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Sunday, 10 March 2013

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Malaka's letter to Chandrika

It seems that former President Chandrika Kumaratunga's controversial remarks on Minister Mervyn Silva's son have boomeranged on her. Following Chandrika's defamatory statement, Minister Silva hit back at the ex-President saying that Chandrika should be aware that he possesses many inside secrets about the Bandaranaikes and would reveal them if compelled to do so.

But the debate did not end there and it seems that Chandrika's unwarranted statement would put her in further trouble. Malaka Silva, son of Minister Mervyn Silva, in an open letter to Chandrika, said that she should refrain from making contemptuous remarks so as to preserve the status of a noble family rather than finding specks in other's eyes.

Malaka recalls his father's dedication to the Bandaranaike family had been commended by the people across the country with former Prime Ministers the late S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike and Sirimavo Bandaranaike being the most prominent. "My father was introduced to the then famous Bandaranaike family through President Mahinda Rajapaksa in 1971. Since then he was more concerned about the problems faced by the Bandaranaikes, than the problems of his own family. He never deserted the Bandaranaike family when they were in trouble," Malaka says in his letter.

"I suppose Madam Chandrika has not forgotten how my father bravely came to protect the Bandaranaike memorial from the thugs at a time they were out of the limelight. I also regret her sarcastic remarks which bring her disgrace. One's behaviour will help them to remain in the minds of people even after the death," he further stated in the letter.

Malaka's letter was in response to remarks made by Chandrika about the Minister's son at a public meeting held in memory of the late Vijaya Kumarathunga in Kandy, referring him as stupid.

Enjoining orders on UNP General Secretary

Mount Lavinia District Judge Priyantha Fernando on Friday issued five enjoining orders against UNP General Secretary Tissa Attanayake and the UNP Disciplinary Committee restraining them from initiating any disciplinary inquiry on UNP parliamentarians for voting for the impeachment motion brought in Parliament against former Chief Justice Dr Shirani Bandaranayake contrary to the UNP decision and common opposition consensus to vote against the impeachment. The order is effective until March 22.

In a separate action, both UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe and Attanayake were issued with interlocutory injunction and notice by the Colombo District Court sequel to action filed by Deputy Environment Minister Abdul Cader also relating to voting for the impeachment.

In respect of the case taken up in the Mount Lavinia District Court, an interlocutory injunction and notice on the respondents were issued. The respondents were ordered to appear in court on the next dates of hearings fixed for March 20 and 22.

Four UNP MPs Earl Gunasekera, Lakshman Seneviratne, Nilwala Wijesinghe and Upeksha Swarnamali and Democratic People's Front (Prajathanthrawadi Janatha Peramuna) MP Praba Ganeshan filed five separate actions in this regard.

Attorney-at-Law Ali Sabry, PC appearing for the petitioners submitted that the impeachment was a lawful Constitutional process and not a violation of the UNP Constitution or the party discipline. The petitioners acted in accordance to their self-conscience to safeguard the people's sovereignty. Furthermore, MP Praba Ganeshan is not a member of the UNP. Hence any disciplinary action cannot be taken against him.

Cader's request turned down

However, the Colombo District Court last week refused to issue an enjoining order preventing the UNP from conducting a disciplinary inquiry into Deputy Minister Abdul Cader's conduct.

The Deputy Minister, who was elected to parliament after contesting under the UNP ticket, had filed an application requesting a court order to prevent the disciplinary inquiry to be held this weekend for voting in favour of the impeachment motion against the former Chief Justice.

UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe and General Secreatry Tissa Attanayake are named as respondents in the appeal. They have been issued summons to appear before the court on March 28. The Colombo District Court ordered Abdul Carder that members of the United National Party (UNP) should abide by the party constitution even though they have received Deputy Minister portfolios.

President salutes late Venezuelan President

The death of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez was a shock. The Fifty eight-year-old Venezuelan leader died on Tuesday after a two-year battle with cancer. Venezuelans paid an emotional farewell to the late President at his state funeral in Caracas.

Vice-President Nicolas Maduro told mourners Mr Chavez, who led Venezuela for 14 years, remained "undefeated, pure, living for all time". Maduro was sworn in as acting president and will call elections within 30 days. The vice-president began the funeral ceremony by presenting Chavez's coffin with the sword of Simon Bolivar - the 19th-Century independence leader he claimed as his inspiration.

In his eulogy, Maduro said no other leader had been as vilified as Chavez, but no-one had been able to stop him or his socialist 'revolution'.

Minister Wimal Weerawansa and Deputy Minister Neomal Perera represented Sri Lanka at the state funeral.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa paid his respects to the late President by signing the book of condolence opened at the Cuban Embassy in Colombo. "The fact that Venezuelans openly weep and mourn his death shows his visceral links with his people," President Rajapaksa wrote.

President Rajapaksa also recalled the several occasions that he met the late President and had "very fruitful and forward-looking" discussions.

"These meetings with the late President were always quite lively and assured Sri Lanka that there was a sincere friend in Latin America," President Rajapaksa wrote.

"I am grateful for the support he extended to our fight against terrorism, and Venezuela's assistance to Sri Lanka in world forums must be acknowledged." He said.

US tables Resolution against Sri Lanka

The US resolution on Sri Lanka was formally presented to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva on Friday. It has incorporated India's suggestion that the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights (OHCHR) take the Government of Sri Lanka into confidence while probing cases of atrocities.

The resolution seeks to ensure that "special procedure mandate holders" tasked to look into human rights violations, work only in consultation with and with the concurrence of Colombo.

The provision for taking the Lankan government into confidence was part of the US resolution of March 2012 as well.

It had been included at India's insistence as New Delhi refused an intrusive resolution which could put Sri Lanka's sovereignty into question.

The US resolution of 2013 said that neither the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission nor the National Action Plan, had "adequately" addressed allegations of rights violations.

The resolution has categorically stated that the US expected "unfettered access" to the UN Special Rapporteurs looking into areas such as judicial independence; human rights defenders; freedom of expression; freedom of association and assembly; extra-judicial, summary and arbitrary executions; minority issues; enforced and involuntary disappearances and discrimination against women.

'Judge Lanka by its performance'

Sri Lanka deserves to be judged on its progress in implementing the recommendations of its own reconciliation commission than pre conceived agendas against it, according to the country's human rights envoy, Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe.

Explaining about his presentation at the current UNHRC in Geneva recently, Minister Samarasinghe was hopeful that it would be viewed with due care by the council and its member states. "I hope that my presentation has made the impact it is aimed for. If anyone wants to be impartial and unbiased they would treat my presentation with fairness", he said.

He said that 99 per cent of some of the recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) have been already implemented. "I told them to come and see it for themselves -how far we have progressed. I stated the truthful position (about implementation) in my presentation".

Minister Samarasinghe said Sri Lanka had made progress in LLRC recommendations on resettlement of the conflict displaced, demining of the conflict zones, achieving economic development in the regions, rehabilitation and reintegration into the society of the ex-LTTE combatants and caring for LTTE child recruits. Samarasinghe, who is in Colombo after making the presentation, will return to Geneva in time to attend UNHRC's universal periodic review (UPR) debate on Friday (15).

He is due to address the UPR debate on March 20. Sri Lanka was hopeful of support coming from Sri Lanka backers at the discussion on the High Commissioner's report.

Duminda returns to Sri Lanka

Colombo District UPFA parliamentarian Duminda Silva, who was seriously injured in a shooting incident in Mulleriyawa at which Presidential advisor Bharatha Lakshman Premachandra was killed, returned home on Tuesday. He was under intensive care at a leading hospital in Singapore.

He was arrested subsequently as there was a warrant order against him. The Criminal Investigations Department informed the Colombo Magistrate court that parliamentarian Duminda Silva was arrested and is receiving treatment at a leading private hospital in Colombo under Police custody. The Magistrate later visited the hospital on the same day. He has been remanded until March 14 by the Colombo Magistrate court.

Meanwhile, the Parliament approved three months leave for the UPFA parliamentarian with effect from March 22. Parliament has approved leave for MP Duminda Silva continuously since he was injured and admitted to a hospital in Singapore from the Sri Jayewardenepura Hospital.

Media heads visit Mattala

Sri Lanka's second international airport will be declared open by President Mahinda Rajapaksa on March 18. Minister of Aviation, Priyankara Jayaratne accompanied country's top most media heads on an inspection tour at Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport (MRIA).

Four aircraft - three SLAF Y12s and a private jet, left Ratmalana airport in the afternoon, along with the Chairman of the Airport and Aviation Services Prasanna Wickremasuriya and the Secretary to the Ministry of Mass Media and Information, Charitha Herath.

Since the new runway of the MRIA has not been officially commissioned, the four aircraft were routed to the adjoining Weerawila airport. Weerawila was the original venue to construct Sri Lanka's second international airport but it was later shifted to Mattala due to environmental concerns.

The media delegation, which included Chairmen of the ANCL, ITN and Rupavahini, along with the chief editors of national newspapers and radio and TV channel heads, were welcomed by Minister Jayaratne on arrival. After having lunch at the Safari resort, they were taken to the MRIA.

It was a rare opportunity for the media heads to gather first hand information on the project. Minister Jayaratne, rejecting Opposition statements that the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) would be closed down after the MRIA begins operations, said that both airports would be further developed to increase their passenger handling capacity.

It was dusk when the delegation left the MRIA with sweet memories and arrived at the Weerawila airport. But there was no clearance for the returning flights to land at Ratmalana airport as there was a technical failure in the runway lighting system.

The temporary kerosene lamps too could not be lit as Ratmalana experienced heavy rain and the pilots were not willing to take a risk. Hence, all media heads were compelled to travel to the BIA at Katunayake and travel to Colombo by road.

Mahindananda firm on decision

Sports Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage was firm on his decision that the national cricketers should sign their SLC player contracts or face the risk of being sacked from the Sri Lanka national team.

When the players demanded higher wages when renewing their annual contracts and did not agree with certain clauses in the 2013 player contracts forwarded by the national governing body for cricket, Minister Aluthgamage took a firm decision. He said that the country should always come first and the national cricketers in Sri Lanka are paid much more than their counterparts in other countries.

The players too got the signal early ahead of the Test series when veteran Kumar Sangakkara was not allowed to play in the three-day game against the visiting Bangladesh team at Matara. Though Sangakkara was chosen to play for the Board X1 and went all the way to Matara, he was prevented from playing as none of the national players had signed player contracts then.

Chairman of selectors and former captain turned Matara District UPFA parliamentarian Sanath Jayasuriya met the national cricketers last Sunday and insisted they sign player contracts before the two-Test series against Bangladesh. If not, Minister Aluthgamage was even planning to go to the extent of fielding a makeshift team sans seniors.

Later, media exposed the thumping salaries paid to national cricketers as monthly contract fees.

Accordingly, the top grade senior players pocket rupees four to five million a month. This is apart from their other earnings as match fees, tournament fees, prize money and private advertising contracts.

It was a pity that paceman Lasith Malinga was caught up in an unnecessary controversy with media which stormed the SLC headquarters on Sunday evening.

They were anxiously waiting outside to know the outcome of the meeting between the players and Chairman of Selectors Jayasuriya.

But Malinga showed his ignorance on sporting qualities when he harshly responded to polite questions from mediamen. In contrast, Sangakkara handled the situation more intelligently. The SLC has now ordered an inquiry into Malinga's conduct.

President visits Situlpawwa

President Mahinda Rajapaksa paid a visit to Situlpawwa Rajamaha Viharaya on Tuesday to inspect the archaeological site which is being excavated at the sacred premises of the Viharaya.

The President also called on Situlpawwa Rajamaha Vihara Chief Incumbent Ven. Metaramba Hemarathana Nayaka Thera.

The Thera praised the government's dedication to carry out the development initiatives in an eco-friendly manner and in particular, lauded the President's brave decision in removing the unauthorised constructions inside the Yala sanctuary.

The President pointed out the significance on giving priority in preserving the environment and places of archaeological value when carrying out development activities in lands where historically important religious places are located.

During his inspection tour of the site, the President directed archaeological officers to display banners and cut outs about the historical significance of the sites for the benefit of schoolchildren and devotees.

The Situlpawwa Rajamaha Viharaya which has a history of over 2,200 years spread across 12,000 acres to the early civilization in Sri Lanka.

The President after participating in religious activities held a brief discussion with archaeological officers involved in the excavations of the site. Presidential Coordinating Secretary MP Sajin Vaas Gunawardena also accompanied the President.

'Colombo remains CHOGM venue'

External Affairs Minister Prof G.L Peiris stated in Parliament last week that nobody should harbour worries that there would be any changes in the venue of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) 2013 and assured that it would be held in Sri Lanka this November.

The Minister made this statement responding to queries raised by Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe regarding the venue of the next CHOGM. Prof Peiris further said that there was no chance for Sri Lanka being placed on the agenda of the next meeting of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) as speculated in some sections of the media.

"There is a very clear procedure to be followed before a matter can be placed on the agenda of CMAG. Hence, it is not possible to place Sri Lanka on its agenda," the Minister said.

Prof Peiris said it is evident in the departure statement made by Commonwealth Secretary General Kamlesh Sharma, who was in our country on February 13. Sharma has said, "My visit provided an opportunity to be briefed on the preparations for the 2013 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), scheduled to be hosted by Sri Lanka in November, as decided by Commonwealth Heads of Government in 2009 and confirmed in 2011.

The Opposition Leader in his query asked about the media reports that Sri Lanka would be discussed at the next CMAG and asked the Minister to make a full statement disclosing the present position regarding CMAG.

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