President's telephone call to Shashikala
Trinomalee hosted the main Independence Day celebrations after a
lapse of 60 years and last Monday's celebration was another proud moment
in Sri Lanka's history. The capital of the Eastern Province which
experienced deadly rounds of artillery for over two decades heard
similar gunfire after 2009, but this time during the 21-gun salute in
honour of the Head of State who graced the celebrations.
The world renowned web search engine, Google displayed a 'doodle'
marking Sri Lanka's Independence Day on the google.lk homepage and
google.com viewed from within Sri Lanka. A Google doodle which is a
stylised image of Google's classic homepage logo displayed to celebrate
special occasions and celebrations. The doodle which dons the lion found
in the emblem of Sri Lanka and features three colours found in the
President Mahinda Rajapaksa made a historic speech and reminded the
world of the provisions in the United Nations Charter of calling on all
nations to refrain from the threat or use of force against the
territorial integrity or political independence of any State in their
He said that there is nothing in the present Charter that authorises
the UN to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic
jurisdiction of any State or shall require the Members to submit such
matters to settlement under the present Charter. President stressed that
Sri Lanka is a country that always respects the Charter of the UN and
that all member countries, whether powerful or weak, should respect its
Urging the importance of unity among all people he said that as much
as racism, religious differences too can be a cause for the destruction
of a country. Those who try to provoke religious rivalry in the country
do not serve their religion, but serve the interests of separatism in
the country. We cannot leave room for what could not be achieved through
terrorism to be gained by this means, he said.
President also said not only the government but the opposition too
has the responsibility to safeguard the freedom we have won. Protecting
the country and building reconciliation is not support extended to the
government or the opposition but doing one's duty by the land of one's
birth, he said.
It had been raining heavily when the national anthem was sung and the
President hoisted the national flag. When he was coming down the stage
to hoist the national flag, one of his security officers readily came
with a big umbrella to protect him from rain.
Though he did not respond initially as the national anthem was sung,
he later told the officer not to do so when the schoolchildren were
getting wet in heavy rain. "How can I stand under the umbrella only to
protect myself when those little children were getting wet?" an
emotional President told the officer. Many onlookers said it was a
sincere act by a leader who is fond of children and treats them as his
sons and daughters.
The President's visit to the East also included commissioning of
several development projects in Trincomalee and Batticaloa Districts.
The President who arrived in Trincomalee two days ahead of the
Independence Day celebrations, also commissioned the Trinco water supply
project, fulfilling a long-felt need in the area.
After the Independence Day celebrations on Monday, he travelled to
Batticaloa to open several development projects, including the new
complex and ground at the Eastern University. It was on the following
day that the presidential delegation flew back to Colombo and since it
was night, they decided to land at Ratmalana Airport.
President greets women cricketers
President Rajapaksa appeared to be tired when the chopper carrying
the presidential delegation returned from Batticaloa after a five-day
tour of the East from the eve of Independence Day.
As he walked into the Ratmalana Airport terminal, a television was
showing live the ICC Women's World Cup match between Sri Lanka and India
The manner in which the Lankan lasses were playing impressed the
President who followed the final moments of the game on his return to
the President's House in Colombo.
Immediately after the Lankan women beat Indians by a convincing
margin of 139 runs and qualified for the Super Six final stage, the
President wanted to call the team and congratulate. But it was not easy
to establish a link and the President instructed a newspaper editor to
Finally, the Presudent was able to speak to the captain of the Sri
Lanka woman's team Shashikala Siriwardena, immediately after the awards
presentation. He wished all success to the Lankan team in their
remaining matches and commended the fighting qualities of the local
Though the Sri Lanka team lost their Super Six round game to much
fancied New Zealand, they have made their presence at the ICC Women's
World Cup due to two reasons - for humbling the defending champions
England in the opening match and then beating India and eliminating the
hosts from the final round.
Lankan leader in Buddha Gaya
The President's busy schedule did not permit him to stay more than 24
hours in Colombo after his return from Batticaloa. On the following day,
he left for India on a short State visit. He arrived at the Buddha Gaya
Airport on Friday morning.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa, First Lady Shiranthi Rajapaksa and
members of the delegation were cordially welcomed by the Chief Minister
of Bihar, Nitish Kumar. Secretary to the President Lalith Weerathunga,
President's Chief of Staff Gamini Senarath and Parliamentarian Sajin Vas
Gunawardena accompanied the President on his visit.
The President participated in several opening ceremonies at Buddha
Gaya on an invitation of the Maha Bodhi Society. The President is
scheduled to visit several places of worship including Maha Bodhi and
Buddha Gaya temples.
A special Bodhi Pooja was organised at the Maha Bodhi temple to bless
The President unveiled a golden fence at the Buddha Gaya temple,
constructed around a sampling of the ancient Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi,
Anuradhapura. The President laid a foundation stone for the Maha Bodhi
cultural centre. The President also laid the foundation stone for a
pilgrims rest at Buddha Gaya.
In line with the President's visit, the Maha Bodhi Society organised
an event to present school uniform material to 1,000 students.
President Rajapaksa met chief incumbents of temples in Buddha Gaya
constructed by various Buddhist countries. The President also met other
religious leaders during his two day visit.
Thirteen-year-old focus of attention at Cabinet meeting
A 13-year-old schoolgirl from Horana was the focus of attention at
last week's Cabinet meeting presided over by the President.
Most ministers appeared to be disturbed by the emotional news of the
schoolgirl who had been prosecuted for stealing coconuts to colourwash
President Rajapaksa ordered an urgent and special inquiry into the
incident where the student in Horana robbed coconuts to pay Rs 800 to
school authorities to paint the school.
The unfortunate incident was extensively discussed during the Cabinet
meeting on Thursday and the President appeared to be emotional and
greatly hurt by the plight of the innocent schoolgirl and the
circumstance which had forced her to rob.
The President immediately instructed Education Minister Bandula
Gunawardena and Justice Minister Rauf Hakeem to conduct a comprehensive
inquiry into this incident. The President paid attention to the fact
that it was illegal to collect money from students in this manner.
Minister Hakeem pointed out that even a circular has been issued stating
the President wanted measures taken to prevent a repetition of such
situations in the future.
The Cabinet also paid attention to the fact that neither the
education minister nor the secretary has the power to dismiss a school
Principal or other persons involved in illegal orders of this nature
since only the Public Service Commission has the relevant powers. Hence,
legislation is to be introduced soon to impose a complete ban,
preventing school principals collecting money for unauthorised projects
of this nature.
The Cabinet was also of the view that this incident should have been
directed to the Mediation Board instead of the court.
Sajith forced to share deputy leader post
It seems that the UNP leader, Ranil Wickremesinghe is playing his
green card pack smartly. Despite his inability to pose any threat to the
Government in national politics, he has been very clever in establishing
his position with the UNP, despite heavy odds.
There was a time Ranil faced immense pressure from the Reformists'
Group as the then deputy leader Karu Jayasuriya too did not show much
loyalty to the party leader. Sajith appeared to be a powerful contender
for the UNP leadership then. But Ranil kept his cool and let his
powerful Working Committee to play the 'green game' in right royal
style, isolating Sajith.
Initially, Sajith was isolated in the Working Committee after Karu
lost his deputy leadership. Divisions within the Reformists group
erupted when Sajith won the deputy leader's post at the expense of Karu,
who could not secure enough votes.
Then last December, Ranil won a crucial mandate from the Working
Committee, not only to continue for another six years as the party
leader but also some sweeping powers to pick people of his choice to the
key positions in the party.
He filled all other vacancies, except for the post of the Deputy
Leader to keep Sajith in suspense. He was called before the party
leader, surrounded by his senior loyalists. Sajith, who appeared to be a
fish out of water, sans his Reformist buddies, then agreed to fall line
with the party leader and to conduct in keeping with the decisions taken
by the party leader and the UNP Working Committee.
When Sajith was summoned for the second time before the UNP seniors,
this time sans Ranil, he was strictly ordered to give up his personal
agenda, including cash donations to religious institutions on a personal
capacity. Instead, he was ordered to incorporate those under the party
activities. At this stage, Sajith agreed to do so, assuming that would
at least help him to regain the deputy leadership of the UNP.
But Ranil was even smarter and decided to make deputy leader's
position a 'shared post' so that Sajith would not become No. 2 in the
party or the aspiring party leader. The UNP now plans to call a special
convention and create four deputy leader posts of which one could go to
Sajith. The other three posts are expected to be given to Kabeer Hashim,
Daya Gamage and former UNP National Organiser Ravi Karunanayake,
However, there is no provision in the current UNP constitution to
create four deputy leaders posts and Ranil will then have to amend it at
a special convention. But moderate UNP seniors feel that Ranil would
still retain Sajith as the deputy leader, but after disciplining the
Hambantota District parliamentarian. Perhaps, Ranil would lay some
conditions and tame the overambitious Reformists leader before
Dinesh on Resolutions against SL
Chief Government Whip and Water Supply and Drainage Minister Dinesh
Gunawardena said last week that the Government will not welcome any
US-sponsored resolution against Sri Lanka at the UN Human Rights Council
sessions to be held in Geneva next month.
"We will explain our human right standards and progress achieved in
the sphere of national reconciliation in terms of the previous UN
resolution," Minister Gunawardena said. "This is not the first time that
US-sponsored resolutions have come against sovereign States in Asia at
the UNHRC. We will not welcome any resolution against the country at the
upcoming Geneva sessions since we have fulfilled requirements of the UN
as a member country," he said.
Sri Lanka will face a review on its progress achieved in the
implementation of the recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and
Reconciliation Commission(LLRC) report and the Human Rights Action Plan.
The Minister said "representatives of the US and other UN member
countries can visit Sri Lanka and eyewitness the progress in the spheres
of post-war development and national reconciliation."
"People's rights have been established by the government. The people
are enjoying freedom of movement after a three decade war," he said.
"The country introduced a Human Rights Action Plan by the UN, fulfilling
its commitments to the UN. Secretary to the President Lalith Weerathinga
carried out the implementation of the LLRC recommendations.
"Steps have been taken by the government to make constitutional
changes that are necessary to implement some recommendations in the LLRC
report. The government is taking steps to change the electoral system.
Tamil National Alliance's (TNA) reluctance to participate in the
Parliamentary Select Committee to reach a consensus on sensitive issues
on the devolution of power, has delayed the implementation of some
recommendations of the LLRC report," he said.
Lanka targets US$ 2b investment
Investment Promotion Minister Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena said that Sri
Lanka targets over US$ 2 billion in foreign investments, this year. "The
country was successful in bringing in investments worth US$ 1.2 billion
last year. During the next six months the ministry will launch many
plans to get more investments to reach the country", he said.
Further he said that plans will be made to remove all obstacles in
achieving the goals during the next two months. The ministry will focus
on four sectors in this regard. Tourism, education, industrial
development and the service sector have been listed this year to attract
The minister noted that investments in the education sector had not
been tapped so far. Around 12,000 students go abroad annually for
education draining over US$ 400 million from the country a year. The
minister said that measures will be taken to attract foreign investment
in the sector to establish foreign universities and educational
institutes in the country to prevent brain drain and the foreign
exchange outflow. He explained that education is a vast sector in which
foreign investment can be obtained. Countries like the UK reject 95
percent visas of Pakistanis and Indians applying for visas for
Sri Lanka has the opportunity to attract these bodies to the country.
He also pointed out that established educational institutes will attract
foreign students in the region to the country. He stated that Deputy
Minister Faizer Mustapha will handle the sector of promotion in Middle
East, while two other promotional programmes will be launched targetting
Tourism is another major field to attract investors towards the
country. Many programmes will be launched centering the Kalpitiya area
to develop tourism in year 2013.
First Lady visits Rizana's family
First Lady Shiranthi Rajapaksa is better known for her various
charity acts and helping the needy. Carlton Pre School has been the
breading shade for less affluent children and the First Lady is devoting
more and more of her precious time to help the under privileged children
On Monday, she visited the home of Rizana Nafeek who was beheaded in
Saudi Arabia over the alleged killing of an infant under her care.
The First Lady's visit to Rizana's house at Muthur, Trincomalee was
of great relief to the family members who were grieving over the loss of
their daughter and sister.
The First Lady gave a patient hearing to the plight of the family
members and expressed her deep sympathies and feelings for them. Rizana
who has two sisters and a brother was the eldest in her family.
Rizana went to Saudi Arabia to work as a domestic aide when she was
17 and met her untimely fate.
The First Lady was moved by the story related by Rizana's mother
which compelled them to send their daughter for overseas employment. The
First Lady also inspected the house in which Rizana's family are living
and spoke to family members.
She listened to their plight and promised to do whatever possible to
help them stand on their own feet. She also promised to find employment
for one of Rizana's sisters. The First Lady promised to take urgent
measures to build a house for them as promised by the Government. The
First Lady also provided them with food and other necessary items.
GL says Commonwealth violated rules
External Affairs Minister Prof G L Peiris made a strong case against
the inclusion of Sri Lanka as an agenda item at the meeting of the
Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) which is scheduled to be
held in London in April.
The minister said such a course of action is contrary to the
decisions taken by the Commonwealth Heads of Government at their meeting
in Perth, Western Australia in October 2011 regarding the mandate of
CMAG and the scope of its functions.
He expressed these sentiments at discussions with Commonwealth
Secretary- General Kamalesh Sharma in London last Tuesday with the
upcoming meeting of Commonwealth Heads of Government in Sri Lanka in
November this year.
Prof Peiris, who described to the Secretary-General the developments
in Sri Lanka during the last few months, emphasised the crucial need to
preserve the essential character of the Commonwealth as a "voluntary
association of sovereign States, characterised by a striking diversity
of cultures and outlook among the 54 states comprising the
He said any attempt to politicise the organisation or to permit its
structures and mechanisms to be used as instruments by some countries to
interfere in the domestic issues of other countries, would inevitably
distort the cultural ethos of the Commonwealth and pose significant
challenges with regard to its future.