April 10, 2008

Another assassination: Eye openers for the International Community

By Shenali Waduge

The assassinations of Minister Jeyraj Fernandopulle & Minister Lakshman Kadiragamar are important for several reasons. Had both been Sinhalese or Buddhists one could have understood the LTTE’s decision to assassinate in the light of their argument that Sinhalese Buddhists are against the Tamils & are denying them their right to self-determination. Then, why would the LTTE wish to carry out the coldblooded killings of two individuals who were Tamil? Minister Kadiragamar was a Hindu but Minister Fernandopulle was a Catholic. Given the present Madhu controversy & the rumors of LTTE links with the Catholic Church the death of Minister Fernandopulle is most intriguing. However, the LTTE’s past history of killings is too large to mention but have included Tamils, Hindus, Sinhalese, Buddhists, Christians as well as Catholics. Their only “friends” are those who contribute to their killing machine. They have so far only kidnapped foreigners but perhaps it may be only a matter of time given their capabilities that they may enter international contract killings as well.

It then baffles any simpleton why powerful nations like the US, UK, EU, Canada & India choose to designate the LTTE as a terrorist outfit in their country, accuse it of forceful recruitment of child soldiers, prepare countless dossiers on their illicit dealings, declare the outfit to be the most dangerous more so than the Al Qaeda but continue to use direct & indirect means to pressure the Government of Sri Lanka into indulging in futile peace talks for negotiated settlement –with a terrorist movement that exists because of their power to kill?

It becomes all the more puzzling when distinguished & respected Tamil leaders like Mr. Anandasangaree repeatedly tells the international community that the LTTE are not the sole representative or even the representative of the Tamil people & urge the international community to help liberate the Tamil people who are presently confined to areas that the LTTE have illegally & unconstitutionally declared their territory.

Let us look at some statistics. The Tamil population in Sri Lanka is said to be 12% of the total population (2.4 million), out of this over 600,000 are presently living in foreign shores, leaving 1.6million Tamils in Sri Lanka. The Eastern province comprises a Tamil population of 674,411 & almost 60% (555353 Tamils) are living amongst the Sinhalese outside of the North & East of Sri Lanka (Almost one third of Colombo Municipal population accounts for Tamils) It then leaves a mere 370236 Tamils in the Northern province where presently the LTTE has a dwindling stronghold. The LTTE is in fact demanding a separate state called Tamil Eelaam to rule these 370236 or so people. Following the North East demerger their demand for the North & East has been nullified & they have to make do with insisting only for the Northern part of Sri Lanka. Thus, it is these 370236 that are in need of liberation from the LTTE (as the East was liberated from the LTTE) who will not permit anyone from leaving the area.

Let it also be noted that according to the 1981 census there were 6659, 3992 & 8683 Sinhalese living in the Districts of Jaffna, Mullaitivu & Mannar, while the same census noted that 12958, 3651 & 27,717 Muslims were living in the Districts of Jaffna, Mullaitivu & Mannar. What happened to the 19334 Sinhalese & the 44326 Muslims who were living in the Northern Province prior to the LTTE reign? Was this not ethnic cleansing of both the Sinhalese & the Muslims by the LTTE? Has any international authority questioned the LTTE for ethnic cleansing?

Given that there are only 370236 Tamils living amongst an exclusively self-declared Tamil area by the LTTE, it doesn’t give any weight to any argument that bases itself on the premise that the Sinhalese are discriminating the Tamils especially when over 555353 are living amongst the Sinhalese. If there were any reason for these Tamils to feel discriminated they should be scurrying to the North to join the LTTE. Not one has so far packed their bags to live with Prabakaran in the Wanni jungles.

It is estimated that the strength of the LTTE is around 10,000 (likely to be far less following the military onslaughts) however, it is begs to question why the international community should continue to project the LTTE as the representative of the Tamil people (2.4million). The LTTE’s existence without arms is also a questionable feature & the LTTE is well aware of what is likely to become of them if they do in fact lay down their arms. If unarmed the LTTE is likely to be more fearful of the Tamil people & not the Sinhalese. It is perhaps for this reason that even Prabakaran has to protect himself from his own cadres with a body guard contingent of over 200 personally picked tigers.

We hear echoes of international conspiracies in public forums. Powerful nations that make up the UN Security Council use issues like human rights, genocide, ethnic cleansing etc as a tool to justify their actions upon less powerful countries. Iraq, East Timor, Serbia, Afghanistan are a few examples. Terrorists like the LTTE feel comfortable in attracting foreign nations to intervene on behalf of them using these same issues to force the Government to halt any offensives against their outfit. However, if the argument that we are seeing a new neocolonialism taking place is true, then terrorists like the LTTE should know better than to think that the international community are likely to offer their demands on a golden platter & walk away. Presidential candidate McCain has echoed that the US presence is likely to remain in Iraq for 100 years more…. An experienced terrorist outfit like the LTTE must surely realize the dangers of attracting too much of foreign involvement.

Both Ministers Jeyraj Fernandopulle & Minister Lakshman Kadiragamar were clear in their messages to the world – the LTTE is nothing but a ruthless organization interested in no one but its own existence & merely riding on the bandwagon of Tamil rights to secure international support & propaganda for its fund raising. Let not the deaths of these great men be in vain. If the world must accept that the reason for US troops in Iraq & Afghanistan is to annihilate the terrorists & free the people, then the world also needs to accept that the LTTE must be annihilated first & disarmed completely to get on to the next stage of arriving at a consensus of solving any grievances that the Tamil people may have.

December 12, 2007

Muslim party members quit government in Sri Lanka

Four members of a Muslim minority party including a cabinet minister quit Sri Lanka's government ahead of a crucial vote in parliament Friday where the government's majority will be tested for the second time in less than a month, a spokesman for the party said Wednesday.

Minister of Posts and Telecommunications Rauf Hakeem who also heads the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) along with three more junior ministers crossed over in parliament after claiming that the government had failed to resolve problems of his community including a dispute about acquiring lands owned by Muslims in the eastern province.

The four votes of the SLMC at the final voting approve next year's budget will not be sufficient to defeat the budget which needs a minimum 113 votes in the 225 seat parliament for approval.

The budget needs to be approved in parliament twice and the first approval took place last month with a majority of 16 votes with 102 members against and 118 in favour.

However another party with seven members is also in the process of reconsidering its support of the government, raising uncertainty.

The government has expressed confidence that its ability to approve the budget without any difficulty.

A series of political discussions have been underway between government and opposition members during the past few weeks in order to obtain their support for the vote while a Marxist party, known as the JVP with 37 members who last voted against the budget, have not announced its stance so far.

In the event a budget is defeated in parliament, the government is given a second opportunity to present a budget and failure to get approval for it will lead to a dissolution of parliament and fresh parliamentary elections. The government elected in 2004 can rule the country for a six-year term.

Deutsche Presse-Agentur

December 11, 2007

Is the ‘Alternative Govt’ any different?

Alright, say this SLFP (PA) Govt is corrupt, guilty of financial mismanagement, not keeping its promises, not quite able to control the escalation of the COL, allowing defence mishaps to occur, etc etc.

So Some say we need to replace it with another. Agreed. Those who are shouting hoarse that they be allowed to form a Govt., should themselves be free of the defects they allege against the SLFP Govt. and not have been guilty of such defects when they were in power. The said "AG" being the UNP (or the "National Congress" (NC) under its current dispensation) is it then not logical to examine the UNP/NCs record in this regard? The need for it arises because one notices today, hour after hour, day after day, on TV, Radio, the Press and in the many "jana mehemuwas" the UNP/NC lambasting the Govt on this and that as if they themselves never indulged in the self same skullduggeries! It seems that anything the Govt does is wrong, even actions obviously beneficial to the public (eg. The Post 10 p.m. loudspeaker Ban. So as ‘The Island’s Editor suggested in his clinical Editorial on 25.10.07, is there any one without sin who can cast the first stone? And the Editor, "Daily Mirror" clearly answers this Biblical question in his also balanced editorial of 19.11.07.

"Both the Govt and the Opposition resort to similiar methods to win over supporters. So it is a vain attempt by each party to appear before the people as paragons of virtue. The pure white garb most of our politicians are attired in has no affinity with their conduct".

So led us briefly examine the UNP/NC’s conduct, and see whether they (say Attanayake in his "white national garb" for instance) can cast the first stone and then by pose before us as "paragons" of virtue"!

Take Bribery and Corruption. I quote from ‘The Island’ and the ‘D/Mirror’ which among the English papers, I consider are more or less balanced in their views. I leave out both the ‘D/News’ and ‘Observer’ which being Govt papers are one-sided. ‘The Sunday Leader’ and ‘Morning Leader’ though supposedly part of the so-called "Independent press" is patently a UNP/LTTE paper, in my view.

‘The Island’ Editorial (04-10-07): "Bribery as a means of winning elections is nothing new in this country. All Govt leaders save President Wijetunge have either given or offered bribes to the LTTE" (Editorial titled "A tragicomedy of Bribes").

‘Daily Mirror’ Editorial (Sorry, I’ve missed the date): Regarding the indifference by all parties to the OPA’s "Anti-corruption Auction Plan" of 28-7-07: Both Govt & Opposition Parties "concern about wiping out corruption is confined to taking political advantage over their rival parties…. The present exchange of allegations and counter allegations reverberating in the political arena today clearly shows that it is political capital they seek to make thro’ this issue. These parties while in the Opposition show great concern about burgeoning bribery and corruption. They come out with sensational exposures of govt party corruption, posing as paragons of virtue who will not touch corruption even with a barge pole" (Eg. The ‘Benz’ and ‘funding the LTTE’ allegations my interpolation) "But once installed in power they soon tread the same path of corruption that the previous regime followed."

Defence Mishaps/Military Debacles etc.

The UNP went to town over the LTTE attack on the Anuradhapura Airbase. Everyone agrees that there was gross negligence, ineptness on the part of Airport Security. But is the UNP free from similar charges? I go again to ’The Island.’

‘The Island’ Editorial of 25.10.07: "Casting the first stone": "Attempts are being made in some quarters to lionize the Tigers" (refers to the LTTE’s success in A’pura and the UNP/NC gloating). ‘The Island’, having pointed out that this attack was not that too brilliant a feat goes onto state: "What about the debacles the LTTE suffered at Marvil Aru, Muttur, and Vakarai? The present day UNP has suffered a string of defeats just like the SLFP…." One notes that while the UNP gloated over the LTTE’s feats in A’pura, it degraded the Army’s feat at Thoppigala as mere rock capture! Pooneryn was overrun in 1990, battle tanks removed, with Ranil as Premier!

UNP’s Call for Resignations: The UNP demanded the resignation/dismissal of the Defence Sec and the Air Force Chief after the A’Pura debacle.

‘The Island’ same Editorial: "Should they resign" (including the President as C-in-C). "If so President Bush should have resigned over the attack on the Pentagon. Churchill over the initial failures of the British Army, President Ranaginghe Premadasa when 600 policemen who surrendered on his orders to the LTTE were massacred in 1990. "But none of the above, Bush, Churchill, Wijetunge and Ranil (after Pooneryn) or Premadasa resigned. Nor did Ranil while in Cabinet ask them to resign.

‘The Island’ again: "Worse, the military officers who were found responsible for that military disaster by a court of inquiry, were late promoted and then sent abroad as Ambassador after retirement. The UNP Govt saved its face by forcing the then Army Commander Cecil Waidyaratne to resign." Regarding the JVP attack on Katunayake, and removal of weapons "neither President Premadasa nor his Defence Secretary resigned." Nor did Ranil or the UNP ask them to do so! "The present day UNP has suffered a string of defeats. But has any head rolled in the UNP? No! Ranil himself should have resigned long ago. Yes, his forte is to cast stones while in a glass house and to look at the mote in Rajapakse’s eye, ignoring the speck in his own!

There are more aspects of the UNP’s finger pointing dishonesties to be commented on. Due to space constrains I will refer only to two more, namely the Cost of Living, and keeping election promises.

COL: I quote the "D/Mirror" Editorial (Sorry, date not noted) as regards ‘COL’ promises given by all parties. "Bringing down the COL and promoting good governance… and among common pledges held out to people… The Govt’t failure is not peculiar to the present govt to fulfill the promise for reducing the COL is due to a combination of reasons."

Keeping to election promises: "D/Mirror’s Editorial: SLFP, SLFP (M) UNP agreements and proposals are like political party manifestos containing pious intentions. COL promoting good governance being common pledges. The disappointments, problems arise when those elected to power fail to fulfill these pledges." So clearly the UNP is no better in this regard.

Above is a survey of neutral press views on the "Alternative Govt" (UNP) whose members, or the most vociferous of them, now come out ‘in pure white garb’ "posing as paragons of virtue" making sensational exposures, claims and other anti-corruption declamations. Are they as the Alternative Govt" any better than the Govt they are quick to criticize? Say, on the corruption issue and the COPE Report. The irony is that the UNP which thunders about it must hide its head in shame because the corrupt deals the COPE reports on were mostly done under Ranil’s UNP regime. Likewise, the SLFP Govt too must be ashamed for trying to shield the alleged culprits who are now with them.

The tragedy of much of political discussions today is that many see only one side of the picture. They regularly point to the Govt’s misdeeds, corruption, political chicanery etc., forgetting or in most cases choosing to ignore that their own political party (whichever it is) perpetrated the same skullduggeries during their time. Seems each Govt outdoes the other in political humbug and other frauds. That’s how I see it and always have. Yet loyalties to a particular party blinds many of its followers to the fact that their party, having a mote in its own eyes, has the gall to point at the speck in the others.

To close, I might therefore pose the question is the Alternative Govt (UNP/NC) any different than the Govt it seeks to replace? One knows what the answer of those blindly partial to their party will be. What do the politically honest, neutral and those with a sense of analytic appraisal think? That is the question.

And to show just how politically dishonest and deliberately non-analytic the UNP/NC people can be, here’s a recent sample from one of its top leaders: "The Trade Minister… who had contributed much to governance when he was a member of the UNP had now changed his policies by joining the Mahinda Rajapakse Govt…" Mr. Ravi Karunanayake (UNP District MP at Committee Stage Debate). What about Mr. Mangala Samaraweera and Mr. Siripathi Sooriarachchi, Mr. K? Have they not changed their policies since joining you people? Is it only your crossovers who have changed policies? What about the big policy change your own party has made on the Ethnic Issue for purely opportunistic, vote getting purposes; your U-turn to a Unitary structure from Federalism, whatever euphemism (Repositioning) your party may call it.


December 2, 2007

Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe now UNP's broker

COPE Chairman, Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe who crossed over to the opposition on the eve of the second reading of the budget last month, has now assumed the role of MP broker for the main opposition UNP, it is learnt.
Rajapakshe recently brokered Hussein Bhaila, leaving it up to former UNP Chairman Malik Samarawickrema to seal the deal. A journalist telephoned Samarawickrema to inform him that Bhaila would meet him at a residence near Alfred House Gardens at an appointed hour.

While waiting for the Muslim MP to show, Samarawickrema engaged in some idle chit chat with the chief occupant of the house, and finally when Bhaila was more than 15 minutes late, the former UNP Chairman called the MP’s mobile telephone.
But it was Bhaila’s son who answered the telephone, and informed Samarawickrema that his father had left his mobile at home and gone out.

As it turns out, Bhaila was in fact at Temple Trees visiting with President Mahinda Rajapaksa at the time he was supposed to have met up with Samarawickrema. When the former UNP Chairman had called to invite Bhaila for discussions, the MP had promptly informed the President of the invitation he had received and Rajapaksa had asked him to go ahead with the meeting. However, the President changed his mind at the last moment and insisted that Bhaila should come and meet him at the same hour he was supposed to meet Samarawickrema.

Samarawickrema is in fact involved in the effort to win over government MP’s to the Opposition, in the run up to the crucial third budget reading and vote on December 14. He has been seen in the parliamentary complex several times over the last few days, and even had lunch with SLFP Mahajana Wing Convenor Mangala Samaraweera at parliament last week.

(The Nation)

November 27, 2007

UNP mulls over its future

Last Wednesday afternoon the Jathika Sabhawa - the combined UNP and SLFP(M) high commands - met at Cambridge Place to discuss the future in the light of the post budget fallout. The meeting was attended by UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, Mangala Samaraweera, Sripathy Sooriyarachchi, Tissa Attanayake, Rukman Senanayake, Tiran Alles and Malik Samarawickrema. The Jathika Sabhawa appears to have run out of options, because the only future programme they could think of was to organize another Jana Rela rally in Colombo. The UNP has now become like the LTTE. Over the past many years, the LTTE has attacked almost every target worth attacking and they have run out of targets to attack. What they can now do is to attack once again targets they have attacked earlier. Similarly, over the past several months the UNP has held so many meetings, demonstrations, and protest campaigns that they have run out of places to hold demonstrations.

They started the Jana Rela campaign from the maiden rally at Hyde Park some time ago were scheduled to end with the last rally in Hambantota – the electoral district of Mahinda Rajapakse. The UNP hoped to be in power by the time the jana rela campaign ended. The grand plan was to combine a popular upsurge against the government with a parliamentary upset engineered by Samaraweera with at least a dozen defections from the SLFP. But both these failed to materialize. Most people are not very familiar with the name ‘Jathika Sabhawa’. Even the jana rela slogan ‘rata iwarai perata warew!’ was a flop. Nobody even remembers this slogan. Even though the UNP insisted that the country was ‘finished’, the people did not seem to share that opinion. What the Jathika Sabhawa decided to do last week, was to repeat this failure one more time in Colombo.

Another committee

But the feeling that something was seriously amiss as far as whipping up public support has at last begun to sink into the minds of the UNP leadership. When the party management committee met last week, Wickremesinghe appointed a committee to look into the Youth and Womens organizations of the party. People may smile knowingly at this, and say "Another committee!" But the appointment of this committee shows that Wickremasinghe is worried, and it is good to worry about things that one should be worried about. Tissa Attanayake, S.B.Dissanayake, Talatha Athukorale, Lakshman Seneviratne Akila Kariyawasam and Bodhi Ranasinghe are members of this committee which will report back to Wickremesinghe about the present state of the womens’ and youth sections of the party and make recommendations as to what should be done to rehabilitate these sections.

As pointed out in this column on many occasions previously, the UNP has failed to attract the youth. At the 2001 parliamentary election, there was a visible youth presence in the UNP. Every UNP candidate - even the unimportant ones - had dozens of young men in their election campaign, with as many young women helping out behind the scenes. But after the treatment that was meted out to these youth, by the UNP government of 2001-2004, that entire generation seems to have given up politics. During the past five years or so, there has been a change in the way the younger generation perceives politics. Things are no longer what they used to be for everybody. Even the JVP is no longer able to attract youth. This problem which affects all political parties in the country, also affects the UNP in an even more accentuated form. This is bad news for the UNP because the older generation already is prejudiced against the UNP and its leadership. It is this generation that ensured the UNP’s defeat for the past one and a half decades. So without winning new votes, the UNP has no way of making a serious bid for power. If the new voters remain neutral without supporting any party, that too will favour the present government.

When the UNP political affairs committee met last week, the main topic of discussion was the program between the 28th of November and the 12th of December where the UNP has organized various events in the run up to the third reading of the budget. Even though the UNP has organized these events, they are not too confident about being able to do anything significant on voting day on Dec. 14. Wickremesinghe warned the political affairs committee that some had been making public statements to the effect that the UNP would be toppling the government on that day and that they should desist from making such statements. The prerogative to make such statements should be left to him and him alone said Wickremesinghe. He said that what the party should prepare for now was to go onto the streets against the government.

The spiteful damsel

On a previous occasion, Wickremasinghe pitched into Vajira Abeywardene at the political affairs committee – that was for saying at the Kosgashandiya meeting that the UNP would be capturing power after the Sinhala and Tamil New Year in April this year. This giving of dates has now become a joke and Wickremesinghe was right in calling a halt to it. Even though the JVP voted against the budget, there is no guarantee that they will vote against it at the third reading if it looks likely that the UNP may win. Even though the JVP did what the UNP desperately wanted them to do at the vote on the second reading, the JVP has not been warming up to the UNP. If the UNP is to derive any benefits from the JVP, they have to warm up to the UNP the way Mangala and Sripathy did and become genuine allies. But the possibility of that happening seems to be quite remote.

In the run up to last Monday’s vote, the UNP was engaged in a frantic attempt to woo the JVP Just before the budget vote was taken, Wickremesinghe had approached two JVP parliamentarians Wasantha Samarasinghe and Navaratna Banda who were chatting on a corridor in parliament and said, that he would like to talk to them about a ‘jathika arthikaya’ (national economy). Wickremesinghe had wanted to chat up the two JVP parliamentarians. But Navaratna Banda had asked him, "Why do you want to speak to us about a jathika arthikaya? You should be talking about a vijathika arthikaya (non-national economy) instead!" Wickremesinghe had beaten a quick retreat in the face of such hostility.

After the budget vote Mano Ganesan had approached Anura Kumara Dissanayake and congratulated him on the decision to vote against the budget. But when Sri Kanthan of the TNA had tried to congratulate Wimal Weerawansa, by thanking him for the support, and extended his hand to shake hands, Weerawansa had ignored the TNA parliamentarian’s outstretched hand and just brushed him off, saying that they had voted against the budget only because they were against the budget and not because they had any intention of aiding the Tigers. It would appear that the JVP resents having had to give the UNP and TNA even the slight satisfaction of seeing them voting against the government.

Despite the JVP having voted against the budget, it is clear that the UNP does not see the JVP as potential allies. Over the weekend before the budget vote was taken, Wickremesinghe had met President Rajapakse at former first lady, Mrs Elina Jayewardenehome. During the course of the conversation, the president had asked Wickremesinghe what he was going to do at the budget to which Wickemesinghe replied that they were going to vote against it. The president then said that if he loses, he will hand over the government to Wickremesinghe and Wickremesinghe told the president that he does not want to take over the government. He suggested that the president gets together with the JVP and run the government. An interesting exchange considering the fact that the avowed policy of the UNP was to topple the government by voting against it, at the budget and winning over dissidents from the SLFP. Wickremesinghe knows that even if the JVP voted against the budget, the UNP could not rely on their support. Besides, if the JVP was behaving this way against the PA government, they would be harsher on a UNP government.

Playing it safe

Another thing discussed at the political affairs committee was the budget coming up in the southern provincial council. Some members of the PAC like Lakshman Kiriella, Malik Samarawickrema and Ravi Karunanayake said that the SPC budget should be defeated. Another group however said that this would only distract the party from the goal they had set themselves. Sajith Premadasa, S.B.Dissanayke and Ranjith Madduma Bandara were in the more cautious group. This latter group was correct because there is no point in overthrowing a provincial government, unless they can be certain of winning the election that will follow. In the southern province especially, the possibility of the UNP winning an election is quite remote. If they defeat the SPC budget and then lose the consequent election, that is going to have a domino effect on the rest of the country as well. At a time like this, that is just about the last thing the UNP needs. So the UNP and JVP, which together could have defeated the SPC budget, walked out of the vote leaving the council undefeated.

Source: Island

November 20, 2007

Rs. 5759 mn allocated: Not for expenditure of President - PM

The committee stage budget debate in Parliament started yesterday (20) with the votes of the President, Prime Minister, the Judiciary, Ministries listed under the President and statutory bodies like the Auditor General's Department and independent commissions taken up for discussion.

Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake making a special statement said there was a totally wrong impression about the funds allocated to a large number of bodies and ministries coming under the purview of the President. The impression that some opposition members and some sectors of the media had given was that a vast sum of money had been allocated to the President.

He said 5759 million rupees have been allocated under the Presidential votes, but for two programmes covering six different projects. Not for the expenditure of the President.

Out of the total allocation of funds under the President's vote were 1317 million rupees capital expenditure and 875 million rupees for putting up a new building on the site of the old Parliament building at Galle Face and the furniture and fittings of the building. Another 300 million rupees also has been allocated for the conservation and improvements of Temple Trees as capital expenditure, when all these allocations are deducted from this vote, only 92 million rupees has been allocated for capital expenditure under the President, the Premier noted.

The largest allocation of funds under the President's vote 1,430 million was for the Institute of Information Technology and German Technical Institute, Institute of Policy Studies, Sri Lanka Foundation Institute, Human Rights Commission, Institute of Fundamental Studies, Essential Services Commissioner's Department, and another 12 bodies including the Peace Secretariat but the Opposition was trying to show that all the allocations were for the President.

From Parliament - Island

Brazilian embassy opened in Colombo

The official flag raising ceremony of the interim office for the newly established Brazilian Embassy in Colombo, set up at the JAIC Hilton Residency recently, took place yesterday morning, the Embassy announced.

The Additional Secretary to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs T.V. Maduwegedera, Brazilian Chargé d´Affaires, Antonio Cottas de Jesus Freitas, present and former Sri Lankan Ambassadors to Brazil, General Shantha Kottegoda, and General Rohan Daluwatte and Chancellery Assistant, Wellington Alves de Abreu participated in the event. The Honorary Consul for Brazil in Sri Lanka, Jennifer Moragoda, was also present.

The Government of Brazil had originally set up an embassy in Sri Lanka in the early sixties, but it was closed in 1969. In recognition of the growing importance of Sri Lanka-Brazil relations, President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, on the advice of the Minister of Foreign Relations, Celso Amorim, took the decision to re-establish its mission here. The new Ambassador, Pedro Henrique Lopes Borio, is scheduled to arrive at the end of January 2008.

The Embassy of Brazil expressed its profound gratitude and to the Government of Sri Lanka and its authorities, both in Colombo and in Brazil, for the generous and continued assistance received regarding the present reopening of the Embassy. It also expressed its gratitude to the Honorary Consulate, the Honorary Consul, Mrs. Jennifer Moragoda, and the previous Honorary Consul, Mr. Milinda Moragoda, for the tireless work they had carried out on behalf of Brazil, superbly representing the country in the absence of the Embassy. The Honorary Consulate will continue to operate and to work in close cooperation with the re-opened Embassy, it said.

November 19, 2007

Corruption in Sri Lankan Media: Sonali puts her undies out to dry

Ms. Sonali Samarasinghe is the nearest thing available to a local Lady Macbeth. She is overloaded with ambitions of going places. She has no qualms about pushing other competitors out of the scene and clawing her way into their seats. One of her ambitions was to be a diplomat. In her scheme of things she had planned to leave the cozy place she occupied in the Leader newspapers and take a running jump, with a hefty push from her Editor, Mr. Lasantha Wickrematunga, into the seat of the Counsellor (Information) in the Sri Lankan High Commission in Canberra.

There was also another reason for her to pick Canberra as the preferred place of her posting: her sister and mother lived there. All in all, it was the most suitable location for her ambitions as well her need to be close to her kith and kin in Australia.

As career diplomats in the Foreign Service know it is not every diplomat who can pick their posting to the place of their choice. But then Ms. Samarasinghe is not one of those run-of-the-mill journalists. She had powerful political connections. Though she had no direct links to the UNP regime running the Foreign Ministry at the time she got the posting she was near enough to the source wielding power behind the throne of Ranil Wickremesinghe, the then Prime Minister.

In short, she was in the comfort zone of being the blue-eyed girl of Mr. Lasantha Wickrematunga, the Editor of The Sunday Leader. Actually, he was the sun around which satellites like Ms. Samarasinghe revolved, fluttering their eyelids.

Mr. Wickrematunga is an ace wheeler-dealer who has all the characteristics of a frustrated politician. He turned to journalism which also the nearest thing to being a politician. That, of course, is a common feature in journalism. But the conflicts begin when the politician in the journalist overtakes the journalist. The politician in Mr. Wickrematunga pays scant regard to the codes of journalism. Like the politicians he uses journalism to promote his politics. He compromises at every turn in playing the dual role of a politician and editor simultaneously.

This has been amply demonstrated by him each time plays the lead role of being a devoted camp-follower of Wickremesinghe. Being close to Wickrematunga is also as good being close to Wickremesinghe. It is also the guaranteed way of fixing deals with Wickremesinghe. It is through Mr. Wickremesinghe that the politician in Mr. Wickrematunga had tasted power vicariously. But unfortunately for Mr. Wickrematunga these vicarious spells have been few and far between, mainly because his political protégé had been only a temporary Prime Minister for two brief spells. Since the last time he was sacked unceremoniously by President Chandrika Kumaratunga he has resigned to his fate of being the permanent Leader of the Opposition. The most remarkable achievement of Wickremesinghe was to sell the nation down the river with the blessings of his political guru, Wickrematunga.

They have had a symbiotic relationship in which Wickremesinghe feeds primarily on the media sustenance provided by Wickrematunga. Political observers note that Wickremesinghe, the sick man of Sri Lankan politics, would have been in the dustbin of history if not for the regular fix that Mr. Wickrematunga injects into his veins from time to time. His lackluster performance as the Leader of Opposition has frustrated and disillusioned his backbenchers so much that they prefer to sit on the benches of government side than with him.

Some UNPers have cynically proclaimed Mr. Wickrematunga as the de facto Leader of the Opposition. His use and abuse of the media outlets available to him (including TV) have been a continuous record of attacking, fairly and unfairly – but mostly unfairly – politicians opposed to his weak protégé, Wickremesinghe.

All this makes Wickremesinghe beholden to Wickrematunga. They are the Tweedledum and Tweedledee of Sri Lankan politics. It is against this background that Ms. Samarasinghe suddenly found herself catapulted across the Indian Ocean into the seat of Counsellor (Information). As to who pulled the rubber straps and as to who put her in the grip of the rubber straps to be catapulted into Canberra can be deduced from the political links mentioned above.

No one needs the genius of an Einstein to figure out that Mr. Wickrematunga had used the media favours he had granted to Wickremesinghe to get a favour in return for his girl friend. It was a case of you-scratch-my-back-and-I'll scratch-yours. Perhaps, it could have passed off as a minor or routine deal if it came from another source that does not preach purity in public life. But it is inexcusable when Mr. Wickrematunga who poses as the holier-than-thou moralist in exposing corruption in other people's life stoops to get his girl friend a plum job at taxpayers' expense. The juicy part to his relationship with Ms. Samarasinghe must be reserved for another occasion. Suffice is to say now that his corruption is far worse than those whom he excoriates because he pretends to be the incorruptible white lily.

Anyway, thanks to the word put in the ear of his political mate Wickremesinghe Ms. Samarasinghe took up the position of Counsellor (Information) on February 4, 2003. Of course, she could argue that she had the qualifications to be the Counsellor (Information). But in Sri Lanka, as he knows, even the most qualified need some pulling to get places.

Besides, it is not her paper qualifications (pun intended) that matters. It is how she performed in the job that matters. Her mission was to raise the profile of Sri Lanka in Australia. She had the formidable task of waging a campaign to counter the highly effective Tamil Tiger propaganda which had influenced the thinking of decision –makers in Australia. She claimed that she had the necessary media experience and qualifications to undertake this task. According to the current rate of exchange she was paid Rs. 600,000 in round figures to meet the challenge posed by the Tiger propaganda machine.

Once she was ensconced in her Canberra seat she decided to call on her counterparts in other diplomatic missions. She decided to do the rounds with a firm resolve. She would get the High Commission secretary to make appointments and she would set off in earnest with a packet of Ceylon tea as the means to ease her into the world of high diplomacy.

One of the first diplomats she called on was from an Asian country. In the course of conversation, the other diplomat asked her how long she had been in the Foreign Ministry. She replied: "Two months"

The Asian diplomat gasped and he nearly fell off the chair. Stunned he said: "It took me 17 years to get to this place. How did you do it in two months?

Of course, her sheepish grin did not answer the question. Anyway, let that pass for the moment.

In diplomatic circles she was better known for her naivety. In doing her rounds she was in the habit asking her counterpart, most of whom were males, how well they performed in their golf. This was her opening gambit. Most of them would politely laugh it off. However, one diplomat put her off balance by asking her: "Why do you ask?"

Taken aback she replied: "Well, I thought all you men play golf !"

That was the level of Sri Lankan diplomacy dished out by Ms. Samarasinghe. But let's leave the diplomacy aside because she was not a trained diplomat. It is appropriate to consider her role as Counsellor (Information) – the role for which she was paid Rs. 600,000 per month. She was expected to bring her expertise to make a difference in countering the aggressive and vicious campaign launched by the Tamil Tigers against Sri Lanka. Fighting the ideological battle in the international arena is a critical factor to win friends for Sri Lanka. Besides, Australia is a vital centre of the Tamil Tigers in raising funds and mobilizing Australian public opinion against Sri Lanka. How did the expert from The Sunday Leader perform?

Did she succeed? Did she have her heart in the job? After all she and her lover boy, Mr. Wickrematunga, who fancy themselves as making the biggest waves in Sri Lanka, should have been able to make at least a tiny bubble in Australia. But did they? What was the effect of her media campaign in Australia? To begin with did she have a media strategy? Was she worth the money that the taxpayers spent on her?

Her idea of promoting Sri Lanka among Australians was to run a four-hour program called "An Evening in Sri Lanka". She had invited some local Aussie politicos and other officials to her evening in Sri Lanka. The Australian public was conspicuous by their absence. At the end of the day she was left with nothing. She did not get a line in the Australian media. Not a single sound bite. Not one passing minute on national TV.

However, there was a contingent from Sri Lanka media, especially flown to cover her evening show. Rupavahini and the Sri Lanka media outnumbered other media. It was, in short, a big farce. It is beyond comprehension as to how she planned to influence Australian public opinion by sending media reports to Sri Lanka. Besides, how did she get preference over all other embassies in getting one of her events covered by Sri Lankan state media? With the pull that Mr. Wickrematunga had at that time it is not difficult to guess as to who was pulling the political strings behind the scenes to get Mr. Wickrematunga's blue-eyed girl's evening in Sri Lanka covered by Rupavahini.

As they say, those who live in glass houses should not lift their sarongs or sarees too high. Thee is another aspect to Ms. Samarasinghe's evening in Canberra. How come the private sector media like the Leader group was able exploit state media to take a sudden interest in a petty tea party organized by Ms. Samarasinghe in Canberra? Was the same coverage given to other missions abroad struggling without basic resources? Who organized this costly TV team to travel all the way from Colombo to Canberra? Was this the most effective and beneficial means of spending public funds? Other than the Editor in The Sunday Leader who else would want to see Ms. Samarasinghe having an evening in Canberra?

In other words, what value did the nation get by the money spent on Ms. Samarasinghe's futile project in Canberra? Should the media be allowed to use its power and influence to further their personal ends? Should the private media, which claims to be superior to the state media, be allowed to use public funds for corrupt ends of journalists selling their outlets to politicians? Must the public pay for the private pleasures of Ms. Samarasinghe and Mr. Wickrematunga? Are they any different to prostitutes selling their bodies to those who are willing to pay?

More than this, it is the commitment and the competency of Ms. Samarasinghe to occupy the seat of Counsellor (Information) that is relevant. For instance, she was sent to counter and neutralize the Tamil Tiger propaganda that aimed at denigrating the image of Sri Lanka abroad. Could she have discharged her duties with any degree of honesty and competency, considering what she publishes now as Editor of The Morning Leader?

Ms. Samarasinghe and her Editor, Mr. Lasantha Wickrematunga are well-known apologists for the Tigers. They glorify Tamil Tiger terrorism in their publications which is banned in most democratic countries. International law too stipulates that glorifying terrorism is should be banned. This lovey-dovey couple, didn't stop at that. They together with Wickremesinghe's UNP, downgraded and belittled the achievements of the soldiers advancing towards Toppigala. Even after the forces won Toppigala they continued to ridicule the victory of the forces which has changed the political map of Sri Lanka.

In the name of free media they generally go all out scoff at any national achievements in the battle field. They are more eager to print the negative stories than the positive stories. Their crude media tactics of distorting reality is obscene and repelling to the average reader who can see through their political manipulations. For instance, the negative reporting of the advances of the forces in the east would be read as hilarious pieces by those who leaf through their back numbers in the days to come. They are Cassandras who refuse to see anything positive in the nation.

The most telling example of their partisan politics is displayed in the mast head of The Morning Leader, edited by Ms. Samarasinghe. It displays carefully selected anti-national images – the type that would be used by Tamil propagandists. One of the images is that of a Buddhist monk gesticulating somewhat aggressively. Along with the Buddhist monk are armed men in uniform pointing guns at some target. Obviously, these images reflect her anti-national, anti Buddhist mindset. Her hatred of the nation is illustrated with the anti-national images exhibited in this masthead.

Parenthetically, it must be mentioned that the picture of the Buddhist monk in her masthead is reminiscent of the picture posted on the cover page of the controversial book Buddhism Betrayed? written by the notorious Prof. S. J. Tambiah of Harvard University. To deliver the message in his book he picked the picture of a monk in an aggressive pose (sent with love by Kumari Jayawardena, another anti-national activist) and pasted it on the cover page. This picture encapsulated not only the anti-Sinhala-Buddhist contents but also the prejudices of the racist mind of the author. Ms. Samarasinghe's masthead is another version of Tambiah's cover page.

Ms. Samarasinghe also provides free space every week to Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu -- one of the leading anti-Sinhala-Buddhist NGO activists. There is nothing wrong with it as long as she balances the anti-national propaganda with the opposite point of view. Judging from her current role as editor of The Morning Leader it is fair to conclude that she never had a balanced view of the national aspirations. In any case, her anti-national mindset would not have prepared her to serve the national interests. Their political activity disguised as journalism leads to the conclusion that she and her lover boy Mr. Wickrematunga have been two of the arch enemies of the nation in journalism. She was incapable of being a competent and honest information officer because she was committed ideologically to serve the anti-national forces as seen in her publication The Morning Leader.

Together this couple had played a devious role in journalism. But Ms. Samarasinghe was corrupt to the core when she took on the job of Counsellor (information) when she was not committed to function in that role with integrity and commitment. The moral corruption in believing in one thing and acting against your own beliefs just to old on to a diplomatic position is contemptible. This reveals her as a morally corrupt journalist who had no compunction in la-di-da-ing in Canberra, pretending to serve the nation, when her heart or mind was never in the job. Besides, what did the people who paid her Rs. 600, 000.00 per month get in the end? How can she now point an accusing finger at others when her past and present are filled with hypocrisy?

After her driver left refusing to put her undies to dry it is said in Canberra that it was her boy friend who obliged her whenever he secretively visited his blue-eyed girl in Canberra. Sadly, Mrs. Raine Wickrematunga who lived in Melbourne was deprived of that facility. She looked after their kids all on her own.

To be continued –

- Asian Tribune -


Presidential Commission to probe Athukorale's death

Chief Government whip Minister Jeyaraj Fernandopulle told Parliament yesterday that President Mahinda Rajapaksa has decided to appoint a special Presidential Commission to investigate the sudden death of former UNP General Secretary and Ratnapura District MP Gamini Athukorale.

President Rajapaksa has made this decision paying special attention towards the statement made by Ratnapura District UNP MP Thalatha Athukorale regarding the pledges made on Presidential Commission to probe the sudden death of Gamini Athukorale.

Minister Fernandopulle told Parliament that President has conveyed his decision to the Government Parliament Group Meeting.

The Minister made this statement after Ratnapura district UNP MP Thalatha Athukorale raised a privilege issue regarding one sided media coverage given by State media regarding the issue on the appointing of Presidential Commission to probe into the death of Athukorale.

Athukorale said her Parliamentary previlege has been violated by giving publicity to Minister Jagath Pushpakumara's statement without giving equal publicity for her statement.


Prabhakaran orders TNA MPs to return and vote against budget

Tamil National Alliance parliamentarians have been ordered to be back in Sri Lanka and be present on 19 November in the parliament to vote against Mahinda Rajapaksa’s budget 2008, Asia Tribune said yesterday.

It said quoting sources in Vanni that urgent messages had been dispatched to almost five TNA members of parliament who are at present away from the country to return immediately and help bring down the government.

The report said: "Sources revealed that LTTE leader Velupillai Prabakaran had personally instructed the political division of the outfit to dispatch urgent messages to the 5 TNA parliamentarians, who are at present staying in overseas, to return to Sri Lanka before Monday and vote against the budget and defeat the government.

Sources added that he had said in case Mahinda Rajapakse’s government winning the vote and retaining power, there was likelihood that military advancing into Killinochchi and Mullaithivu shortly. To stop the military advance his only option was to defeat the government’s budget.

If the budget 2008 was defeated, it was likely that the Opposition leader Ranil Wickramasinghe might have the chances of winning the next election and he might again implement the Cease Fire Agreement. "

This is expected to help the militarily weakened LTTE to strengthen its hold in Vanni, the AsiaTribune said.

November 18, 2007

CBK engineered COPE head’s cross over - SB

National Organiser of the UNP S.B. Dissanayake yesterday said SLFP MP Wijedasa Rajapakshe’s crossover from the government ranks to Opposition benches had been engineered by former President Chandrika Kumaratunga.

Former President Kumaratunga had asked MP Rajapakshe to leave the government and join forces with the Opposition, Dissanayake told The Island.

The exact number of ruling party MPs voting against today’s budget could not be predicted, he said.

The UNP had never requested the JHU specifically to vote against the budget, though it had made an open invitation to all parties to come forward for that purpose.

The JHU had sought to gain some political mileage from that request, Dissanayake said.

Congress takes on Karunanidhi over ode to Thamilselvan

(IANS) The Congress Saturday implicitly criticised Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi over his ode to a slain Sri Lankan Tamil Tiger leader, saying it was bound to hurt the sentiments of party members.

In a clear reference to a poem Karunanidhi wrote in memory of S.P. Thamilchelvan, the Congress said that the "sentiments of all Congress men and women are bound to get hurt if the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) is eulogised in any manner."

Thamilchelvan, the LTTE political wing leader, was killed in a bombing raid by the Sri Lanka Air Force in the island's north Nov 2.

A resolution passed at the All India Congress Committee session here said the LTTE, categorised internationally as a terrorist outfit, and deliberately assassinated our beloved leader (and former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi) in a brutal manner.

The reference was to the killing of Gandhi by a suicide bomber at an election rally near Chennai in May 1991.

The resolution noted with concern that peace and internal constitutional settlement acceptable to all communities within the framework of a united Sri Lanka has still not been achieved. The (Indian) government's efforts toward this end should continue.

November 16, 2007

Wijayadasa Rajapakshe’s allegations baseless - State Revenue Minister

Making a special statement in Parliament, Finance and State Revenue Minister Ranjith Siyambalapitiya said that the allegations made by Wijayadasa Rajapakshe regarding the state financial activities were baseless. The Minister said that Rajapakshe has misled the public by presenting false information on this budget.

The same statements which was in the Appropriation bill in 2007 has been included in this year Appropriation Bill and Rajapakshe has voted to approve it. “We have not engaged in any financial activity without informing Parliament,” He said.

All relevant documents have been presented to Parliament on Government revenue for 2007. The correct details of the Government’s expenditure are also attached. Salary advances and festival advances are proposed to be granted for public servants.

Rajapakshe would have made these allegations, when this budget was being prepared.

It is certain he has not paid his much attention regarding the content outlined at the budget. There may be certain shortcomings which we are unable to detect. It is questionable why he raised this issue at the budget 2008 when similar issues have been outlined in budget 2007.

We have allocated money for development activities. If it is not enough, additional funds should be approved by the Parliament.

This is not unusual and it happened under many previous Governments. We have kept some money at the centre to be used when the correct occasion comes.

Out of the sum of Rs.50.6 billion, we have allocated Rs.10.5 billion to pay COL allowances, correcting salary anomalies and for new recruitment.

It has allocated Rs.7.5 billion as recurrent expenditure while Rs.21 billion has been allocated as a capital expenditure. To revive some unprogressive institutions, we have allocated Rs.2 billion.

The CTB will be granted Rs.1 billion while Rs.6.9 billion has been allocated to promote development projects run by using foreign funds.

His allegations are unjustified. The amount of money needed for the settlement of loans is also mentioned.

We are in the process of repaying the loans. The total allocation for the Presidents Office’s expenditure is only Rs.3.2 billion and not Rs.5.8 billion as Rajapakshe stated.

The total allocation for Samurdhi benefits is Rs.10.9 billion and not the Rs.9.6 billion. Rajapakshe has mentioned the total expenditure for maintaining the Cabinet is Rs.18 billion. It is false and the amount will be a Rs.2.2 billion.


Chandrika must spell out the reality!

Former President Chandrika Kumaratunga has expressed patriotism when she addressed the ‘Universal Forum of Culture’ in Mexico this week. She has called upon the Government of Sri Lanka to come up with an alternative to terrorism and the demand for a separate state. She had also reiterated the need to defeat terrorism. In the form of expression, these sentiments look quite patriotic as she had also proposed that effective power sharing was the only option to resolve the crisis.

The former President held office for a long period of eleven years. She made several attempts to bring the LTTE to the negotiating table. Her battle against terrorism looked quite ineffective analysing the heavy military setbacks suffered during that regime. She too was a victim of terrorism and was made blind in one eye. The armed forces lost the most numbers of men during her rule of eleven years. Damage caused to state property was extensive.

All leaders of the past, including Kumaratunga have been boasting of the need of a process of confidence building between different communities. In practice, it had not achieved any results. Former President Kumaratunga is well aware of the ground situation in her country, though she lived outside the country for a considerable length of time after retirement. Surely, she would have monitored the political developments here.
The incumbent President Mahinda Rajapaksa, upon assuming office rushed to recommence peace talks with the LTTE. Was it not the LTTE which unleashed violence on innocent civilians while peace moves were on? Kebithigollawa was the worst massacre of the innocent in recent times. Well, Kumaratunga is aware of those dastardly acts of terrorism. Then, who pulled out from the peace process? Was it not the late S.P. Thamilselvan who led the LTTE delegation? Did not the LTTE treat Kumaratunga in a similar manner with regard to peace talks?

Patriotism cannot be confined to words. It must be displayed in practice. When leaders address forums abroad, it is their duty to spell out the truth. Any proposal on any national issue before the International Community should be done according to the reality. If one speaks of the need to defeat terrorism, then he or she should tell that audience what terrorists have done during her time and now. Just making proposals to gain credit will not help neither the country nor its people.

To be fair, late President J.R. Jayewardene during his eleven year rule at least went ahead with the Indo-Lanka Accord to create Provincial Councils as an answer to the problem. The LTTE is an entity never satisfied even if you offer the entire country. It will then ask for a part of Tamilnadu claiming that Tamilnadu is also a part of their traditional homeland. The reality is that, the LTTE cannot survive when there is peace. When weakened, it moves for peace talks. Did not the LTTE take all former Presidents except President D.B. Wijetunga for a ride under the pretext of finding a solution at the table? Didn’t it deceive the incumbent President Mahinda Rajapaksa and revert to violence?
When our leaders go overseas to attend important functions, it is their bounden duty to recall the past and tell the world about our problem of terrorism. Reiterating for the sake of reiterating the need to defeat terrorism at forums overseas will not help the people and the country.

What you preach must be displayed in practice. It’s not too late for former President Kumaratunga to carry the correct message against LTTE terrorism abroad if she is really patriotic. Also, she could extend her hand of friendship to the incumbent President in the bid to crush terrorism. Confidence building must begin at home and not be confined to just mere words uttered to satisfy an audience overseas.

Friday Magazine

Sri Lanka's President Rajapaksa to visit Japan Dec. 8-11

Tokyo, Nov. 16

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa will make a four-day visit to Japan from Dec. 8 for talks with Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, the Japanese Foreign Ministry said Friday.

Ahead of his meeting with Fukuda in the afternoon of Dec. 10, Rajapaksa will have an audience with Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko and attend a luncheon at the Imperial Palace, the ministry said.


November 15, 2007

Four more UNPers join Government, JHU cannot be bought over

The atmosphere in the Parliament, inside and outside the Chamber, was charged with tension when the UNP member Mahinda Ratnatilaka was sworn in as Deputy Minister of Industries.

Later in the afternoon yesterday three other UNP members, Mohamed Mahroof (Colombo District), T. Maheswaran (Colombo District) and the senior UNP member and former minister Gamini Jayawickrama Perera had met President Rajapaksa at Temple Trees and indicated their willingness to join the government, parliamentary sources said.

In the morning, the mood in the House was tense and small groups of Government and Opposition members were having animated conversations. The Opposition seemed to be in a buoyant mood with the rumour that four JHU members, Buddhist monks, had decided to leave the government and vote against the Budget’s second reading vote scheduled for next Monday (19).

But the JHU hosted a press conference and strongly denied that the four monks named by a certain radio station were joining the Opposition. The leader of the party Ven Ellawala Medhananda Nayake Thera said it was a conspiracy hatched by the LTTE with certain international forces and some UNPers had offered large sums of money to the four monks of the JHU in an effort to get them to cross over and vote against the Budget.

He said no member of the JHU will cross over to the Opposition or vote against the Budget.

However, when the news about the four UNP members reached the House, it was observed that some of the UNP members who were in a buoyant mood in the morning suddenly became silent and pensive. Some of them hurriedly had a few words with their colleagues and left the chamber.

The fourth day of the Budget debate yesterday was a lacklustre affair as most of the members present in the House were either having conversations with others of their own parties or moving in and out of the Chamber most of the day.


Wijedasa Rajapakshe was fined by tax chief in 1999 and political motives behind the scene

The Commissioner of Inland Revenue had fined Wijedasa Rajapakshe Rs. 60,000 and Rajapakshe's name appeared on page 48 of the Inland Revenue Commission's report for 1999 among the 20 persons who had been fined over Rs. 60,000/-.

Dr. Rajitha Senaratne queried whether a person who had defrauded the Inland Revenue Dept. could function as the Chairman of Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE), and evidently Rajapakshe who had a grudge against the Commissioner General of Inland Revenue was pressing for action against the latter. Dr. Rajitha Senaratne said he was tabling the Inland Revenue Report 1999 for inclusion in the Hansard.

The Minister observed that the MP was pursuing a political agenda as Chairman of COPE adding that he (Wijedasa Rajapakshe) was involved in a political conspiracy at the bidding of former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga.

He also accused the MP of going against convention by divulging contents of a report of a Parliamentary Committee, after he became COPE Chairman.

“Although, the MP is pointing an accusing finger against two Ministers of the UNF regime, the full responsibility should be taken by the Economic Reforms Committee chaired by Ranil Wickremesinghe during the latter’s Premiership. This was even accepted by Ranil Wickremesinghe himself in Parliament”.


Just revealed...
When Mr. Wijedasa Rajapakshe was in the U.S. last year, he had tried to strike a deal to send Sri Lankans as security guards to Iraq through a private company. We all know how the US company Blackwaters send people to Iraq and about its dealings. Mr. Wijedasa Rajapakshe had been keen to meet the Blackwaters officials.

Just last week, investigations have discovered illegal exportation of Sri Lankans to Iraq to provide security to Iraqi officials without proper authorization or procedure. More: http://www.divaina.com/2007/11/15/news07.html

Pro-tiger billionaire offers Rs.50 million for each government Parliamentarian crossing over

Members who cross over from the government to the opposition would get Rs.5 to 10 million plus foreign tours while a member crossing over from the opposition to the government would get a ministerial portfolio say these sources.

Meanwhile, government media had reported that a pro-tiger billionaire, sympathetic to tiger organization, has holed out in a five star hotel in Colombo and has launched an operation to bait members from the government to the opposition as a part of a conspiracy to topple the government.


Conspiracy to topple Govt with LTTE help

The UNP Democratic Group is firmly behind the Government and will leave no room to see it being toppled through the defeat of the budget, Construction and Engineering Service Minister Rajitha Senaratne said yesterday.

Senaratne noted that the three Armed Forces had achieved an unprecedented victory against the LTTE. The LTTE never faced such a debacle in the conflict’s history. Under no Government before had such a victory been achieved, he said.

Addressing the media at Seth Sevana, the Minister said some were trying to topple the Government with help from persons like Charles Gnanakoon.

Gnanakoon was trying to lure Government Ministers for money. He set apart Rs. 10 million for each Government Minister and thereafter Rs. 30 million. In the end he increased this to Rs. 500 million. But all this ended in failure, Senaratne said.

He said no one can have such massive funds without the backing of a wealthy person or institution. The Minister said there are two groups in Parliament. One is attempting to topple the Government and strengthen the LTTE’s hands and the other is striving to protect the country and its sovereignty from terrorism, he said.

Even Tamil parliamentarians have accepted LTTE defeat. It has come as a shock to the LTTE how the Armed Forces defeated them targeting their prominent military bases, Senaratne said. The LTTE sent 21 perfectly trained suicide cadres for the Anuradhapura Air Base attack.

On previous occasions they sent only one or two cadres. This shows their weakness. Now they are unable to protect even their small areas. The LTTE and its supporters are attempting to defeat the Government at the Budget, Senaratne added. The Minister said with the killing of Thamilselvan, the LTTE has lost its second in command.

Senaratne said those who enjoyed all benefits under former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga’s Government were now slinging mud at this Government.

The team comprising former President Kumaratunga, Parliamentarians Mangala Samaraweera and Sripathi Sooriaarachchi with Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe are conspiring to topple the Government, he said.

The Minister challenged them to topple the Government saying the 17 members of the D group have decided to cast their votes supporting the Government.


November 13, 2007

Sri Lankan media: Editor Sonali threatens to sue Asian Tribune exposing corruption in Leader papers

In a blatant move to prevent the Asian Tribune from exposing the backdoor political deals cut by the Editor of the Leader, Lasantha Wickrematunga, to get Ms. Sonali Samarasinghe, a journalist working for him, appointed as Minister to the Sri Lankan High Commission in Australia, she has issued a threat to sue the Asia Tribune.

The Asian Tribune ran the first installment exposing the background to the culture of corruption prevailing in the Sri Lankan media. In the second installment Asian Tribune promised to run next Sunday on “How Ms. Sonali Samarasinghe got a diplomatic post by sitting on the lap of her Editor, Lasantha Wickrematunga”. The intention was to establish how political deals are made by newspapers bosses to get favours from their political cronies – a corruption which the Leader would decry and expose if committed by any other member of the public.

In an e-mail sent to Asian Tribune, Ms. Samarasinghe, the Editor of the Morning Leader, says that instructions have been issued to her lawyers in three countries to sue the Asian Tribune. Quote: “The Sunday Leader has already instructed its lawyers in Sri Lanka, Australia and Sweden to take necessary legal steps in this regard, notice of which you will receive in the next few days.” Asian Tribune welcomes this legal blackmail as it would provide another opportunity to expose corruption in Sri Lankan media.

Despite this threat to the right of journalists to probe corruption in any quarter – and the Leader screams about it regularly -- the Asian Tribune will run the exposure as promised on Sunday to it readers who will be final judges.

It all began last Sunday when Ms. Samaraisinghe ran a story on an e-mail purported to have come from the Asian Tribune. This story was published without the comments of the Editor of the Asian Tribune that were sent to Ms. Samarasinghe. Her story accused the Editor of being involved in an attempt to get Karuna, the ex-Tiger commander who was committing war crimes and crimes against humanity, pushed out from the political scene in the east.

Ms. Samarasinghe’s excuse for not carrying the comments of the Asian Tribune is that she ran the story on the first e-mail sent to her by Editor Asian Tribune saying “No comment”. But within a matter of hours the Editor, Asian Tribune, agreed to answer all her queries provided Ms. Samarasinghe answered queries regarding her tenure as Minister appointed to the Australian High Commission on the poor Sri Lankan tax payers’ money. She states that this was done to blackmail her. She is entitled to interpret it that way but the fact is that her queries about the Asian Tribune came at the time when it was preparing an investigation of its own, following the editorial written by The Island highlighting corruption in the Sri Lankan media.

Besides, media had earlier exposed some of the unethical and unscrupulous practices of the Editor of Sunday Leader, Lasantha Wickrematunga. Clearly, there was nothing new in the attempt of Asian Tribune to focus on the blue-eyed girl of The Sunday Leader’s boss, one of the employees who works under him (no pun intended). Asian Tribune was merely attempting to get an assurance from her that she would answer our queries the way Asian Tribune would answer her queries.

But she states in her e-mail that Asian Tribune was “seeking to blackmail me in order to prevent the publication of The Sunday Leader investigation of your role in the Karuna issue.”

If the intention was to blackmail Sunday Leader and to prevent the publication why should the Editor, Asian Tribune offer to answer her queries? A blackmailer’s tactic would be to threaten physical, legal and other action to prevent the publication. Instead the Asian Tribune offered to give all answers provided she agreed to reciprocate in the same manner. The Asian Tribune did not threaten her with legal, or any other, action if she published whatever material, true or false, she had with her.

However, if, as she says, her lawyers have been given instructions to sue Asian Tribune in three countries – not one, mark you -- to stop the publication of investigations into corruption in the Leader group then it stands to reason that she has something to hide. She has, therefore, resorted to the only means available to stop the publication: legal blackmail. Her threat to sue “in three countries” also contains the following sentence: “I however find that you have already published in today's online edition, a defamatory reference to me without awaiting a response from me.”

For how long is Asian Tribune expected to wait for a response sent to her? Asian Tribune took three hours to respond to her. She took three days! So who’s to blame?
Besides, she has come up with an excuse that is rather odd for a newspaper that claims on its masthead: “Nothing escapes” and “First with the news and free with the views”. After boasting that “Nothing escapes” and they are “first with the news” she writes to Asian Tribune saying that she did not open her e-mail for three whole days. Fancy a newspaper editor not opening the e-mail for three days! It is a good story for her to tell marines.

Before spinning yarns she should realize that the second response of the Editor, Asian Tribune was sent to her within three hours on Friday night after receiving her e-mail and she responds on Monday saying that she had opened the particular just now (1.41 p.m. Monday). If she thinks that anyone is going to swallow this attempt to pull wool over the eyes of whoever reads it she must think again. Is she running the newspaper for Rip Van Winkles or is she running a newspaper that responds to up-to-the-minute events, as she claims in the masthead? In any case, if she didn’t open the e-mails that were relevant to her story it’s not the problem of Asian Tribune. It’s her problem. If she can’t manage her own affairs then her loving boss must woo her more aggressively to do the job she is supposed to do in office, leaving aside whatever she does outside office.

However, we agree with her that the queries she planned to raise and the queries that the Asian Tribune were going to raise are “not linked”.

It happened to coincide with investigations into corruption in the Sri Lankan media. The Asian Tribune will continue its investigate and report on the same principles that media generally investigate whatever concerns them. The Leader group has no special privileges written in law or in ethics to investigate others in its shady games of political vindictiveness and, at the same time, prevent others from investigating the skeletons in their cupboards.

Asian Tribune will not go into other details mentioned in her legal threat as the matter is due to come up before courts “in three countries”.

Asian Tribune.

P.S: Will The Leader which claims to be ”free with views” publish this response?

Here is the full text of her legal threat:

"Dear Mr. Rajasingham,

I received your conditional agreement to answer my questions well after we had gone into print. In fact I opened your email only a little while back as you would have noticed from the automatic response you received.

At the time we went into print I only had with me you email response
wherein you had refused to answer The questions The Sunday Leader had to ask of you. That was duly published.

Your subsequent email in which you agreed to answer the questions that The Sunday Leader wanted to pose to you was conditional and Tanta mounted to a threat. What questions you have to ask me with regard to my tenure at the Sri Lankan High Commission in Canberra has nothing to do with the story The Sunday Leader was investigating regarding your involvement with the Karuna group and the discussion you had with President Mahinda Rajapakse and Minister Douglas Devananda in Geneva, a report of which you had submitted to Presidential Advisor Mr. Sunimal Fernando.

Your very reference that you had so called material about my tenure in Canberra and you were withholding publication, itself goes against the very assertions you have made in your email about accountability, transparency and tax payers' money.

It is very clear that what you have sought to do by linking the questions The Sunday Leader wanted to ask you on your role in the Karuna issue with questions relating to my tenure in Canberra which you claim you have been withholding publishing all this time, was an amateurish attempt at blackmail.

It is especially so considering the fact that my tenure in Canberra ended over 3 years ago on August 31, 2004.

Let me tell you right away that I have nothing to hide with regard my tenure at The Sri Lankan High Commission in Canberra but I will not succumb to threats, intimidation and blackmail.

It is obvious from your subsequent emails that you were seeking to
blackmail me in order to prevent the publication of The Sunday Leader investigation of your role in the Karuna issue.

Let me tell you neither The Sunday Leader nor I will be intimidated by such threats.

The Sunday Leader is still prepared to publish your responses with
regard to the Karuna issue which have surfaced on your very own
documentation. If you are prepared to answer our questions.

I also stand ready to answer any questions you may have with regard to my tenure in Canberra. But let me tell you categorically that the two issues are not linked.

I however find that you have already published in today's online edition, a defamatory reference to me without awaiting a response from me.

The Sunday Leader has already instructed its lawyers in Sri Lanka,
Australia and Sweden to take necessary legal steps in this regard,
notice of which you will receive in the next few days.

However, I still stand ready to answer your questions despite your
attempt at blackmail in the spirit of transparency. You can email me any questions you wish to ask before Wednesday and I will reply them without prejudice to the legal steps that have already been initiated withregard to today's publication.

Thank you

Yours sincerely

Sonali Samarasinghe"

- Asian Tribune -