank has found that the implementation of a majority of commitments made by the Sri Lanka government had been “poor.”

    In its study, Verité Research, the think-tank, said that there were 36 commitments in five broad areas -- transitional justice and reconciliation, rights and rule of law, security and demilitarisation, power sharing and international engagement. Of them, only four commitments had been “fully implemented.”

    Analysis: progress poor

    The progress in carrying out a majority of the commitments - 22 - had been “poor,” the study said.

    Reviewing and repealing the Prevention of Terrorism Act; addressing reports of sexual and gender-based violence and torture; restoring normality to civilian life in the Northern and Eastern provinces and full participation of civil society and minorities in demilitarisation efforts are some of those commitments with “poor progress.”

    Of nine commitments in the area of transitional justice and reconciliation, only three have been partially implemented. A bill on the Office on Missing Persons has been tabled in Parliament.

    Bills not taken up

    Among those that have been not been taken up relate to the establishment of institutions for reparations and truth, justice, reconciliation and non-recurrence, besides a judicial mechanism or a war crimes court.

    The four “fully-implemented” commitments include “continued engagement” between the government and the Office of U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights; the signing and ratification of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances and the publication of reports of the Udalagama Commission, which went into 16 cases of alleged violations of human rights that took place during August 2005-November 2006, and the Paranagama Commission on missing persons.

    Sirisena’s reiteration

    Meanwhile, President Maithripala Sirisena has reiterated his position against participation of foreign judges in the proposed war crimes court whereas the United Kingdom has emphasised the need for the inclusion of “international element” in the judicial mechanism.

    Addressing an event on Friday in Panadura, about 30 km south of Colombo, Mr. Sirisena said he would not allow any foreign court, judge or organisation to interfere with the internal administration and judiciary in the country. Only a few days ago, responding to a question on Mr. Sirisena’s position, Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera said the President had expressed his opinion and there were several alternatives available.

    Participating in a debate in the House of Commons on Thursday on the issue of human rights in Sri Lanka, U.K. Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Hugo Swire said there had to be an “international element” in the proposed mechanism to “reassure” communities in Sri Lanka and to show the international community that the process was credible. His government had been pressing this point with Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, Mr. Samaraweera and through the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the British Minister told the Parliament.

    Joint Opposition Plans Massive Protest March
    2016-Jul-10 | By Gehan Jayaratne

     

    Joint Opposition Plans Massive Protest March

    The Joint Opposition are planning a massive protest march from Kandy to Colombo against the government.

    UPFA MP Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena said at a press conference in Matara yesterday that the Joint Opposition expects the participation of 500,000 people for the protest march.

    He also said that the Joint Opposition was also continuing its plans to form a new movement and claimed that it is attracting support even from within the UNP ranks.

    Fast Unto Death Was Launched As Last Resort, Thewarapperuma Says
    2016-Jul-09 | By Gehan Jayaratne

     

    Fast Unto Death Was Launched As Last Resort, Thewarapperuma Says

    The fast unto death he launched regarding the nine school children denied a school was a last resort after all other avenues proved futile, Deputy Minister Palitha Thewarapperuma said.

    Addressing the media yesterday, Thewarapperuma criticized the claim by Western Province Education Minister Ranjith Somawansa that he is carrying out politics based on physical prowess.

    Thewarapperuma claimed that he is a politician who is in the side of the people and a person who tries to understand their plight.

    He insisted that all officials including the Zonal Education Director and the Education Minister were informed of the problem faced by the nine children.

    Even after the fast unto death was launched, five children and their parents were sent to the Presidential Secretariat to inform the President of the matter, he added.

    Will not allow any interference of foreign judges and courts – President
    2016-Jul-09 | By Gehan Jayaratne

     

     

    Will not allow any interference of foreign judges and courts – President

    President Maithripala Sirisena emphasizes he will not allow any foreign court, judge or organization to interfere into the internal administration and judiciary in the country in future too.

    “Though whatever views are expressed in various places regarding bringing of foreign judges and establishing of foreign military courts to take actions against the so called human rights violations during the period of war,” he said.

    The President was speaking at the 70th National Upasampada Vinayakarma (Higher Ordination) ceremony of Sri Lank Ramanna Maha Nikaya, held on Friday (July 8) at the Town Hall Playground in Panadura.

    He added that he would not allow any national or international activity which challenges the freedom, independence and the territorial integrity of the country. He pledged the Maha Sanga that he would not hesitate to act for the freedom and the independence of the motherland.

    “It is the policy of the current government to act according to the advice and guidance of the venerable Maha Sanga in its every activity related to the national security and other matters”, he said. The President said he would be committed to protect Sri Lankan society by respecting the proud history of the country as a Buddhist as well as the Head of the State.

    He ensured the Maha Sanga that he would be dedicated to strengthen and nurture the place for Buddhism in the constitution.

     

    JO members consoling themselves with ‘shadow minister’ posts - UNP
    2016-Jul-09 | By Gehan Jayaratne

     

     

    JO members consoling themselves with ‘shadow minister’ posts - UNP

    The members of the so called “Joint Opposition” are mostly former Ministers who are unable to survive without a ministerial portfolio and therefore they at least want to console themselves by becoming ‘shadow ministers,’ the UNP said today.

    “Because they don’t have ministerial portfolios, they want to at least be shadow ministers. Or else they can’t survive,” UNP MP Ajith Mannapperuma told reporters in Colombo.

    He claimed that the majority of the ‘Joint Opposition’ members had engaged in large scale corruption while they served as ministers in the former government and now that they are no longer ministers they are trying to console themselves by creating a shadow cabinet. 

    The duty of the opposition is to point out the government’s mistakes and explain shortcoming, not to put on “cockfights,” Mannapperuma said.

    He charged that what the ‘Joint Opposition’ is trying to do is destroy the country and that they constantly “pull the leg” when the government is preparing to do something good.

     

    Nalin Bandara Complains To FCID Over Purchase Of Two Ships
    2016-Jul-08 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    Nalin Bandara Complains To FCID Over Purchase Of Two Ships

    Kurunegala District UNP MP Nalin Bandara today complained to the FCID over the purchase of two ships during the former regime of Mahinda Rajapaksa, alleging that a financial fraud amounting to US $ 30 million has taken place in the transaction.

    According to Bandara, the two ships are valued at US $ 20 million each. However, the government has spent US $ 35 million each for the ships.

    Furthermore, it is suspected that the ships have been manufactured in 1997 and that they are repaired old ships.

    Bandara pointed out that he had raised the question in Parliament yesterday and the Prime Minister had also agreed that the transaction seems to be fraudulent.

    Shadow Cabinet Loses Leader As Rajapaksa Decides To Step Down Featured
    2016-Jul-08 | By Gehan Jayaratne

     

    ?Shadow Cabinet Loses Leader As Rajapaksa Decides To Step Down

    Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa has decided to step down from the positions assigned to him by the 'Joint Opposition' shadow cabinet, informed sources said.

    He was named as the Shadow Prime Minister and was assigned several Ministries when the Shadow Cabinet was announced by the 'Joint Opposition' yesterday.

    However, sources said that Rajapaksa was not satisfied with the decision to announce a Shadow Cabinet. Accordingly, he had only instructed the 'Joint Opposition' to name monitoring MPs for different ministries.

    MP Lohan Ratwatte, who was appointed as the Shadow Minister of Urban Development and Water Supply also 'resigned' from the post, saying that he had no been informed.

    Rajapaksa Government Brought Two Ships At Massive Losses:PM
    2016-Jul-08 | By Gehan Jayaratne

     

    Rajapaksa Government Brought Two Ships At Massive Losses: PM

    Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said yesterday that former government of Mahinda Rajapaksa bought two ships at a cost of US $ 70 million causing a massive loss to the government.

    Answering a question at the Parliament, he said that one ship has been purchased at $ 35 million.

    The government has called for a report on how best these ships can be utilized, he added. They will be worth only $ 40 million at today's value, the Prime Minister also said.

    He assured that the government will take the best possible step to utilize the ships in a productive manner.

    Chinese Foreign Minister to visit Sri Lanka to discuss strategic partnership
    2016-Jul-08 | By Gehan Jayaratne

     

    Chinese Foreign Minister to visit Sri Lanka to discuss strategic partnership

             

    Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi will embark on a three day visit to Sri Lanka tomorrow to push forward strategic cooperative partnership.

    During the visit, Wang will call on President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe and hold talks with Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told media briefing in Bejing today.

    This is the first major visit by a Chinese leader after Sirisena government took over power last year.

    Hong said China and Sri Lanka are friendly neighbours and cooperation partners in the Belt and Road (Silk Road) initiative.

    He said Ranil made a successful visit to China in April this year during which both sides reached a broad consensus on consolidating traditional friendship and promoting cooperation in major projects.

    “China would like to take this visit as an opportunity to implement this important consensus and advance cooperation on policies, investment, production capability, people to people exchanges and push forward strategic cooperative partnership featuring mutual help and generation to generation friendship,” he said.

    Sirisena and Ranil visited China as both countries made efforts to resolve differences over high-interest Chinese loans taken during Rajapaksa period, specially the USD 1.5 billon Colombo Port City project.

    The Colombo project which was stalled by Sirisena government for several months for a review was approved with modifications specially the clause relating to permanent ownership of portion of land of the project to the Chinese firm.

    It was now was modified to have 99 years lease under the domestic laws, according to Sri Lankan officials. China sees the project as key to its Maritime Silk Road, (MSR) project over which India has reservations.

    China has also invested in several infrastructure projects including the Hambantota port in Sri Lanka.

     

    JHU asks a firm decision for SAITM issue
    2016-Jul-07 | By Gehan Jayaratne

     

    JHU asks a firm decision for SAITM issue

     

    Issues pertaining to the controversy of CB Governor are over, a firm decision should also be made against the private medical school in Malabe, Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) National Organizer and Media Spokesman Nishantha Sri Warnasinghe says. 


    The observation was made during a press conference held in Colombo this afternoon (05).


    “The Government should take a ‘policy decision’ about the private university,” Warnasinghe added.


    He also pointed out the Government should take a firm decision in haste and should consider the views of parties who oppose it.

     

    Mahinda Rajapaksa Shadow Prime Minister, Namal Shadow Foreign Minister 
    2016-Jul-07 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    Mahinda Rajapaksa Shadow Prime Minister, Namal Shadow Foreign Minister

    The Joint Opposition today announced its 'Shadow Cabinet', introducing a practice seen in several Commonwealth and non-Commonwealth countries including the United Kingdom.

    Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa was named the Shadow Prime Minister while his son Namal is appointed the Shadow Foreign Minister.

    Senior 'Joint Opposition' figures such as Dinesh Gunawardena, Bandula Gunawardena and Udaya Gammanpila have been given key posts in the Shadow Cabinet.

    Accordingly, Bandula Gunawardena is the Shadow Finance Minister while Dinesh Gunawardena is the Shadow National Policy and Economic Affairs Minister. Gammanpila is the Shadow Law and Order Minister.

    No bail for Muzammil, remanded until 13 July
    2016-Jul-07 | By Sihara Colombage

    No bail for Muzammil, remanded until 13 July

    Media Spokesman of the NFF, Mohammed Muzammil, who was arrested by the Financial Crime Investigation Division (FCID), has been further remanded until 13 July.   


    The former MP was remanded after being produced before the Fort Magistrate a short while ago on Thursday.


    Mohammed Muzammil was arrested as he arrived at the FCID to give a statement on 27 June. 


    The arrest was made in connection with an investigation on the misuse of vehicles belonging to the Presidential Secretariat Office. The suspect will be produced before the Court again on 13 July.

     

    'Joint Opposition' To Appoint Shadow Cabinet Today
    2016-Jul-07 | By Sihara Colombage

    'Joint Opposition' To Appoint Shadow Cabinet Today

    The 'Joint Opposition' which backs former President Mahinda Rajapaksa will appoint a Shadow Cabinet today.

    This Shadow Cabinet will be appointed during a meeting of its parliamentary team today.

    The appointees will be expected to assume responsibilities regarding policies to be implemented in a future government.

    The Shadow Cabinet is a feature of the Westminster system of government which is prominently seen in the UK and some other countries, including several countries outside the Commonwealth..

    It consists of a senior group of opposition spokespeople who, under the leadership of the Leader of the Opposition, form an alternative cabinet to that of the government. Members of the Shadow Cabinet shadow or mark each individual member of the Cabinet.

    CBK Meets Party Allies Amidst Rumored Announcement Of New Party By 'Joint Opposition'
    2016-Jul-07 | By Sihara Colombage

    CBK Meets Party Allies Amidst Rumored Announcement Of New Party By 'Joint Opposition'

    Former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga met with several of her allies within the Sri Lanka Freedom Party yesterday as rumors of the launch of a new party by the 'Joint Opposition' are circulating among the political circles.

    The meeting was held in Nittambuwa from the morning till around 5 p.m. in the afternoon.

    SLFP General Secretary Duminda Dissanayake, Athauda Seneviratne, Nandimithra Ekanayake, Reginald Cooray and Shan Wijeylal de Silva were among those participated.

    Kumaratunga, a staunch opponent of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his brothers, had earlier vowed that those who criticize party leadership will be severely dealt with.

    However, the party has not yet moved to take such severe action against some of its members who have openly supported former President Mahinda Rajapaksa. A section of the party is attempting to bring about a reconciliation between the Maithripala Sirisena camp and the Rajapaksa camp.

    Public Administration Ministry Secretary Dadallage Plans To Appeal Against Transfer
    2016-Jul-06 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    Public Administration Ministry Secretary Dadallage Plans To Appeal Against Transfer

    Secretary to the Public Administration and Management Ministry J. Dadallage said that he will not assume duties at the Ministry of Posts, Postal Services and Muslim Religious Affairs and is planning to appeal against the transfer.

    Speaking to Asian Mirror, he said that he has been informed of the transfer as Secretary of the Ministry of Posts, Postal Services and Muslim Religious Affairs.

    It was said that he was transferred on service requirements.

    Dadallage had recently given an interview to the media where he had criticized the steps taken against certain bureaucrats on alleged financial fraud during the former regime without what he called concrete proof.

    Joint Opposition Remains Divided Over Indrajit Coomaraswamy: LSSP Rejects Allegations Of His LTTE Links
    2016-Jul-06 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    Joint Opposition Remains Divided Over Indrajit Coomaraswamy: LSSP Rejects Allegations Of His LTTE Links

    Lanka Sama Samaja Party leader Prof. Tissa Vitharana today said that there is no reason to believe the allegations Dr. Indrajit Coomaraswamy had any links to the LTTE, as claimed by some 'Joint Opposition' members.

    Speaking at a Joint Opposition press conference today, he said that Coomaraswamy was a reputed professional in his field.

    However, Vitharana pointed out that the appointment was made as a compromise between the President and the Prime Minister.

    The Joint Opposition is still divided over the appointment of Coomaraswamy as the new CBSL Governor.

    Mahajana Eksath Peramuna leader and veteran politician Dinesh Gunawardene commended the government for the appointment within hours after it was announced on Saturday.

    Through his Twitter handle, Gunawardene said that he welcomed the appointment of the new CB Governor, who is an experienced professional and respected in his field. Gunawardena also expressed hope that the new Governor would repair the lost credibility of the Central Bank.

    However, National Freedom Front leader Wimal Weerawansa slammed the decision on Monday, pointing out that the CB Governor was once an adviser of Raj Rajaratnam, who was convicted for insider trading in the US and given a prison term of 11 years. Rajaratnam is known as a financier of the LTTE, Weerawansa pointed out. Furthermore, Dr. Coomaraswamy is also engaged in private businesses of his own, Weerawansa claimed.

    Pivithuru Hela Urumaya General Secretary Udaya Gammanpila also voiced a similar opinion yesterday.

    Brexit Not To Have Significant Impact On Sri Lankan Economy: CBSL Governor
    2016-Jul-06 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    Brexit Not To Have Significant Impact On Sri Lankan Economy: CBSL Governor

    Brexit would not create any significant adverse impact on the economy of Sri Lanka, according to Indrajit Coomaraswamy, the newly-appointed Governor of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL).

    Answering a question by The Hindu at his maiden press conference on Tuesday, Dr. Coomaraswamy, who took charge as the 14th Governor of the CBSL on Monday, said the country might lose a “little bit” of its exports to the United Kingdom, which accounts for about 10 per cent of Sri Lanka’s total exports.

    The loss might be due to depreciation in the value of the Pound. There might be a “negative hit” in tourism. As for imports, “I do not think we import great deal [from the UK] but if we import, it will be cheaper.”

    Pointing out that none of these aspects were major, the Governor, who had served the Commonwealth Secretariat for 18 years, emphasised that “it is not going to shift the needle.” However, he added that, if any country, not just Sri Lanka, decided to go to the UK market, “the terms are likely to be higher than they would have been if Brexit wasn’t there.”

    Identifying the main challenge before the CBSL, Dr. Coomaraswamy pointed to the importance of putting in place policies that would give “sustained stabilisation” of the economy. This was what Eastern and South East Asian countries did.

    Making a review of the approach adopted by Sri Lanka in the last 40 years, he said there had been “repeating cycles of stop go” policy. “We would start implementing [economic] stabilisation programmes but never we see [them] through.”

    He explained that the “most disappointing part of the post-conflict [civil war] narrative” was the performance of investors, both domestic and foreign.

    “We have not been able to create an environment which has increased investment.” In a country such as Sri Lanka which did not have a “large domestic market and large amounts of strategic materials,” domestic investment should have taken off first. “The fact that domestic investment has a flat line is an indication that our investment climate has not been as good as it should have been because of macro economic fundamentals and other factors related to the climate.”

    Yet, Dr. Coomaraswamy sounded optimistic and said that in the last few months, there had been a “shift in the positive direction.” Stabilisation measures were being carried out to get the budget into order, apart from revenue generation measures. The CBSL had tightened monetary policy and allowed exchange rate to float a “little bit. I think we are on the right track. We have to sustain it,” he said, hoping that a five-year economic plan, to be unveiled by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe shortly, would have a “cohesive and coherent” framework for structural policies.

    No Plans To Contest For Presidency, Says Basil Rajapaksa
    2016-Jul-06 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    No Plans To Contest For Presidency, Says Basil Rajapaksa

    Former Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa yesterday stated that as of now he has no plans to contest in a future Presidential Election.

    Speaking to the media at a press conference in Battaramulla, Rajapaksa said that the new movement to be formed by the 'Joint Opposition' has received the support of some politicians who openly criticize it.

    The former government of Mahinda Rajapaksa was brought down by the "hoppers theory" and this government will be brought down by "finger millet porridge theory", Rajapaksa quipped, referring to Maithripala Sirisena's defection in 2014, after taking part in a dinner with Mahinda Rajapaksa the night before.

    Rajapaksa acknowledged that there were numerous challenges for the Joint Opposition in facing an election.

    Meanwhile, he refused to comment on the claims of the formation of a new party, saying that those who made the claim must know the details better.

    Several former local councilors had claimed that a new party will be formed to face the next local government election, with Basil Rajapaksa as its chief organizer.

    'Most Of Joint Opposition Will Join Maithripala Sirisena Camp': SB Dissanayake
    2016-Jul-06 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    'Most Of Joint Opposition Will Join Maithripala Sirisena Camp': SB Dissanayake

    Minister S.B. Dissanayake expressed confidence that a large number of 'Joint Opposition' members will join the Maithripala Sirisena camp if Basil Rajapaksa and others decide to form a separate party.

    Speaking at a press conference yesterday, he said that such a step will cause the SLFP to deteriorate in the long run.

    The party is in dire straits at the moment, Dissanayake acknowledged. Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, and his brothers Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Basil Rajapaksa, are responsible for the mass deterioration of support for the SLFP among the minority communities, he added.

    UNP To Appoint Sujeewa Senasinghe To COPE Committee To 'Dilute' Treasury Bonds Probe
    2016-Jul-06 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    UNP To Appoint Sujeewa Senasinghe To COPE Committee To 'Dilute' Treasury Bonds Probe

    The United National Party is to appoint Deputy Minister Sujeewa Senasinghe to the COPE committee probing the Treasury bonds issue, informed party 

    To make way for Senasinghe, the party's representative to the committee, M. Velukumar said he would resign from the committee. 

    A day before the decision was made, the UNP members representing the COPE committee were summoned for a special meeting at the Temple Trees. 

    Velukumar's resignation is believed to be a direct outcome of the Temple Trees meeting chaired by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. 

    Senasinghe is an open supporter of former Central Bank Governor Arjuna Mahendran and he went on to write a book, last year, defending the Treasury bonds issue. Therefore, it is widely believed that senasinghe would make a desperate attempt to dilute the Treasury bonds probe which involves former Central Bank Governor Arjuna Mahendran, a close ally of the Prime Minister. 

    Meanwhile, COPE Chairman, JVP Parliamentarian Sunil Handunnetti told Asian Mirror that summoning his party members of the committee for a special meeting at Temple Trees was an "unacceptable act" by the Prime Minister. 

    Police Arrest Mothers Of Children Enrolled To School By Thewarapperuma
    2016-Jul-05 | By Sihara Colombage

    Police Arrest Mothers Of Children Enrolled To School By Thewarapperuma

    Police have arrested the mothers of ten school children enrolled forcibly to the Meegahatenna Primary School in Matugama by Deputy Minister Palitha Thewarapperuma.

    Thewarapperuma had led a protest for a few days with the parents of the children, stating that the children were subjected to unfair treatment.

    On June 30, the Deputy Minister entered the school and attempted to commit suicide, demanding an answer to the question. The principal ws later forced to admit the children to the school.

    Thewarapperuma was later admitted to hospital after fainting outside the school and was reported to have suffered from a heart attack.

    Teachers' unions and other parents opposed tThewarapperuma's action, alleging that he assaulted the principal.

    "Sirisena Gave Me 'Maha Rajano' Title", Claims Rajapaksa
    2016-Jul-05 | By Sihara Colombage

    "Sirisena Gave Me 'Maha Rajano' Title", Claims Rajapaksa (VIDEO)

    Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa claimed that he was elevated to the state of a king for the first time by the current President Maithripala Sirisena, who was the first to use the term "Maha Rajano."

    Once senior ministers started using this term, it was natural for others to follow their lead, he added.

    Speaking at a public meeting in Balangoda, Ratnapura District, Rajapaksa also claimed that he had always asked his supporters not to refer to him as a king since it was a bad omen.

    He hit out at the government for continuously blaming him to cover their incompetence. The government is only good at blaming him, Rajapaksa said, adding that the government has already proven that it is incompetent to govern the country.

     

    President asks stakeholders to find a fair solution to VAT issue 
    2016-Jul-05 | By Sihara Colombage

    President asks stakeholders to find a fair solution to VAT issue

    President Maithripala Sirisena promised that an uncomplicated decision will be taken on the VAT system following further talks with all stakeholders. He plans to hold a series of discussions and the first round was held at the Presidential Secretariat yesterday.


    He made this observation during discussions with representatives of traders’ associations at the Presidential Secretariat on the VAT. 


    Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and other ministers participated in the discussion. The President further said the main focus should be the consumer when the VAT issue is considered and assured that a suitable solution would be reached considering the problems of the business folk as well. 


    The President also instructed that a representative of the traders’ associations participate at each meeting to be held on VAT together with the economic experts, ministers and public officials.


    He said that further talks should be held on the issue with traders engaged in whole sale and retail businesses as well as delivery services.


    Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake speaking to the media following the discussions said that the discussions held on the (VAT) with representatives of traders’ associations was approximately 95 percent successful.


    He also said that it was also not the final discussion on VAT. “The Government invited traders engaged in whole sale and retail businesses as well as delivery services to these discussions,” the Finance Minister said.

    Mohammed Muzammil further remanded
    2016-Jul-04 | By Sihara Colombage

    Mohammed Muzammil further remanded

    Media Spokesman of the NFF, Mohammed Muzammil, who was arrested by the Financial Crime Investigation Division (FCID), has been further remanded until 07 July.  


    The former MP was remanded after being produced before the Fort Magistrate a short while ago on Monday.


    Mohammed Muzammil was arrested as he arrived at the FCID to give a statement on 27 June. The arrest was made in connection with an investigation on the misuse of vehicles belonging to the Presidential Secretariat Office.  


    The suspect will be produced before the Court again on 7 July.

     

    TNA rejects rumors on UN resolution
    2016-Jul-04 | By Sihara Colombage

    TNA rejects rumors on UN resolution

    The Tamil National Alliance has rejected the rumors that have been appearing in the public media stating that the TNA, Government of Sri Lanka and the United States have come to an agreement with regard to the implementation of the UN resolution 30/1, especially with regard to the accountability processes.


    Issuing a statement, the TNA said, “the Tamil National Alliance has always held the position that the resolution must be implemented both in letter and spirit and there has been no change in this position. We will remain committed and take all necessary steps to ensure that the resolution is implemented fully in the future.


    The TNA wishes to urge all Sri Lankans not to get carried away by these rumors and to remain united in restoring justice and equality among all citizens and to work towards reconciliation and building a united undivided Sri Lanka.”

    "Coomaraswamy Has To Build Back CB's Lost Credibility": Harsha's Veiled Attack On Mahendran
    2016-Jul-04 | By Sihara Colombage

    "Coomaraswamy Has To Build Back CB's Lost Credibility": Harsha's Veiled Attack On Mahendran

    Foreign Affairs Deputy Minister Dr. Harsha de Silva said new Central Bank Governor Dr. Indrajit Coomaraswamy has to build back the Central Bank's lost credibility. 

    "Indrajit has to urgently build back lost credibility at #CBSL. He is a time tested professional and I am certain he will succeed," de Silva said, in a Twitter post, today. 

    The Deputy Foreign Minister's remark can also be construed as a veiled attack on former Central Bank Governor Arjuna Mahendran who found himself in hot water in connection with multiple controversies. 

    Dr. de Silva came under fire from the Prime Minister's camp in the recent past for his alleged association with a private media station that launched a scathing attack on the government over the alleged treasury bonds scam. 

    His Twitter post indicates that there is a tension of sorts between the Deputy Foreign Minister and the former Central Bank Governor, a close ally of the Prime Minister. 

    Dr Indrajit Coomaraswamy Appointed Central Bank Governor
    2016-Jul-03 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    Dr Indrajit Coomaraswamy Appointed Central Bank Governor

    President Maithripala Sirisena has decided to appoint Dr. Indrajit Coomaraswamy as the new Governor of Central Bank of Sri Lanka, President's Media Division announced today.

    Educated at the Royal College, Colombo and at Harrow School in England, Coomaraswamy gained his undergraduate degree at Cambridge University and obtained his Doctorate at the University of Sussex.

    He joined the Central Bank of Sri Lanka in 1973 and served in the Economic Research, Statistics and Bank Supervision Divisions as a staff officer till 1989.

    Thereafter he worked for the Commonwealth Secretariat from 1990–2008.

    Gammanpila Granted Bail Over Case Regarding Forged Power Of Attorney
    2016-Jul-01 | By Sihara Colombage

    Gammanpila Granted Bail Over Case Regarding Forged Power Of Attorney

    UPFA MP Udaya Gammanpila was granted bail by Fort Magistrate Lanka Jayaratne over the case regarding the alleged use of a forged power of attorney to sell the assets of an Australian named Brian Shaddick.

    Gammanpila was released on a cash bail of Rs 25,000 and three sureties of Rs 500,000 each.

    The other suspect in the case was released on a cash bail of Rs 15,000 and two sureties of Rs 500,000 each.

    They were both banned from foreign travel.

    The court observed that using a forged signature of a foreigner was a serious matter and directed that the suspects should not interfere with those who are involved in the case. It was also informed to court that in 2015, Gammanpila had met an individual regarding the case in Australia, and had obtained a signature for an affidavit.

    Gammanpila's lawyers gave an undertaking that their client will not contact anyone connected in the case.

    Yahapalana Government Is In Total Confusion Over Administration, Claims MR
    2016-Jul-01 | By Sihara Colombage

    Rajapaksa (File Photo)

    Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa said that the yahapalana (good governance) government is in total confusion over the administration as no one knows who is in control.

    Speaking to the media at Bentota beach after his morning exercises, Rajapaksa said that the dispute over the appointment of a Governor for the Central Bank has clearly highlighted the administrative confusion.

    He made this observation when asked about the dispute between Deputy Minister Palitha Thewarapperuma and educational authorities.

    President Maithripala Sirisena, on June 29, said that he will appoint a new Governor to the Central Bank within a few hours. However, he failed to carry out his pledge.

    NFF leader Wimal Weerawansa claimed yesterday that Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe stopped Sirisena from appointing a new Governor.

    Case filed against Namal for no show at Bribery Commission
    2016-Jul-01 | By Sihara Colombage

    Case filed against Namal for no show at Bribery Commission

    The Commission to Investigate Allegations of bribery and Corruption today filed a case against UPFA MP Namal Rajapaksa with the Supreme Court on defamation charges.

    The case was filed by the Director General of the Commission, Dilrukshi Dias Wickramasinghe, stating that the MP had insulted the Bribery Commission by failing to appear to give a statement with regard to an ongoing investigation despite being summoned. 

    Therefore the application requests the Supreme Court to issue notice on the defendant to appear before the court and take necessary action.  

     

    Deputy Minister Thewarapperuma In Serious Condition Following Heart Attack
    2016-Jul-01 | By Sihara Colombage

    Deputy Minister Thewarapperuma In Serious Condition Following Heart Attack

    Deputy Minister Palitha Thewarapperuma is reported to be in serious condition after suffering a heart attack following yesterday's suicide drama.

    He attempted to commit suicide in an attempt to force a decision on the admission of ten children to Meegasthenne Vidyalaya in Matugama yesterday. Following the suicide drama, the school principal agreed to fulfil his demand and admit the children.

    A short while later Thewarapperuma fainted and was rushed to the Meegasthenna Base Hospital. He was later transferred to the Nagoda Hospital and was later transferred to the Nawaloka Hospital in Colombo.

    Wickremesinghe Stopped Sirisena From Appointing New Central Bank Governor, Claims Weerawansa
    2016-Jul-01 | By Sihara Colombage

    Seated from Left to Right: President, PM and Arjuna Mahendran (Pic: Twitter @rangaba)Seated from Left to Right: President, PM and Arjuna Mahendran (Pic: Twitter @rangaba)

    National Freedom Front leader Wimal Weerawansa yesterday claimed that Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe stopped President Maithripala Sirisena from appointing a new Central Bank Governor on June 29.

    Speaking at a press conference yesterday, Weerawansa pointed out that Sirisena had promised to appoint a new Governor within hours during a meeting on the same morning.

    Accordingly, he arrived at the Central Bank within hours with the intention of carrying out his promise, Weerawansa said, claiming that the President even had the Letter of Appointment with him. However, Wickremesinghe and the then Central Bank Governor Arjuna Mahendran stopped him from carrying out his promise, Weerawansa claimed.

    Instead, the President had a cup of tea, made a speech, and left, Weerawansa said.

    The term of Arjuna Mahendran ended yesterday and he was not granted a service extension. Meanwhile, Wickremesinghe once again publicly defended Mahendran yesterday, saying that he has not been proven guilty of any wrongdoing. Mahendran is accused of insider dealing on issuing of Central Bank bonds.

    The Central Bank has no Governor as of now.

    First govt in the world to create ‘factory’ to accuse own military - Wimal
    2016-Jul-01 | By Sihara Colombage

    First govt in the world to create ‘factory’ to accuse own military - Wimal

     

    Former Minister Wimal Weerawansa claims that by urging the government to take more steps to create coexistence in Sri Lanka, the United Nations wants the government to take immediate steps to console and satisfy Tamil separatism and other minority extremism.

    He was referring to the statement delivered by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein at the 32nd session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva yesterday. 

     Speaking at a press conference in Colombo today (30), he charged that by co-sponsoring the resolution adopted on Sri Lanka at the UNHRC last year, the government has been bound to establish an “hybrid war crimes court”. 

    Weerawansa stated that the government cannot deceive the Sri Lankan people by claiming it will be a domestic mechanism after accepting and supporting the UN resolution. “The Foreign Minister has already agreed there.”

    The UPFA MP alleged that the incumbent Sri Lankan government is the first in the world to establish a “factory” to produce allegations against the armed forces responsible for defeating the internal terrorism in the country. 

    He said that no other country in the world including western nations such as the US and the UK have investigated their own military after a war. 

     

    Term of 23 LG bodies will not be extended - Minister
    2016-Jul-01 | By Sihara Colombage

    Term of 23 LG bodies will not be extended - Minister

    The tenure of twenty-three local government bodies will not be further extended and will officially end from midnight today (June 30), Provincial Councils and Local Government Minister Faiszer Musthapha said.

    The terms of the LG bodies were due to expire on 31 December 2015, however was extended for a period of 6 months as per a decision taken by the government.

    Accordingly, the terms of the Municipal Councils of Colombo, Dehiwela-Mount Lavinia, Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte, Moratuwa, Gampaha, Negombo, Kurunegala, Kandy, Matale, Nuwara Eliya, Badulla, Galle, Matara, Hambantota, Ratnapura, Anuradhapura and Kalmunai, Kolonnawa Urban Council and the at Kotikawatta, Mulleriyawa, Kundasale, Kadawathsathara, Gangawata Korale, Hambantota and SooriyawevaPradeshiya Sabhas will end from midnight today.

    The operations of the aforementioned institutions will be handed over to the respective Secretaries and Commissioners.

    Speaking to Ada Derana yesterday, Minister Musthapha had said that a decision would be taken regarding extending the terms and announced before midnight today after consulting with the President and Prime Minister. 

    COPE report on bond issue should be made public soon - JHU
    2016-Jun-30 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    COPE report on bond issue should be made public soon - JHU 

    The Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) says that the Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) should release its report regarding the controversial Central Bank bond issue as immediately as possible as the people have a right to know the truth. 

    “Appointing a new Central Bank governor alone is not enough. The people should know the extent of the bond scam which took place and the losses it caused to the country,” JHU Spokesperson Nishantha Sri Warnasinghe said.

    He said that investigation should be carried out by the COPE committee and the people of the country expect a clear report from them on the matter. 

    Appointing a new Governor does not resolve the issue, he said, adding that the people have the right to know the information about the bond scam. 

    Warnasinghe said that President Maithripala Sirisena has clearly stated that a new Governor will be appointed to the Central Bank of Sri Lanka and that through this it is evident that a considerable amount of facts have been confirmed regarding the allegations leveled against Arjuna Mahendran.  

    Sarath Fonseka Joins UNP, Appointed Kelaniya Chief Organizer
    2016-Jun-30 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    Regional Development Minister Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka accepted membership of the UNP from Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe at the Sirikotha UNP party headquarters a short while ago.

    Fonseka was also appointed the UNP Chief Organizer of Kelaniya Electorate in the Gampaha District.

    Speaking to media yesterday, Fonseka had confirmed of his decision to accept the organizer post in Kelaniya.

    Fonseka contested the 2010 Presidential Election with the support of the UNP and was arrested days after his defeat at the election. After being released, he formed the Democratic Party. Fonseka backed Maithripala Sirisena at the 2015 Presidential Election and contested the August 2015 General Election under the Democratic Party ticket. His party did not win any seats.

    Fonseka joined the government earlier this year after signing an agreement with the UNP.

    Bribery Commission Files Contempt Of Court Case Against Namal Rajapaksa
    2016-Jun-30 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    Bribery Commission Files Contempt Of Court Case Against Namal Rajapaksa

    The Director General of the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption filed a contempt of court case at the Supreme Court against UPFA MP Namal Rajapaksa.

    The Commission informed court that Rajapaksa had repeatedly ignored summons given to him to appear at the commission to obtain statements on ongoing investigations.

    The Commission argues that this action by Rajapaksa is a contempt of court under Article 20 (3) (a) of the Bribery Act.

    Johnston Fernando Released On Bail In Corruption Cases Regarding CWE
    2016-Jun-30 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    Johnston Fernando Released On Bail In Corruption Cases Regarding CWE

    UPFA MP Johnston Fernando and two others were released on bail by Colombo Chief Magistrate Gihan Pilapitiya over five cases filed by the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption.

    They were released on a cash bail of Rs 50,000 and two sureties of Rs 5 million each for each of the cases.

    The case was fixed to be heard on October 27.

    In May this year, the Bribery Commission filed court cases against former Minister Johnston Fernando and two others for using employees of the CWE for political activities during the years 2010 to 2014.

    The other two who have been charged are Eraj Priyantha Fernando and Mohammed Fakir.

    It is alleged that a loss of Rs 40.1 million was caused by Fernando and others to the government.

    Meanwhile, Bribery Commission has also filed five separate cases against Fernando for the alleged failure to declare his assets and liabilities during the period from 2010 to 2014.

    Changes To Be Introduced To VAT On Monday: President
    2016-Jun-30 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    Changes To Be Introduced To VAT On Monday: President

    Acknowledging that the recent increase of the VAT has adversely affected the ordinary people, President Maithripala Sirisena said yesterday that changes to the VAT will be introduced on next Monday.

    However he did not specifically indicate which sectors will be affected with the new changes.

    The government is facing a serous backlash from traders across the country over the increase of the VAT. Shops were closed across a number of towns in protest yesterday.

    The government increased the VAT to 15 percent from May 2 this year.

    Gammanpila's Fundamental Rights Petition Reserved For Order
    2016-Jun-30 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    Gammanpila's Fundamental Rights Petition Reserved For Order

    The Supreme Court yesterday reserved its order on the Fundamental Rights petition filed by Pivithuru ela Urumaya General Secretary Udaya Gammanpila seeking an order preventing his arrest.

    The court said that both parties must make their written submissions by Friday.

    Gammanpila filed this petition on June 9, seeking an order to prevent him being arrested by the police Special Investigations Unit.

    Through his petition, Gammanpila said that two complaints have been filed by an Australian named Brian Shaddick and his Power of Attorney Lasitha Perera with the SIU against him on false basis.

    He added that this was done under influence by associates of Minister Patali Champika Ranawaka, who is a political rival.

    Gammanpila also requests Rs 500 million as damages to his good name caused by the allegations.

    However, Gammanpila was arrested on June 18 and is now in remand custody.

    Supreme Court Judge Withdraws From Petition Against National Government
    2016-Jun-30 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    Supreme Court Judge Withdraws From Petition Against National Government

    Supreme Court Judge Priyantha Jayawardena announced that he will withdraw from a petition challenging the legality of the national government, citing personal reasons.

    This announcement was made when the petition was taken up for hearing yesterday.

    Chisf Justice K. Sripavan and Judge Prasanna Jayawardena are the other two judges in the bench.

    A Fundamental Rights petition was filed with the Supreme Court on April 1, seeking an order declaring the government purportedly formed after the August 17, 2015 election is not a national government.

    The petition was filed by Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekara and Prof Wimaladharma Abeywickrama on behalf of the 'Joint Opposition'.

    The petitioners argue that according to the constitution, a national government should be formed by the largest party or independent group in Parliament and other parties.

    However, the national government was formed by only the UNP and the SLFP and others parties are not represented. Therefore it is not a national government, the petitioners argue.

    They also point out that the Cabinet should be limited to 30 members and could be increased only in the case of a national government. However, since the government is not a national government, the appointment of the cabinet is also illegal, the petitioners argue.

    Auditor General's Report On Central Bank Bond Issue Handed Over To COPE, Speaker
    2016-Jun-30 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    Arjuna Mahendran

    The Auditor General's report on the controversial Central Bank bond issue was handed over to the Committee of Public Enterprise (COPE) and the Speaker.

    The 1251 page report has been sent to all COPE members and the committee will meet on July 5 to discuss the content.

    Meanwhile, Central Bank Governor Arjuna Mahendran, who stands accused of insider trading during the controversial bond issue on February 27, 2015, has been summoned to the COPE on July 7.

    Mahendran is expected to be replaced once his term ends tomorrow (June 30).

    President, PM Hold Discussions With Central Bank Officials
    2016-Jun-30 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    Pic: Twitter @rangaba

    President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe held discussions with the Central Bank this afternoon.

    The President said that it was important to discuss the state of the country with relevant officials.

    He added that he will also be meeting officials of the Finance Ministry, Inland Revenue Department and Customs Department.

    President Sirisena also stressed that the officials at Central Bank, Finance Ministry and Inland Revenue Department have specialists in economy and they may have independent, creative ideas which are valuable for the development of the country.

    There was speculation that the President would name a successor to the post of Central Bank Governor today. Speaking at an event this morning, he had said that a new Central Bank Governor will be appointed within a few hours.

    Arjuna Mahendran has already said that he will not seek a service extension as Central Bank Governor. Mahendran is accused of corruption and is being investigated by the COPE.

    Sri Lankan rupee forwards rise as foreign investors buy bonds
    2016-Jun-29 | By Sihara Colombage

    Sri Lankan rupee forwards rise as foreign investors buy bonds

    Sri Lankan rupee one-week forwards strengthened on Wednesday as foreign investors sold dollars to buy local bonds, while selling of the greenback by some exporters and banks also supported sentiment.


    Asian stock markets joined a global rebound as the immediate drag from the Brexit vote began to ebb and investors wagered central banks would ultimately ride to the rescue with more stimulus measures. 


    One-week dollar/rupee forwards, which have been acting as a proxy for the spot rupee, were at 147.50/60 per dollar at 0555 GMT, compared with Tuesday’s close of 147.80/148.00.


    “Foreigners are selling dollars,” said a currency dealer requesting not to be named. He said it could be for local bond buying.


    Dealers said the three-day dollar/rupee forwards were not allowed to trade ahead of the quarter-end. The forwards, known as spot next, ended at 147.65/85 per dollar on Tuesday, compared with Monday’s close of 148.05/25.


    The Sri Lankan stock index was 0.26 percent down at 6,291.26 as of 0604 GMT, on a turnover of 224.5 million rupees ($1.53 million).

    MR Intervenes To Protect Unity Of 'Joint Opposition' Amidst Row Over Basil Rajapaksa's Role
    2016-Jun-29 | By Sihara Colombage

    MR Intervenes To Protect Unity Of 'Joint Opposition' Amidst Row Over Basil Rajapaksa's Role

    Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa has intervened to protect the unity of the 'Joint Opposition' which was being challenged by the emergence of two factions within the group.

    The involvement of his bother Basil Rajapaksa was threatening to disrupt the 'Joint Opposition' as some MPs were opposed to his involvement.

    They said Basil Rajapaksa was responsible for the defeat of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa and had left the country immediately after the 2015 Presidential Election.

    He had re-entered the political arena recently and had initiated a movement without involving the MPs of the 'Joint Opposition'. His movement was based on some local councilors who support former President Rajapaksa.

    However, the former President intervened and said that any movement should also include the MPs. He also said that a committee should take collective decisions on the 'Joint Opposition'.

    New Central Bank Governor To Be Appointed: President
    2016-Jun-29 | By Sihara Colombage

    New Central Bank Governor To Be Appointed: President

    President Maithripala Sirisena said today that a new Central Bank Governor will be appointed within the next few hours.

    The President made this observation addressing a meeting in Girandurukotte.

    This comes after widespread demands for the replacement for Central Bank Governor Arjuna Mahendran, who is accused of corruption.

    Mahendran recently said that he will not seek a service extension until his name is cleared by the COPE regarding the controversial bond issue on February 27, 2015.

    Kiribathgoda, Kadawatha shops close in protest against VAT
    2016-Jun-29 | By Sihara Colombage

    Kiribathgoda, Kadawatha shops close in protest against VAT

     

    Many shop owners in Kiribathgoda, Kadawatha, Kelaniya, Anuradhapura, Badulla, Bandarawela and Katugastota closed their shops today (29) and staged protests against the decision to increase the Value Added Tax (VAT).


    Daily activities in this areas have been affected with the closure of most shops, Ada Derana reporter said.


    A protest march will also be organised by the traders this afternoon, it was reported.


    Similar protests were staged in other parts of the country as well over the past few days.  The VAT was increased from 11% to 15% with effect from May 02, 2016.

     

    Pavithra Wanniarachchi Severely Warned By Magistrate
    2016-Jun-29 | By Sihara Colombage

    Pavithra Wanniarachchi Severely Warned By Magistrate

    UPFA MP Pavithra Wanniarachchi was severely warned by Colombo Additional Magistrate Aruni Artigala for inappropriately advising her lawyer inside the court room.

    The incident occurred when a case where Wanniarachchi was the complainant was being heard.

    On several occasions she made attempts to instruct the lawyer inside the court room while the case was being heard, which led to her being reprimanded.

    The Additional Magistrate observed that it was wrong to instruct the lawyers inside the court room.

    Being a lawyer herself, Wanniarachchi should be aware of the process inside the court room, the Additional Magistrate also said.

    The case which was being heard concerned an incident where Wanniarachchi had paid an individual Rs 2 million for a house in Subhuthipura, Battaramulla. However, the individual had failed to give her a house as promised.

    The individual undertook to pay back the MP and was released on bail.

    Government Formally Applies For GSP+
    2016-Jun-29 | By Sihara Colombage

    Government Formally Applies For GSP+

    The government was to formally submit the application for GSP+ to the European Union in Brussels last evening, Deputy Foreign Minister Dr. Harsha de Silva said yesterday.

    Speaking to the media at a press conference in Colombo, he also expressed hope that the application will be accepted and the GSP+ will be granted in the next six months.

    However, he argued that the full advantage of the GSP+ will be denied to Sri Lanka as the UK was leaving the EU, since 35 percent of Sri Lankan exports to Europe go to the UK.

    He added that the UK's leaving from the EU will affect negatively in many ways to the Sri Lankan economy. The government must now speed up the discussions on the ETCA and the trade agreements with China, he added.

    Politicians Not Suitable For CB Governor Seat, Says Eran Wickramaratne
    2016-Jun-29 | By Sihara Colombage

    Politicians Not Suitable For CB Governor Seat, Says Eran Wickramaratne

    Deputy Minister Eran Wickramaratne said that politicians are not suitable to occupy the seat of the Central Bank Governor.

    Speaking about the rumors on the possibility of his appointment as the CB Governor, Wickramaratne also said that he cannot betray the people's mandate and confidence, which elected him to the Parliament.

    Wickramaratne was speaking to the media at the Moratuwa railway station, where he arrived in a train from Colombo.

    He said that he was a regular user of public transport, especially the train, as it saves time to travel by train than by road.

    He also said that the government should invest more in public transport if it wants to institute real change.

    Sri Lanka to impose capital gains tax on stocks - Champika
    2016-Jun-28 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    Sri Lanka to impose capital gains tax on stocks - Champika

    Sri Lanka intends to impose a capital gains tax on profits from equities, a senior government minister said late on Monday, as the government attempts to shore up its finances to qualify for an IMF loan.

    Sri Lanka’s cabinet approved reintroducing a capital gains tax on land early this month, but has not said whether it would be imposed on profits from buying and selling equities.

    “We don’t know the details of it right now, but there will definitely be a capital gains tax on land transactions plus the stock exchange,” Patali Champika Ranawaka, Minister of Megapolis and Western Development, told a Foreign Correspondents’ Association forum.

    The government is in the process of drafting new legislation for a capital gains tax with technical inputs from the International Monetary Fund.

    Reimposing such a tax would be part of government moves to raise revenue, which it has promised the IMF to do in return for a $1.5 billion, three-year loan to support its economic reform agenda.

    The capital gains tax could be around 10 percent and was likely to be imposed before the 2017 budget presentation in November this year, Ranawaka was quoted as saying by Reuters.

    Stockbrokers expect the capital gains tax to hit share transactions and discourage new small investors from entering the market.

    Since Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe announced the plan to reimpose capital gains tax on March 8, foreign investors have sold a net 5 billion rupees ($33.78 million) worth of shares.

    Wickremesinghe abolished a 25 percent capital gain tax on land in 2002, which had been reduced from as high as 45 percent in 1978.

    SriLankan Airlines Suspend Flights To Paris, Frankfurt
    2016-Jun-28 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    SriLankan Airlines Suspend Flights To Paris, Frankfurt

    Sri Lanka's national airline, Srilankan Airlines, on Monday announced that it will be suspending flights to Paris and Frankfurt from October and November this year.

    The last flights between Frankfurt and Colombo will be operated on October 30, while the last flight to Paris will be on November 6, 2016, the airline said in a statement.

    The airline said that the government of Sri Lanka has made it clear that it will no longer fund continuing losses.

    "While the drop in fuel prices has contributed to the airline's improved performance, this benefit has been significantly eroded with the airline's revenues declining for the F/Y ending 2015/16 compared to the previous year. Addition of capacity to the Colombo market particularly by Middle Eastern carriers, accompanied by a drop in airfares in European markets has seen the contribution of the European network drop in comparison to the other routes. This has been further exacerbated by the depreciation of the Euro against the Dollar," SriLankan Airlines said.

    SriLankan operates daily flights to both Doha and Abu Dhabi and has a strong code share relationship with Etihad and Qatar through which it will continue to provide onward connectivity to the European destinations it has been serving via Paris and Frankfurt.

    London will remain the airline's gateway to Europe, where the airline has deployed its state-of-the-art A330-300 fleet for daily non-stop operations.

    The Indian Sub-continent, the Middle East and the Far East will remain Sri Lankan's focal markets, where the airline will continue to explore its potential for expansion.

    Govt. has exceeded the borrowings limit - Vijitha Herath
    2016-Jun-27 | By Sihara Colombage

    Govt. has exceeded the borrowings limit - Vijitha Herath

    The Government has exceeded the approved borrowing limits, JVP Propaganda Secretary, Parliamentarian Vijitha Herath says.


    The observation was made during a press conference held in Battaramulla this afternoon (26).


    Herath also went on to say this has also been mentioned in the government audit report.


    “The Government has exceeded the approved borrowing limit by 100 per cent. The allocated amount was Rs.1780000 million. But it had obtained Rs.3549805 million,” he added.


    However, Prime Minister Ranil Wickeremesinghe assured the Parliament this week that his Government has not exceeded the approved borrowing limits and stood within the agreements with international agencies even though the Auditor General’s report say otherwise.

    Discussions Underway To Re-unite Opposing Camps Of SLFP
    2016-Jun-27 | By Sihara Colombage

    Discussions Underway To Re-unite Opposing Camps Of SLFP

    Discussions are underway to reunite the opposing camps of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party, in an attempt to bring back the 'Joint Opposition' MPs under the party leadership, political sources said.

    The SLFP is facing a possible crisis with the 'Joint Opposition' supporting former President Mahinda Rajapaksa threatening to form a new party to face the Local Government Elections.

    UPFA General Secretary Mahinda Amaraweera and MP Kumara Welgama are reported to be involved in the reconciliation talks, with the Local Government Elections also in mind.

    The 'Joint Opposition' MPs have demanded that withing the SLFP, their representatives must be given the same treatment as the MPs who support the government.

    However, the possibility of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa as Prime Minister being appointed Prime Minister will not be taken into consideration in these talks as the Maithripala Sirisena camp is strongly opposed to such a move.

    Rohitha Abeygunawardena Admitted To ICU After Sustaining Injuries At 'Joint Opposition' Protest
    2016-Jun-25 | By Sihara Colombage

    Rohitha Abeygunawardena Admitted To ICU After Sustaining Injuries At 'Joint Opposition' Protest

    UPFA MP Rohitha Abeygunawardena was admitted to the ICU of a private hospital in Colombo after he sustained injuries at the protest held by the 'Joint Opposition' against Central Bank Governor Arjuna Mahendran.

    He was injured when the protesters broke through the police iron barriers. He fell on top of one barrier and another fell on top of him, injuring him.

    Many 'Joint Opposition' MPs joined the protest against Central Bank Governor Mahendran who has been accused of insider trading regarding Central Bank bond issues.

    MPs wore black head bands and some were dressed in black shirts as they protested against the possible extension of Mahendran's services.

    However, Mahendran has informed the Monetary Board that he will not seek a service extension until the COPE clears his image. This announcement was made today by the government.

    Right To Information Bill Passed Unanimously
    2016-Jun-25 | By Sihara Colombage

    Right To Information Bill Passed Unanimously

    The Right to Information Bill was passed today in Parliament with amendments, without a vote.

    The RTI Bill, which was first presented to Parliament in March this year was challenged at the Supreme Court.

    Following the recommendations of the Supreme Court, the bill was once again presented to Parliament yesterday.

    The RTI bill was a key promise by the 'good governance' government. It claims that the bill will allow the public to get information regarding the public authorities and it will be important to assure responsibility at a higher level.

    Govt to consult TNA and victims on judicial mechanism 
    2016-Jun-24 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    Govt to consult TNA and victims on judicial mechanism

    Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera has said that the nature and structure of the Judicial Mechanism meant to try cases of war crimes will be decided only after consultations with the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) and the organizations representing the victims.

    Speaking at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs in Oslo, Samaraweera said: “There is a certain degree of controversy on how it should be set up and the level of international participation. That will be decided after the consultations are over but all I can say now is whatever we decide upon, we will and must have the approval of the victims. This is not an exercise to please ourselves. So the final contours of the architecture of the courts we are hoping to set up will be in discussion especially with parties like the TNA or other groups which represent the victims.”

    On setting up a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), the Minister said: “We have been working with the government of South Africa about their experiences in the setting up a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Of course, we aren’t guided by the South African model of the TRC because we feel that a model based on confession and forgiveness is not what Sri Lankans want. Many of them want justice. So we are working out the contours of not only the TRC but what should come afterwards, the setting up of the special courts.”

    Samaraweera further said that Sri Lanka has ratified the Convention on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances and the enabling legislation will be presented to the cabinet the moment he returns to the island in July.

    “Hopefully that will confine to the pages of history, the white van culture of terror (through abductions), that we had earlier,” he added.

    Anura Senanayake and Sumith Perera’s bail applications rejected
    2016-Jun-23 | By Sihara Colombage

    Anura Senanayake and Sumith Perera’s bail applications rejected

    The Colombo Additional Magistrate today rejected the bail applications submitted on behalf of former Senior DIG Anura Senanayake and former Crime OIC of the Narahenpita police Sumith Perera.

    They were further remanded till July 07 after being produced before the court today, Ada Derana reporter said.

    Senanayake was arrested by the CID on May 23, for concealing evidence pertaining to the murder of rugby player Wasim Thajudeen. 

    He was questioned by the CID for several days before he was arrested.

    Former Crime OIC of the Narahenpita police Sumith Perera was arrested for allegedly withholding evidence pertaining to the case as well. 

    Thajudeen, a Sri Lankan ruggerite and former Havelock SC captain, was killed in Colombo in May 2012.

    Government Wants To Weaken 'Joint Opposition': Senaratne
    2016-Jun-23 | By Sihara Colombage

    Government Wants To Weaken 'Joint Opposition': Senaratne

    Co-Cabinet Spokesman Rajitha Senaratne said that the government wants to attract MPs from the 'Joint Opposition' camp to weaken it so that the 'good governance' programme could go forward with no hindrance.

    Speaking at the Cabinet press briefing yesterday, he said that the government does not fear the 'Joint Opposition' but wants to weaken it even further.

    It is a natural tendency in politics to try and weaken your opponent, he added.

    He did not reveal as to how many 'Joint Opposition' MPs will leave the government.

    However, he agreed that they will be granted various perks by the government and it will be an added burden on the people. "However, we will give them these perks only after they come," he said.

    Ranjan Ramanayake Will Go To Prison, Claims Aluthgamage
    2016-Jun-23 | By Sihara Colombage

    Ranjan Ramanayake Will Go To Prison, Claims Aluthgamage

    UPFA MP Mahindananda Aluthgamage today said that Deputy Minister Ranjan Ramanayake will surely go to prison for contempt of court since he had alleged that lawyers and judges were dealing with drug smugglers.

    Speaking at a press conference today in Colombo, Aluthgamage said that there were voice recordings of Ramanayake making such comments at an interview in a radio channel.

    Furthermore, he responded to the allegations that he was using a defender with forged number plates and added that the vehicle was actually used by the Deputy Sports Minister.

    Aluthgamage said that Ramanayake is trying to play the film actor's role in Parliament. He has not understood the difference, Aluthgamage said.

    I never said Mahinda siphoned off money - Rajitha 
    2016-Jun-23 | By Sihara Colombage

    I never said Mahinda siphoned off money - Rajitha

    I never said that former President Mahinda Rajapaksa siphoned off money, Minister Rajitha Senaratne says.


    The observation was made at a press conference held in Colombo this afternoon (22).


    “I asserted that Rajapaksas were behind this, and as well as it was those who were around him involved in this,” he added.


    Former President Rajapaksa earlier said that he will cut his throat if the authorities find evidence to prove this.


    “They say I have stolen $18 billion, but if they find evidence of even $1, I will cut my throat,” he said in an interview with Jeff Kingston for the Japan Times.

     

    Supreme Court Allows Leave To Proceed For Five Petitions Against Increase Of VAT
    2016-Jun-22 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    Supreme Court Allows Leave To Proceed For Five Petitions Against Increase Of VAT

    The Supreme Court allowed leave to proceed for five petitions against the increase of VAT and NBT by the government.

    Furthermore, the decision on the interim order suspending the taxes was reserved for July 11.

    The respondents were asked to file their objections before June 30.

    Five petitioners including National Freedom Front leader Wimal Weerawansa have filed petitions against the increase of taxes arguing that it violated their Fundamental Rights.

    The petitioner argued that the VAT and the NBT could not be increased without amending the relevant laws and presenting them to the Parliament for approval.

    Therefore, the imposition of new taxes has violated the fundamental rights of the petitioner and the public at large, the petitions argued.

    Mahindananda Aluthgamage Sends Letters Of Demand To Ramanayake, Ananda Aluthgamage
    2016-Jun-22 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    Mahindananda Aluthgamage Sends Letters Of Demand To Ramanayake, Ananda Aluthgamage

    UPFA MP Mahindananda Aluthgamage has sent letters of demand to Deputy Minister Ranjan Ramanayake and UNP MP Ananda Aluthgamage demanding Rs 500 million each in damages.

    The letters of demand have been sent in relation to allegations made by the two UNP MPs yesterday regarding a defender with forged number plates.

    Speaking at a press conference convened in Madiwela yesterday, Ramanayake said that the Department of Motor Traffic could not give details of a vehicle with the number plate in the defender.

    He added that there was a suspicion if this vehicle was used for some illegal activity.

    Meanwhile, UNP MP Ananda Aluthgamage, who also took part in the press conference, claimed that he was well aware of the vehicle.

    Ananda Aluthgamage is the brother of UPFA MP Mahindananda Aluthgamage.

    Ramanayake and Mahindananda Aluthgamage exchanged blows yesterday outside the Parliamentary Chamber regarding the said allegations.

    Fitch: Insurers cope with Sri Lanka floods, but risks increasing
    2016-Jun-22 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    Fitch: Insurers cope with Sri Lanka floods, but risks increasing

    Insurance claims arising from recent flooding in Sri Lanka are likely to be manageable for most local insurers due to low retention levels, but changing weather patterns raise long-term risks, says Fitch Ratings. 


    The agency expects the sector’s underwriting profitability to weaken in 2016, although this is unlikely to threaten most insurers’ credit profiles. A severe tropical storm in mid-May caused flooding and landslides in several parts of the country, with areas along the Kelani River in the western province, north-east of the capital, Colombo, among the worst affected. 


    National Insurance Trust Fund (NITF), the state-owned local reinsurer, estimates claims from the disaster of around LKR15.5bn (USD107m). 


    Fitch expects record-high claims to worsen the combined ratio of non-life insurers in 2016, with higher reinsurance premiums raising future expense ratios. In addition, lower profitability, stemming from higher claims, could affect capitalisation of some lower-capitalised insurers.

     

    No bail for Pillayan 
    2016-Jun-22 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    No bail for Pillayan

    Former Eastern Province Chief Minister Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan alias Pillayan, who was arrested in connection with the murder of ex-MP Joseph Pararajasingham, has been further remanded until 07 July. 


    The bail application filed on behalf of the defendant was rejected by the Batticaloa Magistrate’s Court, when the case was taken up today (22). 


    Pillayan was arrested on October 11, 2015 when he arrived at the CID to give a statement in connection with the assassination of the late Tamil politician, who was shot dead on Christmas Eve in 2005.    


    A gunman opened fire on TNA MP Pararajasingham after he received communion at St Mary’s church in Batticaloa, killing him and injuring eight others including his wife.

    SC to go ahead with Wimal’s petition against Tax imposition
    2016-Jun-22 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    SC to go ahead with Wimal’s petition against Tax imposition

    The Supreme Court today decided to go ahead with the petition filed seeking an order to revoke the decision to increase Value Added Tax (VAT).


    The petition has been filed by an attorney representing three persons including National Freedom Front leader Wimal Weerawansa.


    The petition has sought an interim order preventing the relevant authorities from ordering the public to pay the VAT.  It has also argued that a Parliament approval is a must before the tax is increased.


    The VAT was increased from 11% to 15% with effect from May 02, 2016.

     

    Defender With Forged Number Plates Found At Madiwela MP's Quarters: Ranjan Ramanayake
    2016-Jun-22 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    Defender With Forged Number Plates Found At Madiwela MP's Quarters: Ranjan Ramanayake

    Deputy Minister Ranjan Ramanayake said that there was a defender with forged number plates at the MP's Quarters at Madiwela.

    Speaking at a press conference convened in Madiwela today, Ramanayake said that the Department of Motor Traffic could not give details of a vehicle with the number plate in the defender.

    He added that there was a suspicion if this vehicle was used for some illegal activity.

    Meanwhile, UNP MP Ananda Aluthgamage, who also took part in the press conference, claimed that he was well aware of the vehicle.

    Ananda Aluthgamage is the brother of UPFA MP Mahindananda Aluthgamage.

    Ranjan Ramanayake, Mahindananda Aluthgamage Exchange Blows Outside Parliamentary Chamber
    2016-Jun-22 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    Ranjan Ramanayake, Mahindananda Aluthgamage Exchange Blows Outside Parliamentary Chamber

    Deputy Minister Ranjan Ramanayake and UPFA MP Mahindananda Aluthgamage exchanged blows outside the Parliamentary Chamber today over some allegation made by Ramanayake against Aluthgamage.

    A heated argument between the two developed into an exchange of blows which was stopped by several MPs who intervened.

    Ramanayake had earlier in the day made an allegation over a defender with forged number plates parked inside the premises of the MP's quarters in Madiwela. He said that UNP MP Ananda Aluthgamage gave him the information.

    Ananda Aluthgamage also claimed that he was familiar with the vehicle which was seen in his electorate in Kandy District.

    He is the brother of the UPFA MP Mahindananda Aluthgamage. It is a well known fact that they are political rivals.

    Mohammed Muzammil Remanded Till July 4 Over Misappropriation Of Rs 6.2 Million State Funds
    2016-Jun-21 | By Sihara Colombage

    Mohammed Muzammil Remanded Till July 4 Over Misappropriation Of Rs 6.2 Million State Funds

    National Freedom Front Spokesman Mohammed Muzammil, who was arrested by the FCID this morning over the misuse of a Presidential Secretary vehicle, was remanded till July 4 by Colombo Fort Magistrate Lanka Jayaratne.

    Muzammil is charged under the Money Laundering Act, Public Property Act and the Penal Code.

    He is said to have misappropriated Rs 6.2 million as rent for a vehicle from the State Engineering Corporation.

    Accordingly, he has been given a vehicle rented by the Presidential Secretariat while he was an MP. The Secretariat has paid the rent.

    After his defeat in the 2010 General Election, Muzammil was appointed as a Working Director of the State Engineering Corporation.

    He had allegedly informed the Corporation that the vehicle he used was his official vehicle and had accepted its rent from the corporation. The money was allegedly transferred to an account of his wife.

    Gammanpila's Request To Attend Parliamentary Sessions Denied By Magistrate
    2016-Jun-21 | By Sihara Colombage

    Gammanpila's Request To Attend Parliamentary Sessions Denied By Magistrate

    Fort Magistrate Lanka Jayaratne yesterday refused a request made by Pivithuru Hela Urumaya General Secretary and UPFA MP Udaya Gammanpila to attend Parliamentary sessions from today till Friday.

    Gammanpila's lawyers made the request on his behalf.

    The Magistrate directed that she had no authority to grant permission as per a circular from the Judicial Services Commission. The request should be made from the Superintendent of Prisons, the Magistrate also advised.

    Gammanpila is in remand custody over allegedly using a fraudulent power of attorney to sell the assets of an Australian in 1997.

    Cluster Bombs Used In Sri Lanka's Civil War, Leaked Photos Suggest
    2016-Jun-21 | By Sihara Colombage

    Remnants of what appears to be an RBK-500 AO-2.5RT cluster bomb uncovered near Chalai, Sri Lanka.Remnants of what appears to be an RBK-500 AO-2.5RT cluster bomb uncovered near Chalai, Sri Lanka.

    Images that appear to confirm the use of cluster bombs in the end stages of Sri Lanka’s 26-year civil war have been uncovered as new testimony emerged suggesting the country’s armed forces may have deployed the munition against civilians.

    The revelations are likely to prompt serious questions for the current Sri Lankan government, which includes several senior members of the cabinet who oversaw army activity during the last days of the conflict.

    The photographic evidence provided to the Guardian depicts cluster bombs uncovered by de-mining teams in parts of the country close to sites where fighting took place in late 2008 and early 2009.

    The material is accompanied by the testimony of former de-miners, some of whom claim they identified munitions within government-declared “no fire zones” in which about 300,000 people were told to gather for their safety during the war’s denouement.

    The Sri Lankan civil war, which lasted from 1983 to 2009, pitted the country’s military against the separatist rebel force known as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) which had waged an armed campaign to achieve an independent state for the ethnic Tamil community in the north and east of the island nation.

    The bloody conflict is estimated to have claimed upwards of more than 100,000 lives, many of them in the final months of fighting which occurred in and around the northern Vanni region.

    The current president, Maithripala Sirisena, held the position of defence minister immediately before the war ended, taking over temporarily from Gotabhaya Rajapaksa who is regarded as having directed much of war strategy.

    A leading member of Sirisena’s current cabinet, Sarath Fonseka, was commander of the army.

    The photographs of cluster bombs were leaked to the Guardian by a former employee of the Halo Trust, the world’s largest mine clearance organisation. The images appear to show members of the trust digging out a large delivery missile as well as cluster submunitions, or “bomblets,” in different locations.

    Independent corroboration of the nature of the weapons has been provided by a senior weapons researcher at Human Rights Watch who identified the material pictured as the remnants of Russian-made cluster bombs and unexploded cluster submunitions.

    The revelations come as the 32nd session of the Human Rights Council opened last week in Geneva, at which the Sri Lankan government is to be questioned on its progress to provide accountability for alleged war crimes committed during the war’s close.

    Reports produced by the United Nations and several rights groups have found that war crimes and possible crimes against humanity may have been committed by Sri Lankan forces; so far no senior member of the government or armed forces has been held accountable.

    Towards the end of the war, while closing in on the LTTE’s last redoubts in the vicinity of Puthukudiyiruppu and Mullaitivu, the government advised civilians to gather in a series of “no fire zones” – areas which the Sri Lankan army promised it would not attack. The location of the safe zone shifted three times, moving from an initial 20-square-mile (52 sq km) block around the area of Suthanthirapuram to a narrow strip of coastland, which shrunk even further as the army made gains.

    Reports by the UN and other agencies cite evidence and credible allegations of atrocities committed within these supposedly protected areas: government forces are accused of relentlessly shelling the zones, leading to up to 70,000 deaths, while the LTTE are alleged to have used human shields and shot at fleeing civilians.

    The previous Sri Lankan government has denied allegations it used cluster bombs and Sirisena has maintained that the army acted in “adherence to international law”.

    He has committed himself to holding a war crimes tribunal in Sri Lanka, but has so far resisted calls to conduct such a hearing in a “hybrid” court that would involve both Sri Lankan and international legal experts, as recommended by a UN report released in 2015.

    Cluster bombs are distinguished by their capacity to explode and release smaller submunitions that scatter over a wide area. Their inherently indiscriminate nature means their deployment in populated areas could amount to war crimes, as the UN secretary general, Ban Ki Moon, observed earlier this year, citing alleged incidents in Yemen.

    In communications with the Guardian, a spokesperson for the Halo Trust acknowledged it had found a total of 42 cluster munitions in several sites around the Pachchilapalli area, near Elephant pass, slightly to the north of the Vanni region, in 2011 and 2012.

    While Halo did not comment on the provenance of the weaponry, the area saw heavy fighting between government forces and the LTTE in 2009. The trust stressed it did not engage in de-mining within the “no fire zone”.

    The source for the photographs, who now lives outside Sri Lanka, said the images depicted munitions discovered in the Kilinochchi district and also near Chalai, to the north of Mullaitivu. Both Chalai and parts of Kilinochchi district were also sites of fierce battles in the final months of the conflict.

    During the war, allegations of the use of cluster bombs in several sites around the Vanni emerged, but were never proven; reports produced for the UN secretary general and the US government cited credible allegations of wartime cluster bomb use in several sites including the no fire zone.

    In 2012, a leaked email from a weapons expert at the UN revealed the organisation had identified cluster munitions near Puthukudiyiruppu, an area in which a hospital had allegedly been attacked with cluster bombs by the Sri Lankan army in 2009.

    Munitions found in a ‘densely civilian-populated area’

    Further evidence suggesting government forces were responsible for the attacks has now been provided in the form of the testimony of former employees of three different de-mining teams who spoke anonymously to the Guardian.

    Ex-workers at Mines Advisory Group (MAG), the Halo Trust and the Swiss Foundation for Mine Action (known by its French-language acronym FSD) have said they saw evidence of the use of cluster bombs in the final days of the war, with representatives from the final two saying cluster bombs were found in one of the government-declared no fire zones.

    Only the Sri Lankan air force and army are believed to have had the capability to deploy cluster bombs in the no fire zone; the LTTE did not undertake aerial attacks in the area.

    Their accounts are supported by those of civilian witnesses in Sri Lanka and abroad, as well as a former aid worker, all of whom spoke on condition of anonymity.

    De-mining agencies do not typically make their discoveries public, but they are required to report their findings to the the Sri Lankan national mine action centre, a coordinating body supported by the Sri Lankan government and the UN.

    Former officials in two de-mining organisations told the Guardian that cluster munitions were positively identified.

    An ex-employee at MAG, who asked not to be named for his own safety, told the Guardian the organisation encountered a munition in a “densely civilian-populated area” in one of the no fire zones near Puthukudiyiruppu, the location around which a UN Development Programme (UNDP) had reportedly found munitions in 2012.

    Cluster bomblets were found, he said, recalling that “all the scattered parts were gathered in the same spot” however, MAG did not publicly share the information “because of their security concerns”.

    Another former de-mining official, formerly with the Swiss NGO FSD, recalled that a “technical adviser confirmed [that they had found cluster bombs] ... but it did not publicise this.”

    He said the weapons were discovered in 2010 in the area of the first no fire zone, by the village of Suthanthirapuram, also near Puthukudiyiruppu. Any move to make their discoveries public were inhibited by fear of retribution, he added.

    Both demining groups were approached for comment: MAG did not immediately respond, while FSD declined to issue a statement.

    The source who leaked the photographs from Halo alleged the de-mining team was extremely wary of reports of “cluster bombs” discoveries as they feared retributive action by the Rajapaksa regime.

    A spokesperson from Halo said the organisation “strongly refutes any suggestion that any information of this nature would be withheld from the requisite authorities by its senior management.

    “We take our reporting responsibilities extremely seriously. I can confirm that every item of ordnance found by Halo in Sri Lanka – and indeed in all the countries in which we operate – is itemised in our monthly reports, which are submitted to national authorities.

    “This is the case now and always has been ...As a neutral organisation, Halo’s responsibility is to ensure the safety of civilians from explosive remnants of war.”

    An NGO worker for an international aid organisation who asked for his identity to be protected told the Guardian he witnessed cluster attacks within the second and final no fire zone near Mullaitivu, and saw unexploded munitions which resembled a bicycle “dynamo” with a “small piece of ribbon also fixed in one side”.

    “Most of the INGOs put the sample pictures of the cluster bomb in their notice board and [made their staff] aware ... about this risk,” he added.

    A witness interviewed by the Guardian in Australia who claims to have witnessed a cluster bomb attack on Puthukudiyiruppu hospital recalled: “The cluster bomb would explode high up and small explosions would hit trees and people.

    The witness described the sound as “like you’re hitting something repeatedly”, adding “there would be a smell that would turn your stomach. People would smell, there would be a burnt odour to it.” The source had previously testified to a UN war crimes inquiry and was deemed credible.

    Another witness whose testimony was gathered for the UN’s 2015 war crimes investigation, told the Guardian that cluster bombing was “something that continuously happened in the protective [no fire] zones. This wasn’t fulfilling war purposes. It hit civilians.”

    Sam Zarifi, regional director of Asia and Oceania for the International Commission of Jurists, told the Guardian: “These most recent allegations highlight the need for a credible, effective accountability mechanism.”

    Jan Jananayagam, head of Together Against Genocide, a non-profit that also obtained the leaked photographs, said: “Seven years have passed and the government of Sri Lanka is still in denial about the types of weapons deployed on Tamil civilians.

    “The denial of the use of cluster munitions and the destruction of forensic evidence over the past seven years illustrates exactly why it is critical that international investigators and forensic experts be included in any future war crimes prosecution mechanism.”

    The Sri Lankan government was contacted in preparation for this article but did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

    Anti-Corruption Front Files Petition Against Mahendran
    2016-Jun-20 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    Anti-Corruption Front Files Petition Against Mahendran

    Anti-Corruption Front filed a writ petition with the Court of Appeal seeking a Writ of Quo Warranto preventing Arjuna Mahendran from holding the position of governor of Central Bank.

    The petition points out that Mahendran can not pledge allegeance to the Constitution of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka since he is a citizen of Singapore.

    Furthermore, the petition also states that there have been previous allegations of corruption against him, most notably the Treasure bond issue on February 27, 2015.

    Muzammil Arrested By FCID
    2016-Jun-20 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    National Freedom Front Spokesman Mohammed National Freedom Front Spokesman Mohammed Muzammil Arrested By FCID

    National Freedom Front Spokesman Mohammed Muzammil was arrested by the Financial Crimes Investigations Division a short while ago.

    He was arrested over allegedly misusing vehicles of the Presidential Secretariat.

    Muzammil was arrested when he appeared before the FCID this morning to give a statement over the allegation.

    FCID To Be Replaced By Secret Fraud Office
    2016-Jun-20 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    FCID To Be Replaced By Secret Fraud Office

    The police Financial Crimes Investigations Division will be replaced by a new Secret Fraud Office, which will have more powers to investigate financial crimes, government sources said.

    The new institution will be based on the SFO in Britain. The current FCID is expected to be absorbed into the new organization.

    Cabinet Spokesman Rajitha Senaratne recently said that the FCID will be replaced by a more powerful institution created through a Parliamentary Act.

    The FCID is mandated to investigate into major financial crimes, frauds, unsolicited mega projects, major financial crimes against public property, money laundering, terrorist financing, illegal financial transactions, unlawful enrichment, and offenses of financial crimes against national security.

    The current term of the FCID is to end on June 30.

    Protest Held At Colombo Harbour Against Minister
    2016-Jun-17 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    Protest Held At Colombo Harbour Against Minister

    The Colombo Harbour security personnel started a protest this morning to oppose the suspension of two security officials attached to the Ports Authority.

    They have been suspended allegedly over granting permission for trade union and the media to visit the Ports Authority workshop in Slave Island.

    The Jathika Sevaka Sangamaya branch in Ports Authority allege that furniture were being made inside the workshop for the use of Minister Arjuna Ranatunga and other high officials.

    The Jathika Sevaka Sangamaya allege that the Minister and his family is misusing SLPA property for their own use.

    However, SLPA responded by stating that it was standard practice to provide such items for the official residences of the Ministers and other higher officials.

    Thilina Gamage Withdraws Motion Regarding High Court Order
    2016-Jun-17 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    Thilina Gamage Withdraws Motion Regarding High Court Order

    Former Additional Magistrate Thilina Gamage's lawyers withdrew a motion filed at the Colombo High Court seeking a clarification regarding the High Court's decision on the revision application filed by the AG.

    On Monday, Colombo High Court Judge Manilal Waidyathilake temporarily suspended the Nugegoda Magistrate's order to grant bail to former Additional Magistrate Thilina Gamage on alleged unlawful possession of an elephant calf.

    The direction was given by the judge following submissions by the Attorney General regarding the revision application filed on the same day.

    The Nugegoda Magistrate had granted bail to Gamage on June 2.

    When Gamage's motion was considered today, Senior State Counsel Dilipa Peiris said that the motion had been filed to seek clarification on a High Court order and that such a motion was illegal.

    Meanwhile, the Registrar of Nugegoda Magistrate's Court was noticed to provide the records of the Magisterial Inquiry into the bail application after it was informed that the records had not yet been submitted to the High Court as it was directed earlier.

    The revision application is to be considered on June 21.

    Sujeewa Jaywardena appointed Supreme Court judge 
    2016-Jun-17 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    Sujeewa Jaywardena appointed Supreme Court judge

    President’s Counsel Sujeewa Jaywardena has been appointed as a judge of the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka.

    He was sworn in before President Maithripala Sirisena yesterday (16) at the Presidential Secretariat, the President’s Media Division said.

    Meanwhile High Court Judge Piyasena Ranasinghe has been appointed as a member of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry to Investigate and Inquire into Serious Acts of Fraud, Corruption and Abuse of Power, State Resources and Privileges (also known as PRECIFAC).

    He received his letter of appointment from President Maithripala Sirisena yesterday (16) at the Presidential Secretariat.

    Lanka Ties Moved Ahead After Maithripala Sirisena Took Over: Indian Envoy
    2016-Jun-17 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    Lanka Ties Moved Ahead After Maithripala Sirisena Took Over: Indian Envoy

    India-Sri Lanka relations have moved ahead from "being focussed on the past" after President Maithripala Sirisena took over from his predecessor Mahinda Rajapaksa in January 2015, the Indian envoy said today.

    Indian High Commissioner YK Sinha said bilateral ties have become robust and entered a new phase with highest-level engagements.

    Recalling a flurry of high-level visits between the two South Asian neighbours across the Palk Strait, Sinha said ties entered a new phase since Sirisena took over from Rajapaksa.

    He said relations have moved ahead from being focused on the past.

    After Sirisena's ascent to power, there have been several high-level visits between India and Sri Lanka starting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in March 2015, which marked the first visit to the island nation by an Indian leader since 1987.

    Sirisena has twice visited India since January 2015. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe also made his first overseas visit to India, Mr Sinha said.

    Delivering a lecture on 'India-Sri Lanka relations in the 21st Century' at the Bandarnaike Centre for International Studies, Sinha said bilateral trade between the two nations have formed the cornerstone in the growing relationship.

    Contrary to perceptions, the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the two countries have been most fruitful, he said.

    Sri Lankan exports have grown 13 times since the FTA was signed in 1999. This will show who has benefited most, the Indian ambassador said.

    Sri Lanka and India enjoys a robust partnership and New Delhi is Colombo's largest partner in defence training, he said.

    On the fishermen issue, Sinha said it was a humanitarian issue with implications on the livelihoods of those involved.

    Negotiations are continuing to try and resolve the issue of fishermen of the two countries crossing the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL), he said.

    He said Sri Lanka's security is in India's interest. India stresses the need for reconciliation in Sri Lanka through a negotiated political settlement where all communities can agree. This must be within the framework of a united Sri Lanka, Mr Sinha said.

    Sirisena has taken steps to reconcile with the Tamil minority.

    Several confidence-building-measures such as the release of Tamils-owned lands, lifting of travel restrictions to the North and de-escalating the military presence have been taken since January as part of efforts to ensure reconciliation after three decades of civil war with the LTTE that claimed more than 100,000 lives.

    Government Considering Change In VAT For Alcohol, Cigarettes
    2016-Jun-16 | By Sihara Colombage

    Government Considering Change In VAT For Alcohol, Cigarettes

    The government is considering the removal of VAT exemption for cigarettes and alcohol, Minister of Special Assignment Sarath Amunugama said today.

    He made this observation at a press conference held in Colombo.

    Amunugama also said that the government was considering the removal of the VAT on medical laboratory tests and air tickets.

    Yoshitha Rajapaksa Released On Bail By Mount Lavinia Court
    2016-Jun-16 | By Sihara Colombage

    Yoshitha Rajapaksa Released On Bail By Mount Lavinia Court

    Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa's second son Yoshitha Rajapaksa was released on bail by the Mount Lavinia Courts today over the purchase of a land in Mihindu Mawatha, Mt. Lavinia.

    He was released on three sureties of Rs 1 million each.

    Rajapaksa has been charged under the Money Laundering Act.

    Veteran Politician Alavi Moulana Passes Away
    2016-Jun-16 | By Sihara Colombage

    Veteran Politician Alavi Moulana Passes Away

    Former Minister, former Governor of the Western Province and trade union leader Alavi Moulana has passed away at the age of 84.

    He was receiving treatment at a private hospital in Colombo.

    Moulana entered politics in 1948 as a trade unionist and went on to serve as a councilor in the Colombo Municipal Council and also as a Cabinet Minister under the People's Alliance government.

    After the election of Maithripala Sirisena as President, Moulana continued to support former President MAhinda Rajapaksa.

    Moulana's funeral will be held at the Dehiwala Jummah Mosque at 3.30 pm today(16). 

    AG Instructs CID To Take 'Necessary Legal Action' Against Thilina Gamage
    2016-Jun-16 | By Sihara Colombage

    AG Instructs CID To Take 'Necessary Legal Action' Against Thilina Gamage

    The Attorney General has instructed the Director of the CID to take necessary legal action against former Additional Magistrate Thilina Gamage to produce him before a court.

    This instruction has been given taking into consideration the fact that his bail has been suspended by the Colombo High Court.

    Gangodawila Magistrate Kanishka Wijeyratne granted Gamage bail on June 2 over alleged unlawful possession of an elephant calf. The AG filed a revision application at the Colombo High Court against the Magistrate's decision. The High Court suspended the bail till June 21, when the revision application will be considered again.

    An elephant calf named 'Sakura' was discovered from Gamage's residence in early 2015. It has been valued at Rs 6.9 million.

    Cabinet approves reintroduction of Capital Gains Tax
    2016-Jun-15 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    Cabinet approves reintroduction of Capital Gains Tax

    Sri Lanka’s Cabinet of Ministers has approved a proposal to reintroduce the Capital Gains Tax (CGT), to rectify the increase in inequality of income distribution.

    “During the last few decades there has been a massive increase in the private capital in the country,” cabinet spokesman and Media Minister Gayantha Karunathilaka said. 

    The increase in prices of land attributable to the large infrastructure developments carried out through government funds have enabled the land owners to make significant capital gains free of taxation. 

    This resulted in the increase in the inequality of income distribution, he told reports during the cabinet press briefing today.  

    “The Cabinet Committee on Economic Management agrees to reintroduce the Capital Gains Tax to rectify the situation and the proposal made by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe as the Chairman of the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, to draft a new Capital Gain Tax Regime, was approved by the Cabinet of Ministers.” 

    Cracks Appear In Government Over Likely Joining Of Thondaman
    2016-Jun-15 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    Cracks Appear In Government Over Likely Joining Of Thondaman

    The Tamil Progressive Alliance composed of three political parties, is likely to oppose any move to appoint Arumugam Thondaman as a minister of the government in the event of his joining.

    Leader of the National Workers' Congress, Minister Palani Digambaran, said in a TV interview today that he will oppose any move to appoint Thondaman as a Minister, along with the alliance.

    He added that he did not oppose any decision by Thondaman to join and support the government.

    The NWC is a constituent party of the TPA, the other partners being the Upcountry People's Front of V. Radhakrishnan and Democratic People's Front of Mano Ganesan.

    Both Digambaran and Radhakrishnan are rivals of Thondaman in the Nuwara Eliya District. They supported President Maithripala Sirisena during the January 2015 General Election, while Thondaman supported former Preside t Mahinda Rajapaksa.

    Sri Lanka Economy Faces Risks From Policy Inaction, External Environment: IMF
    2016-Jun-15 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    Sri Lanka Economy Faces Risks From Policy Inaction, External Environment: IMF

    The International Monetary Fund (IMF) said on Tuesday that Sri Lanka's economic outlook is facing risks from the government's inaction on key policies and a significant deterioration in the external environment.

    Sri Lanka's finances are in a precarious situation because of high external debt, partly due to heavy infrastructure borrowing under the previous government, Reuters reported.

    The island nation is also facing a balance of payments crisis due to heavy foreign outflows from government securities.

    "Despite positive growth momentum, the Sri Lankan economy is facing challenges due to the difficult external environment and a period of significant political transition," the IMF executive board said in a report after Article IV consultations, where IMF experts assess a country's financial and economic conditions, the Reuters report said.

    But the IMF said Sri Lanka's medium-term prospects appear favorable if current macro-financial imbalances can be addressed.

    The IMF earlier this month approved a three-year $1.5 billion loan to support Sri Lanka's economic reform agenda.

    The main objectives are reforms aimed at boosting government revenues to reduce the fiscal deficit, improving foreign exchange reserves, reducing public debt and Sri Lanka's risk of debt distress, and improving public financial management.

    The IMF has also asked the government to improve the operations of state owned enterprises and support a transition toward flexible inflation targeting with a flexible exchange rate regime.

    "While the government seeks to undertake sizable fiscal consolidation and tackle high priority structural reforms, growth momentum can be sustained with a solid commitment to reform, a clear direction on macroeconomic policies, and restoration of market confidence."

    The $82.2 billion economy's foreign exchange reserves have fallen by more than a third from their peak in late 2014 to $5.6 billion at the end of May, the lowest since February 2012, mainly due to foreign outflows of around $2 billion from government securities, Reuters stated.

    The IMF said that greater exchange rate flexibility and an exit from central bank intervention in the forex market would help protect and rebuild foreign exchange reserves.

    Somawansa Amarasinghe Passes Away
    2016-Jun-15 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    Somawansa Amarasinghe Passes Away

    Former leader of the JVP Somawansa Amarasinghe passed away at his residence in Rajagiriya at the age of 73.

    He was one of the 14 Politburo Members of the JVP during the 1987-89 insurrection. Furthermore, he was the only politburo member to survive the insurrection.

    Amarasinghe lived in exile before briefly returning in 2001. He returned several years later and has been residing in Sri Lanka till the time of his death.

    In April 2015 Amarasinghe left the JVP and later formed his own Janatha Sevaka Party. He vehemently criticized the present leadership of the JVP and alleged that the party leadership is no longer following Marxism.

    Turkish Foreign Minister Arrives In Sri Lanka
    2016-Jun-15 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    Turkish Foreign Minister Arrives In Sri Lanka

    Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavu?o?lu arrived in Sri Lanka on Tuesday for a two-day official visit.

    During his stay, Çavu?o?lu will meet with Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena; Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe; Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera; International Trade Minister Malik Samarawickrema; and Parliament Speaker Karu Jayasuriya.

    According to the Turkish Foreign Ministry, a number of issues will be discussed and cooperation agreements signed during Çavu?o?lu's visit, particularly in the fields of travel documentation and information exchange.

    Turkey-Sri Lanka relations date back to 1864, when the Ottoman imperial authorities appointed Hassen Lebbe Marikkar as honorary consul in Sri Lanka.

    After the island nation gained independence in 1948, Turkey's ambassador to New Delhi was also accredited for Sri Lanka.

    Last year's trade volume between the two countries amounted to some $139 million, with Turkey importing some $51 million worth of Sri Lankan goods and Sri Lanka importing some $88 million worth of Turkish products.

    CB Governor To Remain: Kiriella
    2016-Jun-14 | By Sihara Colombage

    CB Governor To Remain: Kiriella

    Central Bank Governor Arjuna Mahendran will be given an extension and will be in office after June 30, Minister Lakshman Kiriella said yesterday.

    Speaking at a press conference, he said that Mahendran has been cleared by the Supreme Court regarding the alleged bond scam at the Central Bank.

    In this aspect, is was wrong to accuse the Governor, he added.

    Meanwhile, when journalists queried as to what became of the special working committee appointed by the Prime Minister to investigate the matter, Kiriella said that the investigation is done by the COPE committee.

    Several SLFP Ministers in the government have demanded the removal of the Governor while the UNP continues to back him.

    Keheliya Rambukwella Appears Before FCID
    2016-Jun-14 | By Sihara Colombage

    Keheliya Rambukwella Appears Before FCID

    Former Minister Keheliya Rambukwella appeared before the Financial Crimes Investigations Division to give a statement.

    Police sources said that he was summoned to obtain a statement regarding the release of Rs 200 million for his medical expenses during the era of the Mahinda Rajapaksa government.

    The FCID questioned former Secretary to the President Lalith Weeratunga on the matter in late May.

    'European Ministers Do Not Travel Around', Rajitha Senaratne Defends Rs 1,180 Million Vehicle Project
    2016-Jun-14 | By Sihara Colombage

    'European Ministers Do Not Travel Around', Rajitha Senaratne Defends Rs 1,180 Million Vehicle Project

    Health Minister and Co-Cabinet Spokesman Rajitha Senaratne said that it was not fair to compare Ministers of European countries with Sri Lankan Ministers as the ministers in Europe do not have to travel around.

    Speaking to BBC Sandeshaya on the plans to buy vehicles at a cost of Rs 1,180 million for a number of ministers, he said that MPs have to attend various functions in their districts. Ministers on the other hand, have to travel around the country, Senaratne added.

    He reiterated that a four-wheel vehicle is needed to travel in some roads in Sri Lanka.

    Senaratne also said since ministers need to attend various functions such as weddings and funerals, at least 200 ministers would be needed to do the work needed to be done.

    He also claimed that the term 'luxury vehicles' was erroneous. The vehicles have become luxury vehicles due to the depreciation of the rupee, he said. In foreign countries, these vehicles are not considered as luxury vehicles, Senaratne added. 

    Sri Lanka’s investment in disaster risk insurance gives fast payoff
    2016-Jun-13 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    Sri Lanka’s investment in disaster risk insurance gives fast payoff

    The Sri Lankan government paid 300 million rupees ($2 million) as a premium to buy its first national natural disaster cover from the country’s National Insurance Trust Fund, the Reuters reported.


    Just six weeks later, as drenching rains swamped the country and a major landslide ripped through Aranayake region, in Kegalle District, the government made its first insurance claim, for nearly a million dollars, to provide meals and other immediate assistance to over 300,000 people hit by the disaster.


    Soon the cover will also provide financial help for those left with damaged or destroyed houses and small businesses, as well as paying compensation for deaths, said Manjula de Silva, chairman of the insurance trust, known as NIFT.


    “This is the first time a Sri Lanka government had bought such a cover and the flood disaster showed how vital such precautions can be,” he said.


    Around the world, insurance is increasingly being looked at as an effective way to curb the blow of more frequent or powerful disasters brought on by climate shifts. Policies ranging from regional-level risk pools, involving groups of countries, to single-farmer policies aimed to helping growers get going again after a total loss, are taking off in regions from the Caribbean to sub-Saharan Africa.


    In Sri Lanka, Finance Ministry Ravi Karunanayake said his country’s new insurance cover had eased the burden on the government to provide emergency assistance and long term recovery efforts after May’s crisis.


    The May disaster left 89 dead, while 102 are listed as missing by the Disaster Management Center (DMC). That authority also calculates that 691 houses were destroyed, while about 4,900 sustained damage during a week of heavy rain and landslides.


    But Karunanayake said that the government expects the estimate of houses damaged to rise to about 128,000. About a sixth of those are likely to need complete rebuilding, he said.


    “They were under water for seven days. That is no joke,” he said.
    The Sri Lanka Red Cross warned that the death toll could also rise. It estimated that less than a tenth of the 220 families living in the massive landslide area in the country’s central Arananayake region have been so far traced.


    Karunanayake said the insurance payout had made compensating families for deaths much easier.


    “We are ready, willing and able, due to the fact that we have insurance,” he said.


    NIFT head de Silva said that the compensation could be as high as 2.5 million rupees ($17,000) for individual homes and small businesses, and fatalities would be compensated with 100,000 rupees ($670).


    NIFT, a public body under the Ministry of Finance, is able to provide payouts of up to 10 billion rupees ($68 million) to policyholders by obtaining reinsurance from global providers.


    Damage assessments in the country began only last week and are expected to take another two weeks.


    Despite Sri Lanka being hit by frequent extreme weather, this is the first time the country has bought an insurance policy. Karunanayake said that as the 2015 budget was being prepared, officials assessed that the annual impact of extreme weather on the economy was between 450 million and 700 million rupees ($3 million to $4.8 million).


    “In the budget we looked at the annual impact and I wanted to ensure the risk to the government was reduced,” he said.


    All Sri Lankans who don’t have private insurance cover against natural disasters are protected under the policy, NITF’s de Silva said, adding that the request for the insurance policy came from Finance Ministry.


    “The cover greatly enhances the ability of the government to face these extremes that are not likely to get any smaller,” he said.


    A recent joint assessment by the Sri Lankan government and the World Food Programme said that annually at least 700,000 Sri Lankans are being affected by climate hazards.


    The report said that the biggest risks were floods and droughts linked to the erratic monsoons. Since 2011, the South Asian island has recorded four major floods and three major droughts, it said.


    “Climate variability and change disproportionately affect the poorest and most food-insecure through a combination of decreasing crop production, decreasing resource availability, higher magnitude of disasters and unpredictable weather,” the report said. De Silva called the new insurance policy a clearly good investment.


    “Without a doubt, the importance of insuring against climate risks and the kind of impact it has on government finances was demonstrated last month,” he said.

     

    Govt set to abolish strict foreign exchange regulations 
    2016-Jun-10 | By Sihara Colombage

    Govt set to abolish strict foreign exchange regulations

    Sri Lanka on Thursday announced plans to lift six-decade-old restrictions on foreign exchange flows and allow free transfer of money in and out of the island, to encourage investment in the struggling economy.

    The island tightly controls foreign currency transactions under a 1953 law that does not allow the free repatriation of capital, in an effort to protect its modest foreign reserves.

    Under the present strict rules, exporters must bring back their foreign earnings within a short period of time or face penalties. Analysts say the policy deters investors.

    “We can remove exchange controls before the next budget (in November),” Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said in parliament.

    “We are strong enough to do that. We have that confidence.”

    Last week, Sri Lanka received the first tranche of a $1.5 billion bailout from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to shore up the island’s economy, left reeling after a spending spree by the new government.

    The premier said Sri Lanka’s foreign reserves were expected to double to $12 billion by the end of this year thanks to loans and grants from China, India and Japan.

    The island also plans to raise about $4.2 billion with two bond issues, Wickremesinghe said.

    The announcements came during a parliamentary session in which the opposition moved a no-trust resolution against Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake accusing him of arbitrarily raising taxes. Earlier this month, Karunanayake sharply raised taxes on cars shortly after announcing an increase in the island’s value added tax from 11 to 15 per cent.

    But the no-confidence move was defeated by 94 votes in the 225-member assembly, where the ruling party commands a two-thirds majority.

    Soon after President Maithripala Sirisena’s government came to power in January last year, the finance minister led a spending spree to implement election pledges of higher public sector salaries and reduced taxes.

    However, the country soon found itself in a balance of payments crisis.

    The IMF noted last week that Sri Lanka’s economy was under strain from an increasingly difficult external environment and has warned Colombo that it should increase tax collection.

    Sri Lanka enjoyed blistering economic growth rates averaging more than eight per cent for two years after a prolonged civil war ended in 2009.

    But the pace of expansion has since slowed, falling to 4.8 per cent in 2015, down from 4.9 per cent in the previous year, according to official data

     

    Thewarapperuma Refuses Ministerial Vehicle: "Politicians Should Focus More On Serving People"
    2016-Jun-09 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    Thewarapperuma Refuses Ministerial Vehicle: "Politicians Should Focus More On Serving People"

    Deputy Minister of North Western Development and Cultural Affairs Palitha Thewarapperuma has refused a vehicle that was allocated for him by the Ministry.

    Sending a letter to the Secretary to the Ministry, Thewarapperuma said that he does  not need a vehicle from the Ministry. He directed the minister to transfer the Rs 28 million for a welfare program for local artistes.

    Thewarapperuma explained that politicians should focus on serving people rather than their personal comfort. He added that politicians do not receive a positive feedback especially in social media due to their excessive spending.

    The government is facing severe criticism for seeking an allocation of Rs 1,180 million for vehicles for a number of Ministers.

    Sri Lanka Acknowledges 65,000 Missing In Civil Wars Over Past Decades
    2016-Jun-09 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    Sri Lanka's former President and Head of its Reconciliation Office Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga acknowledged that some 65,000 people are missing from its 26-year-long war with Tamil Tiger rebels and a separate Marxist insurrection.

    President Maithripala Sirisena's coalition government has agreed to address past human rights violations through independent probes and to implement a resolution by the United Nation Human Rights Council (UNHRC).

    Former president Mahinda Rajapaksa's government had rejected the UN recommendations, saying it wanted to address rights concerns without any international pressure. Rajapaksa lost power in January 2015.

    "Since 1994 various commissions have documented that there are about 65,000 people missing or not found to be dead," Kumaratunga told reporters on Wednesday.

    "We will get a final list later from the office of missing persons."

    The Tamil Tigers began fighting in 1983 for an independent Tamil state in the north and east of the island of Sri Lanka.

    Their insurgency ended in 2009. Separately a radical Marxist group waged an armed revolt against the government in 1987-89.

    Sri Lanka also said on Wednesday a certificate of absence would be given to relatives allowing them to temporarily manage the property and assets of missing people, to obtain provisional guardianship of their children and apply for government welfare schemes.

    The government has set up an office to independently investigate the cases of thousands of missing people, who are mostly from the ethnic minority Tamils, after the United Nations urged the government to probe such disappearances.

    However, relatives have accused the government of doing almost nothing to find the missing people as promised in the UN resolution.

    The government is due to make an oral representation in Geneva later this month on its progress in implementing the UN resolution, which aims to address rights violations.

    The United Nations and rights groups have long urged justice for the families of those who disappeared during the war, including those who were alleged to have been secretly abducted by state-backed groups and paramilitary outfits.

    Manusha Nanayakkara Opposes Granting Service Extension To Central Bank Governor
    2016-Jun-09 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    Manusha Nanayakkara Opposes Granting Service Extension To Central Bank Governor

    Deputy Minister Manusha Nanayakkara stated yesterday that he was opposed to granting a service extention for Central Bank Governor Arjuna Mahendran, who was said to be involved in the alleged bond scam at the bank.

    Nanayakkara said that he will never keep silent on financial frauds. He also revealed that the SLFP stalwarts in the government had discussed the matter of the Central Bank Governor with the President and the Prime Minister.

    The discussions have been inconclusive for the time being, he also added.

    Speaking about the economic situation in the country, Nanayakkara acknowledged that there were difficulties. However, opposing the Finance Minister at this juncture will not help the government, Nanayakkara also said.

    However, the no-faith motion against the Finance Minister should be used as a turning point in creating a discourse about the economic situation, he said.

    Co-Cabinet Spokesmen Struggles To Explain Spending Rs 1,180 Million For Vehicles
    2016-Jun-09 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    File Photo

    Co-Cabinet Spokesmen Gayantha Karunathilake and Rajitha Senaratne struggled to explain the reasons for a supplementary expenditure of Rs 1,180 million to buy vehicles for Ministers, Deputy Ministers and State Ministers at the Cabinet press briefing yesterday.

    The media repeatedly questioned them as to why they are spending so much money whereas the people are being asked to bear the cost of foreign debts.

    Senaratne attempted to defend the decision to seek such a high amount by saying that good quality vehicles were needed to travel in difficult terrain. The journalists pointed out that the exorbitant costs of Rs 25 million upwards is not required to buy a vehicle of good condition, given that the ministers were also granted tax concessions in importing vehicles.

     

    Joint Opposition Hands Over No-faith Motion Against General Secretary Of Parliament
    2016-Jun-08 | By Sihara Colombage

    Joint Opposition Hands Over No-faith Motion Against General Secretary Of Parliament

    The Joint Opposition today handed over a no confidence motion against the General Secretary of Parliament Dhammika Dissanayake on his conduct at the recent vote on a supplementary estimate.

    The motion was signed by 32 MPs of the Joint Opposition.

    A supplementary Appropriation Bill for Rs 55 million for the 2016 fiscal year moved by the Government was passed in Parliament on May 5 with a majority of just 2 votes. It was announced that 33 MPs voted for it while 31 opposed. However the opposition insisted that the votes were not counted correctly.

    Protesting Provincial Councilor Removes Sarong, Climbs On Top Of Table
    2016-Jun-08 | By Sihara Colombage

    Protesting Provincial Councilor Removes Sarong, Climbs On Top Of Table [VIDEO]

    UNP Western Provincial Councilor from Kalutara District Ifthikar Jamil removed his sarong and climbed on top of the table inside the council chamber to protest over the quota given to get students enrolled for Grade 1 of schools under provincial council control.

    He accused UPFA councilor Prasanna Sanjeewa of using up the quota without giving him an opportunity.

    In response, Sanjeewa claimed that he is prepared to answer Jamil outside the chamber and he knows how to answer him.

    However, Jamil later ended his protest, wrapped his sarong back and returned to his seat.

     

    Prasanna Ranatunga, Wife Served Indictment Over Alleged Bribery Case
    2016-Jun-08 | By Sihara Colombage

    Colombo High Court served indictment on UPFA MP Prasanna Ranatunga and his wife over the incident where they had allegedly accepted a bribe from a businessman.

    The Attorney General filed indictment at Colombo High Court on June 3 over the incident where Ranatunga had allegedly solicited a bribe of Rs 64 million from a businessman in Moratuwa and had accepted Rs 15 million.

    It was alleged that Ranatunga accepted the bribe by a cheque written in his wife's name.

    They had been summoned to appear in court on June 17. However, they informed through a motion that they were required to be abroad on that particular date and requested the court to consider the case today.

    The High Court agreed to their request and took up the case today.

    The Ranatungas were released on bail by High Court Judge Manilal Vaidyatilake. They were released on a cash bail of Rs 1 million and two sureties of Rs 2.5 million each.

    Government Seeks Rs 1,180 Million To Buy Vehicles For Ministers (See List Of Ministers)
    2016-Jun-08 | By Sihara Colombage

    File Photo

    The government yesterday presented to the Parliament a Supplementary Estimate for Rs 1,180 million to buys vehicles for thirty ministers.

    Minister Gayantha Karunathilake presented this on behalf of the Finance Minister.

    Accordingly, Rs 70 million is to be allocated for Chandima Weerakkody and Anoma Gamage. Vajira Abeywardena and Nimal Lanza are to be allocated Rs. 99 million. Gamini Jayawickrama Perera and Sumedha G. Jayasena (Rs 70 million), Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe and Dushmantha Mithrapala (Rs 70 million), D.M. Swaminathan and M.L.M Hisbullah (Rs 70 million) are to be allocated funds as well.

    Harin Fernando and Tharanath Basnayake are to be allocated Rs 91 million.

    The other ministers include Rauff Hakeem, Sarath Amunugama, Vijith Vijayamuni Soyza, Ranjith Siyambalapitiya, P. Digambaran (Rs 35 million each), Anura Priyadarshana Yapa and Dunesh Gankanda (Rs 63 million), Sujeewa Senasinghe (Rs 28 million), Champika Premadasa (Rs 35 million), T.B. Ekanayake (Rs 35 million) Wasantha Senanayake (Rs. 35 million), Lasantha Alagiyawanna (Rs 56 million), Arundika Fernando (Rs 56 million), Manusha Nanayakkara (28 million) Indika Bandarnaike (Rs 28 million) and Susantha Punchinilame (Rs 27.5 million)

    Debate on no-confidence motion against Ravi today
    2016-Jun-08 | By Sihara Colombage

    Debate on no-confidence motion against Ravi today

    The debate on the motion of no-confidence against Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake will be held today 08.


    The no-confidence motion, signed by 37 MPs, was handed over to the Speaker on March 24. 


    A special meeting headed by President Maithripala Sirisena was held on June 06 in this regard at the President Secretariat Office as well.

     

    Gotabaya Rajapaksa Reveals His Principles In Politics
    2016-Jun-07 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    Gotabaya Rajapaksa Reveals His Principles In Politics [VIDEO]

    Former Defence secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa yesterday revealed his principles in politics and said that he was ready to work together with anyone who safeguards the unitary status of the country and the war heroes who defeated terrorism.

    Speaking at an event in Colombo, he said that whether he becomes the first or the second is immaterial.

    He was referring to a recent statement made by Minister John Seneviratne, who said that discussions were being conducted to make Gotabaya Rajapaksa the second leader of the SLFP.

    President Maithripala Sirisena is the Chairman of the party. However, a large section of the party still support former President Mahinda Rajapaksa and are in opposition to the government.

    Seneviratne said that Gotabaya Rajapaksa's elevation would bring about reconciliation between the two camps in the party.

    However, senior members of the Maithri camp have been opposed or silent on the matter. Former President Chandrika Kumaratunga expressed her total rejection of the proposal at a recent event. MEanwhile party stalwart Nimal Siripala de Silva declined to comment on this when he was queried by the media recently.

    CBK To Leave Government If Gotabaya Rajapaksa Comes In
    2016-Jun-07 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    CBK To Leave Government If Gotabaya Rajapaksa Comes In

    Former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga said that she will not be able to stay in the government if former Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa is appointed to the SLFP as some party stalwarts have suggested.

    Speaking at an event on Sunday she said that the government was brought in to stop the looting of the country.

    Minister John Seneviratne recently said that discussions were underway to make Gotabaya Rajapaksa the 'second leader' of the SLFP to prevent the party from breaking up. The SLFP is divided as the pro-Maithripala Sirisena and the pro-Mahinda Rajapaksa camps and the latter supports the 'Joint Opposition' formed by the pro-Rajapaksa group in the UPFA.

    Basil Rajapaksa Released On Bail Over Land Issue
    2016-Jun-07 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    Basil Rajapaksa Released On Bail Over Land Issue

    Former Minister of Economic Development Basil Rajapaksa, who was arrested by the FCID earlier in the day over a land issue, was released on bail by the Pugoda Magistrate a short while ago.

    He was released on a cash bail of Rs 100,000 and two sureties of Rs 2 million each.

    He was arrested after he appeared before the FCID to give a statement over the purchase of a 17 acre land and a house in Malwana, Biyagama.

    This is the second time he was arrested over land issues by the FCID in recent weeks. In early May, he was arrested over a land issue in Matara and was released on bail.

    Basil Rajapaksa Arrested Again Over Land Issue
    2016-Jun-06 | By Sihara Colombage

    Basil Rajapaksa Arrested Again Over Land Issue

    Former Minister of Economic Development Basil Rajapaksa was arrested by the FCID a short while ago over a land issue.

    He was arrested after he appeared before the FCID to give a statement over the purchase of a 17 acre land and a house in Malwana, Biyagama.

    He is expected to be produced before the Pugoda Magistrate.

    This is the second time he was arrested over land issues by the FCID in recent weeks. In early May, he was arrested over a land issue in Matara and was released on bail.

    Government Revenue Has Dropped, Forcing Drastic Decisions: S.B. Dissanayake
    2016-Jun-01 | By Sihara Colombage

    Government Revenue Has Dropped, Forcing Drastic Decisions: S.B. Dissanayake

    Government revenue has dropped significantly and it is also affecting the country's ability to seek foreign aid, Minister of Social Empowerment and Welfare S.B. Dissanayake said.

    Speaking to media recently, the minister said that this fact is brought up regularly when the government discusses the financial issues with the IMF, World Bank and other financial institutions.

    Since the essential services are being conducted with government funds, it is vital to increase government revenue, Dissanayake added.

    He explained that this was the reason for several drastic decisions of the government, including the increase of vehicle taxes. However, these are short term measures by the government, he added. 

    NGO Questions Sirisena Government's Resettlement Record
    2016-Jun-01 | By Sihara Colombage

    NGO Questions Sirisena Government's Resettlement Record

    One and a half years after Maithripala Sirisena became Sri Lankan President, thousands continue to live in camps of internally-displaced persons (IDPs) or with relatives, waiting to return home, says a California-based policy think tank.

    In its 16-page report, the Oakland Institute has stated that as of November 2015, about 11,500 families (38,500 people) were identified as IDPs. Most of them are living with their friends and relatives. In 32 camps, there were 1,158 families (4,238 persons).

    However, an official at the Resettlement Ministry says the number of families in the camps in Tellipalai of the Jaffna district and Poonthottam, Vavuniya, has come down to 1,068 with 3,700 persons.

    Finding fault with the way the Sirisena government has been handling the issue of resettlement, the NGO says “it is difficult to ascertain how many of the promised lands have actually been released for full resettlement, and how many households have successfully been resettled. What is clear is that the promises made by the government to date are far below the total necessary lands required to adequately resettle all the current IDPs.”

    Military camp

    The institute has also cited a new military camp in Sampur, where the Navy released the entire 237 acres to owners concerned, terming it a “major security concern for the locals who have faced harassment and abuse at the hands of the Sri Lankan Army over the years”.

    However, Navy spokesperson Akram Alavi said camps of the Army, Navy or Air Force are there in many cities and towns and the southern parts of Sri Lanka are no exception. Emphasising that no problem exists between the camps and residents in the neighbourhood, he said the Navy has been undertaking many CSR-type activities. “In Sampur, a school has been fully renovated,” Capt. Alavi said.

    The NGO pointed out that “the challenges of resettlement when little to no infrastructure remains, lands are not ready for cultivation, and land titles are not clear given communities fled under heavy shelling without papers, represents a huge problem”. Expressing shock over the present attitude of international community towards Sri Lanka, the organisation urged leaders to impress upon Colombo to form “an independent and international” investigation into alleged war crimes , return land to its rightful owners and allow the displaced to rebuild their lives and livelihoods.

    Japan Offers Two Patrol Ships, US $ 345 Mn Loans To Sri Lanka
    2016-May-28 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    Japan Offers Two Patrol Ships, US $ 345 Mn Loans To Sri Lanka

    Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena on Saturday that Japan will provide two patrol vessels to the South Asian country as part of their maritime security cooperation.

    Without mentioning China's increasing activities in the Indian Ocean and the East and South China seas, Japan and Sri Lanka "reconfirmed the importance of maintaining the freedom of the high seas and maritime order based on the rule of law," according to a statement issued after their meeting in Nagoya, central Japan.

    In a separate meeting with Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Abe offered Japan's cooperation in development of the country, according to the Japanese Foreign Ministry.

    Japan is eager to strengthen ties with the two countries amid China's growing influence in the region under the so-called "string of pearls" strategy, a network of Chinese investment in maritime facilities stretching from the South China Sea to the Arabian Sea as if to encircle India.

    New Delhi, similarly, has become concerned about Beijing's increased presence in the Indian Ocean.

    In talks with Sirisena, Abe pledged 38 billion yen (about $345 million) in loans to Sri Lanka for construction of transmission lines and water supply facilities in the country, the statement said.

    Vehicle Prices To Go Up Following Increase Of Rate Tax
    2016-May-27 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    Vehicle Prices To Go Up Following Increase Of Rate Tax

    Prices of vehicles above 1000cc engine capacity and three-wheelers are expected to increase, the Vehicle Importers Association said.

    This increase takes place due to the Minimum Rate Tax increase which came into effect midnight yesterday.

    Cyclone Roanu: Sri Lanka Appeals For Up To US $ 2 Billion Aid
    2016-May-26 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    Cyclone Roanu: Sri Lanka Appeals For Up To US $ 2 Billion Aid

    Sri Lanka on Wednesday (May 25) appealed for foreign aid to recover from massive floods that caused an estimated US$2 billion worth of damage and claimed more than 100 lives, AFP said.

    Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake said 35,000 homes were damaged in last week's floods triggered by the heaviest rain for early 25 years, with the capital Colombo the hardest hit.

    "We are looking at the maximum possible support," the minister told reporters, adding, though, that he expected foreign countries would foot about 75 per cent of total reconstruction costs.

    Karunanayake blamed rampant construction in low-lying parts of Colombo that had been designated as stormwater collection points, as reasons for the flooding which hit about one third of the city's residents.

    "The main cause is the filling of marshland and putting up of buildings," the minister said.

    Karunanayake said strict new building codes would be introduced from Jun 1 to prevent such land being reclaimed for construction in future.

    He said he was hoping for foreign assistance mostly in the form of grants and loans, but also called for overseas expertise in urban planning to prevent such disasters.

    Several countries sent emergency aid last week at the height of the disaster, including India, which dispatched two naval ships and an aircraft loaded with supplies.

    The Disaster Management Centre (DMC) said 101 people were known to have died in various locations last week, while another 100 were still listed as missing in the central district of Kegalle.

    Landslides ripped through two villages in Kegalle, 100 kilometres (60 miles) northeast of Colombo, with soldiers still searching for victims buried under tonnes of mud.

    Rain has eased since Cyclone Roanu moved away from Sri Lanka, hitting southern Bangladesh on Saturday and killing at least 24 people there, before weakening.

    No Plans To Return To Sri Lanka: Udayanga Weeratunga (Read Full Statement)
    2016-May-25 | By Sihara Colombage

    No Plans To Return To Sri Lanka: Udayanga Weeratunga (Read Full Statement)

    Former Ambassador to Russia Udayanga Weeratunga said that he has no intention of returning to Sri Lanka to become easy prey to the "Yahapaalana government" which fabricates lies against him.

    Contrary to the claims by the government, there is no charge against him in Ukraine and he lives there at present, Weeratunga added.

    Commenting on his recent meetings with former President Mahinda Rajapaksa in Thailand and Uganda, Weeratunga said that he could meet the former President in any location as he has not committed a crime. However, returning to Sri lanka will make him easy prey to fabricated charges, he added.

    The full press release is given below:

    During the last few weeks, several ministers and the media who worked for the current regime have started to attack me again by making unacceptable false stories on me. The latest incident that they started to highlight, where I met former president. My visit to Thailand and Uganda has shown as a crime where an internationally wanted person who came out from hiding. First of all, I wish to inform you that as a person who didn’t commit any offence I can meet the former president at any location in the world without any obstacle. As you aware, I have no plan to meet the former president in Sri Lanka because I do not want to become a victim of the vicious vindictive campaign that goes after a selected group who are loyal to the former president. Due to my loyalty to the former president, I too have become a member of the group, which Yahapalana is after.

    Prior to my appointment as the Ambassador of Sri Lanka to Russia during the last government, I was living in Ukraine but not in Sri Lanka. After I resign from the ambassador position, I returned back to Ukraine until today. The ‘Yahapalana’ government currently started a false propaganda campaign against me, stating that I supplied arms to the groups of Ukraine terrorists. This is a completely false accusation. How can a person who supplied arms to anti-Ukrainian rebels freely live in the capital city of Ukraine?

    Once, the current regime has found that this fabricated lie was not accepted by the public, the new set of false stories are to be released against me. Another rumour that the current regime spread was about the death of Mr Noel Ranaweera who worked as a messenger at the Sri Lankan Embassy in Russia. They falsely accused me that I was responsible for the death of Mr Ranaweera. However, the Russian driver who was responsible for Noel’s death was prosecuted and being sentenced by the Russian courts. With the sentencing of the Russian driver who caused the death of Noel, the false murder accusation which current regime fabricated became null and void. Detail report about the court proceedings and about the sentenced was delivered to the Sri Lankan Foreign ministry.

    Another rumour that they released was the using of the diplomatic passport after my tenure as the Ambassador. However, this fabricated story again became a useless lie once the Department of Immigration and Emigration made a news release to the media. In the news release, they clearly indicated the diplomatic passport that I was using as an ambassador was cancelled and on 06th of March 2015 issued normal passports for us. After this news release, the some of the leaders were furious and discussed this matter at a recent cabinet meeting.

    The current government is trying to portray me as a wanted person who is hiding from Sri Lankan and Ukrainian authorities and hiding from justice by moving from one country to another. I wish to emphasise that I live in Ukraine and currently have started to study for a Ph.D. at a Defense university in this country. Further, I wish to let the public aware that I am organising the Sri Lankans living abroad against this vicious government. I have no any plan to come to Sri Lanka to become an easy prey of the current regime. I ensure that it is not going to be an easy task for this vicious vindictive person to hunt me down for crimes which I have not done.

    Navy Displeased On Action Of Eastern Province CM: Report To Be Handed Over To Defence Secretary Today
    2016-May-25 | By Sihara Colombage

    Navy Displeased On Action Of Eastern Province CM: Report To Be Handed Over To Defence Secretary Today

    The Navy will hand over a report to the Defence Secretary today on the recent public reprimand of a navy officer by the Eastern Province Chief Minister.

    Chief Minister Z.A. Nazeer Ahmed scolded a navy officer over a dispute at a recent event at the Sampur Vidyalaya.

    In a video released online, the Chief Minister is seen scolding the navy officer, demanding him to "just get out from here" if he does not understand the 'protocol'.

    It has been revealed that the dispute occurred after the American Ambassador was invited to stage before the Chief Minister. However, the Chief Minister was not expected at the event. It was earlier expected that he would be abroad on the day of the event. He was invited by the Governor to attend the function.

    However, the navy was reportedly not responsible for the preparation of the agenda of the event.

    Nazeer Ahmed has accused the Governor for the dispute. However, speaking to the local media, the Governor flatly refuted these claims, adding that he only attempted to calm the situation.

    TNA Has No Right To Oppose Buddhist Temples: Hindu Federation Sri Lanka (VIDEO) 
    2016-May-25 | By Sihara Colombage

    TNA Has No Right To Oppose Buddhist Temples: Hindu Federation Sri Lanka (VIDEO)

    Buddhism is Sri Lanka's identity and therefore no one has the right to term Buddhist constructions as an invasion, Hindu Federation - Sri Lanka Chairman N. Arunakanthan said.

    In a recent statement, Arunakanthan slammed the TNA, saying that some TNA members incite the Tamil people by making unnecessary statements.

    Tamil Buddhists lived in the north and east a thousand years back, he claimed.

    Meanwhile, he also points out that the Sinhalese have not opposed the construction of Kovils in the south. Therefore the TNA must stop making these baseless claims, he argued.

     

    Wigneswaran Takes Oaths In Additional Portfolios
    2016-May-24 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    Wigneswaran Takes Oaths In Additional Portfolios

    North Province Chief Minister C. V. Wigneswaran took oath before the Governor of Northern Province Reginald Cooray as the Provincial Minister of Women’s Affairs, and Social Services and Rehabilitation.

    His ministerial portfolio includes the Provincial Ministries of Finance and Planning, Law and Order, Land and Road Development, Electricity, Housing and Constructions, Industry and Entreprise Development, Tourism, and Local Governance and Provincial Councils. 

    US offers 3-year program to assist flood affected; grants Rs 7.2 million
    2016-May-21 | By Sihara Colombage

    US offers 3-year program to assist flood affected; grants Rs 7.2 million

    In view of the serious flooding in western Sri Lanka, the United States Government has provided 7.2 million Sri Lankan Rupees ($50,000 U.S. dollars) for immediate disaster assistance for non-food items such as blankets, mattresses, clothing and hygiene kits.

    “In addition, the United States Embassy in Colombo, in coordination with the United States Agency for International Development’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, is advancing and expediting plans to support a new, three-year program totaling approximately 144 million Sri Lankan Rupees (U.S. $1 million) designed to provide safe, disaster-resilient, drinking water to populations who are highly vulnerable to flooding and droughts.”  

    “This new program would build additional resiliencies and help address the need for reliable access to potable water during natural disasters,” the US Embassy said in a statement.

    “This response is in keeping with the longstanding friendship between the Sri Lankan and American people and the growing partnership between our two governments,” said Ambassador Atul Keshap.

    The Embassy said that it is monitoring the situation and continues to work closely with Sri Lankan government disaster relief authorities to identify further needs.

    - See more at: http://adaderana.lk/news/35360/us-offers-3-year-program-to-assist-flood-affected-grants-rs-72-million#sthash.uBdjYvFr.dpuf

    Sri Lanka to get over $3.5 billion from Japan for development
    2016-May-20 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    Sri Lanka to get over $3.5 billion from Japan for development

     

    Japan will lend Sri Lanka more than $3.5 billion, mostly to finance development, Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake said on Thursday, as the island nation tries to reduce its debt costs and avert a balance of payments crisis.

     

    Karunanayake told parliament the cost of borrowing would be between 3.5 and 4 percent once the cost of swapping yen to dollars was taken into account.

     

    “We are getting more than $3,500 million from Japan for our development activities,” he said, adding that $1.2 billion would be used to buy government bonds and $2.5 billion used for lending to development projects.

     

    Sri Lanka agreed a $1.5 billion bailout with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) last month to help address the balance of payments crisis caused by big foreign outflows from government securities and high external debt repayments.

     

    The previous government borrowed heavily to fund infrastructure while foreigners have sold around $2 billion of government debt since early last year.

     

    Karunanayake said a special advisor to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had met President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on Wednesday before pledging the money.

     

    The government that took office in August last year has already has raised taxes and introduced new taxes to reduce a yawning budget deficit and borrowing.

     

    “There won’t be any difficulty for capital expenditure and we have stopped commercial borrowing at expensive cost,” the finance minister said. “We will go for commercial borrowing only if we can get money below the rate at which we can raise money through international bonds.”

     

    Karunanayake said Sri Lanka’s new loan would be taken in yen at an interest rate of 0.05 percent. Most of the money will then be swapped into dollars, with some yen will be used to pay for imports from Japan.

     

    He said the total borrowing cost would be 3.5-4 percent “with the exchange fluctuation risks and dollar swap”.

     

    Japan disbursed $2.69 billion to Sri Lanka between January 2006 and September 2014, Treasury data showed, putting it second only to China as a sovereign lender, Reuters reports.

     

    Military Personnel Not Allowed To Take Part In Kurunegala War Anniversary Event: Def. Secretary
    2016-May-17 | By Sihara Colombage

    Military Personnel Not Allowed To Take Part In Kurunegala War Anniversary Event: Def. Secretary

    Military personnel will not be allowed to take part in the war anniversary event to be held in Kurunegala under the auspices of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Defence Secretary Karunasena Hettiarachchi said yesterday.

    Speaking to the media he said that the official state event will be held on May 18 in Battaramulla.

    Given that the war has been over for some years and the government's attempt to rebuild reconciliation, the government has decided against holding a military parade, he also said. Instead, a cultural event will be held to mark the end of the war, he added.

    Finance Ministry Announces Emergency Compensation For Victims Of Weather Disasters
    2016-May-17 | By Sihara Colombage

    Finance Minister

    The Finance Ministry yesterday allocated emergency funds for compensation for victims of disasters related to weather.

    Accordingly, a damaged house was to get a maximum compensation of Rs 2.5 million. The family of a person killed due to weather disasters is to receive Rs 100,000.

    If a fisherman loses his life, his family is to be paid compensation of Rs 1 million, the Ministry said.

    Rosy Senanayake's Petition Requesting Recount Of Preferential Votes Dismissed
    2016-May-16 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    Rosy Senanayake's Petition Requesting Recount Of Preferential Votes Dismissed

    The Fundamental Rights petition filed by former Minister Rosy Senanayake requesting a recount of the preferential votes of the 2015 August 17 General Election was today dismissed by the Supreme Court.

    The Attorney General submitted relevant documents to the court, pointing out that the UNP party agents had signed them saying that the election counting was carried out without an error.

    Senanayake had argued that the counting had been erroneous, which affected her negatively.

    However, the court accepted the argument by the AG and dismissed the case.

    Senanayake came 12th in the UNP preferential list in Colombo District. Only 11 UNP candidates entered the Parliament.

    Court Allows Johnston Fernando To Travel Abroad
    2016-May-16 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    Court Allows Johnston Fernando To Travel Abroad

    Colombo Chief Magistrate Gihan Pilapitiya today released the passport of former Minister Johnston Fernando for a period of one week for him to travel to Singapore.

    Fernando's passport has been impounded in relation to five cases filed by the Bribery Commission for not declaring his assets and liabilities for the years from 2010 to 2014.

    He made a request for the release of his passport from May 20 to 25 to travel to Singapore for his wife's medical treatment.

    The Magistrate allowed the passport to be released from May 20 to 27. The Bribery Commission did not object.

    Rohitha Abeygunawardena Appears Before PRECIFAC
    2016-May-16 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    Rohitha Abeygunawardena Appears Before PRECIFAC

    Former Minister Rohith Abeygunawardena appeared before the Presidential Commission of Inquiry to Investigate and Inquire into Serious Acts of Fraud, Corruption and Abuse of Power, State Resources and Privileges (PRECIFAC) to give a statement over a complaint on the ceremony to fill water to the Hambantota Port held in 2010.

    He was then the Project Minister of Ports and Shipping in the Mahinda Rajapaksa government.

    Mervyn Silva To Hold Special Press Conference On Monday
    2016-May-15 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    Mervyn Silva To Hold Special Press Conference On Monday

    Former Minister Mervyn Silva said that he will convene a special press conference at the Public Library on Monday morning.

    He made this observation when he left the FCID yesterday, after arriving there to give a statement.

    However, Silva refused to disclose any details of the press conference.

    He maintained that the FCID should have been established earlier, so that politicians would have been reluctant to steal public money.

    VAT Is Imposed Even On Air, Says Bandula Gunewardena
    2016-May-14 | By Sihara Colombage

    VAT Is Imposed Even On Air, Says Bandula Gunewardena

    UPFA MP Bandula Gunawardena said that the 15 percent VAT has affected the people in an extremely harsh manner, and that the VAT is imposed on even the air.

    Speaking at a 'Joint Oposition' press conference today, he showed a bill issued for pumping air, to establish his claim.

    Gunawardena said that the VAT has hit the small and medium businesses extremely hard. Retail and wholesale businesses with a turnover of Rs 12 million has been subjected to VAT, he added, pointing out that the Rajapaksa government imposed on VAT only on a limit of Rs 250 million.

    Therefore businesses with a turnover of Rs 33,334 per day will be subjected to the VAT, he explained.

    Basil Rajapaksa's Wife, Daughter Out Of Country, PRECIFAC Informed
    2016-May-13 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    Basil Rajapaksa's Wife, Daughter Out Of Country, PRECIFAC Informed

    Former Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa’s wife Pushpa Rajapaksa and daughter Thejani have informed the Presidential Commission of Inquiry to Investigate and Inquire into Serious Acts of Fraud, Corruption and Abuse of Power, State Resources and Privileges (PRECIFAC) that they are unable to appear before it today since they were out of the country.

    This is the second occasion that they were unable to report to the commission.

    They had been asked to report to the commission on May 4 and 5, but informed that they were overseas.

    Basil Rajapaksa Released On Bail
    2016-May-13 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    Basil Rajapaksa Released On Bail

    Former Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa who was produced before Matara Chief Magistrate Uresha De Silva was released on a bail.

    The Magistrate set a cash bail of Rs.50 000 with three sureties of Rs.1 million each and ordered to submit Rajapaksa’s passport to the court.

    Rajapaksa was arrested when he arrived at FCID this morning to give a statement on an alleged fraud regarding the purchase of a land in Brownhill, Matara.

    The case was fixed for July 20.

    CID Raids Sajin Vass's Residence
    2016-May-13 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    CID Raids Sajin Vass's Residence

    Former MP Sajin De Vass Gunawardena’s residence in Cotta Road, Borella, was inspected by the Criminal Investigation Department.

    The investigation was ordered by the Fort Magistrate's Court. Several documents had taken into CID custody related to an investigation into a money laundering case.

    The case which was filed against Gunawardena by the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption over his failure to declare his assets during several years including in 2011 and 2012, was taken up by Colombo Additional Magistrate on 11th May.

    However, Gunawardena’s lawyers requested the court for time to obtain necessary papers from the Parliament. Hence the case was adjourned till 15th September.

    SIU OIC, AG Issued Notice On Tiran Alles's Revision Application
    2016-May-13 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    SIU OIC, AG Issued Notice On Tiran Alles's Revision Application

    The OIC of police SIU and the AG were issued notice by the Colombo High Court on yesterday over a revision application filed by former MP Tiran Alles.

    Alles filed the revision application requesting the High Court to overturn the decision by the Fort Magistrate not to release his passport.

    Through his lawyers, Alles filed a request at the Fort Magistrate Court late last month to have his passport released for six weeks.

    However, Fort Magistrate Lanka Jayaratne refused the request, saying that it could not be entertained as he was a suspect of a serious financial fraud.

    In 2015, Tiran Alles was questioned by Police over the alleged provision of money to Tiger guerrillas through the Reconstruction and Development Agency (RADA), of which he was the Chairman. The investigation is been handled by the SIU which is under the purview of the IGP. Alles's passport was impounded during the Magisterial inquiry on the alleged fraud.

    Basil Rajapaksa Arrested By FCID: To Be Produced Before Matara Magistrate's Court
    2016-May-12 | By Sihara Colombage

    Former Minister Basil Rajapaksa was arrested by the FCID a short while ago. He is to be produced before the Matara Magistrate's Court.

    He arrived at FCID this morning to give a statement on an alleged fraud regarding the purchase of a land in Brownhill, Matara.

    There is a pending court case regarding this transaction at Matara Magistrate's Court.

    FCID was investigating on several complaints been made over land deals, including the acquisition of a 1.5 acre land in Oruthota and the construction of a house in the land. Complaints have also been received on a land and a house in Malwana area.

    Yoshitha Rajapaksa Appears Before FCID For Second Consecutive Day
    2016-May-11 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    Yoshitha Rajapaksa Appears Before FCID For Second Consecutive Day

    Yoshitha Rajapaksa, the second son of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, appeared before the police Financial Crimes Investigation Division for a second day today.

    He appeared before the FCID yesterday as well.

    He appeared before the FCID following an order by the Kaduwela Magistrate to give a statement on CSN to the FCID on a suitable day after May 3. This order was given on April 28.

    Rajapaksa was yesterday queried on finances and e-mail accounts of the CSN.

    Weerawansa Files FR Petition Against Increase Of Taxes
    2016-May-11 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    Weerawansa Files FR Petition Against Increase Of Taxes

    Wimal Weerawansa today filed a Fundamental Rights petition against the increase of the VAT and NBT by the government, arguing that it violated the fundamental rights guaranteed under the articles 12 (1), 13 (1) and 14 (g) of the constitution.

    The petitioner argued that the VAT and the NBT could not be increased without amending the relevant laws and presenting them to the Parliament for approval.

    Therefore, the imposition of new taxes has violated the fundamental rights of the petitioner and the public at large, the petition argued.

    The petitioner seeks an interim order preventing the respondents from directing the public to pay the taxes and from collecting them.

    The Finance Minister, The Secretary to the Finance Ministry, the Inland Revenue Commissioner General and the AG have been named respondents.

    Fundamental Rights Petition Challenges Imposition Of New Taxes For Telecom Sector
    2016-May-11 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    Fundamental Rights Petition Challenges Imposition Of New Taxes For Telecom Sector

    Attorney-at-Law P. Liyanaarachchi filed a Fundamental Rights petition with the Supreme Court today, challenging the Finance Minister's move to impose new taxes on the telecommunications sector.

    The petitioner informs court that he got to know about the imposition of the Nation Building Tax and the Value Added Tax to telecommunications sector with effect from May 2.

    The petitioner said that his Fundamental Rights guaranteed under Article 12 (1) have been infringed by the decision to impose new taxes given that telecommunications sector is already subjected to a 25 percent telecommunications levy.

    The petitioner requested court to issue an interim order preventing the levy of new taxes till the court case is concluded.

    The Attorney General and the Finance Minister have been named as respondents in this case.

    Debt-ridden SriLankan To Sell Four A350 Planes
    2016-May-11 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    Debt-ridden SriLankan To Sell Four A350 Planes

    Sri Lanka’s debt-ridden national airline will sell four new Airbus A350s, a government minister said yesterday, two weeks after cancelling an order for four of the aircraft.

    The state-owned carrier had already sold one of the four planes for a “reasonably good price” to a leasing company and is in talks with airlines over the other three, Reuters reported citing Deputy State Enterprise Minister Eran Wickramaratne.

    Although SriLankan Airlines needs more aircraft to expand, it does not need long-range planes like the A350, Wickremeratne said.

    The airline, which is struggling with debts of around $3.25bn, ordered eight A350s from Airbus in 2014.

    SriLankan Airlines was a profitable 10-year joint venture with Dubai-based partner Emirates Airline until the pair split in 2008. 

    The airline has bought seven Airbus A330-300s since 2012. 

    It posted a group net loss of 16.33bn rupees ($113mn) for the financial year to March 31, after a 31.37bn rupees loss a year earlier. 

    The carrier last made a profit in 2009, a year after Emirates sold its stake in the venture.

    Ranga Kalansooriya Tipped To Be Government Information Director
    2016-May-10 | By Sihara Colombage

    Ranga Kalansooriya Tipped To Be Government Information Director

    Veteran Journalist Dr. Ranga Kalansooriya is tipped to be appointed as the Government Information Director, highly placed government sources said. 

    Kalansooriya,  a former journalist at the Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Limited, also functioned as the Director of Sri Lanka College of Journalism. 

    Before his stint at the Sri Lanka College of Journalism, Kalansooriya held a senior position in the Sri Lankan diplomatic mission in Malaysia.

    He is the son of veteran author Somadevi Paranayapa.

    Kalansooriya's appointment comes two weeks after the appointment of the new Secretary of the Media Ministry, Nimal Bopage. 

    Top government sources told Asian Mirror that Kalansooriya would assume duties as the new Information Director of the government. 

    Lal Kantha Demands Resignation Of 'Sunday Divaina' Editor
    2016-May-10 | By Sihara Colombage

    Lal Kantha Demands Resignation Of 'Sunday Divaina' Editor

    Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna Politburo Member K.D. Lal Kantha demanded that the 'Sunday Divaina' Editor Anura Solomans must resign following the fabricated story and news feature published on the JVP leader last Sunday.

    If the newspaper is to regain at least some of its reputation, the clique, controlling the irresponsible media culture at Divaina should resign, he said.

    Speaking to the media at the Press Complaints Commission yesterday after the party handed over a complaint against the news and news feature, Lal Kantha said that the Divaina newspaper has taken the role of leading irresponsible media culture in the country.

    He blamed the owners and the senior editors for the state of the affairs.

    The news report on JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake claimed that he had visited Ireland recently to escape party scrutiny of his finances and that he also had met with his illegitimate child and its mother while in Ireland.

    Lal Kantha said that the party will continue to take its message about the false news report to the people and was also filing legal action against the newspaper.

    I must be thrashed for making SF Army Chief: Gota
    2016-May-10 | By Sihara Colombage

    Former Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa today said he should be thrashed for making Sarath Fonseka the Army Commander.

    When inquired by the media about Minister Sarath Fonseka’s claim that Gotabaya Rajapaksa himself engineered the suicide attack on his own convoy, the former Defence Secretary, “I should be thrashed for making him the Army Commander.”

     

    Sri Lankan Names Mentioned In Panama Papers Revealed
    2016-May-10 | By Sihara Colombage

    Sri Lankan Names Mentioned In Panama Papers Revealed (See List Of Sri Lankans)

    The Panama Papers affair has widened, with a huge database of documents relating to more than 200,000 offshore accounts posted online.

    The database became accessible from 18:00 GMT at offshoreleaks.icij.org.

    The papers belonged to Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca and were leaked to a German newspaper by a source simply known as "John Doe".

    The company denies any wrongdoing.

    "We do not intend to suggest or imply that any persons, companies or other entities included in the ICIJ Offshore Leaks Database have broken the law or otherwise acted improperly" the ICIJ said, pointing out that there were legitimate uses of offshore companies.

    Panama Papers Database To Be Released Today: Details Of Over 200,000 Off-shore Entities To Be Revealed
    2016-May-09 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    Panama Papers Database To Be Released Today: Details Of Over 200,000 Off-shore Entities To Be Revealed

    The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists will release on May 9 a searchable database with information on more than 200,000 offshore entities that are part of the Panama Papers investigation.

    The database will be released at 2.00 p.m. EDT (11.30 p.m. Sri Lanka time)

    The database will likely be the largest ever release of secret offshore companies and the people behind them.

    The data comes from the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, one of the top players in the offshore world, and includes information about companies, trusts, foundations and funds incorporated in 21 tax havens, from Hong Kong to Nevada in the United States. It links to people in more than 200 countries and territories.

    When the data is released, users will be able to search through the data and visualize the networks around thousands of offshore entities, including, when available, Mossack Fonseca’s internal records of the company’s true owners. The interactive database will also include information about more than 100,000 additional companies that were part of the 2013 ICIJ Offshore Leaks investigation.

    While the database opens up a world that has never been revealed on such a massive scale, the application will not be a “data dump” of the original documents – it will be a careful release of basic corporate information.

    ICIJ won’t release personal data en masse; the database will not include records of bank accounts and financial transactions, emails and other correspondence, passports and telephone numbers. The selected and limited information is being published in the public interest.

    Meanwhile ICIJ, the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung which received the leak, and other global media partners, including several new outlets in countries where ICIJ has not yet been able to report, will continue to investigate and publish stories in the weeks and months to come.

    The Panama Papers investigation revealed the secret offshore dealings of world leaders and other politicians as well as criminals and celebrities. It exposed the role of big banks in facilitating secrecy and tax evasion and avoidance. And it showed how companies and individuals blacklisted in the U.S. and elsewhere for their links to terrorism, drug trafficking and other crimes were able to do business through offshore jurisdictions.

    Since its release, the Panama Papers investigation has led to high profile resignations, including the prime minister of Iceland; triggered official inquiries in multiple countries; and put pressure on world leaders and other politicians, such as Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron, to explain their connections to offshore companies. It sparked a new sense of urgency among lawmakers and regulators to close loopholes and make information about the owners of shell companies public.

    In the U.S., where several states act as tax havens for people from all over the world, President Barack Obama commented on the Panama Papers revelations and said global tax avoidance facilitated by secrecy jurisdictions is “a huge problem.” The president added that “a lot of it is legal, but that’s exactly the problem. It’s not that they’re breaking the laws, it’s that the laws are so poorly designed.”

    Rajapaksa To Attend Yoweri Musaveni's Swearing-in Featured
    2016-May-08 | By Sihara Colombage

    Musaveni and Rajapaksa in Colombo, 2012Musaveni and Rajapaksa in Colombo, 2012

    Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa will attend the fifth swearing-in ceremony of Uganda's long serving President Yoweri Musaveni on May 12.

    Rajapaksa's private secretary Uditha Lokubandara confirmed this to the BBC Sandeshaya.

    Meanwhile, a request by Rajapaksa's second son Yoshitha to visit Uganda was turned down by Kaduwela Magistrate yesterday. Yoshitha Rajapaksa has been imposed a travel ban as he is a suspect in the case involving the CSN.

    Uganda has sent invitations to many dignitaries, including fifty Presidents, for the ceremony. The invitees include African heads of state, British PM David Cameron and US President Obama.

    Born in August 1944, Musaweni was in the forefront in the opposition to the notorious dictator Idi Amin. After the ouster of Amin, he served as the Defence Minister of the country. However, following a disputed election in 1980, he former the Popular Resistance Army to challenge the government and seized power in 1986.

    He has been criticized by human rights groups for lack of democracy in the country.

    Musaveni visited Sri Lanka in 2012 at the invitation of the then President Rajapaksa. The following year, Rajapaksa paid a visit to Uganda.

    Harsha in Saudi to solve pressing issues of Sri Lankans   
    2016-May-07 | By Sihara Colombage

    Harsha in Saudi to solve pressing issues of Sri Lankans

    Deputy Foreign Minister with Minister of Labour of Saudi Arabia Dr Saad Al-Hoqubani.       

    Sri Lanka’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr Harsh de Silva visited the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to resolve long-standing Consular and labour issues faced by Sri Lankan migrant workers in the Middle Eastern country. 

    During his meetings with Saudi’s Labour Minister Dr Mofarrej Saad Al- Hoqubani and Deputy Interior Minister Dr Ahmed Al Salem, he articulated the problems of stranded Sri Lankan employees and ‎convinced the two Ministers of urgent need for finding solutions in the immediate future. 
     
    “Both Ministers agreed to devise a mechanism for arranging exit permits for ensuring early repatriation of stranded persons to Sri Lanka.” At the request of Dr Harsha de Silva, the two Saudi Ministers also agreed to periodically share ‎employment details of Sri Lankan workers during their stay in Saudi Arabia, a statement said.
     
    “This would be a major breakthrough as it would enable the Embassy to speedily reach out to Saudi employers of Sri Lankans workers who are faced with serious problems and are in need of urgent Consular and welfare assistance from the Embassy.” In the absence of such details, the Embassy presently finds it hard to address their issues promptly, it said.
     
    As  a result of his successful efforts  at the meetings with Saudi’s Minister of Social ‎Affairs Majed bin Abdullah Al Qasby and Deputy Minister for Public Health Abdulaziz Abdullah Bin Saeed, Dr  Harsha de Silva ‎received assurances from the Saudi Ministers that the  hospital access would be provided to stranded Sri Lankans at the shelter of the Embassy when they face medical emergencies.‎ 

    The Deputy Minister for Public Health also agreed to make arrangements to expedite conducting postmortems and to minimize delays in dispatching the human remains to Sri Lanka.

    During his visit from May 01 to 04, the deputy minister met with Saudi Arabia’s State Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr Nizar bin Obaid Madani and highlighted the significance of excellent bilateral relations while conveying sincere thanks to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for cooperation and assistance towards Sri Lanka.‎
     
    “The above meetings with the Saudi dignitaries produced positive outcomes in resolving longstanding Consular and labour issues.” Dr de Silva appreciated the positive responses from the Saudi Ministers and cordially invited them to visit Sri Lanka .‎

    ‎Dr Harsha de Silva found time to address the community of Sri Lankan Professionals in Riyadh and to encourage their initiatives to promote trade, investment, tourism and culture between the two countries, the statement said. 

    Court denies permission for Yoshitha to visit Uganda
    2016-May-07 | By Sihara Colombage

    Court denies permission for Yoshitha to visit Uganda

    The Kaduwala Magistrate’s Court today rejected the application of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s son Yoshitha Rajapaksa seeking its permission to travel abroad. 

    Yoshitha Rajapaksa, who is out on bail and barred from overseas travel, had filed the application through his attorneys requesting permission from the court to accompany his father on a visit to Uganda, for the fifth term swearing- in of President Yoweri Museveni.

    However, the application was rejected by the Kaduwala Magistrate’s Court and informed to direct it to the High Court. 

    Yoshitha Rajapaksa was arrested and remanded on money laundering charges before being granted bail by the Colombo High Court. 

     

    Individual Who Threatened President On Facebook Requested Asylum In Malaysia, Police Informs Court
    2016-May-06 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    Individual Who Threatened President On Facebook Requested Asylum In Malaysia, Police Informs Court

    The individual who was arrested for threatening the President and the Prime Minister through a Facebook video was remanded further till May 20 by Colombo Additional Magistrate Nishantha Peiris.

    The CID said that the suspect Lakmana Arachchige Sugath had requested for political asylum in Malaysia while staying there without a visa.

    The CID also said that the video was watched more than 4000 times through his Facebook page and there were many shares. The court, considering a request by the CID, called for a report on his computer from the University of Moratwa.

    The suspect's lawyers said that he had made the comment due to disappointment at the state of affairs in the country. He was ready to apologize for the comments, the court was informed.

    However, the CID said that the investigations have not been concluded and the court remanded the suspect further considering the objection by the CID.

    Sajin De Vass Gunawardena Challenges Gammanpila For Open Debate
    2016-May-06 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    Sajin De Vass Gunawardena Challenges Gammanpila For Open Debate

    Former MP Sajin de Vass Gunawardena challenged Pivithuru Hela Urumaya General Secretary Udaya Gammanpila for an open debate on who caused the defeat of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

    He made this challenge yesterday, giving a statement at his office in Balapitiya.

    Sajin de Vass Gunawardena said that the best way to answer various accusations by Gammanpila against him was to debate them openly in a live TV debate.

    Meanwhile, he maintained that he was fully cooperating with investigations on allegations against him.

    Votes on Rs 55m supplementary estimate tied
    2016-May-06 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    The result of voting on the supplementary estimate of Rs 55 million moved by the Government for the fiscal year 2016 has been announced as a tie with 31 votes for and against. A fresh vote on the supplementary estimate is expected to be taken in Parliament.

    It was previously reported that the supplementary estimate of Rs 55 million was passed today (05) with a majority of 2 votes with 33 voting in favour and 31 votes against. Article 151 states that Parliament may by law set up a Contingencies Fund for urgent and unforeseen expenditure. 

    If the Minister of Finance is satisfied that there are no funds already allocated to meet the emergency, he may with the consent of the President first obtained, authorise an advance payment to be made from this fund. 

    As soon as possible thereafter, a Supplementary estimate has to be presented in Parliament and its approval obtained, to replace the amount so advanced. 
     

     

    Party leaders meeting scheduled for today 
    2016-May-05 | By Sihara Colombage

    Party leaders meeting scheduled for today

    A party leader’s meeting will be held at the Parliament this morning (05).


    The meeting will be commenced with the participation of Speaker Karu Jayasuriya at 9.00 am.


    A discussion would be held regarding the tense situation that erupted at the Parliament on Tuesday (03), it was reported.


    Speaker Karu Jayasuriya had to adjourn the Parliament and called for a report from the Deputy Speaker and the Deputy Chairman of Committees in connection with the tense situation.


    He also informed Parliament that suitable action would be instigated against the MPs involved in the incident. Parliament proceedings were initially suspended for five minutes due to the tense situation within the chambers which ended in fisticuffs between two groups of MPs.

     

    SLFP To Take Strict Action Against MPs Involved In Clash: Expulsion From Party Considered
    2016-May-04 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    SLFP To Take Strict Action Against MPs Involved In Clash: Expulsion From Party Considered

    The Sri Lanka Freedom Party will take strict action against MPs who were involved in the clash in Parliament yesterday, party Treasurer S.B. Dissanayake said.

    Minister Dissanayake told media today that the party has the right to take disciplinary action against such erring MPs.

    The MPs could face possible expulsion from the party.

    Meanwhile, a report on the clash between MPs was handed over to the Speaker a short while ago by Deputy Speaker Thilanga Sumathipala and Deputy Chairman of the Committees Selvam Adaikkalanathan.

    The Speaker called for the report yesterday following the clash between 'Joint Opposition' MPs and the UNP MPs. One UNP MP was admitted to hospital following the clash.

    The clash occurred when Minister of Regional Development Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka spoke on the reduction of security to former President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

    The 'Joint Opposition' meanwhile said that the clash was started by Deputy Minister Palitha Thewarapperuma who allegedly attacked UPFA MP Prasanna Ranaweera.

    Indictment Served To State Minister Range Bandara Over Financial Fraud
    2016-May-04 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    Indictment Served To State Minister Range Bandara Over Financial Fraud

    Indictment was served to State Minister of Skills Development and Vocational Training Palitha Range Bandara by Colombo High Court over an incident of financial fraud.

    In 2002, Bandara had allegedly accepted Rs 5.4 million from an individual named Dinesh Rathnayake, after promising to give the permit of a Mitsubishi Jeep in five years. However, he had allegedly failed to deliver the permit as promised.

     

     

    High Court Judge AAR Heyiyanthudawa ordered Range Bandara's fingerprints to be recorded at the court police post and fixed the trial for September 6.

    Weerawansa Charged Over Invalid Passport
    2016-May-04 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    Weerawansa Charged Over Invalid Passport

    Criminal Investigation Department filed a case before Negombo Magistrate yesterday, against UPFA MP Wimal Weerawansa for allegedly attempting to leave the country using an invalid diplomat passport.

    Weerawansa insisted that he was not guilty of attempting to leave the country misusing an invalid diplomat passport after he was charged.

    Weerawansa was arrested by Katunayake International Airport authorities on 23rd October 2015 when he allegedly attempted to leave the country using an invalid passport. He then filed a complaint with the police stating that he lost his passport which was used to leave the country for few years by then, and obtained a new passport.

    However, later on 23rd October, Weerawansa had used the passport he claimed to be lost and which was canceled due to the complaint, while attempting to leave the country.

    Immigration officials had informed the MP that his passport was invalid and handed him over to the CID division in the airport. Weerawansa was attempting to use the passport to travel to four countries including France and Dubai from an Emirates flight.

    Department of Immigration and Emigration said that Controller General of the department should be informed if lost passports were found. Using a cancelled passport is a serious offense, the department stated. 

    UNP MP Hospitalized Following Brawl In Parliament
    2016-May-04 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    File Photo

    UNP National List MP Sandith Samarasinghe was hospitalized following a brawl in Parliament a short while ago.

    He was admitted to the National Hospital after being attacked by the Opposition MPs.

    The Parliament was suspended for five minutes after a brawl broke out inside the Chamber after a heated debate on the reduction of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa's security.

    Joint Opposition MPs shouted slogans against the reduction of Rajapaksa's security when Minister Sarath Fonseka started to speak.

    Fonseka Did Not Have Right To Speak On Rajapaksa's Security, Says Gammanpila
    2016-May-04 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    Fonseka Did Not Have Right To Speak On Rajapaksa's Security, Says Gammanpila

    Pivithuru Hela Urumaya General Secretary Udaya Gammanpila said that Minister of Regional Development Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka did not have the right to speak on former President Mahinda Rajapaksa's security.

    MP Dinesh Gunawardena questioned Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe about the reduction of security for Mahinda Rajapaksa, and the Prime Minister replied. At the end of his reply, he invited Sarath Fonseka to speak, Gammanpila said on Facebook.

    What the Prime Minister should have done is to ask the subject minister to speak, Gammanpila said further.

    The Joint Opposition MPs had started to protest and the brawl started when UPFA MP Prasanna Ranaweera was attacked by Deputy Minister Palitha Thewarapperuma, Gammanpila said.

    2006 Bombing An Inside Job, Says Sri Lanka's Ex-Army Chief
    2016-May-04 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    2006 Bombing An Inside Job, Says Sri Lanka's Ex-Army Chief

    Sri Lanka's former army chief told parliament today that a bomb blast apparently targeting former president Mahinda Rajapaksa's brother 10 years ago was an "inside job" to win sympathy for the then-ruling family.

    Sarath Fonseka, now a government legislator, said the December 2006 bomb attack blamed on separatist Tamil Tiger rebels had been stage-managed by the president's brother Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, the then defence secretary.

    "No terrorist will set off a suicide bomb 25 meters away from the intended target," Fonseka told parliament during a debate on scaling down military security granted to the former strongman leader.

    The government has said it is removing troops in Rajapaksa's bodyguard and replacing them with police commandos as part of a policy of relieving the military from civilian security duties.

    Gotabhaya escaped the 2006 bombing in Colombo unhurt but it killed two members of his military convoy.

    Soon after the attack, the government asked peacebroker Norway to halt all contacts with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. Colombo withdrew from a truce and eventually crushed the rebels by May 2009.

    The former army chief led the successful military campaign against the Tigers, but later fell out with the Rajapaksa family over who should take credit for the spectacular military success.

    He launched a failed challenge to Rajapaksa in 2010 elections and was later jailed for two and a half years on corruption charges.

    The former army general has since been exonerated of all charges and elevated to the rank of field marshal by Rajapaksa's successor, Maithripala Sirisena.

    The general himself was seriously wounded in a suicide bombing in April 2006.

    He recovered to lead the military in wiping out the rebel leadership in a no-holds-barred offensive that also sparked allegations of war crimes.

    Brawl In Parliament As SF Makes Statement On MR's Security
    2016-May-04 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    Representative Image

    The Parliament was suspended for five minutes after a brawl broke out inside the Chamber after a heated debate on the reduction of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa's security.

    Joint Opposition MPs shouted slogans against the reduction of Rajapaksa's security when Minister Sarath Fonseka started to speak.

    Some MPs started fighting inside the chamber. UNP MP Sandith Samarasinghe was taken for medical treatment following the clash. UPFA MP Prasanna Ranaweera was also reportedly beaten inside the chamber.

    SLTB Records Income Of Rs 45 Million On May Day
    2016-May-02 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    SLTB Records Income Of Rs 45 Million On May Day

    Sri Lanka Transport Board stated that about Rs. 45 million was earned by providing buses for May Day celebrations.

    SLTB Deputy General Manager of Transport Raja Gunatilake stated that about 4000 buses were ordered for May Day.

    A number of political parties, trade unions, and various groups had paid to hire about 3500 buses by Saturday (31) afternoon, Gunatilake said.

    Buses would run normally today, although the number of public transport buses were low due to the provision of buses for May Day celebrations yesterday, Gunatilake further said. 

    COPE To Recommend Action On Massive Fraud In CEB, SriLankan Airlines
    2016-May-02 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    COPE To Recommend Action On Massive Fraud In CEB, SriLankan Airlines

    The Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) has decided to table several reports this month, revealing persons who misappropriated money of Ceylon Electricity Board and Sri Lankan Airlines.

    Chairman of COPE, JVP MP Sunil Handunnetti said that the Speaker will be recommended that CID and Bribery Commission must begin investigations on the massive financial frauds and prosecute the perpetrators.

    High authority figures of CEB and Sri Lankan Airlines are behind the financial misappropriations and they were backed by politicians, Handunnetti added.

    PM To Meet Bopage Shortly On Controversial Communique
    2016-May-02 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    PM To Meet Bopage Shortly On Controversial Communique

    Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe is scheduled to meet Media Ministry Secretary Nimal Bopage shortly. 

    The meeting will be based on the controversial communique the Media Ministry Secretary has sent out to media on the use of the term 'Joint Opposition'.

    Media Minister Gayantha Karunathilaka and his deputy Dr. Karunaratne Paranawithana distanced themselves from the communique stating it did not reflect the viewpoint of the government. 

    Prime Minister Wickremesinghe said in a statement that the Government had not even discussed or paid attention to the banning or controlling of using the name ‘Joint Opposition’.

    Wickremesinghe had decided to call for explanations about issuing a missive to the media by the Ministry Secretary Without any approval from the minister overlooking the subject. 

    Wigneswaran Issued Notice To Appear In Supreme Court
    2016-May-01 | By Sihara Colombage

    Wigneswaran Issued Notice To Appear In Supreme Court

    Northern Province Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran and three others were issued notice to appear in Supreme Court on May 12, 13 and 17, over a petition filed against the recently passed resolution calling for a federal solution.

    The other respondents are the leader of ITAK Mavai Senathirajah, NPC Chairman C.V.K. Sivagnanam and NPC Secretary S. Pathmanathan.

    A lawyer recently filed a petition with the Supreme Court challenging the resolution, seeking an opinion on it. The petitioner argued that the resolution was putting forward the ITAK agenda to divide the country.

    NPC Chairman CVK Sivagnanam said that he received the notice and was discussing the matter with his lawyers. He also added that the resolution was not passed with any objective of dividing the country.

    Speaking of the request to merge the northern and eastern province, he said that it was nothing new. The two provinces had been merged for a long period of time, he added.

    Media has become biggest threat to free media - PM
    2016-Apr-30 | By Sihara Colombage

    The biggest threats to the free media environment existing today is also coming from the media and not from anyone else, says Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. He was speaking during an event celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Sri Lanka Muslim Media Forum in Colombo today. 

    Pointing to the headline of an English language newspaper, the PM charged that an LTTE revival is being falsely portrayed in an attempt to create an environment to get “King Dutugemunu” back. “The LTTE is gone, it cannot return.

    No matter how much one cries the (LTTE) won’t come.” Wickremesinghe said that if the terrorist organisation is indeed reviving then legal action should be taken against former President Mahinda Rajapaksa “for not finishing it like he said.”

     

     

    CSE All Share Price Index Rises Above 6,000 Following Deal With IMF
    2016-Apr-29 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    CSE All Share Price Index Rises Above 6,000 Following Deal With IMF

    The All Share Price Index of the CSE crossed 6,500 mark for the first time since January, as a deal was reached with IMF on a US $ 1.5 billion loan facility

    The news about the agreement came early this morning.

    The loan program will need approval by the IMF’s executive board, which is due to consider it in early June. Once approved, it’s “expected to catalyze an additional $650 million in other multilateral and bilateral loans, bringing total support to about $2.2 billion, over and above existing financing arrangements,” the IMF said.

    Vehicle prices go up with VAT: Importers
    2016-Apr-29 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    The prices of imported vehicle would be increased due to the major foreign currency fluctuation with no change in the present situation in tax regime, Chairman of Lanka Vehicle Importers' Association Mahinda Sarathchandra said.

    He said that three vehicle associations including Brand-new Vehicle Importers Association and two other Used Vehicle Importers Associations yesterday met with the Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake at the Finance Ministry regarding the increase in the VAT. During the discussion the Finance Minister stated that no changes could be made to the tax.

    He said if there was no change to the VAT before May 2 vehicle prices would be increased by Rs. 300,000 and Rs.400,000. “The vehicle importation industry has faced a huge downfall due to this prevailing economic pattern. He said that an importer who imported 100 vehicle would now could import on 30 because of the VAT hike.

    Yesterday the Prime Minister appointed a committee to solve the legal issues regarding vehicle importation. “We have requested the Finance Minister to provide a considerable relief on tax concessions imposed on vehicle imports and the Minister said that is under consideration,” Mr. Sarathchandra said.

    “The Finance Minister said the earlier tax concessions made more people to buy vehicles and because of that, the number of vehicles on the road had increased causing huge road traffic congestion,” he said. “The main idea of imposing more tax on vehicle import was to limit vehicles put on to the road,” he said.

    When contacted the Brand New Motor Vehicle Importers Association President Gihan Pilapitiya said there would be no duty changes but valuation of brand new vehicles and the Customs Duty should be reviewed.

    “The prices of brand new vehicles are decided by relevant vehicle manufacturing companies. Without considering the manufacture’s price, it is not reasonable to increase the Customs Tax according to Government decisions,” he said.

    “But according to our knowledge the Value Added Tax (VAT) is not relevant to decide the vehicle price but all the taxes, which had to be imposed, have already being imposed,” he said. 

    MR and GL should be questioned: Nalin
    2016-Apr-29 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa and Professor G.L. Peiris should be questioned over the photograph, which was taken with former Sri Lankan Ambassador to Russia Udayanga Weeratunga during a recent Thailand visit, UNP MP Nalin Bandara Jayamaha said today.

    “Udayanga Weeratunga is to be arrested and questioned over the alleged involvement in the death of Noel Ranaweera, a diplomatic officer attached to the Sri Lankan Embassy in Moscow, and the alleged weapon sales to Ukrainian separatist rebels,” he said.

    “We urge the Government to record statements from the persons, who joined Mr. Rajapaksa on his recent Thailand tour,” the Minister said.

    He said, Udayanga Weeratunga had evaded arrest for eight years.

    “Mr. Rajapaksa and his tour members should know the whereabouts of Udayanga Weeratunga and all the details of with whom he associated,” he said.

     

    JVP Accused Of Assaulting Opponents: Two FLSP Members Hospitalized
    2016-Apr-29 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    Representative Image

    The Frontline Socialist Party said that two of its members were assaulted this morning in Polonnaruwa by supporters of the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna.

    In a media release, the party said that they were assaulted at around 4.30 in the morning while they were engaged in propaganda work for the upcoming May Day.

    The two activists, R.K. Indrananda and P.K.D. Wijeratne have been admitted to Ward No 20 in Polonnaruwa General Hospital.

    The Frontline Socialist Party accused the JVP of continuously disrupting its propaganda work during the past few days.

    The JVP is not hindering the propaganda work of the right-wing parties while continuously hinder the propaganda work of the left-wing parties, the release said, adding that this was a clear sign of its opportunism.

    SL secures $1.5 billion IMF loan to help bolster finances
    2016-Apr-29 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    Sri Lanka reached an agreement with the International Monetary Fund for $1.5 billion in loans to help lower its borrowing costs and bolster finances. The South Asian nation has pledged to narrow its fiscal deficit to 3.5 percent of gross domestic product by 2020 through “a comprehensive set of reforms to Sri Lanka’s tax system,” the Washington-based lender said in a statement.

    The loan program will need approval by the IMF’s executive board, which is due to consider it in early June. Once approved, it’s “expected to catalyze an additional $650 million in other multilateral and bilateral loans, bringing total support to about $2.2 billion, over and above existing financing arrangements,” the IMF said.

    Sri Lanka was looking for a loan of as much as $1.5 billion from the IMF as a seal of approval for the government’s policies in order to help draw further foreign inflows, central bank Governor Arjuna Mahendran said in an interview last month.

    The government is seeking to sell as much as $3 billion of bonds in international markets this year after refinancing concerns prompted Fitch Ratings to downgrade the nation and Standard & Poor’s to cut its rating outlook to negative. The rupee is trading near a record low after worsening foreign-exchange reserves and balance of payments forced the central bank to stop propping up the currency.  

      “The government is committed to dealing quickly with the legacy of Sri Lankan Airlines, which continues to represent a drain on public finances after years of mismanagement,” the IMF said. Going forward, key state firms will be governed transparently by annually published statements of corporate plans, it said.

    Sri Lanka has pledged to ensure that the pricing of electricity and fuels is guided by the market, with subsidies needed to protect the poor being better targeted and clearly reflected on the government’s budget, according to the IMF. “The central bank will shift toward a flexible inflation targeting regime while also undertaking measures to help deepen foreign exchange markets and support a durable transition to a flexible exchange rate regime,” according to the statement.

    Sri Lanka last sought an IMF loan in 2009 following the end of a three-decade old civil war and under the leadership of Mahinda Rajapaksa, to bolster its international reserves. It received the final tranche of the $2.6 billion IMF loan in 2012. 

    JVP Opposes Wigneswaran's Federal Solution
    2016-Apr-28 | By Sihara Colombage

    JVP Opposes Wigneswaran's Federal Solution

    General Secretary of JVP Tilvin Silva said that Tamil people will not gain anything from proposing a separate administration.

    Silva made this observation today at a press conference held in JVP Headquarters in Pelawatte, Battaramulla.

    “Racist politicians are trying to fuel racism in the country. Wigneswaram and the party tabled a proposal for a federal state recently. Racist groups in the South are spreading racism based on that”, Silva said.

    “A separate administration would not gain anything for Tamil people of North. It will only result in foreign interferences”, he stressed.

    The attempt to propose the federal system must be defeated, Silva stated. 

    Basil Rajapaksa Undermines Kirulapone Rally, Divides Anti-UNP Camp: Dilan Perera
    2016-Apr-28 | By Sihara Colombage

    Basil Rajapaksa Undermines Kirulapone Rally, Divides Anti-UNP Camp: Dilan Perera

    SLFP Spokesman Dilan Perera said that the involvement of Basil Rajapaksa has undermined the Joint Opposition May Day Rally in Kirulapone.

    Speaking to the media yesterday, Perera said that former President Mahinda Rajapaksa was defeated because of his brother Basil.

    Therefore, a number of 'Joint Opposition' figures are questioning the involvement of Basil Rajapaksa in organizing its rally, he also claimed.

    Perera added that while Mahinda Rajapaksa has never said that he will form a new party, Basil Rajapaksa has said that he want to form one. Any division in the anti-UNP camp will strengthen the UNP, Perera added, and said that even Basil Rajapaksa was aware of this.

    Ninety nine percent of the SLFP members admire Mahinda Rajapaksa, but 99 percent SLFPers will not be attending the Kirulapone Rally, he also said.

    Mahinda Rajapaksa has said that he will be attending the 'Joint Opposition' rally in Kirulapone. The SLFP is holding its rally in Galle.

    Geetha Kumarasinghe, Salinda Dissanayake Replaced As SLFP Organizers
    2016-Apr-28 | By Sihara Colombage

    Geetha Kumarasinghe, Salinda Dissanayake Replaced As SLFP Organizers

    President Maithripala Sirisena appointed 11 new electorate and district organizers this morning.

    Two new co-organizers have been appointed for Bentara-Elpitiya electorate replacing Geetha Kumarasinghe. Meanwhile a new organizer was appointed for Hiriyala Electorate, replacing Salinda Dissanayake.

    Accordingly, Bentota Pradeshiya Sabha former Chairman Gayan Sirimanne and Elpitiya PS former Chairman Amila Harshana Kariyawasam were appointed as co-organizers of Bentara-Elpitiya.

    North Western Province Member Kamal Indika is the new organizer of Hiriyala Electorate.

    Meanwhile, Pradeep Jayawardena, a grandson of former President J.R. Jayawardena, was appointed as a Gampaha District Organizer of the SLFP.

    Yoshitha Rajapaksa Ordered To Give Statement To FCID Over CSN Investigation
    2016-Apr-28 | By Sihara Colombage

    Yoshitha Rajapaksa Ordered To Give Statement To FCID Over CSN Investigation

    Kaduwela Acting Magistrate Hemantha Wettasinghe today ordered suspects alleged of a financial fraud in CSN channel, including Yoshitha Rajapaksa and Nishantha Ranatunga to provide statements before FCID of Kolpetty police.

    Magistrate ordered the suspects to provide statements before the Financial Crime Investigation Division of Kolpetty police within two weeks from May 3.

    The court postponed the trial to May 5, and ordered the suspects to appear before the courts when notices issued.

    Yoshitha Rajapaksa’s brother, Parliamentarian Namal Rajapaksa was present at the court. 

    Yoshitha Rajapaksa and four others were arrested on January 30 regarding the alleged financial fraud at the CSN. They were later released on bail by Colombo High Court in March.

    Uduwe Dhammaloka Thera Blames Prime Minister For His Arrest
    2016-Apr-28 | By Sihara Colombage

    Uduwe Dhammaloka Thera Blames Prime Minister For His Arrest

    Uduwe Dhammaloka Thera today told media that Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe had wanted his arrest, following a successful religious programme he conducted in Anuradhapura.

    Speaking to the media after the hearing on the illegal possession of an elephant, Dhammaloka Thera said that the Prime Minister had been disturbed following the programme and had convened a meeting where he had insisted on making the arrest.

    During the Magisterial Inquiry earlier in the day, the CID told Colombo Additional Magistrate Nishantha Peiris that the investigations against Uduwe Dhammaloka Thera for allegedly possessing an elephant cub illegally have been concluded.

    The relevant documents have been forwarded to the Attorney General to obtain his opinion on whether the case could be filed at the High Court, the CID also said.

    Considering the submission by the CID, the Additional Magistrate fixed the date of the next hearing for June 9. 

    Man arrested at BIA for online threats against President
    2016-Apr-28 | By Sihara Colombage

    An individual, who had allegedly issued death threats against President Maithripala Sirisena on social media, has been arrested upon his arrival at the Bandaranaike International Airport, the police said.


    The suspect was arrested following an investigation carried out by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), it was reported.


    The police added that the person had to arrive here as the the Malaysian authorities deported him owing to visa violations.


    The individual who is a resident of Yakkala will be produced before the Colombo Magistrate today.

     

    President Sirisena says there is no dispute within the SLFP
    2016-Apr-27 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    Breaking News:President Sirisena says there is no dispute within the SLFP

    President Maithripala Sirisena states that there is no dispute within the Sri Lanka Freedom Party.

    The President notes that the only issue is between two groups. One, which comprises of those who are corrupt and those who are rogues, while the other is the group that is moving forward with the positive policies of the party, and its vision.

    President Maithripala Sirisena emphasised that there will be no provision to topple the government through a conspiracy to obtain power.

    The president made these remarks during a meeting with heads of media institutions at the Presidential Palace on Wednesday morning.

    During the discussion, the president noted that groups who hold various meetings are not working towards ensuring the victory of the party, but are attempting to make an influence on the investigations that are being carried out against their corrupt activities.

    The president noted that intelligence units had informed him that the number of people who attended the Joint Opposition Rally in Hyde Park was 11,900.

    Speaking at the meeting, the president said that the former ruler addressing the gathering in Hyde Park, had noted, that the judiciary must make note of the numbers present there.

    President Sirisena goes on to state that the former ruler’s statement clearly shows that such meetings are organised to influence investigators and the judiciary.

    Court Refuses To Release Tiran Alles's Passport
    2016-Apr-27 | By Gehan Jayaratne

     

    Colombo Fort Magistrate Lanka Jyaratne today refused to release the passport of Tiran Alles, which has been impounded regarding the inquiry into the RADA.

    Alles, through his lawyers, told court that he wants to visit England via Singapore and requested the release of the passport for six weeks.

    However, the Magistrate said that he had been named a suspect in a large scale financial fraud by the police Special Investigations Unit. Therefore, his passport cannot be released even for a short period of time, the Magistrate directed.

    In 2015, Tiran Alles was questioned by Police over the alleged provision of money to Tiger guerrillas through the Reconstruction and Development Agency (RADA), of which he was the Chairman. The investigation is been handled by the SIU which is under the purview of the IGP. Alles's passport was impounded during the Magisterial inquiry on the alleged fraud.

    Central Bank agonizes over runaway expenditure, decreasing income
    2016-Apr-27 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    Central Bank agonizes over runaway expenditure, decreasing income

     

    A combination of international and domestic factors had resulted in the Sri Lankan economy seeing a decline in 2015 as compared to 2014, as per the report of the Central Bank for the year 2015.

     

    The report presented to President Mathripala Sirisena by Governor Arjuna Mahendran here on Tuesday, expressed dismay over runaway expenditure and decreasing income at home when the international economic situation was none too good, the NIE reported..

     

    Gross official foreign exchange reserves declined to US$ 7.3 billion from US$ 8.2 billion. The Balance of Payments deficit stood at US$ 1.4 billion and the Lankan rupee had depreciated 9.3 percent in relation to the US dollar.

     

    The budget deficit stood at 7.4 percent of the GDP in 2015, while it was 5.7 percent of the GDP in 2014. This made a mockery of the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe governments plan to bring the deficit to 4.4 percent of the GDP. Government Debt increased to 76 percent of the GDP from 70.7 percent of the GDP in 2014. National Savings declined to 27.8 percent of GDP from 29.5 percent of the GDP an year earlier.

    MRIA to be privatised
    2016-Apr-27 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    The Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport (MRIA) is to be privatised within the year, the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation said.

    A ministry source said that it had received proposals from several companies, including three private Chinese companies.

    “Since the airport was constructed by the Chinese Government it has not submitted a proposal,” the source said.

    The source said the government was in the midst of searching for a way to repay the instalments on the loan taken to construct the airport.

    “At the moment the loan is being repaid with the income from the Bandaranaike International Airport. This will not be done in the future,” the source said.

    The MRIA was opened in March 2013, and US$209 million was spent on the project; with $190 million provided by the Chinese government.

    Vehicle Prices To Hike Substantially Due To VAT Increase
    2016-Apr-27 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    Vehicle Prices To Hike Substantially Due To VAT Increase

    Vehicle prices are expected to increase substantially from May 2 due to the increase of the VAT, Chairman of Vehicle Importers Association Indika Sampath Merinchige said.

    Although it is still not clear as to how much the increase will be, prices will be definitely increased, he said.

    Meanwhile, he added that there was an uncertainty in the local automobile market. This is due to the weakening of the rupee compared to the US Dollar and the situation in Japan, he added.

    A prospective buyer should try to buy a vehicle already in Sri Lankan market he added.

    The government has announced that the VAT will be increased to 15 percent with effect from May 2.

    Government Takes Over SriLankan Airlines Debts: Looks For Business Partner
    2016-Apr-26 | By Sihara Colombage

    Government Takes Over SriLankan Airlines Debts: Looks For Business Partner

    Government will to take over the debts of the Sri Lankan Airlines amounting to US $ 3.25 billion to save the airline, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said.

    He made this observation addressing the media earlier today.

    Prime Minister Wickremesinghe also said that SriLankan Airlines is not in a position to cancel four of its new A350 aircraft ordered.

    Meanwhile, it was also announced that the government is looking to for a business partner for SriLankan Airlines for a partnership to what it had with Emirates.

    Sri Lankan 5-day rupee forwards steady on state bank dollar sales 
    2016-Apr-26 | By Sihara Colombage

    Sri Lankan 5-day rupee forwards steady on state bank dollar sales

     

    Sri Lankan five-day rupee forwards were steady on select dollar trades by a state-run bank seeking to offset demand by importers for the greenback, even as investors eyed the central bank’s monetary policy for clarity on key policy rates, dealers said.

     

    Dealers also said they were analysing the impact of a move by Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake last week asking exporters to repatriate export earnings received on or after April 1 to improve foreign exchange inflows.

     

    The central bank is expected to keep rates steady at its April monetary policy announcement later in the day, a Reuters poll showed, but a surprise hike is not ruled out as five out of 11 analysts expect it to raise the rates to keep government borrowing in check through tighter financing conditions.

     

    The five-day forwards, which are known as spot next and act as a proxy for the spot currency, were trading at 146.40/70 at 0602 GMT compared with Monday’s close of 146.40/60.

     

    “The demand (for dollars) is there but a state bank is selling (dollars) at 145.70 to select trades,” said a currency dealer, requesting not to be named.

     

    Central bank Governor Arjuna Mahendran said on April 12 the monetary authority has been intervening to smoothen volatility in an illiquid market.

     

    The spot rupee, which has barely seen any trading since Jan. 27, was not actively traded on Monday as well.

     

    The rupee has been under pressure as foreign investors have sold government securities amid the country’s economic woes, but they have net bought bonds worth 11.7 billion rupees ($79.92 million) in the last four weeks till April 20, central bank data showed.

     

    Sri Lanka’s main stock index was down 0.05 percent at 6,376.57 as of 0641 GMT. Turnover stood at 173.2 million rupees, Reuters reports.

     

    Bathiudeen Opposes Federal Solution Put Forward By NPC
    2016-Apr-26 | By Sihara Colombage

    Bathiudeen Opposes Federal Solution Put Forward By NPC

    Minister of Industry and Trade Risha Bathiudeen said that he was opposed to the political solution to the national question put forward by the Northern Provincial Council in a recent resolution.

    Speaking at an event yesterday, he said that he and his All Ceylon Makkal Congress were opposed to the amalgamation of the north and the eastern provinces.

    He acknowledged the right of the TNA to push for such a resolution in the NPC where it has a majority. However, Bathiudeen added that he will be discussing the matter with other parties.

    President Hints At Tough Political Decisions After May 1
    2016-Apr-26 | By Sihara Colombage

    President Hints At Tough Political Decisions After May 1

    President Maithripala Sirisena today said that several key political decisions will be taken after May 1.

    Addressing an event in Medirigiriya in Polonnaruwa District, he said that they will be for the benefit of the people and country.

    The SLFP has already announced that it will take disciplinary action against senior party members defying instructions and attending the May Day Rally of the Joint Opposition on May 1.

    However, it was unclear if the President's comments has any reference to a possible move by the SLFP.

    A number of SLFP stalwarts including former President Mahinda Rajapaksa have indicated that they will be at the Joint Opposition May Rally on May 1.

    May Rallies: Rajapaksa Camp Plans To Bring More Participants Than UNP From Hambantota
    2016-Apr-26 | By Sihara Colombage

    May Rallies: Rajapaksa Camp Plans To Bring More Participants Than UNP From Hambantota

    The Joint Opposition is likely to bring around 6000 people from Hambantota District for the Kirulapone May Rally on May 1.

    They are to be provided transport in 164 buses.

    Meanwhile, the UNP has planned to bring 5000 supporters from the District in 100 buses, UNP Provincial Councilor Lal Chandra said.

    Sajith Premadasa is the principal UNP leader in the district. His father Ranasinghe Premadasa's death anniversary also falls on that day.

    Hambantota is the stronghold of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa. The Joint Opposition supports him

    Govt. focused on getting the private sector to invest more - Ravi 
    2016-Apr-25 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    Govt. focused on getting the private sector to invest more - Ravi

    The new administration is focused on getting the private sector to invest more in Sri Lanka, explains finance minister Ravi Karunanayake.


    “The last Government, they believed in spending where the private sector should have done so and as a result crowded out the private sector. Today we are changing that cause,” Karunanayake told CNBS.


    India and China are Sri Lanka’s biggest import markets, count among the top three in terms of tourist inflows and provide significant share of the country’s foreign investment inflows.


    “Sri Lanka needs to develop its economy using both Indian and Chinese help. We need both markets,” Shiran Fernando, lead economist at Frontier Research, told CNBC.


    But China and India have not always been open to sharing influence, with both trying to leverage their “special relationship” with the island.


    “The challenge is to find a balance between these two large countries and not take to one bloc,” said Nishan de Mel, executive director at Verite Research. “The pendulum is swinging but should end up in the middle.”

    China, India tussle for influence as Sri Lanka develops
    2016-Apr-25 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    China, India tussle for influence as Sri Lanka develops

     

    Situated almost in the middle of the Indian Ocean, there is no escaping Sri Lanka’s centrality.

     

    The country lies just a few nautical miles away from the super-busy east-west shipping route, through which an estimated 60,000 ships pass every year, carrying two-thirds of the world’s oil and half of all container shipments.

     

    Now, with Asia’s economic rise, experts say Sri Lanka’s location has become even more alluring. Not only are three Asian powers - China, Japan and India - playing dominant roles in the global economy at the same time for the first time, there are also increasingly attractive markets and trade opportunities in Asia as well.

     

    “Sri Lanka is the pivotal point for a global grand strategy,” R. Hariharan, a retired Indian army colonel and specialist in South Asian geopolitics, told CNBC. “Sri Lanka’s geography gives it an advantage disproportionate to its size.”

     

    The small island nation with a population of 22 million has been rediscovering its strategic location for the past few years as it comes out of a 26-year civil war that depleted government resources and held back development. As Sri Lanka looks for assistance to reboot its economy, a largely two-way tussle for influence in the country and, in turn, the region is on.

     

    China, India tussle

     

    China has identified the tear-dropped shaped island as a key point on the Maritime Silk Road, as it plans to build infrastructure along this ancient trade route that extends from China to Africa.

     

    Sri Lanka also holds an attraction for both India and groups that would like access to India. Asia’s third largest economy is within “artillery range” of Sri Lanka, situated some 30 kilometers (19 miles) to the north of the island.

     

    “We are at the doorstep of a dynamic market,” Anushka Wijesinha, chief economist at Ceylon Chamber of Commerce, said. “The Indian middle class market alone is set to be 10 times our entire population. Imagine the opportunities there.”

     

    A tricky balancing act

     

    India and China are Sri Lanka’s biggest import markets, count among the top three in terms of tourist inflows and provide significant share of the country’s foreign investment inflows.

     

    “Sri Lanka needs to develop its economy using both Indian and Chinese help. We need both markets,” Shiran Fernando, lead economist at Frontier Research, told CNBC.

     

    But China and India have not always been open to sharing influence, with both trying to leverage their “special relationship” with the island.

     

    “The challenge is to find a balance between these two large countries and not take to one bloc,” said Nishan de Mel, executive director at Verite Research. “The pendulum is swinging but should end up in the middle.”

     

    China’s early lead

     

    After the civil war ended in 2009, China led the rebuilding of Sri Lanka’s infrastructure, as India and the West shied away. The West was concerned over alleged human rights violations during the war against insurgents in the Tamils in the north of the island, while India was politically constrained owing to its ethnic ties with the Tamils,

     

    In this vacuum, China landed contracts to build highways, ports and an airport in the south of the island, from a Sri Lankan government that was at the time open to Chinese expertise and money. India provided assistance in the war torn areas of the north, rebuilding homes and railway tracks, but China was by far the dominant partner.

     

    Among the big-ticket Chinese projects was a port in Hambantota at Sri Lanka’s southern tip, built at a cost of around $360 million, with 85 percent funding from China’s Export-Import Bank. Another key project, a $1.4 billion port city in Colombo, was initiated by then-president Mahinda Rajapaksa’s government in 2014.

     

    Funded by Chinese state-owned company, China Communications Construction, the port city project was due to be the single largest foreign investment in Sri Lanka - a multi-development project with a marina, malls, golf courses and even a Formula 1 track.

     

    But development stalled amid controversy over the tender procedures and on concerns the project, to be built on reclaimed land, would damage the island’s beaches, and it was left in limbo when Rajapaksa’s government was voted out in early 2015, amid promises by the then-opposition, led by Maithripala Sirisena, to scrap the deal entirely.

     

    The pendulum swings

     

    With a new government, headed by President Sirisena, came a more pro-India stance. Sirisena visited India on his first overseas trip and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi reciprocated within a month, using the trip to Sri Lanka to invoke the two countries’ cultural and religious links. He also promised India would develop an oil tank “farm,” offered $318 million in credit for rail works and a $1.5 billion currency swap between the central banks of the two nations, according to reports.

     

    But within a year Sri Lanka was back wooing Chinese investments. The government has revived the port city, and followed up with a visit to China by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in April.

     

    The trip was widely read as being aimed at mending relations as well as negotiating better terms on the port city for Sri Lanka, including a reduction in the $125 million penalty it received for previously suspending work on the mega-project.

     

    Wickremesinghe also requested an equity swap on some of Sri Lanka’s $8 billion worth of additional Chinese loans.

     

    “The government has done a U-turn on the port city project because reality set in,” the Chamber of Commerce’s Wijesinha told CNBC. “If we are to boost investment, we have to look at whoever brings in the investment and clearly China has the money.”

     

    Some commentators maintain that Sri Lanka has cleverly managed its courtship with both India and China.

     

    “At the end of the day, we don’t have a U.S. base on our shores, nor are the Chinese investments a de facto base and neither are we an annexure of India,” said a Colombo-based analyst, implying that the small island state had done well to maintain its sovereignty while balancing diplomatic and trade relations.

     

    The next Singapore?

     

    But much of Sri Lanka’s infrastructure built by the Chinese, including the Hambantota port and the airport, is under-utilized and the existing Colombo port in fact owes most of its business to India. Trans-shipments from India make up 75 percent of its volumes.

     

    “We need to harness these investments, need major players to start using it. Strained relations with China also did not help,” said Frontier’s Fernando, adding that now that the prime minister had visited China, Chinese companies may start using the infrastructure they helped build.

     

    Sri Lanka is also set to receive a $1.5 billion foreign reserve-boosting loan from the International Monetary Fund, which should help boost investor confidence in the $80 billion economy, which already comes with the benefits of high levels of literacy and a vibrant democracy.

     

    The loan is designed to help Sri Lanka avoid a balance-of-payments crisis as occurred at the end of the civil war in 2009 – a crisis that required a $2.6 billion IMF bailout. According to Reuters, Sri Lanka’s foreign reserves have fallen by a third from an October 2014 peak to $6.3 billion in January, mainly due to a $1.3 billion in outflows from government bonds in 2015.

     

    Sri Lanka has already taken one investment rating hit; Fitch Ratings downgraded the country’s long-term foreign and local currency issuer default ratings from B+ from BB-, citing increasing financing risks, significant debt maturities in 2016, the decline in forex reserves and weaker public finances as a result of low revenues.

     

    The decisions made now are key, as Harsha de Silva, the country’s deputy minister of foreign affairs, told CNBC: “If we manage our policies right, we will become the next or even better Singapore or Dubai,” CNBC reports.

     

    NPC adopts resolution backing federal solution
    2016-Apr-23 | By Sihara Colombage

    NPC adopts resolution backing federal solution

    Sri Lanka’s main Tamil party TNA- controlled Northern Provincial Council today adopted a resolution seeking a federal solution to the long-pending issue of political independence for the country’s minority Tamil community. 

    The resolution was presented by Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran while the Ministers and members of the council expressed views on the proposal afterwards. 

    UPFA councilors Vannihamige Jayathilaka and Dharmapala Senevirathna had raised objections to the resolution, stating that it was not the solution to the issue and that it would have harmful repercussions.

    Apart from them, only 19 Northern Provincial Council members of the total 38 were present during the vote on the resolution today.

    The resolution adopted by Tamil National Alliance (TNA) aims to have the federal solution included in the current constitution-making process. 

    The government headed by President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has already launched a process to formulate a new Constitution for the country replacing the 1978 statute. 

    The Tamil demand for a federal solution dates back to the days when Sri Lanka, then Ceylon, came to be granted independence by the British in 1948. 

    Later, the campaign was extended to a separate state demand when the LTTE fought a decades-old war with the government to carve out a separate Tamil homeland. 

    With the defeat of the LTTE in 2009, the Tamil leadership has adopted a softer approach to give up on the separatist demand.

    UNP Pathadumbara Organiser Resigns Ahead Of May Day Rally
    2016-Apr-22 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    UNP Pathadumbara Organiser Resigns Ahead Of May Day Rally

    UNP organiser of Pathadumbara electorate Harindra Dunuwila resigned from his position. 

    Informed Party sources said Dunuwila, a relative of the late Dudley Senanayake, had sent his letter of resignation to Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. 

    The organiser had resigned from the position on the basis that he was not in a position to serve his electorate without an MP or a Provincial Councillor post. 

    A lawyer by profession, Dunuwila is a former Parliamentarian and a State Minister. He is also a former Mayor of Kandy.  

    Dunuwila had told his supporters that he did not have money or resources to provide transport and refreshment to party supporters attending the UNP's May Day rally.

    The party leadership has directed electorate organisers to arrange at least four buses from every polling division for the UNP May Day rally.

    Taxes result of failed projects: Ranjan
    2016-Apr-21 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    The Government had to increase the taxes as a result of the unprofitable projects launched by the former Government, Social Empowerment and Welfare Deputy Minister Ranjan Ramanayake said today.

    After the discussion held at the Temple Trees with the Prime Minister regarding the May Day rally, speaking to the media, Mr. Ramanayake said the Rajapaksa family had placed the country in heavy debt of nearly of Rs. 10 trillion, by implementing several unsuccessful projects, such as Noraichcholai Coal Power Plant, Magampura Mahinda Rajapaksa Port, Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport and the Suriyawewa Cricket Stadium.

    “In my view, as a politician and an artiste, taxes should not be implemented on people, who had suffered for years. Every Sri Lankan child comes to this world with a debt of Rs. 500,000. The Government is forced to increase taxes and it is not doing it deliberately. The Government does not intend to trouble already suffering people by imposing these taxes,” he said.

    He said the President, and the Prime Minister would come to an appropriate decision regarding the tax increase after discussions. 

     

    Cabinet nod for salary hike 
    2016-Apr-21 | By Sihara Colombage

    The PA Circular No. 03/2016 dated February 25, 2016 was issued as per a decision taken by the Cabinet of Ministers to add the special allowance and the interim allowance of Rs. 10,000 to the basic salary of public servants in stages, and accordingly salaries of public servants have been done.

    In line with the above step, the proposal by Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake, to issue the circular which is prepared according to the recommendations of the National Salaries and Cadres Commission to amend the basic salaries of employees of public corporations, statutory boards and fully owned government companies, was approved by the Cabinet of Ministers. 

    US should arrest Gotabaya - Tamil forums urge Obama 
    2016-Apr-21 | By Sihara Colombage

    US should arrest Gotabaya - Tamil forums urge Obama

    In an urgent appeal to President Obama, two major Tamil groups in the United States Tamils for Obama and American Tamil Forum urged the United States to arrest former Sri Lankan Defense Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa who is reported to be currently visiting US, the two organizations said in a statement today.


    “US should not miss the opportunity to arrest and prosecute one of the main war criminals in recent times visiting the US. Failure to do so would encourage others to commit abuses amounting to war crimes” said these two organizations.


    The UN Human Rights Council, led by the US, last year passed a Sri Lanka resolution to hold a credible investigation to punish those responsible for these killings. 


    “United States should take the same leadership it took at the UN to initiate investigation for the visiting Sri Lankan war criminal,” said these two organizations.

     

    Local Elections To Be Held In Early 2017: President
    2016-Apr-21 | By Sihara Colombage

    Local Elections To Be Held In Early 2017: President

    President Maithripala Sirisean yesterday said that the Local Government elections will be held i early 2017.

    He made this revelation speaking at an event in the Sri Lanka Foundation.

    The terms of most of the local government bodies have already expired and they are now being administered by a special commissioner. The government had earlier said that the elections will be held this year. However, the government soon made it clear that the election is unlikely to be held this year.

    The LG election is to be held under the new electoral system. The complaints regarding delimitation have to be considered before the election is held, Minister for Provincial Councils and Local Government Faizer Mustapha said recently.

    VAT exempted from electricity and medicines - Yapa
    2016-Apr-20 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    VAT exempted from electricity and medicines - Yapa

    The Value Added Tax (VAT) has been exempted from electricity and medicines, State Minister Lakshman Yapa says.


    The observation was made while speaking at a press conference held in Colombo today (20).


    The State Minister also added that discussions are underway not to increase proposed 4% VAT on water bills.


    The VAT is scheduled to be increased from 11% to 15% with effect from May 02, 2016. In March, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in Parliament announced that VAT will be hiked and said the government will impose a capital gains tax as well.

     

    VAC charges MS, RW of nepotism
    2016-Apr-20 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    President Maithripala Sirisena’s brother, who is the Chairman of the Sri Lanka Telecom (SLT), had awarded the insurance deal of Mobitel to a company owned by someone close to him causing Rs. 3 billion loss to the Government, the Voice Against Corruption (VAC) charged today.

    VAC Convener and JVP Provincial Councillor Wasantha Samarasinghe claimed the SLT Chairman was receiving a monthly allowance of Rs. 750,000 as his house rent.

    He said that he had also increased allowances receiving from the companies to Rs. 1 million from previous Rs. 500,000.

    “This is the highest in the history of allowances received by an SLT Chairman. Also, the advertising of the company had been awarded to an advertising firm owned by President Sirisena’s son-in-law.

    “Both the President and the Prime Minister are promoting nepotism instead of putting an end to it as pledged during the election,” he charged.

    “Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe appointed his friend Arjuna Mahendran as the Central Bank Governor and today he is in the centre of a heap of allegations,” he said.

    He said nepotism was one among many allegations levelled against former president Mahinda Rajapaksa and had even cost him his Presidency.

    “Today, President Sirisena and Prime Minister are following the same footsteps,” he said.

    Meanwhile, Mr. Samarasinghe said large scale corruption was taking place at the LTL Holdings (Pvt) Ltd, a company owned by the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB), similar to the Avant Garde Maritime Security Service.

    “The LTL Holdings also administered by retired CEB officials -similar to Avant Garde operations handled by retired naval officers. This is the company, which had funded previous Power and Energy Ministers during their elections. All Power and Energy Ministers are responsible for the corrupt deals, which had taken place at the LTL,” he said.

    He said the CEB owned up to 63 percent of shares of the LTL and when the company was to be brought before the Committee On Public Enterprises (COPE) to probe corrupt deals, the officials tried to reduce the shares to 49 percent.

    “When the percentage of shares owned by the State in a company is less than 49%, that company can get away with facing the COPE. This is what the LTL officials are trying to do. However, this had not yet been successful due to the objections of the engineers,” he said.

    Speaker calls on Rana Muhammad
    2016-Apr-20 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    Speaker calls on Rana Muhammad

     

    A Sri Lankan delegation led by Speaker of the parliament of Sri Lanka Karu Jayasuria on Tuesday met Speaker Punjab Assembly Rana Muhammad Iqbal at Assembly chambers in Lahore.


    The matters pertaining to continuity of democracy in Pakistan, strengthening of institutions, freedom of media, besides other topics were discussed during the meeting.


    The PA speaker briefed the delegation about priorities of the Punjab government regarding elimination of poverty, under development, health, education and provision of other fundamental necessities to people.


    Rana Iqbal said that exchange of delegations between the two countries would help in understanding the parliamentary legacy of both countries as well as legislation parameters.


    He said that people of Pakistan rendered great sacrifices for the restoration of democracy, adding that Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif was putting all-out efforts for continuity of democracy in country.


    The speaker appreciated that both countries extended cooperation in health, science & technology, anti-drug campaigns, trade and fashion designing.


    Appreciating Punjab government’s measures in health, education and other sectors to facilitate people, the Sri Lankan Speaker said that his country would further accelerate the cooperation with Pakistan in trade and other sectors.

     

    DV Upul Files Case Against Ranjan Ramanayake
    2016-Apr-19 | By Sihara Colombage

    DV Upul Files Case Against Ranjan Ramanayake

    Southern Province Fisheries Minister DV Upul filed a case with Colombo District Court against Deputy Minister Ranjan Ramanayake, claiming Rs 500 million as damages for allegedly defamatory statements made by the latter.

    Upul informed court that Ramanayake had made a claim that he obtained a loan of Rs 76 million from Lankaputhra Development Bank in a fraudulent manner.

    Ramanayake had made this claim during a press conference on February 20, 2016, Upul further informed court.

    He also said that this statement had damaged his good name and reputation and requested the court to order Ramanayake pay Rs 500 million as compensation.

    Ranawaka Makes Appointment Of Jayasundera As IGP Illegal, Claims Gammanpila
    2016-Apr-19 | By Sihara Colombage

    Ranawaka Makes Appointment Of Jayasundera As IGP Illegal, Claims Gammanpila

    Minister Patali Champika Ranawaka's membership of the Constitutional Council would make the appointment of Senior DIG Pujitha Jayasundara as the IGP illegal, Pivithuru Hela Urumaya General Secretary Udaya Gammanpila claimed.

    Speaking at a press conference this morning, Gammanpila claimed that Ranawaka is involved with four ongoing police investigations. Therefore he has a conflict of interest in the appointment of the IGP, Gammanpila argued.

    Ranawaka is the President's representative of the Constitutional Council.

    The CC yesterday recommended Jayasundera for the post of IGP.

    Rajapaksa Invited To UPFA May Rally
    2016-Apr-19 | By Sihara Colombage

    Rajapaksa Invited To UPFA May Rally

    Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa was officially invited for the UPFA May Day rally, UPFA General Secretary Mahinda Amaraweera said.

    Accordingly, an invitation was sent to Rajapaksa yesterday.

    Rajapaksa had recently said that he has not been invited to the SLFP/UPFA rally in Galle. Meanwhile, the 'Joint Opposition' had invited him for its May Day rally, Rajapaksa said.

    Disciplinary decisions on Mahinda will be taken by President - Samarasinghe
    2016-Apr-19 | By Sihara Colombage

    Disciplinary decisions on Mahinda will be taken by President - Samarasinghe

     

    President Maithripala Sirisena will decide on disciplinary action on former President Mahinda Rajapaksa on a diplomatic level, Minister of Skills Development and Vocational Training Mahinda Samarasinghe said today.

     

    Samarasinghe said this today at a press conference when it was inquired as to why the SLFP Central Committee takes disciplinary action on MPs of the party however not on Advisors.

     

    Samarasinghe added that Rajapaksa was the former President of the country and that he could not be compared with a Minister like Kumar Welgama, hence decisions on him will be taken by President Sirisena.

     

    Bangladesh identifies 8 Sri Lankan suspects in cyber theft
    2016-Apr-19 | By Sihara Colombage

    Bangladesh identifies 8 Sri Lankan suspects in cyber theft

     

    Bangladeshi investigators have identified 20 foreigners - 12 Philippine nationals and eight Sri Lankans - suspected to have been involved in the cyber heist of tens of millions of dollars from its central bank, a police officer said on Monday.

     

    The officer gave no other details, but the suspects appear to be those who received some of the payments, and not the hackers.

     

    The hackers breached Bangladesh Bank’s systems between Feb. 4 and Feb. 5 and tried to steal nearly $1 billion from its account at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

     

    Most of the payments were blocked but $81 million was routed to accounts in the Philippines and diverted to casinos there.

     

    Another $20 million was sent to a company in Sri Lanka but the transfer was reversed because the hackers misspelled the name of the firm, raising a red flag at the routing bank.

     

    Mohammad Shah Alam, a senior officer at the criminal investigation department of the Bangladesh police, said Interpol had helped identify the foreigners suspected to be involved in one of the largest cyber heists in history.

     

    “We have identified at least 20 foreigners with name and full particulars who we believe were involved,” Alam told reporters.

     

    Another official on his team said the results of the investigation had been submitted to Philippine and Sri Lankan authorities.

     

    Both Alam and the other official who declined to be named said they could not provide more details about the foreign suspects because investigations were not complete.

     

    A Senate committee in the Philippines is holding hearings into how the money stolen from the Bangladesh central bank wound up with two casinos and a junket operator in the country.

     

    Sri Lanka’s criminal police department is also investigating the cyber theft, but has declined to provide any information.

     

    Alam, the Bangladesh police officer, said there was no evidence yet of anyone inside the Bangladesh bank being involved in the hacking of its computer systems.

     

    Police were investigating if service providers to the central bank had been negligent in setting up secure computer systems, he said, Reuters reports.

     

    President On VAT Increase: Vows To Sack Economic Advisers Insensitive To People's Welfare
    2016-Apr-19 | By Sihara Colombage

    President On VAT Increase: Vows To Sack Economic Advisers Insensitive To People's Welfare (VIDEO)

    President Maithripala Sirisena today vowed to sack any economic advisers who do not give priority to the people's interest.

    Speaking at an event in Polonnaruwa today, he said that he will not let the general public of the country face the implications of the increase in VAT.

    Commenting on the economic advisers, he said that some of them are not sensitive to the people's welfare. The economic strategy of the country should never forget the welfare of the people, he added.

    He added that this government is a people's government and not a king's government.

     

    Bond auction process back in spotlight  
    2016-Apr-19 | By Sihara Colombage

    Questions have again been raised over the government securities (G-Secs) auction process as a recent treasury bond issue had accepted triple the amount it offered at a significantly higher interest rate, driving up the government’s cost of borrowing.

    On March 29, 2016, the Central Bank offered a 14-year and one-month bond (2030 bond) to raise Rs.10 billion. But the bank accepted bids up to Rs.29 billion – almost thrice the amount offered – at a higher rate of 14.23 percent.

    The Central Bank denies any irregularities in the process and said the spike in bond yields reflected the recent monetary policy actions and volatile global markets.

    However, the bond yield significantly came down on the next day in the secondary market (see illustration), opening up an avenue for those who bought the bonds to make thumping profits by selling them.   

    According to economist Murtaza Jaffergee, at a time when the interest rates are going up, it is irrational to borrow for 14 years at an interest rate of 14.23 percent, when you can minimize your exposure by borrowing short term.

    “If your interest rates are going up and you are vulnerable, and if you still need to borrow more money, you need to borrow short term. Then your exposure is only for the next three or four years. If so, at least you pay the penalty in the short term only, not for 14 years,” Jaffergee told a recent forum in Colombo organised by the National Chamber of Commerce.  

    However, Central Bank Deputy Governor P. Samarasiri defended the interest rate at which the 2030 bond was issued and said the interest rate could have even gone up to 20 percent levels had not for their debt raising strategies prevented such a spike in yields and the possible market panic.  

    According to Samarasiri, there was a “last minute” money requirement of Rs.105 billion by the government by April 1, 2016. He stressed that had they announced the entire quantum at a single auction, the rates could have even gone up to 20 percent, due to the announcement effect.      

    Two days later, on March 31, 2016, the Central Bank’s treasury bond auction raised Rs.40.1 billion, little more than twice the amount offered. During the two days, the government raised Rs.117.9 billion in total through bonds.

    Sri Lanka’s G-Secs auctions practice the bad habit of accepting bids way higher the amount they offer, raising serious questions over the rationality and transparency of such issues.  

    For example, the bond auction on March 29 saw the Central Bank accepting bids worth Rs.77.8 billion in total under different maturities, double the offered amount of Rs.40 billion.

    It was only last week the former parliamentary oversight committee on state enterprises – the Committee on Public Enterprises – Chairman D.E.W. Gunasekera demanded explanations from the government for raising bonds at very high rates while insisting on the Central Bank Governor to reveal the primary dealers who bought the bonds.

    However, Samarasiri dismissed the allegations calling them baseless and said the rising interest rates in the bills and bond markets reflect the policy decisions taken in recent times to tighten the monetary policy.

    Responding to calls for greater transparency in G-Secs auctions, Samarasiri said the Monetary Law Act bars releasing individual information to the public, hence it could not be done.

    “This is not for Sri Lanka only, from all other Central Banks, the same question is asked: ‘why don’t you release individual information?’ As policymakers, we can’t do that,” Samarasiri told the media during a Central Bank press conference held last week.

    Jafferjee, who is also Managing Director of JB Securities (Private) Limited, a Colombo-based stockbroking firm, said there was absolutely no price transparency in the G-Secs market although it was much bigger than the country’s stock market.

    “In the stock market if anybody trades, everybody knows. There’s total price transparency. The G-Secs market is three to four times bigger than the stock market. But absolutely no price transparency,” he said.

    However, Samarasiri during the press conference said, “These are not the things that you can do telling everybody. I don’t know what transparency people are talking about in these kinds of transactions.”

    Nevertheless, G-Secs yields are used as proxy rates in an economy when pricing all types of assets and commodities such as lands, properties and equities. Hence, the sudden spikes and wide fluctuations in bond yields could have a ripple effect on every citizen of the country. “So, this (bond yields) is feeding into prices of every commodity. The price of money is continuously changing and there’s going to be a real effect on all of us because the banks will have to start pricing in for this uncertainty which will drive up the cost of borrowing.

    Businesses will have to price in the cost of uncertainty in their pricing,” Jafferjee cautioned.     

    It was only over a year ago on February 27, 2015, a series of allegations were levelled against the Central Bank over a bond scam when it accepted 10 times the offer amount of Rs.1 billion for yields up to 12.5 percent – above the target borrowing rate of 9 to 9.5 percent— where most of the higher yield bids alleged to have been offered to a primary dealer owned by the son-in-law of the Governor of the Central Bank, causing much stir in the financial markets.

    Gota summoned by PRECIFAC: Informed he is abroad
    2016-Apr-18 | By Sihara Colombage

    Former Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who was summoned by the PRECIFA C to appear before the Commission today over alleged misuse of SL Air Force flights, did not turn up as he was out of the country, sources said.

    An official of the Commission said Mr. Rajapaksa had been asked to appear before the Commission to give a statement but he had informed the Commission that he was unable to make it as he was leaving the country for medical treatment.

    He said a new date would be given after Mr. Rajapaksa arrived in the country.

    Former Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa and his wife Pushpa had also been summoned before the Commission over the same matter on two previous occasions.

    BRICS Bank Approves First Loans, $811mn Investment In Renewable Energy Projects
    2016-Apr-18 | By Sihara Colombage

    BRICS Bank Approves First Loans, $811mn Investment In Renewable Energy Projects

    The BRICS New Development Bank (NDB) has approved its first package of loans worth some $811 million. The four projects in Brazil, China, South Africa and India are all in the renewal energy development sphere.

    The decision to approve the first loans, which are to be handed out in tranches, was approved by the NDB at the board of governors on the sidelines of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank spring meetings in Washington DC, RIA reported.

    The NDB decided to provide $300 million to Brazil, $81 million to China, $250 million to India and $180 million to South Africa. The bank estimates that the renewable energy field projects with a combined capacity of 2.37MW together can help reduce the amount of harmful emissions by 4 million tons annually.

    “There are many more new projects in the pipeline including projects from Russia. They are at various stages of consideration or appraisal,” the NDB spokesperson said.

    The ministers also discussed creating a credit rating agency of their own to tackle the western dominance in this sphere.

    “Deliberations were held on efficacy of establishment of New Development Bank Institute and BRICS rating agency,” an Indian media release said. “It was decided that a technical working group would examine the issues in detail.”

    The New Development Bank created by Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa started its operations in July, 2015, with initial authorized capital of $100 billion. The goals of the bank, headquartered in Shanghai, is to fund infrastructure projects in emerging economies for sustainable development.

    Tamils look for federal solution - Sampanthan
    2016-Apr-18 | By Sihara Colombage

    Sri Lankas main Tamil party TNA is seeking a federal solution to resolve the long-pending issue of political independence for the country’s minority Tamil community, the PTI reported. This was conveyed by the main opposition leader and Tamil National Alliance leader (TNA) R Sampanthan in Jaffna to TNA representatives.

    Commenting on the talks, the TNA northern provincial councilor M K Shvajilingam said Sampanthan had briefed them on the partys approach to the constitutional reform coming up at national level. The government headed by President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has already launched a process to formulate a new Constitution for the country replacing the 1978 statute. Shivajilingam said Sampanthan said the current government could be more responsive to a federal arrangement and therefore, the TNA local politicians must not act indifferently at this stage.

    “He said they are looking for a federal solution within an undivided Sri Lanka based on the merger of the north and eastern provinces,” Shivajilingam said. He said if the government did not acceded to a federal solution, international pressure must be brought to bear upon it by the Tamils.

    The Tamil demand for a federal solution dates back to the days when Sri Lanka, then Ceylon, came to be granted independence by the British in 1948. Later, the campaign was extended to a separate state demand when the LTTE fought a decades old war with the government to carve out a separate Tamil homeland.

    US think tank lists Sri Lanka among Asia's top 10 FDI hotspots
    2016-Apr-18 | By Sihara Colombage

    US think tank lists Sri Lanka among Asia's top 10 FDI hotspots

    The United States-based think tank IHS Global Insight has listed Sri Lanka as one of the top 10 foreign direct investment (FDI) destinations in Asia.

    The other Southeast Asian countries that are also projected by IHS to be the FDI hot spots in the region, are China, India, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Vietnam, Myanmar, Malaysia, The Philippines and Thailand.

    "Over the next decade, Asia Pacific is forecast to be the fastest growing region of the global economy and the region that offers the biggest potential gains for foreign direct investment," IHS said in a release.

    Amongst the South Asian economies, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh are expected to show rapid growth over the next decade.

    According to the think tank, the new Sri Lankan government has embarked on sweeping economic reforms, with its first budget containing considerable economic liberalization measures.

    The Sri Lankan economy is projected to grow at an average annual pace of 5.6% per year over 2016-2020 while key growth industries are expected to include logistics, tourism, agricultural products, IT-BPO industries and construction.

    Discontinuing Former Government's Work Reason For Economic Crisis, Claims Rajapaksa
    2016-Apr-18 | By Sihara Colombage

    Discontinuing Former Government's Work Reason For Economic Crisis, Claims Rajapaksa

    Discontinuing the former government's development work was the reason for the economic crisis at present, former President Mahinda Rajapaksa claimed.

    Speaking at an event in Kurunegala, Rajapaksa said that he advised the present government not to stop the work started by him. The government failed to heed to this advise, he said.

    He also maintained that the Sri Lankan government should not compromise on its friendship with China.

    Rajapaksa further claimed that his government was able to obtain aid from all countries including the west.

    The former President pointed out that the increase of the VAT will affect people's lives directly. The people are now forced to face the consequences of the government's mistakes, he added.

    Brazil MPs Hold Knife-edge Impeachment Vote Against President
    2016-Apr-18 | By Sihara Colombage

    Happening Now: Brazil MPs Hold Knife-edge Impeachment Vote Against President

    Brazil's lower house of Congress is voting on whether to impeach President Dilma Rousseff over charges of manipulating government accounts for political gains - a claim she denies.

    The "yes" camp is leading by a wide margin, as the vote reaches its final stage. To succeed, the motion needs a two-thirds majority - or 342 votes.

    Rousseff accuses her opponents of mounting a "coup".

    Some 25,000 rival protesters are rallying outside Congress.

    The lengthy session in the capital Brasilia has heard speeches from both sides.

    With 400 of the 513 votes cast, 297 voted to impeach Rousseff, 97 were against, four abstained and two were absent.

    If the motion is approved by two-thirds it will be sent to the upper house, the Senate, which will consider the allegations of unlawful activity against her.

    If the Senate finds Rousseff guilty, she can be removed from office permanently. She has two opportunities to appeal during the whole process.

    Sampanthan Hits Out At Government For Appropriating Land For Sampur Power Plan
    2016-Apr-18 | By Sihara Colombage

    Sampanthan Hits Out At Government For Appropriating Land For Sampur Power Plan

    Leader of the Opposition in Parliament R. Sampanthan stated that the Tamil National Alliance strongly oppose the government’s action of providing 818 acres of land from Sampur for proposed Indian Thermal Power Plant.

    Sampanthan made this observation during a press conference held at Kopay, yesterday.

    The MP stated that they would negotiate with the government and provide all land which was acquired by the government, to public.

    He stated that every government until now has served arbitrary in obtaining public lands in Northern and Eastern provinces. The times have come to stop this actions immediately, he stressed.

     

    Wickramesinghe's IGP Bid Under Threat Due To Thajudeen Case: CC Likely To Pick Pujitha
    2016-Apr-17 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    Wickramesinghe's IGP Bid Under Threat Due To Thajudeen Case: CC Likely To Pick Pujitha

    Senior DIG S.M. Wickremasinghe’s bid for the post of IGP has come under threat due to his close ties with some of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s associates, including retired senior DIG Anura Senanayake. 

    Senanayake's name has already been been linked with Wasim Thajudeen's murder investigation, informed government sources said.

    Furthermore, Senior DIG Wickramasinghe, in his capacity as the former President's security chief, has worked closely with some of the personal bodyguards of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa. Some ex-bodyguards of the former President, including 'Captain Tissa', are expected to be arrested in connection with the Thajudeen investigation. On the other hand, several other bodyguards, including the person known as 'Major Neville', are under probe over multiple allegations, including bribery and money laundering.

    Wickremasinghe hails from Polonnaruwa and has the backing of President Maithripala Sirisena, who was quick to appoint him as acting IGP soon after former IGP N.K. Illangakone's retirement. However, according to the provisions of the 19th Amendment, the final decision on the appointment would be made by the Constitutional Council. 

    Some members of the Constitutional Council, including its civil society representatives, have raised concerns about Wickremasinghe's track-record when the latter was the security chief of the former President, Asian Mirror reliably learns. 

    The Constitutional Council will interview three senior DIGs, namely S.M. Wickremasinghe, Pujitha Jayasundara and Chandana Wickremaratne, on Monday. With Wickremaratne being comparatively junior to the service, Jayasundara is likely to be nominated by the Constitutional Council as the next IGP. 

    President Prefers Wickremasinghe - UNP Backs Pujitha : Politics In IGP Race
    2016-Apr-16 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    Pic: AFP / Ishara S Kodikara

    The Constitutional Council will interview three Senior DIGs on Monday before his decision on the new Police Chief. 

    The Council has summoned Senior DIGs S.M. Wickremasinghe, Pujitha Jayasundara and Chandrana Wickremaratne for interviews, its sources said on Sunday. 

    It is learnt that Wickremasinghe and Jayasundara, the two most senior candidates, are front-runners for the position which became vacant after former IGP N.K. Illangakoon's retirement.

    "President Maithripala Sirisena prefers his security chief Wickremasinghe as the next IGP while the UNP and some civil society groups are backing Jayasundara," top Police sources told Asian Mirror on Sunday. "Therefore, it is a tough battle" they also added. 

    Wickremasinghe, who also functioned as the security chief of former President Rajapaksa hails from Polonnaruwa, President Sirisena's hometown. Wickremesinghe's father is a leading farmer in the Polonnaruwa district who earned the nickname 'goviraja' for his agricultural prowess. 

    Immediately after the Presidential election in January, last year, Wickremasinghe met President Sirisena at the latter's Ward Place residence and urged the President to keep him as the security chief - to which Sirisena agreed. 

    Although he severed ties with the Rajapaksa after becoming the new President's security chief, his alleged links with some notorious Police officers - including former Senior DIG Anura Senanayake - could be seen as a 'barrier' where Wickremesinghe's IGP bid is concerned. 

    The President, however, was quick to appoint Wickremasinghe as the acting IGP soon after Illangakoon's retirement on April 12. 

    Jayasundara, who is equally senior in Police service as Wickremasinghe, was not in the good books of the Rajapaksas for the past few years. He was, quite apparently, sidelined by former Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa who did not give the senior Police Officer any significant national-level responsibility during the 10 year Rajapaksa rule. 

    However, Jayasundara's career blossomed after a new government came to power in January, last year, at an unexpected moment. Recently his was entrusted with the task of curbing the crime-wave which it a new high with a string of murders in Colombo and suburbs. 

    The third candidate Wickramaratne is several years younger in Police service when compared to Wickremasinghe and Jayasundara. Informed Police sources said wickramaratne's IGP stakes were meagre due to his lack of seniority vis-a-vis other two contenders. 

    Asian govts, central banks to work together to prevent repeat of cyber heist
    2016-Apr-16 | By Sihara Colombage

    Asian govts, central banks to work together to prevent repeat of cyber heist

    Governments and central banks in Asia, including India, will work together to protect their systems from hackers to avoid a repeat of the daring cyber heist on Bangladesh Bank, the central bank of Bangladesh.

    Coordinated action to tackle this menace is the need of the hour, Sri Lankan minister of finance Ravi Karunanayake said after a meeting of the finance ministers from G24 countries, comprising emerging economies including India.

    “What happened in Bangladesh was a clear-cut case of hacking. There was a lack of awareness amongst central bankers in the Asian region. We have decided that there will be a grouping of knowledge, pooling of resources and coordinated action to eradicate such things,” he said. “Even India’s minister of finance Arun Jaitley flagged this issue today in the meeting,” Karunanayake added.

    In February, hackers posing as officials of the Bangladeshi central bank asked the US Federal Reserve to transfer more than $951 million to private accounts based in Sri Lanka and the Philippines. A small spelling error led to the unravelling of the heist, but not before $101 million was stolen.

    The daring heist brought the spotlight back to the security systems of central banks across the world and the need to fortify such systems, given the increasing sophistication and reach of hackers.

    “We don’t know to what level it has seeped in... we are trying hard to get that insulation and all central bankers are working together for this,” Karunanayake said, adding that even advanced economies are extending help to prevent such occurrences in the future. 

    Namal Facing Imminent Arrest Over Two High-Profile Investigations
    2016-Apr-15 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    Parliamentarian Namal Rajapaka is facing imminent arrest in connection with two high profile investigations, authoritative Police sources told Asian Mirror. 

    The Police Financial Crimes Investigations Division (FCID) is currently probing into money laundering allegations levelled against the MP while the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) handles inquiries into former Rugby player Wasim Thajudeen's death. Highly place Police sources said there was enough grounds to suggest that the Parliamentarian would be arrested over the incident. 

    The FCID has already submitted a report to Additional Magistrate Nishantha Peiris on the investigation launched into a complaint lodged by the Voice Against Corruption (VAC) against MP Namal Rajapaksa on money laundering charges. 

    The complaint lodged by JVP Provincial Councilor Wasantha Samarasinghe last year had charged a company by the name of Gowers Corporate (Pvt) Ltd allegedly headed by Rajapaksa, had purchased shares from a company called Hellocorp from illegally acquired funds worth Rs.125 million. 

    Meanwhile, in a separate development, the CID is now conducting inquiries to arrest suspects in the Wasim Thajudeen case. It is widely speculation that some bodyguards of the Parliamentarian, including the individual named 'Captain Tissa,' are among the suspects in the case. The CID has already received green light from the Colombo Additional Magistrate to arrest suspects.

    Police sources added arrests would be made before the next hearing of the case.

    Sri Lanka to raise VAT to 15% from May 2
    2016-Apr-15 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    Sri Lanka to raise VAT to 15% from May 2

    The Value Added Tax (VAT) is scheduled to be increased from 11% to 15% with effect from May 02, 2016. 

    Health and telecommunication sectors will also be included for subject to VAT, according to Finance Ministry sources. 

    In March, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in Parliament announced that VAT will be hiked to 15 percent from 11 percent and said the government will impose a capital gains tax. 

     The goods imported into Sri Lanka and goods and services supplied within the territorial limits of Sri Lanka are the subject matter of VAT.

    Sri Lanka Among Top Ten FDI Hotspots In Asia Pacific: Report
    2016-Apr-15 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    Sri Lanka Among Top Ten FDI Hotspots In Asia Pacific: Report

    Sri Lanka is ranked among Asia Pacific’s top 10 foreign direct investment (FDI) hotspots, according to a study by US-based global information company IHS Inc.

    The other Asia Pacific FDI hotspots are Malaysia, China, Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines, Myanmar, Thailand, India and Bangladesh.

    In a statement yesterday, IHS said that over the next decade, the Asia Pacific is forecast to be the fastest growing region of the global economy and the region that offers the biggest potential gains for FDI.

    “The Asia Pacific region will grow at an average annual rate of 4.5 per cent per year, boosted by rapid growth in consumer spending in China, India and Southeast Asia,” said IHS Chief Economist Asia Pacific Rajiv Biswas.

    Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand are also expected to join the ranks of Asian nations with a Gross Domestic Product exceeding US$1 trillion by 2030. “This will help to increase the geopolitical and economic importance of ASEAN and economic grouping in international diplomacy and the global dialogue on trade, investment and international standards-setting,” said.

    IHS said that Southeast Asia is expected to be one of the world’s fastest growing regions with these four ASEAN nations.

    Sri Lanka’s tourism sector woos UAE investors     
    2016-Apr-13 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    Sri Lanka’s tourism sector woos UAE investors

    Sri Lanka’s safe haven status as a destination of foreign direct investment has increased its appeal to investors from the UAE, the island nation’s minister said.


    Speaking at the Annual Investment Meeting, Rishad Bathiudeen, Minister of Industry and Commerce of Sri Lanka, said there are number of mechanism in place to protect investors. Sri Lanka’s constitution guarantees the safety of investment of foreigners in the country. 


    “We have received a numerous inquiries from interested parties from UAE in the tourism sector and we do encourage more investment proposals from the UAE and my Ministry will facilitate their interests,” he said.


    He also said AIM is creating a significant platform for global leaders to meet and discuss diversified investment opportunity in different destinations.

    UK: Brexit Could Cause Severe Damage, Says IMF
    2016-Apr-13 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    UK: Brexit Could Cause Severe Damage, Says IMF

    The UK's exit from the European Union could cause "severe regional and global damage", the International Monetary Fund has warned in its latest outlook.

    A so-called "Brexit" would disrupt established trading relationships and cause "major challenges" for both the UK and the rest of Europe, it said.

    The IMF said the referendum had already created uncertainty for investors and a vote to exit would only heighten this.

    Vote Leave said the IMF had been "consistently wrong" in past forecasts.

    The IMF also cut its UK growth forecast. It now expects 1.9% growth in the UK this year, compared with its January estimate of 2.2%. For next year, it expects 2.2% growth, unchanged from its earlier forecast.

    If the referendum were to decide in favour of leaving the EU the IMF would expect negotiations on post-exit arrangements to be protracted, which it warned "could weigh heavily on confidence and investment, all the while increasing financial market volatility".

    It also believes a UK exit from the EU would "disrupt and reduce mutual trade and financial flows" and restrict benefits from economic co-operation and integration, such as those resulting from economies of scale.

    However, the Fund said that domestic demand, boosted by lower energy prices and a buoyant property market, would help to offset the impact on UK growth ahead of the EU referendum.

    Chancellor George Osborne said the IMF's comments reinforced the case for staying."The IMF has given us the clearest independent warning of the taste of bad things to come if we leave the EU," he said.

    Meanwhile, Prime Minister David Cameron tweeted: "The IMF is right - leaving the EU would pose major risks for the UK economy. We are stronger, safer and better off in the European Union."

    Share Transaction Levy re-imposed
    2016-Apr-12 | By Sihara Colombage

    Share Transaction Levy re-imposed

     

    The Share Transaction Levy will be re-imposed from every buyer and seller on the turnover of every share trading transaction, Chief Operating Officer of the Colombo Stock Exchange Renuka Wijewardena said in a statement today (12).


    “Please note that the Share Transaction Levy will be re-imposed at the rate of 0.3% from every buyer and seller on the turnover of every share trading transaction, which is conducted through the SCE with effect from Friday, 15th April 2016,” the statement added.

     

    Donald Trump Lambasts 'Rigged' Delegate System
    2016-Apr-12 | By Sihara Colombage

    Donald Trump Lambasts 'Rigged' Delegate System

    Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has described as "rigged" the way the US state of Colorado picks its presidential nominee.

    His rival Ted Cruz swept the board in that state, where delegates are selected by senior party activists.

    Trump is still well ahead in the Republican race but if he does not get 1,237 delegates in the state-by-state contests, he could lose out anyway.

    A winner could well emerge from a contested convention in July.

    In that scenario, many of the delegates can back who they want to after the first ballot, opening the door for Texas Senator Cruz or even the third candidate in the race, John Kasich.

    Senior Republicans have voiced concern about Trump's chances of winning in November's general election, and oppose his hardline views on immigration.

    Next week New Yorkers get the chance to pick their nominees in the Republican and Democratic contests, in a pivotal moment in the process.

    But on Monday, Trump, a New York businessman, told Fox News he was angry about the way Mr Cruz had won all the delegates in Colorado.

    "They weren't given a vote. It's a crooked deal. The system is rigged, crooked. That's not the way democracy is supposed to work."

    Delegates are party members with the power to vote for each candidate at the party conventions held in July, where the nominee is formally confirmed.

    In the modern political era, most states have opted to hold state-wide primaries or caucuses to determine the number of delegates pledged to a particular candidate.

    But Colorado decided to select its delegates in a different way, at its own state convention.

    Brazil: Congressional Committee Recommends Impeachment Of President
    2016-Apr-12 | By Sihara Colombage

    Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff has suffered a blow to her hopes of staving off impeachment proceedings, after a committee voted they should go ahead.

    The 65-member congressional committee voted 38 to 27 to recommend impeachment over claims she manipulated government accounts to hide a growing deficit.

    All eyes will now be on a full vote in the lower house on 17 or 18 April.

    The issue has divided Brazil, with police preparing for mass protests in the capital, Brasilia.

    The vote took place amid chaotic scenes with supporters and opponents of President Rousseff shouting slogans and waving placards.

    The committee's vote, while largely symbolic, was being watched as a measure of how much support there is for the impeachment process ahead of the crucial vote in the full lower house of Congress.

    There, 342 votes in favour are needed to send the matter on to the Senate. The latest opinion poll by the Estadao daily suggests 292 are in favour, 115 against and 106 undecided.

    Sri Lanka hopeful of getting IMF assistance
    2016-Apr-12 | By Sihara Colombage

    Setting high hopes on securing assistance from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Governor of Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL) Arjuna Mahendran on Monday linked it to the revival of fortunes of the country’s economy.  

    Answering questions on the proposed assistance from the IMF, Mr Mahendran, who earlier held discussions with a team of the IMF, told The Hindu that he was hoping to get between $ 1 billion and $ 1.25 billion. But, “the amount is not so important.

    Once we have an agreement [with the IMF], the World Bank, ADB [Asian Development Bank], Japanese and German aid agencies will kick in. They are waiting for the IMF agreement. That’s the gateway.”   Over three years, the country could then “collectively and easily” mobilise $ 5 billion.

    This could be used to fund private entrepreneurs, he said. “We will kick off a fairly sustainable growth path, where we move away from excessive funding on government projects and over reliance on public sector to create jobs and keep the economy growing,” the Hindu reports. 

    PM Wickremesinghe says port project no threat
    2016-Apr-11 | By Sihara Colombage

    PM Wickremesinghe says port project no threat

    Chinese investment in Sri Lanka will not pose a threat to other countries, including India, according to the island nation’s prime minister.


    During Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s visit to Beijing, the Sri Lankan government sought more investment despite a compensation claim from a Chinese company involved in a major port project remaining unresolved.


    Wickremesinghe, who wrapped up his first visit to China over the weekend, said that his government is giving special status to the Colombo Port City project and that the port’s profitable future has attracted many Chinese investors, the ECSN news agency reported.


    “The port city and megalopolis is not a threat to anyone. It’s an opportunity for everyone to make money,” he said.


    “We met with many Chinese companies and they are all interested in coming into Sri Lanka,” Wickremesinghe said.


    The Port City project, contracted to State-owned China Communications Construction Co in 2013 with investment of $1.4 billion, is Sri Lanka’s biggest single foreign investment. However, the project was suspended in January last year after the new Sri Lankan government ordered a review.


    The Chinese company, which has estimated that the suspension will cause losses of more than $380,000 a day, has sought compensation of $125 million, according to the Sri Lankan government, which has said it cannot pay and wants to negotiate.


    Premier Li Keqiang told Wickremesinghe that China will work with Sri Lanka to push for a resumption of the project.


    Wickremesinghe said on Saturday that he did not discuss the compensation issue with Chinese leaders during his visit, as he did not think it was a major problem.


    He said the port city is a joint venture involving Chinese and Sri Lankan companies, but Indian companies would be welcome to join it. His administration has had discussions on the issue with the Chinese government and Chinese banks.


    The port city is part of a plan for a “megalopolis” with a population of 8 million, and there will be more opportunities for infrastructure development by Chinese and other companies, Wickremesinghe said.


    “We welcome Chinese investment in areas including tourism, infrastructure and power,” he added.


    Describing Sri Lanka as the most important country in the Indian Ocean for China’s Belt and Road Initiative, Wickremesinghe said his nation is reviving its position as an Indian Ocean hub, which is connected to the China-proposed 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.

    We should go to Panama to find SL money - Ranil
    2016-Apr-11 | By Sihara Colombage

    Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said today that Sri Lanka should now go to Panama to find Sri Lankan owned money.

    There are media reports, that the government is awaiting information on the alleged involvement of Sri Lankans in offshore financial dealings as revealed in the Panama Papers of the law firm Mossack Fonseca.

    British PM In Further Trouble Over Pounds Sterling 200,000 Gift From Mother
    2016-Apr-10 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    British PM In Further Trouble Over Pounds Sterling 200,000 Gift From Mother

    British Prime Minister David Cameron took the unprecedented decision to release his personal tax records on Saturday, as growing anger over revelations in the Panama Papers threatened to derail his premiership.

    But the extraordinary move seems set to plunge David Cameron into further controversy, as it emerged that his mother transferred two separate payments of £100,000 to his accounts in 2011, allowing the family estate to avoid a potential £80,000 worth of inheritance tax.

    Four years after first promising to open his financial affairs to public view, Downing Street published a document detailing Cameron’s income and tax payments from 2009-10 to 2014-15. The move came after an emotional Cameron admitted to the Conservative party’s spring forum that he alone was to blame for the furore caused by his failure to be frank about his profits from an offshore investment fund.

    On Monday, Cameron will announce the establishment of a taskforce, led by HM Revenue & Customs and the National Crime Agency, to examine the legality of the financial affairs of companies mentioned in the Panama Papers, where documents relating to his father’s offshore fund were discovered by the Guardian and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

    The taskforce will draw on investigators, compliance specialists and analysts from HMRC, the National Crime Agency, the Serious Fraud Office and the Financial Conduct Authority. There will be new money provided of up to £10m.

    But following the release of the prime minister’s tax records, Cameron now faces questions over whether his family took elaborate steps to minimise the amount of inheritance tax that would eventually be due on their estate.

    The records show that the prime minister received a considerable boost to his savings in 2011. Following the death of his father in 2010, Cameron was left £300,000 tax free as an inheritance. However, his mother also transferred two payments of £100,000 to him in May and July 2011.

    Inheritance tax is not payable on gifts up to £325,000 that are paid at least seven years before the source of the possession dies, be it property or money.

    A spokesman for the prime minister said that Cameron’s mother and father had “some years earlier” transferred the family home to their eldest son, Alexander Cameron, and the sums paid in 2011 were considered to be Cameron’s share.

    Speaking in central London, Cameron admitted: “It has not been a great week. I know that I should have handled this better, I could have handled this better. I know there are lessons to learn and I will learn them. Don’t blame No 10 Downing Street or nameless advisers, blame me.”

    Cameron Releases Tax Returns Information Amid Row
    2016-Apr-10 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    David Cameron paid almost £76,000 in tax on an income of more than £200,000 in 2014-15, figures released by the prime minister have shown.

    He earned £46,899 from his 50% share of rent on the London family home in Notting Hill, the first such papers released by a prime minister reveal.

    The disclosure comes after Mr Cameron admitted he could have better handled the row over his financial affairs.

    He also announced a new task force to investigate tax-dodging allegations.

    'Not a great week'

    This comes at the end of a week of questions and successive statements over whether Mr Cameron had owned and sold units in an offshore fund run by his late father, Ian Cameron.

    Details of the Blairmore Holdings fund had been contained in a leak of 11 million documents, known as the Panama Papers.

    SL requests equity swap for China debt
    2016-Apr-09 | By Sihara Colombage

    Sri Lanka has asked China to swap some of the $8 billion it owes China for equity in infrastructure projects and offered to sell stakes in Sri Lankan companies to Chinese ones, Sri Lankan officials said today. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, who is in China on an official visit, said his indebted country was suffering because of global economic uncertainty.

    "We've been talking with some companies and also the government of China about the possibility of some infrastructure projects becoming public-private partnerships, in which part of the debt will become equity held by the Chinese companies," he said.

    International trade minister Malik Samarawickrama said Sri Lanka would also like additional funds from China, though they had not asked for a specific amount. "We want to reduce the current debt by inviting Chinese companies, Chinese investors, to look at some of the enterprises in Sri Lanka, the state-owned enterprises, with a view to taking at least part of that equity over," he said. "Then we can reduce the current debt that we have and open up the opportunity for us to take more funds from Chinese banks."

    Sri Lanka upset China when it ordered a review of a $1.4 billion Colombo port city project last year, citing irregularities in the award of the contract to state-owned China Communications Construction Company (CCCC) by the previous government. Last month, the government, grappling with a difficult economy, ordered the Chinese firm to resume work on the project, the country's biggest foreign investment project, that includes apartments, shopping malls and marinas.

    But CCCC, which had estimated that the shutdown would result in losses of more than $380,000 a day, has sought compensation of $125 million, according to Sri Lanka, which has said it can't pay and wants to negotiate. "The company has asked for additional compensation in view of the fact they say there has been a delay," Wickremesinghe said.

    "But I think we can talk and settle it." Chinese projects in Sri Lanka have unnerved India, but Wickremesinghe said there was no security threat from the port. "It's an opportunity for everyone to make money. That's what we do in Asia." 

    British PM David Cameron Admits He Profited From Shares In Panamanian-based Trust
    2016-Apr-08 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    David Cameron and his wife, Samantha, profited from shares they had in a Panamanian-based trust set up by his late father, the British Prime Minister told CNN affiliate ITV News in an exclusive interview.

    Cameron, who told ITV he has nothing to hide, said he and his wife had 5,000 shares of Blairmore Investment Trust that they sold in January 2010 for about £30,000 (about $42,200 in U.S. dollars at current exchange rates).

    "I paid (UK) income tax on the dividends. There was a profit on it, but it was less than the capital gains tax allowance, so I didn't pay capital gains tax," he told the British broadcaster.

    There have been reports that, according to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, Cameron's father, Ian, used the services of the Mossack Fonseca law firm to avoid having his Blairmore Holdings Inc. pay any UK taxes.

    When asked Monday about the reports, the Prime Minister said, "I own no shares, no offshore trusts, no offshore funds, nothing like that. And so that, I think, is a very clear description."

    The ICIJ reported it analyzed documents that show the firm helped establish secret shell companies and offshore accounts for global power players.

    Known as the Panama Papers, the more than 11 million documents reference 12 current or former world leaders, as well as 128 other politicians and public officials.

    Cameron became Prime Minister in May 2010 after he and his wife sold their holdings.

    He told ITV: "I want to be as clear as I can about the past, about the present, about the future, because frankly I don't have anything to hide."

    China Provides Grant Of 500 Mn Yuan To Sri Lanka
    2016-Apr-08 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang announced that Sri Lanka will be provided with a grant of 500 Million Yuan to symbolise the friendship between Sri Lanka and China, the Sri Lankan PM Office said.

    This was informed by the Chinese Premier to the visiting Sri Lankan counterpart Ranil Wickremesinghe during their discussions at the Great Hall of the People's in Beijing yesterday.

    Their discussions were centered around trade links between the two countries.

    Wickremesinghe also met with several other officials in China yesterday.

    Joint Opposition slowly dissolving; more to join govt - UNP
    2016-Apr-08 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    The United National Party (UNP) says that the Joint Opposition is now slowly “dissolving” as its members continue to switch sides and support the national government. “Even yesterday two (MPs) from the Joint Opposition came to our side and have accepted ministerial portfolios in our government,”

    Minister Ranjith Madduma Bandara said, referring to Lakshman Seneviratne and Manusha Nanayakkara who were appointed as State Minister and Deputy Minister respectively.  He stated that back then the members of Joint Opposition had “laughed” about international human rights organizations and that now “they are going to Geneva to complain.”


    The Minister of Public Administration and Management stated that more MPs representing the Joint Opposition, a group of predominantly UPFA members supporting former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, are expected to crossover to the government.  He refused to elaborate on names and numbers but said that discussions are ongoing. 

    Responding to questions from media regarding the controversy surrounding the destruction of a walking path in Wattala and the responsible parties, Ranjith Madduma Bandara said that an investigation should be conducted on the matter and that it is the responsibility of the government.  

    Joint Opposition breaking up into splinters: Minister
    2016-Apr-07 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    The Joint Opposition was breaking into splinters and slowly turning into a diluted group, Public Administration Minister Ranjith Madduma Bandara said today. While addressing a media briefing, he said that the Joint Opposition members were trying to topple the Government by dashing coconuts.

    “A Government cannot be toppled by dashing coconuts but it only can be done through an election,” the Minister said.   “Yesterday, three ministers crossed over to the Government and they are appointed as Deputy Ministers and a State Minister.

    “UNP MP Palitha Thewarapperuma, UPFA MP Manusha Nanayakkara and UPFA MP Lakshman Seneviratne crossed over yesterday and were appointed as Deputy Ministers and one as a State Minister. Many MPs have shown interest in joining the Government and discussions are underway,” he added.

    There were more than 160 ministers in the Government and the Government was strong and stable to run through the next five years, he said. “The members in the Joint Opposition were not from the Sri Lankan Freedom Party (SLFP). Those MPs hang on to the party because they have nowhere to go,” he said.

    “The Joint Opposition MPs, who once laughed at the international organisations and to the international human rights organisations, had now gone to the Inter Parliament Union in Geneva with complaints. “They went there wearing coats and trousers without wearing our national dress. They even have no courage to wear the national dress,” he said. 

     

    Govt Stalls Construction Of 65000 Houses For IDPs: President, PM To Review Project
    2016-Apr-07 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    In an unexpected turn of events, the Sri Lankan government has now decided to temporarily suspend the project to construct 65000 houses for IDPs in the Northern province.

    Before making the sudden decision on Wednesday morning, the government almost finalized an agreement with Arcelormittal - an Indian steel giant owned by businessman Lakshmi Mittal - with regard to the construction of houses. 

    However, highly placed government sources said a special committee, headed by the President and the Prime Minister, would review the project. 

    The project came under criticism from various sections on many grounds. While C.V. Wigneswaran, Northern Province Chief Minister, questioned the project on the alleged poor quality of sample houses, several local contractors tried secure a stake in the deal. 

    Among the local contractors who tried to secure a stake were MTD Walkers headed by businessman Jehan amaratunga and Daya Gamage Constructions, owned by Primary Industries Minister Daya Gamage. 

    It was widely speculated that MTD Walkers was heavily backed by an influential Cabinet minister who had close links with the Prime Minister.

    To arrive at a 'compromise agreement' with local contractors, the government even promised local bidders that they would be given a chance to build 65000 houses elsewhere.

    "With this fresh development, it is now clear that the view of the political arms backing local contractors has prevailed."

    Experiencing a “politically motivated” hunt - Basil
    2016-Apr-06 | By Sihara Colombage

    Former Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa suggested that the close members of the previous regime are experiencing a “politically motivated” hunt these days.

    The observation was made while responding to media personnel after attending the 8th commemoration ceremony of late Minister Jeyaraj Fernandopulle in Weliweriya this morning (06).

    He pointed out the new trend as a reason why he had to appear before law enforcement agencies recently including commissions, courts and police investigation unites such as the Criminal Investigation Department (CID). 

    Basil Rajapaksa also vowed to organize a May Day rally this year. “The labour force of this country has been victimized owing to activities of the Government,” said the former Minister. “It is the people who decide the progress of development progress, not us,” Rajapaksa added. 

    New State Minister and Deputy Ministers appointed
    2016-Apr-06 | By Sihara Colombage

    Lakshman Seneviratne has been sworn in as a State Minister while Manusha Nanayakkara and Palitha Thewarapperuma took oath as Deputy Ministers before President Maithripala Sirisena this morning. 

    UPFA Galle District MP Manusha Nanayakkara was sworn in as the Deputy Minister of Foreign Employment before President Maithripala Sirisena, a short while ago.

    UNP MP Palitha Thewarapperuma has been appointed as the Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs, Wayamba Development and Cultural Affairs.

    Meanwhile UPFA MP Lakshman Seneviratne has been sworn in as the State Minister of Science, Technology and Research. 

    Sri Lankan politicians named in Panama Papers – Ranjan
    2016-Apr-06 | By Sihara Colombage

    Deputy Minister Ranjan Ramanayake says that the names of three Sri Lankan politicians are featured in the Panama Papers revelations, the publication by a coalition of media outlets of an investigation into offshore financial dealings by the rich and famous.

    The leaked documents have shone a light on the finances of politicians and public figures from around the world, causing public outrage over how the powerful are able to hide money and avoid tax. “The Prime Minister said that names of 3 Sri Lankan politicians are in the Panama Papers.

    It will be revealed soon,” he told reporters after the UNP’s Working Committee meeting at party headquarters -Sirikotha on Tuesday.  The Deputy Minister of Social Empowerment and Welfare said that Russian President Vladimir Putin, celebrities Aishwarya Rai, Amitabh Bachchan and Jackie Chan are among those featured in a massive leak of documents, some of which reveal hidden offshore assets. 

    “Leaders who held top positions in Sri Lankan politics area also among them,” he claimed. “The Panama Papers are not something we made. We will soon find out who the three rouges are.” More than 100 media groups have investigated a massive leak of 11.5 million documents from Mossack Fonseca, a Panama-based law firm with offices in 35 countries.

    The stash of records was obtained from an anonymous source by German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung and shared with media worldwide. The documents, from around 214,000 offshore entities, cover almost 40 years.  These records reveal a list of individuals who have paid the firm — and bought the benefits of the secretive, lax regulatory system in which it operates — to set up offshore entities in tax havens around the world.

      Iceland’s Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson became the first major casualty of the Panama Papers revelations, stepping down on Tuesday after leaked files showed his wife owned an offshore firm with big claims on the country’s collapsed banks. 

     

    Government Spends Rs. 31 Million On "Farmers' Conference" (See Detailed Estimated Expenditure)
    2016-Apr-06 | By Sihara Colombage

    President Maithripala Sirisena's government, which came to power with a pledge to limit state expenditure, is spending nearly 31 million rupees for a 'Farmers' Conference' held today at BMICH.

    The conference, organized by the Ministry of Irrigation and Water Resource Management, the conference is held to discuss the 'Nation without Poison and Overcome Kidney Disease' programme.

    The estimated expenditure stands at Rs. 30.8 million. Rs 8 million is allocated for lighting, sounds, backdrop s and LED decorations and Rs. 7.5 million is allocated for transport of farmers. Furthermore, Rs. 6 million is allocated for meals. Another Rs 4 million has been allocated for distribution of bags with litha and souvenirs.

    However, a similar program was also held by the Agriculture Ministry last month.

    Iceland PM resigns over Panama Papers revelation
    2016-Apr-06 | By Sihara Colombage

    Iceland’s embattled prime minister, Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson, has tendered his resignation in the wake of a mounting political crisis over his family’s offshore investments, local media have reported, but his departure has yet to be agreed by either his coalition partners of the country’s president.

    The agriculture and fisheries minister, Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson, told state broadcaster RUV that Gunnlaugsson had resigned. Local media said the move needed approval of both the rightwing Independence party and the president, Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, before it could be official.

    Reports said Gunnlaugsson would stay on as chairperson of his Progressive party, and Jóhannsson would take his place as prime minister. The leader of the Independence party, finance minister Bjarni Benediktsson, was reportedly in talks with Grímsson on Tuesday afternoon.

     

    JVP, FLSP Mark 45th Anniversary Of April Insurrection
    2016-Apr-05 | By Sihara Colombage

    Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna and the Frontline Socialist Party are to commemorate their fallen comrades of the JVP at their respective April Heroes' Day events today.

    On 5th April 1971 that the JVP led its initial uprising against the then regime of Sirima Bandaranaike. JVP-led youths attacked more than 100 police stations throughout the country were able to capture and hold several towns and rural areas for several weeks, but it ended unsuccessfully when they were recaptured by the armed forces.

    Some reports suggest that nearly 10,000 young people died and more than 15,000 were arrested during the struggle. Heroes of the JVP who were deceased and arrested for struggling to reform the country at the 1971 insurrection are to be commemorated for the 45th year today.

    The three main ceremonies of JVP are to be held at Panadura Town Hall, Anuradhapura Town Hall and Deniyaya. The commemoration at Panadura will be chaired by the General Secretary of the JVP Tilvin Silva while the commemoration at Anuradhapura will be chaired by the Member of the JVP Political Bureau member K.D. Lalkantha. The commemoration at Deniyaya will be chaired by the JVP Information Secretary, Parliamentarian Vijitha Herath. All three commemorations will commence at 3.00 p.m. on the 5th.

    The events organized by the FSP are to be held at Sanasa Hall in Gampaha, Karandeniya Public Hall, Kegalla Post Office Auditorium, Badulla Workers Union Office, and at Dambulla City Hall respectively.

    Parliament Meets As Constitutional Assembly Today
    2016-Apr-05 | By Sihara Colombage

    The Parliament will meet as a Constitutional Assembly for the first time today for the purpose of drafting a new constitution.

    The motion to convert the parliament to a Constitutional Assembly was presented by the Prime Minister in early February. However, the proposal initially met with still resistance from the opposition as well as the SLFP MPs in Parliament.

    However, all parties came to an agreement on the process later.

    Accordingly, the Constitutional Assembly will hold its first meeting this afternoon.

    Greece Challenges IMF Over 'Debt Transcript Leak'
    2016-Apr-03 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    Greece Challenges IMF Over 'Debt Transcript Leak'

    Greece has demanded an explanation from the IMF over a leaked conversation in which top officials allegedly discuss the Greek bailout.

    A transcript, published by Wikileaks, shows the officials discussing ways of putting pressure on Greece, Germany and the EU to get them to wrap up talks.

    One of those quoted suggests a crisis "event" may be needed to force a conclusion.

    Further negotiations between Athens and its lenders are due next week.

    Last year Greece agreed a multi-billion dollar bailout with the EU and IMF that was needed for the country to avoid bankruptcy and stay in the eurozone.

    The Wikileaks conversation purportedly involves Poul Thomsen, head of the IMF's Europe department, and Delia Velculescu, leader of the IMF team in Greece, the senior officials in charge of Greece's debt crisis.

    Thomsen is quoted as complaining about the pace of talks on reforms Greece has agreed to carry out in exchange for the bailout.

    "What is going to bring it all to a decision point?" he asks.

    "In the past there has been only one time when the decision has been made and then that was when they were about to run out of money seriously and to default."

    Velculescu later agrees "we need an event, but I don't know what that will be".

    Thomsen also appears to suggest the IMF could pull out of the bailout to force German Chancellor Angela Merkel to agree to debt relief.

    Such a move could be politically difficult for Mrs Merkel, the key figure in the crisis.

    "Look..., Mrs Merkel, you face a question, you have to think about what is more costly: to go ahead without the IMF, would the Bundestag say 'the IMF is not on board?' or to pick the debt relief that we think that Greece needs in order to keep us on board? Right?" Thomsen says.

    He adds that, if Greece were to default, talks could be further delayed by Britain's referendum on EU membership.

    The IMF would not comment on the purported leaks but said its public position on the matter was clear.

    Former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis said: "As WikiLeaks revealed today, the IMF is planning to stall until July to bring Greece to its knees [again!] in order to force Angela Merkel's hand.

    "It's time to stop Greece's fiscal waterboarding by an incompetent, misanthropic troika."

    Changes Expected In UNP Party Positions
    2016-Apr-03 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    Changes Expected In UNP Party Positions

    Several changes are expected in the official positions of the UNP, political sources said.

    Accordingly, a new, second tier party member is expected to take the post of party General Secretary position.

    Several other members of the second tier of the leadership is to be given responsible positions, sources also said.

    Meanwhile, the Leadership Council and Deputy Leader posts are likely to be abolished, along with the National Leader position. Ranil Wickremesinghe, who is officially the national leader of the party, is expected to become party leader, as in the past.

    Govt exacting political revenge; FSP
    2016-Apr-03 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    Govt exacting political revenge; mum on citizenship issue - FSP

    The Frontline Socialist Party (FSP) says that they have no issue with the court ruling and sentencing of party member Kumar Gunaratnam, however accused the government of exacting “political revenge” by keeping mum on the issue of granting him citizenship. 

    Gunaratnam, a FSP politburo member and former JVP senior, was sentenced to one year in jail for violating immigration laws was and slapped with a fine of Rs 50,000 by the Kegalle Magistrates Court on Thursday (31). 

    FSP supporters staged a protest outside the Department of Immigration and Emigration in Colombo yesterday and were met with police baton charge when they attempted to storm the building. 

     Addressing a press conference today, FSP propaganda secretary Pubudu Jagoda said that they have no issues with the court ruling, however accused the government of exacting “political revenge” by remaining silent on the issue of giving Sri Lankan citizenship to Gunaratnam, an Australian citizen. 

    He stated that they had visited the Department of Immigration and Emigration yesterday for the third time to handover an application seeking citizenship for Gunaratnam after the sentencing.

    Jagoda accused the police of instigating yesterday’s clash at the Immigration Department which resulted in damage to property. 

    He also opposed the decision by authorities to place Gunaratnam at the Anuradhapura Priosn instead of the Welikada Prison.  

     

    Wigneswaran Slams Sri Lanka Government's ‘Hegemonic’ Attitude
    2016-Apr-03 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    Wigneswaran Slams Sri Lanka Government's ‘Hegemonic’ Attitude

    Northern Province Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran on Saturday blamed the Sri Lankan government for adopting a “dominating, domineering and hegemonic” attitude towards the Northern Province.

    In an hour-long interview with The Hindu at his residence in Colombo, Wigneswaran said the Central government did not discuss the details of its housing project for the Northern and Eastern Provinces with the provincial administration and people’s representatives in the North.

    The project envisages to build 65,000 houses in the Northern and Eastern provinces. “We’re completely kept in the lurch. The dominating, domineering and hegemonic attitude on the part of the government is irking us. It [the project] is not to our benefit,” he said.

    Asked why he did not invite industrialists to set up housing units in the province and offer incentives, the Chief Minister narrated another incident. He said a proposal to have a twinning programme involving Jaffna town and Kingston and Surbiton borough of the U.K. did not even get a response from Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera.

    Eventually, the issue was resolved by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe to whom he had represented recently. Wigneswaran felt that “there is still certain amount of suspicion with regard to anything that we take from outside”.

    He, however, added that statements of leaders of the present government in general had been “very, very positive”.

    Asked about the plan for economic development of the province, Wigneswaran said a multilateral needs-based assessment study was being carried out and a 10-year-action plan would be prepared. The UN, World Bank and the Asian Development Bank were among those which would be involved. On the issue of constitutional reforms, Wigneswaran reiterated the need for a federal Constitution. He cited the example of India and other countries where the idea of federalism was being followed without actually using the term ‘federal’.

    Asked whether he came to an understanding with Tamil National Alliance (TNA) chief R. Sampanthan, the Chief Minister said the “misunderstanding” arose over the formation of the Tamil People’s Council (TPC). Once he explained to the TNA leader that the TPC would be complementary to the TNA and would not convert itself into a political party, Sampanthan was “quite satisfied”.

    Full text of the interview:

    When you became Chief Minister of the Northern Province in October 2013, there were enormous expectations among people. Have you been able to fulfill them ? You are now half way through. Please tell us significant initiatives that you have taken.

    We came into office in 2013 on a mandate, on the manifesto given by the TNA [Tamil National Alliance]. At that stage, expectations were almost very important and almost decided upon. It was with regard to the Army which was in full control of the area. We wanted demilitarisation, which was one of the most important aspects of our manifesto. Then, there was the question of power sharing, which we wanted. [Issues concerning] disappeared persons. A lot of people have disappeared. War crimes. These are some of the salient matters which were at the forefront when we came in. You must not forget [that] when we came, it was almost 25 years of the Army rule that had been there earlier. The expectation, at that stage, was mostly in order to remove the yoke of the Army which we have not been able to fully do even now. Only in those circumstances, only whatever that we had to do had to be taken into consideration…

    You must also understand that [the period of] two and a half years is a very small period of time. All other provincial councils have had 25 years and even seven or eight years, as far as Eastern Province is concerned. But, we only have two and a half years. I was new to the whole job. Our people were new to the job. Our administrators were completely in a different mould. So, in that standpoint, in that backdrop and in that environment, you have to gauge what I have been doing. So, if you go into it from that point of view, the two and a half years have seen the benefit of bringing people together, bringing officers to understand what they are expected to do and making sure that whatever resources that we got into our hands went to people, without being dissipated and diverted to anything else. These are some of the positives.

    Have you been able to make a beginning with regard to [providing] livelihood for youth ?

    One of the important things that we had been asking as soon as we came into office was the needs-based assessment by the UN. A multi lateral need based assessment is very essential. The UN was prepared to do so but, for some reason or other, they restricted it to humanitarian aspect. We want to know that after a period of war, what our real needs are; what is the state in which we are; what are the areas we have to take the society forward by looking at those aspects and trying to solve those problems. Unfortunately, we could not do that.

    Recently, we have been having discussions with the present Prime Minister [Ranil Wickremesinghe], who is very appreciative of that. He is prepared to do so… Now, that a needs-based assessment is going to come, we will be in a position to plan for 10 years and then, we could do it in a much more scientific, proper way to see that economic regeneration and sustainable development would be forthcoming.

    How soon the study will be over?

    He [Prime Minister] is having development forum meeting somewhere at the end of April or May. Soon after that, he will tell us. May be during the course of the year, it should be done.

    Under the given framework of provincial councils, can’t you invite industrialists to have their units in the North by giving them incentives?

    You see, it is not possible. It was not possible at all earlier. We expected it to be possible under this government. The statements made by leaders of the present government have been very, very positive. Still, I would like to give an easy example.

     

     

    When I went to England in July last year, I was able to discuss with leaders of Kingston and Surbiton Borough to help us on a twinning programme, the twinning programme would be that they take over Jaffna town and give us some benefits. We give cultural programmes. [It is like] Economic and cultural exchange of various things. Everything was finalised. I had prepared a MOU.

    There was no need for me to get permission from the government because these are devolved subjects. Still, I wanted to be sure that nothing was to be seen as if the Northern Province Chief Minister is trying to do things on his own. On November 4 last year, I wrote to Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera and asked him to approve this. Till today, he has not approved it. I sent it on November 4 last year. I called attention. No reply. ..

    On 15th of last month, when I met the Prime Minister with our Ministers, I mentioned this and he said that should not be a problem and you should be able to carry on with it. Now, I have written a letter to Hon’ble Mangala Samaraweera that since the Prime Minister has given ok, I am proceeding with it and I have sent the papers across through the British High Commission to England. We are hoping to have the twining programme coming through.

    Now, why, I have said this. Your question was “can’t you do this with the benefit of outsiders, international community, disapora, India, and so many people are prepared to help. Why can’t you do this?”

    There is still certain amount of suspicion with regard to anything that we take from outside….We are always still being looked upon with suspicion. The hegemonic attitude of the government still persists. They want to dominate us. They want to do things the way they want.

    What is the rationale behind your opposition to the programme of 65,000 houses in the Northern and Eastern provinces ?

    They [the Central government] should have discussed with us, people’s representatives of the Northern Province. No discussions were held…Even at the time when this was being told to us on 15th of last month, I opposed it. I said it does not seem to be ideal.

    Because you are going to spend Rs. 2.1 million [for every house], we can make three houses, if not two. Instead of 65,000, we can make 130,000 houses. It is almost we are bringing to an end the problem that we have with regard to housing. They said “it is only a pilot project. It has not been finalised.” Recently, advertisements have been put in newspapers. They [people] are called upon to apply for it.

    We are completely kept in the lurch. The dominating, domineering and hegemonic attitude on the part of the government is irking us. It is not to our benefit… It may have some benefits for the government because the government may be making use of our trials and tribulations, all the problems that we have undergone; all the suffering that we have undergone, the poverty that we are undergoing, they may be making use of us to get benefits from abroad. To what extent it is our beneficial to us in the long run is to be seen.

    What is your assessment of the eventual outcome of the ongoing process of Constitutional reforms? What should be the realistic expectations of the minorities, especially Tamils, regarding the process?

    The problems are not that which came up yesterday or day before. They are there for the last 67 years or even prior to it. We have got to take steps which will be long lasting. One of the primary things that we are mentioning to the government is that the structure of the constitution is faulty. If you have a unitary constitution, the power will be in the hands of one community.

    I must tell you one important thing, Northern and Eastern Tamils are not minority. They are the majority in their areas for over 2,000 years. ..

    The unitary constitution is structurally faulted. We would like to have a federal constitution. Now, you can call it federal or you call it in any other way.

    Indian constitutional experts, without using the word ‘federal,’ have been made it into quasi federal. Various countries do not use the word ‘federal.’ The federal idea means that those who form a group of people in a particular area, because of their special characteristics, which is accepted by international covenants, are given the right to look after themselves; to govern themselves; to have self rule as far as their areas is concerned within the scope of the entire country.

    Nowhere in the world has anyone who has taken to federal constitution ever wanted to separate. Quebec did not want to separate. Scotland did not want to separate. All these different types of cantons in Switzerland are wanting to be together. In India, it also is the same thing….

    We have got to say truth as it is what the problems are. If we do not understand the basic problems of our people, the fundamental problems that really led our youngsters taking up to arms, if we do not understand, explain and tell these things to people , ‘look, this is the cause for all what has happened.’ If you are going to allow those causes to persist, don’t you think that these things can happen again?

    Have you arrived at an understanding with Mr Sampanthan, TNA leader?

    There has never been any problem with Mr Sampanthan for me to arrive at an understanding. There had been certain misunderstanding because of the Tamil People’s Council (TPC). I explained to Mr Sampanthan and I told him that this was going to be complementary to the TNA. The TPC was never going to be any form of a contestant against the TNA. I have a document written and signed by them wherein they have said that the TPC will not become a political party and which will not be interested in fighting elections. After all these matters were brought to the notice of Mr Samapanthan, he was quite satisfied. There was only a small misunderstanding. Otherwise, we never had any problem with the TNA leadership.

    VAT rate to remain at 11%
    2016-Apr-02 | By Sihara Colombage

    The Department of Inland Revenue says that the applicable Value Added Tax (VAT) rate will remain at 11% until further notice.

    Tax revisions which were scheduled to come into effect from today (April 01) will not be implemented until further notice, Commissioner General of Inland Revenue Kalyani Dahanayake said.

    “Inland Revenue Department wishes to clarify that VAT rate, scope of the liability and provided exemption should be continued in accordance with the prevailing Act No. 14 of 2002 and amendments thereto until further notice.” 

    Accordingly, applicable VAT rate is 11% until further notice, a statement said. 

    Amendments to Value Added Tax (VAT), Nation Building Tax (NBT) and Land taxes were proposed in the 2016 budget.

    In March, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in Parliament announced that VAT will be hiked to 15 percent from 11 percent and said the government will impose a capital gains tax.

    Sri Lankan Tamil Party Likely To Remove "Eelam" From Name
    2016-Apr-02 | By Sihara Colombage

    Representative Image

    With Tamil separatism crushed, one of Sri Lanka's oldest Tamil militant groups-turned-party has decided to shed from its name the words "Eelam" and "Liberation".

    One of the two factions of the Eelam People's Revolutionary Liberation Front (EPRLF) is set to announce the decision on Saturday in Jaffna in the island nation's north, a former war zone.

    Tamil sources told IANS that the name change had become necessary in view of the radically changed scenario in Sri Lanka following the 2009 military defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

    The new name is likely to be "Social Democratic Party of Tamils". 

    The EPRLF is a Left-leaning group that was born in 1981 and subscribed to the idea of an independent Tamil Eelam state for years.

    At one point, it was aligned, with other Tamil militant groups, with the LTTE, which spearheaded a bloody separatist campaign for three long decades.

    Later, the ERPLF registered itself as a political party and embraced electoral politics. 

    The LTTE turned viciously against the EPRLF after the latter joined the India-backed provincial administration in Sri Lanka's northeast in 1989. In 1990, the LTTE massacred the EPRLF's top leadership in Chennai.

    The EPRLF then broke into two factions. One group, calling itself the original EPRLF, joined the LTTE-backed Tamil National Alliance. The other named itself the Pathmanabha-ERPLF after its slain leader K. Pathmanabha.

    It is the Pathmanabha-EPRLF which is going for the name change.

    The Pathmanabha-EPRLF is now meeting in Jaffna, with delegates coming from all parts of Sri Lanka's northern and eastern provinces as well as the West including Canada, Britain, Switzerland, Germany and France.

    The EPRLF, like most Tamil groups, has been a vocal advocate of devolution of powers to provinces in Sri Lanka so that minorities there enjoy a sense of autonomy.

    But a Tamil source told IANS on telephone from Jaffna that the idea of autonomy was widely viewed in the Sinhalese-dominated regions of Sri Lanka as a stepping stone to eventual separation -- and so was not popular.

    "The continuing ethnic divide overshadows the real rationale for devolution of power," the source said. "We can't keep ignoring this. After all we need to take everyone along in Sri Lanka.

    "Devolution should not be seen as if to mean devolution only for Tamils."

    Tamil sources said the Pathmanabha-EPRLF will go for a new constitution to effect the name change.

    Delegates at the Jaffna meet will also discuss the political situation in Sri Lanka, issues related to human rights, and relationship between Muslim and Tamil communities in the island nation.

    Bribery Commission files action against ex-SLPA chairman
    2016-Apr-01 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    Bribery Commission files action against ex-SLPA chairman

    The Bribery Commission today filed action against former Chairman of Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) Dr Priyath Bandu Wickrama and 2 others for allegedly employing over 300 employees of the SLPA for election work during the presidential poll.

    The case has been filed with the Colombo Magistrate’s Court accusing them of using 319 employees of the Ports Authority for election work during the period from October 2014 to January 07, 2015 and thereby causing a loss of Rs 65 million. 

    The Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption had requested from the court that the defendants be summoned before the court for handing over charge sheets. 

    Therefore the former SLPA chairman and 2 other officials were issued notice by the Colombo Additional Magistrate to appear before the court. 

    Wickarama, who was appointed as SLPA Chairman by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, stepped down from his position following the election victory of Maithripala Sirisena on January 08, 2015. 

    FSP supporters storm Passport Office; clash with police
    2016-Apr-01 | By Gehan Jayaratne

     FSP supporters storm Passport Office; clash with police

    A clash erupted between police personnel and Frontline Socialist Party (FSP) supporters who forcibly entered the Department of Immigration and Emigration (passport office) building in Colombo and damaged property. 

    The FSP supporters had engaged in a protest outside the building demanding the release of the party’s politburo member Premakumar ‘Kumar’ Gunaratnam, who was sentenced to one year imprisonment for violating immigration laws. 

    The protesters, mostly comprising university students, had behaved in a disorderly manner and then proceeded to storm the Passport Office, while causing damage to the building and its gate.  

    They had then clashed with police officers who had attempted to bring the situation under control and disperse the protesters, Ada Derana reporter said. 

    Gunaratnam, a member of Frontline Socialist Party (FSP), was sentenced to one year in jail and slapped with a fine of Rs 50,000 by the Kegalle Magistrates Court yesterday (31).

    He was arrested by the police in November last year for overstaying his entry visa.

    Gunaratnam, 49, returned to the island in January 2015 in time for the presidential election and had remained in the country illegally. He extended his 30-day tourist visa since January 31.

    He had been deported from the country in 2013 for entering the country on a false passport carrying another name.

     

    UK current account deficit at new high
    2016-Apr-01 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    View of Aberdeen harbour

    The UK's current account deficit widened to a record high in the final quarter of last year.

    The deficit in the three months to December was £32.7bn, the equivalent of 7% of GDP in that quarter, said the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

    For all of 2015, it came to £96.2bn or 5.2% of annual GDP. Both figures were the highest since records began in 1948.

    A current account deficit means the value of imports of goods, services and investment income exceeds exports.

    At the same time, ONS figures showed the UK economy grew 0.6% in the fourth quarter of 2015, higher than previous estimates of 0.5%.

    As a result, the economy grew by 2.3% for the whole of 2015, rather than 2.2% as previously thought.

    The upgrade to the growth figure came as a surprise to analysts, who had forecast that it would remain unchanged.

    The ONS said the revision in GDP was caused by a stronger performance in the services sector and a smaller contraction in industrial production.


    Containers on a ship

    Analysis: Andrew Verity, BBC economics correspondent

    Deficits are all about more money going out than coming in. Unlike the budget deficit, the one the government has pledged to wipe out by 2020, the current account refers to the country as a whole, private and public.

    It includes the trade deficit - the fact that we buy far more goods and services from other countries than we sell to them. But it also includes other payments, from the dividends that profitable companies such as Jaguar Land Rover send back to their foreign owners to the money paid to employees abroad by British companies.

    A note of caution: these numbers wobble around. Having said that, at £96.2bn, or 5.2% of the size of the whole economy (GDP), the current account deficit for 2015 was the biggest deficit on record, the largest for 67 years.

    Here's the problem. If more money is flowing out than flowing in, companies and governments have to borrow from abroad to make up the difference. That's fine, so long as there's confidence in the UK's economic future. Companies can borrow by issuing bonds, paying modest rates of interest (as can governments) and foreign investors will gobble them up.

    But if confidence takes a knock - if, for example, there's a sterling crisis or other economic shock - then those foreign investors may be a little more reluctant to buy those bonds. In which case, those foreign investors may demand higher interest rates, which may well get passed on. Now can anyone think of any scenarios like that?


    Stability fears

    Earlier this week, the Bank of England's Financial Policy Committee warned that uncertainty over the UK's membership of the EU posed risks to financial stability, with implications for the current account deficit.

    It has said it will watch for indications that the outcome of the referendum on 23 June could make it more difficult to finance the deficit.

    The ONS said the deficit had widened because income from the UK's direct investments abroad had fallen, while payments to foreign investors in the UK had risen.

    Chancellor George Osborne said the rise in the current account deficit meant the UK should not be contemplating leaving the EU.

    "Today's figures expose the real danger of economic uncertainty and show that now is precisely not the time to put our economic security at risk by leaving the EU," he said.

    'Horrible' figures

    Howard Archer, chief UK and European economist at IHS Global Insight, described the fourth-quarter current account figures as "truly horrible" and "a particularly uncomfortable development for the UK economy".

    "While the markets have so far taken a relatively relaxed view of the UK's elevated current account deficits, it could become an increasing problem if the markets lose confidence in the UK economy for any reason - especially given the size of the fourth-quarter 2015 shortfall," he added.

    "This would make it harder for the UK to attract the investment inflows that it needs to finance the current account deficit and could weigh heavily down on sterling.

    "An obvious potential trigger for the markets losing confidence in the UK economy could be a vote to leave the EU in the 23 June referendum."

    However, Matthew Elliott, chief executive of Vote Leave, said: "These figures blow a hole in the Remain campaign's key tactic: to do down Britain and wrongly suggest that we can't get a free trade deal after we say no to Brussels.

    "It is in the EU's interests to strike a deal with the UK, which is why they will be banging down the door for one when we vote Leave."

    Spotify raises $1 Billion in debt financing
    2016-Apr-01 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    Spotify raises $1 Billion in debt financing

    Music-streaming site Spotify AB has raised $1 billion in convertible debt from investors, a deal that extends the money-losing company’s runway but comes with some strict guarantees, people familiar with the matter said.

    Private-equity firm TPG, hedge fund Dragoneer Investment Group and clients of Goldman Sachs Group Inc. participated in the deal, which has been signed and is expected to close at the end of this week, these people said.

    Tech startups are increasingly turning to convertible debt—bonds that can be exchanged for stock—as investors push back on rich valuations amid a volatile stock market and economic uncertainty.

    By raising debt instead of equity, Spotify adds to its war chest without the possibility of setting a lower price for its stock, which can sap momentum and hamper recruiting.

    In June 2015, Spotify was valued at $8.5 billion.

    In return for the financing, Spotify promised its new investors strict guarantees tied to an IPO. If Spotify holds a public offering in the next year, TPG and Dragoneer will be able to convert the debt into equity at a 20% discount to the share price of the public offering, according to two people briefed on the deal. After a year, that discount increases by 2.5 percentage points every six months, the people said

    Sri Lanka’s loss-making carrier seeks foreign partner
    2016-Apr-01 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    Sri Lanka is seeking foreign assistance to rescue its loss-making national carrier, a minister said Thursday, after the government announced the airline was unable to pay back nearly $1 billion in debt.

    The country cannot afford to bear SriLankan Airlines’ losses of 128 billion Sri Lankan rupees ($872 million) on top of its massive debt, International Trade Minister Sujeewa Senasinghe told reporters in Colombo.

    The airline owes at least $933 million but the government last week said the true figure could be much higher.

    “We want to restructure SriLankan (Airlines) with either direct foreign capital or through a management agreement with a foreign airline,” Senasinghe said.

    He added that he hopes the process will be completed within “two to three months”.

    Official sources said Colombo was in talks with a Middle Eastern carrier to form an agreement that would see the airline hand over control of its management to a foreign carrier.

    A previous management deal with Emirates was ended in 2008 by the former Sri Lankan government following a personal disagreement between the flag carrier and then-president Mahinda Rajapakse.

    The airline had refused to bump fare-paying business-class passengers to economy class and give their seats to members of Rajapakse’s family, who were returning from London.

    An angry Rajapakse removed the Emirates-appointed CEO of SriLankan Airlines from his post and replaced him with his brother-in-law.

    The beleaguered national carrier has also drawn controversy in recent years after an independent investigator last year found evidence of serious corruption in a $2.3 billion deal to buy Airbus aircraft during Rajapakse’s presidency.

    Rajapakse’s brother-in-law, Nishantha Wickramasinghe, is under investigation for bribery and corruption dating back to when he was the chairman of the national carrier.

    A mounting debt crisis of its own has forced the Sri Lankan government to request a bailout for the country from the International Monetary Fund. Media reports have placed the requested bailout amount at $1.5 billion, AFP reports.

    CEB to buy power from ACE
    2016-Apr-01 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    The Ceylon Electricity Board today said it had decided to connect 100 MW to the national grid from the ACE Power Generation of Embilipitiya, which had been shut down due to the non renewal of tariff revisions.

    “Earlier the CEB had decided to shut down the ACE Power Generation in Matara and Embilipitiya (a subsidiary of Aitken Spence PLC), which provided 20 MW and 100 MW due to non-renewal of the tariff revisions as well as the Heladhanavi Power Station in Puttalam,” CEB Media Spokesman Sulakshan Jayawardena said.

    “The decision was taken to purchase electricity as an immediate precaution due to several blackouts that occurred recently and to provide uninterrupted power,” he said.

    Meanwhile he said power generators were being placed across ten different locations in Colombo as well.

    “Two generators of 2.5 KW and eight Generators of 11 KW are being used for the purpose. Those generators would be connected to the national grid, when there is a demand. The hydro power generation had increased by 40 per cent as a result of the showers experienced during the last few days,” he said.

    Earlier the CEB said that the additional electricity that was required, would obtained from other thermal power plants including from the one at Norochcholai and Kerawalapitiya.

    “The country's daily electricity demand now stands at 2,300 MW,” he said.

    Brazilian President Closer To Impeachment As Major Coalition Partner Quits
    2016-Mar-31 | By Sihara Colombage

    Brazilian President Closer To Impeachment As Major Coalition Partner Quits

    President Dilma Rousseff’s hopes of seeing out her term of office have received a potentially fatal blow after the biggest party in the Brazilian congress voted to abandon her ruling coalition.

    The vote by the Brazilian Democratic Movement party (or PMDB) could trigger a defection from Rousseff’s coalition by other smaller parties, and greatly increase the prospect that she will lose an impeachment vote in the lower house next month and be suspended from office.

    To cries of “Workers party out!” and “Onward Brazil!”, PMDB leaders announced their decision to break up the coalition.

    “We’re going to try to change the country. The economic and social crisis is very serious,” senator Romero Juca, the PMDB’s first vice-president, told a party meeting in the capital Brasilia.

    Rousseff now leads a fragile minority government. Senior officials in the governing Workers party insist the president can still be saved from what they say is a coup attempt against an elected leader who still has more than half of her four-year mandate to serve.

    Their hopes depend on securing support from individual members of the PMDB, which is a far from united party. Three PMDB ministers have indicated they may defy orders to quit the cabinet by 12 April.

    But government efforts to shore up support look increasingly desperate after the PMDB – which has 68 of the 513 seats in the lower house – decided to leave an alliance that has propped up the government for more than 13 years.

    David Fleischer, political science professor at the University of Brasília, said the defection would create a domino effect that is likely to topple Rousseff.

    “This is her D-Day,” he said. “[Now the PMDB has left] the possibility of her impeachment increases to 90%.”

    The president’s opponents will now have an increased majority on the impeachment committee which could give the go-ahead for a full congressional vote, most likely on 17 April, Fleischer said.

    The departure of the PMDB marks a new low in a protracted political crisis triggered by efforts to unseat Rousseff following the Operation Lava Jato (Car Wash) revelations of money laundering, price fixing and bribery at the state-run oil company, Petrobras.

    Rousseff’s enemies are attempting to launch impeachment proceedings on several grounds, including ongoing investigations into alleged budget irregularities and campaign finance violations.

    The president has insisted there is no legal basis for impeachment, telling reporters last week that any attempt to remove her from power without legal justification would represent a “coup”.

    The political trench warfare has paralysed decision making in Brasília, worsening an economy that is deep in recession and heightening public anger. More than a million protesters took to the streets earlier this month in a huge anti-government demonstration.

    If 342 of the 513 deputies approve, the impeachment process would move to the senate and Rousseff would be suspended for 180 days while Brazil’s vice-president, Michel Temer – leader of the PMDB – would become interim head of state. A final decision on whether to formally remove her from office would then be taken sometime around October.

    Present crisis due to govt’s haphazard foreign borrowings - MR
    2016-Mar-31 | By Sihara Colombage

    Present crisis due to govt’s haphazard foreign borrowings - MR

    Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa says that his government did not take negotiations with India on the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) forward due to the “misgivings” expressed by wide sections of society.

    In a statement issued today, he said that incumbent President Maithripala Sirisena recently publicly endorsed the proposed Economic and Technological Cooperation Agreement (ETCA) with India and that all SLFP members serving in the government will now have to make a very personal decision as to where they stand on this matter which will have “far reaching consequences” for Sri Lanka.  

    “When the President said that it was the ‘old government’ (parana anduwa) that had started negotiations for the CEPA with India, he was not referring to my government. CEPA was initiated in 2002 under the previous UNP government led by Mr Ranil Wickremesinghe.” 

    “My government did not take the CEPA negotiations forward due to the misgivings expressed by wide sections of society,” Rajapaksa said.

    He stated that though Indian exports flow into Sri Lanka without any obstruction under the existing free trade agreement, Sri Lankan exports to India have come up against various impediments such as quantity limitations, licensing requirements, non-acceptance of Sri Lankan product certification and state taxes at the Indian end. 

    Our suggestion to the present government is that such outstanding issues be sorted out to enable Sri Lanka to obtain the due benefit under the existing FTA before the trade relationship is taken to the next level, the Kurunegala District MP said.

    “It is the height of irresponsibility to sign an ETCA ‘framework’ agreement leaving the specific details to be negotiated later when there are so many unresolved trade issues between the two countries,” he charged. 

    Rajapaksa further said that two ministers admitted publicly that the ruling government had indeed taken foreign loans amounting to more than 6,361 million USD since March 2015, but had claimed all these loans had to be taken in order to pay off the loans taken at high interest rates by the former UPFA government. 

    The ex-President said that the project loans taken by his government was long term credit at an interest rate of 2% or less. 

    “The government borrowed 375 million USD through a development bond issue a few days ago. This combined with the three month 700 million USD currency swap announced by India yesterday, brings the total foreign borrowings of this government from March 2015 to March 2016 to 7,436 million USD.” 

    Of this amount around half - 3,298 million USD falls due in 2016, he emphasized. 

    “The present crisis is due to the haphazard and irresponsible foreign borrowings of the present government and not due to any loans taken by previous governments.”

    The full statement has been reproduced below….


    In a TV discussion broadcast last Sunday, the President publicly endorsed the proposed Economic and Technological Cooperation Agreement (ETCA) with India. All members of the SLFP serving in the government will now have to make a very personal decision as to where they stand on this matter which will have far reaching consequences for Sri Lanka.  When the President said that it was the ‘old government’ (parana anduwa) that had started negotiations for the CEPA with India, he was not referring to my government. CEPA was initiated in 2002 under the previous UNP government led by Mr Ranil Wickremesinghe. My government did not take the CEPA negotiations forward due to the misgivings expressed by wide sections of society.

    Though Indian exports flow into Sri Lanka without any obstruction under the existing free trade agreement, Sri Lankan exports to India have come up against various impediments such as quantity limitations, licensing requirements, non-acceptance of Sri Lankan product certification and state taxes at the Indian end. Our suggestion to the present government is that such outstanding issues be sorted out to enable Sri Lanka to obtain the due benefit under the existing FTA before the trade relationship is taken to the next level. ETCA envisages a trade in services as well as goods. Sri Lankan professional associations have warned that the mismatch between the regulatory frameworks for professions in India and Sri Lanka will result in Indian professionals gaining unrestricted access to the Sri Lankan market while Sri Lankan professionals are shut out of the Indian market in a repetition of what has happened in the trade in goods.

    It is the height of irresponsibility to sign an ETCA ‘framework’ agreement leaving the specific details to be negotiated later when there are so many unresolved trade issues between the two countries. In justifying his endorsement of the ETCA with India, the President observed that while some people in the SLFP spoke highly of the manner in which Mrs Sirimavo Bandaranaike maintained close relations with Mrs Indira Gandhi, the same individuals were against the present government maintaining a similar relationship with Prime Minister Modi. We should bear in mind that though Mrs Sirima Bandaranaiake and her son Anura were personally very close to Rajiv Gandhi, neither of them supported the 1987 Indo-Lanka Peace Accord. We should be guided in such matters by considerations of the national interest.

    Speaking of constitutional change during his TV interview, the President stressed the need to give priority to solve the problems of the Tamil people. The Prime Minister also now speaks of the need to devolve power. However the single most important slogan in the ‘yahapalana’ campaign was the abolition of the executive presidency with electoral reform coming next. Hence I stress once again that constitutional reform should focus on abolishing the executive presidency and bringing about electoral reform. More contentious matters such as the devolution of power can be dealt with later. The yahapalana government should respect the public opinion that they themselves helped create.

    In response to a previous statement I made on foreign loans, the Finance Minister has been repeatedly telling the media that though I had said that the Mattala airport and Hambantota harbour cost 190 and 426 million USD respectively, the records of the government indicated expenditure of 210 and 1,300 million USD and that the difference has not been explained. The total cost of the Mattala airport was 210 million USD with the loan from the China Exim Bank amounting 190 million. The rest was the ‘local component’ of the project paid by the government of Sri Lanka. We mentioned only the loan component in our previous statement because we were speaking on the subject of foreign loans.  The Hambantota Harbour Phase I cost 501 million and the 15% local component was met by the Ports Authority. The foreign loan component was something like 426 million USD. When the Finance minister says that the cost of the Hambantota Port was over 1,300 million USD, he has included the cost of the 808 million USD second phase which commenced in 2012 and is still under construction.

    Two other ministers admitted publicly that the government had indeed taken foreign loans amounting to more than 6,361 million USD since March 2015 as we said in our previous statement, but they said that all these loans had to be taken in order to pay off the loans taken at high interest rates by my government. The project loans taken by my government was long term credit at an interest rate of 2% or less. The government borrowed 375 million USD through a development bond issue a few days ago. This combined with the three month 700 million USD currency swap announced by India yesterday, brings the total foreign borrowings of this government from March 2015 to March 2016 to 7,436 million USD. Of this amount around half - 3,298 million USD falls due in 2016. The present crisis is due to the haphazard and irresponsible foreign borrowings of the present government and not due to any loans taken by previous governments.

    Sri Lanka deserves special attention - Biswal
    2016-Mar-31 | By Sihara Colombage

    Sri Lanka deserves special attention - Biswal

    Sri Lanka deserves special attention as it continues to consolidate democratic gains in the past two elections and put the country on a path to reconciliation, said Nisha Desai Biswal, US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs. 

    Speaking at the Center for a New American Security in Washington, Biswal said “Sri Lanka, which is rebalancing its own foreign and economic policy as it emerges from its self-imposed isolation, will benefit from its strategic location as a maritime gateway to some of the largest markets in Asia.”

    Biswal also added, “The Millennium Challenge Corporation, which had previously focused mostly on Africa and Latin America, is now looking to invest more in Asia, having recently announced a compact with Nepal and a threshold program with Sri Lanka. This could not only bring in much-needed investment and expertise, but also trigger the “MCC Effect,” where international businesses are drawn to countries that have proven themselves MCC eligible.

    The United States was among the first to welcome these moves and offer our support and assistance. Both Secretary Kerry and Ambassador Power visited last year – and I myself visited four times in 2015 – and this year we launched our first-ever Partnership Dialogue.

    The positive momentum of Sri Lanka stands in sharp contrast to the largely negative trajectory of Maldives, which has seen a steady weakening of its fragile democracy and an erosion of the rule of law.”

    New constitution in 2017: PM  
    2016-Mar-30 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    A new constitution will be enacted in 2017 when Sri Lanka completes 70 years since the setting up of the legislature, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said today.

    “Parliament will celebrate its 70th anniversary in 2017. We will discuss with the Speaker and the party leaders as to how we should mark this event. By that time the present Parliament will enact a new constitution,” he said at a seminar jointly organized by the Sri Lankan Parliament and the USAID-funded programme for Parliament.

    The Prime Minister said various constitutions would be studied and assistance of several countries would be obtained in drafting a new constitution.

    “We must get to know the US Constitution as it is the first written constitution and see how powers are expanded. Speaker has also taken the initiative to talk to Germany. We have to to talk to the EU about obtaining its assistance for this programme and we will confer with the West Minister Foundation. Britain is engaged in democratic initiatives to decide whether to stay with the EU. We can learn about it as well. I have asked the help of Austria, we can study the systems in Japan and India. I hope to meet the National Peoples Congress Chairman in China,” he said.

    The Prime Minister said the Constitution should be drafted and approved with knowledge of the system. “There is no point in an MP lifting the hand for a proposal about which he is unaware as it happened in the past,” he said and stressed the need for MPs to understand the true meaning of democracy. “Democracy means benefits. One must understand what a constituion is about,” he said.

    Talking about the shortcomings when enacting a constitution he said a cabinet system was introduced in 1943 during the war time but Sri Lanka did not have any experience on implementing such a system.

    He said the governments which enacted the first and second republican constitutions had a two-thirds majority. “I was in Parliament when the second republication constitution was enacted. These were enacted according to the needs of the ruling parties at the time,” the Prime Minister said pointing out that there were shortcomings in it.

    He recalled that it was the 13th Amendment which was enacted with the active participation of several parties. “SLFP did not participate in this exercise. Had the SLFP participated in it they would have won several provincial councils in 1988,” he said.

    The Prime Minister said a national government is being formed under President Maithripala Sirisena and the two main parties got a mandate to enact a new constitution at the general election. “This won't be a government or party-drafted constitution,” he said.

    The Prime Minister said the foremost factor when drafting a constitution is people’s sovereignty. “This is Sri Lankan identity. We are all same and are children of one mother. We have the right to safeguard our own religion and the freedom to follow it,” he said.

    He also spoke of universal franchise. The PM said party leaders are discussing a new electoral system at the moment. “We are discussing a mixed member proportionate system. Agreement is being reached on the fundamentals. We have to decide whether we are going to have 60 per cent or 50 per cent proportional representation or whether we need a national list,” he said.

    With regard to the rule of law and constitutionalism, the PM said it was important as it has to be decided how the executive and the legislature would work, “We have to decide whether we need a second chamber, some want it others don’t,” he said.

    The PM elaborated on power devolution. He said there was no issue with the present system, but one should think of how it is going to be strengthened without affecting the unitary status and the sovereignty of the country.

    “Many countries have devolved power in various ways, the US in one way, India in a different way and Britain in another way. We can do our own thing. We have to think of whether we are going to centre power in ministries; We will have to think about de-centralizing power as well and include this in the constitution,” the PM said

    He said the constitutional assembly would have to go forward on the recommendations of the public relations committee. “We have to decide whether were are proposing sub committees right away or are we going to wait till we get the report of the public relations committee and form them in May,” he said. “We will have a parliamentary form of governance with standing committees. We have to think of what Buddha preached when establishing our Parliamentary system."

    The PM said it was necessary to meet in peace, confer in peace and conclude in peace. This tradition he said can’t be broken. “If this tradition is broken by some one, he is neither a Buddhist, Christian, Muslim nor Hindu.

    India, Sri Lanka central banks sign $700 mn currency swap agreement
    2016-Mar-30 | By Gehan Jayaratne

    Indian central bank said on Tuesday it would allow its Sri Lankan counterpart to draw up to $700 million over a maximum period of three months under a new special currency swap agreement signed by the two central banks.

    The Reserve Bank of India has previously provided currency swaps to the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, including plans to extend a $1.5 billion agreement by one year.

    Sri Lanka is seeking a loan of $1.5 billion from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to boost foreign exchange reserves and help avert a balance of payments crisis.

    The country has seen its foreign exchange reserves depleted by the central banks defence of its rupee currency, as it struggles with heavy debt piled up under the previous government.

    Nothing wrong in increasing allowances to MPs: Daya Gamage
    2016-Mar-29 | By Sihara Colombage

    There was nothing wrong in increasing the allowances given to Members of Parliament, Minister of Primary Industries Daya Gamage has said.

    Addressing a gathering in Ampara recently, the Minister said an MP currently gets an allowance of Rs. 50,000 and it was hardly sufficient to meet the expenses as an MP.

    “I too get an allowance, even for fuel, but I have told Parliament authorities, to credit all my allowances to the account of Daya Sarana Trust. Even Ms. Anoma Gamage’s allowances go for the trust through which we help needy children and engage in various other social and charity works,” the Minister said.

    “I can afford to live without an increment as I am wealthy, but not all MPs are wealthy and they need funds for their activities and they have to spend some money even to attend Parliament sessions,” he added.

    Japan lends Rs. 56 bn to SL for expansion of main airport
    2016-Mar-29 | By Sihara Colombage

    Japan lends Rs. 56 bn to SL for expansion of main airport

    Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) announced Monday (March 28) that it has signed an agreement with Sri Lanka to lend Rs. 56 billion (US$ 400 million) to expand the country's main international airport in Colombo, according to a statement released by JICA.

    The agency said it will fund building a new passenger terminal at the Bandaranaike International Airport which suffers congestion from growing tourism.

    Vice President of JICA Hidetoshi Irigaki and the Chairman of the Airports and Aviation Service Company S. Saman Ediriweera in the presence of Minister of Transport Nimal Siripala de Silva signed the agreement to provide a Rs. 49 billion line of credit for the project which is estimated to cost Rs. 82 billion.

    The new passenger terminal building is planned to be opened in 2020 and will enable handling of 15 million passengers a year, more than doubling the present capacity and ease the congestion.

    The new terminal would use solar energy and recycled water from a sewage plant for the flushing of toilets. It will be built according to modern and international as well as civil aviation services standards.

    "The project would be developed based on the concept of (an) eco-airport with Japanese advanced technology and know-how," JICA said.

    According to the agreement with Sri Lankan government concluded last week, the loan, with 0.1 percent annual interest, is repayable over 40 years.

    The Bandaranaike International Airport handled 8.5 million passengers in 2015 and exceeded its capacity of 6 million passengers per annum while tourist arrivals to country steadily increased since the end of the war in 2009, reaching nearly 1.8 million in 2015.

    CID records statement from Uduwe Dhammaloka Thero
    2016-Mar-27 | By Sonali De Silva

    CID records statement from Uduwe Dhammaloka Thero

    The Criminal Investigations Department (CID) has recorded a statement from Venerable Uduwe Dhammaloka Thero this morning. 

    The popular Buddhist monk of the Alan Mathiniyaramaya Temple in Polhengoda had recently made a controversial statement regarding the death of late Venerable Maduluwawe Sobitha Thero.

    He claimed that the death of the former Chief Incumbent of the Kotte Nagavihara had been suspicious and had called for an investigation into it. 

    The CID had summoned Dhammaloka Thero to give a statement regarding the matter for investigations being carried out.