Thursday, March 31, 2016

Ronnie Corbett, best known for The Two Ronnies, dies aged 85

Entertainer Ronnie Corbett, best known for BBC comedy sketch show The Two Ronnies, has died aged 85.
His publicist said: "Ronnie Corbett CBE, one of the nation's best-loved entertainers, passed away this morning, surrounded by his loving family.
"They have asked that their privacy is respected at this very sad time."
Corbett was one of the UK's best-loved comedians and along with Ronnie Barker; their double act was one of the most successful of the 1970s and '80s.
The entertainer had been suffering from ill-health for some time and had been in hospital in 2014 with gall bladder problems.

Sinhala Ravaya wants Minister Amaratunga behind bars

From DM online

The Sinhala Ravaya yesterday lodged a complaint with the Police Headquarters regarding the removal of the passageway at Mabola in Wattala, and called for the arrest of Tourism Development, Christian Religious Affairs and Lands Minister John Amaratunga. 

Sinhala Ravaya General Secretary Ven. Magalkande Sudatta Thera said the minister should be arrested under the Public Properties Act for removing the passageway. 

“Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe had previously made a statement in Parliament saying legal action will be taken against any person who disobeys the country law under clause 12:1 of the Constitution. For this reason, Minister Amaratunga should be arrested before long,” the Ven. Thera said. 

The minister had admitted that he ordered the removal of the passageway. In their complaint, the Sinhala Ravaya stated that the Wattala Police had not taken any action in connection with the removal of the passageway, although the path was situated merely 150 metres away from the police area. 

The complaint further said the Wattala Urban Council Secretary had not been informed of the incident and police officers had not been assigned for night patrol at the region of the passageway. (Chaturanga Pradeep) 

Video - Mr Pumpkin speaks frankly

Vasideva gives a radio/web interview to Neth FM. 

Sri Lanka's loss-making carrier seeks foreign partner

Sri Lanka is seeking foreign assistance to rescue its loss-making national carrier, a minister said Thursday, after the government announced the airline was unable to pay back nearly $1 billion in debt.
The country cannot afford to bear SriLankan Airlines' losses of 128 billion Sri Lankan rupees ($872 million) on top of its massive debt, International Trade Minister Sujeewa Senasinghe told reporters in Colombo.
The airline owes at least $933 million but the government last week said the true figure could be much higher.
"We want to restructure SriLankan (Airlines) with either direct foreign capital or through a management agreement with a foreign airline," Senasinghe said.
He added that he hopes the process will be completed within "two to three months".
Official sources said Colombo was in talks with a Middle Eastern carrier to form an agreement that would see the airline hand over control of its management to a foreign carrier.
A previous management deal with Emirates was ended in 2008 by the former Sri Lankan government following a personal disagreement between the flag carrier and then-president Mahinda Rajapakse.
The airline had refused to bump fare-paying business-class passengers to economy class and give their seats to members of Rajapakse's family, who were returning from London.
An angry Rajapakse removed the Emirates-appointed CEO of SriLankan Airlines from his post and replaced him with his brother-in-law.
The beleaguered national carrier has also drawn controversy in recent years after an independent investigator last year found evidence of serious corruption in a $2.3 billion deal to buy Airbus aircraft during Rajapakse's presidency.
Rajapakse's brother-in-law, Nishantha Wickramasinghe, is under investigation for bribery and corruption dating back to when he was the chairman of the national carrier.
A mounting debt crisis of its own has forced the Sri Lankan government to request a bailout for the country from the International Monetary Fund. Media reports have placed the requested bailout amount at $1.5 billion.

Srilankan Airlines in Joint Venture with Virgin Atlantic - Sir Richard Branson Arriving Today.

From Lankapuwak - By Pachini Borugala

It has been announced that Srilankan Airlines is entering into a joint venture with Virgin Atlantic. Behind the scenes discussions has been progressing during the last few weeks since Premier Ranil Wickramasinghe met him at world economic forum in Davos, Switzerland. 

A select group of confidantes of the Premier has been conducting the discussions with Sir Richard Bransons team in UK, Bahamas & Sri Lanka. The news is that situation is so bad at Srilankan Airlines is technically insolvent & survives with help from the Treasury. In particular the Finance Minister is livid at the way the airline requires money & he had given a ultimatum to The President & The Premier if this situation is not solved it could make the government fall in the near future. 

No formal welcome is planned for Mr Richard Branson but VVIP treatment is expected on the card. 

Sri Lankan in Bangladesh cyber heist says she was set up by friend

Reuters Canada
By Shihar Aneez
COLOMBO (Reuters) - When Hagoda Gamage Shalika Perera, a small Sri Lankan businesswoman, got a deposit of $20 million in her account last month, she said the funds were expected but had no idea they were stolen from Bangladesh's central bank in one of the largest cyber heists in history.
Unknown hackers breached Bangladesh Bank's systems between Feb. 4 and Feb. 5 and tried to steal nearly $1 billion from its account at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
Many of the payments were blocked. But $20 million made its way to Perera's Shalika Foundation before the transfer was reversed. Bangladesh central bank officers said they acted after a routing bank, Deutsche Bank, sought clarification on the transfer because hackers misspelled the company's name as "Fundation."

Hagoda Gamage Shalika Perera
Another $81 million was routed to accounts in the Philippines, and diverted to casinos there, where the trail runs out.[nL4N16I58C].
The Philippines Senate is holding hearings in the case, but until now, few details had emerged on the Sri Lanka link.
In her first public comments on the case, Perera, a struggling businesswoman who heads Shalika, told Reuters she expected $20 million to come from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) to help fund a power plant and other projects in Sri Lanka. She said she had no direct dealing with JICA, but the deal was arranged by an acquaintance who she met in Sri Lanka but had connections in Japan.
Shalika was set up in October 2014 and says in its registration documents that it constructs low-cost houses and provides other social services.
Reuters was unable to independently confirm Perera's account or to reach the acquaintance she named, via the email and phone numbers she provided.
JICA, a Japanese government agency that provides official development assistance, said it has no ties with Shalika Foundation, including through any intermediaries.
"We have had no exchange with them, and that includes such areas as loans and grants," JICA spokesman Naoyuki Nemoto said.
The Sri Lankan police's criminal investigation division declined to comment because the probe is ongoing.
"We are very genuine people. We are not doing any illegal things," said Perera, speaking in English and Sinhalese in an interview in Colombo, the Sri Lankan capital. The 36-year-old was accompanied by her husband, Ramanayaka Arachchige Don Pradeep Rohitha Dhamkin, also a director in her company.
Perera said she now thinks the acquaintance was either a victim of the hackers or in league with them, and she was hoodwinked into becoming a part of their scheme.
She showed Reuters a copy of an inward remittance advisory from the SWIFT bank messaging system to put the $20 million in her company's account. The remitting entity was shown as a Bangladesh government electricity agency that had taken a loan from JICA in 2010 to fund an electricity project.
The head of the Bangladesh government agency, the Bangladesh Rural Electrification Board, said it was "ridiculous" to think that the money could have come from them.
"Maybe they used this government organization's name to make it believable," said Brigadier General Moin Uddin, the agency head.
Police have questioned Perera's acquaintance, according to an investigation report filed in the Colombo Magistrate's Court on Thursday. The man told authorities that a Japanese middleman had helped arrange the funding, according to the report.
The report provided the names of Perera's acquaintance whom Reuters has been unable to locate and the Japanese middleman. Reached by phone, the middleman said he was traveling and unable to provide immediate comment.
The court has ordered a travel ban on Perera, her husband, the acquaintance and four other people listed as directors of her company.
Perera maintains she is innocent and describes the government's move as "an injustice".
STRUGGLING BUSINESSWOMAN Perera is, by her own admission, struggling. She said she has four other enterprises, including a publishing firm, an auto parts company, a construction company and a catering firm.
In 2014, losses from her publishing firm were so bad that she was forced to sell her computers. She said she now does her business from Internet cafes, and held meetings with potential investors at Pizza Hut and other restaurants.
In early February, Perera said her acquaintance, who had been helping her for more than a year to meet investors, told her to expect $20 million from JICA. Under their agreement, the payment would be split, between her power plant project and a housing project controlled by her acquaintance, she said.
According to a Sri Lankan police investigation report seen by Reuters last week, Perera told her bank, a Colombo branch of Pan Asia Bank PABC.CM, that the company expected to receive $20 million from a Japanese fund.
A Pan Asia Bank official declined to comment, citing the investigation.
Perera said she had not seen the report, which was submitted to the magistrate's court last week. According to the report, bank officials said Perera left instructions with them to transfer $7.72 million to her own personal account and $11.12 million to an account controlled by her acquaintance once the transaction had cleared.
Perera confirmed she had given the instructions to the bank, and said they reflected the money earmarked for the two projects and commissions. The rest was to be used for taxes, she said.
The money was remitted by the Pan Asia Bank to Shalika Foundation's account on Feb 4, but the bank refused to release the funds as the amount was unusually large and sought further verification, according to last week's police report.
On Feb. 9, Perera was told by her bank that the Bangladesh central bank had asked for the transaction to be reversed, according to the report.

(Additional reporting by Ranga Srilal in Colombo, Serajul Quadir in Dhaka and Kiyoshi Takenaka in Tokyo; Writing by Paritosh Bansal, Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

CEB to buy power from ACE

ACE Embilipitiya
From DM online
The Ceylon Electricity Board today said it had decided to connect 100 MW to the national grid from the ACE Power Generation of Embilipitiya, which had been shut down due to the non renewal of tariff revisions. 

“Earlier the CEB had decided to shut down the ACE Power Generation in Matara and Embilipitiya (a subsidiary of Aitken Spence PLC), which provided 20 MW and 100 MW due to non-renewal of the tariff revisions as well as the Heladhanavi Power Station in Puttalam,” CEB Media Spokesman Sulakshan Jayawardena said. 

“The decision was taken to purchase electricity as an immediate precaution due to several blackouts that occurred recently and to provide uninterrupted power,” he said. Meanwhile he said power generators were being placed across ten different locations in Colombo as well. “Two generators of 2.5 KW and eight Generators of 11 KW are being used for the purpose. Those generators would be connected to the national grid, when there is a demand. 

The hydro power generation had increased by 40 per cent as a result of the showers experienced during the last few days,” he said. Earlier the CEB said that the additional electricity that was required, would obtained from other thermal power plants including from the one at Norochcholai and Kerawalapitiya. “The country's daily electricity demand now stands at 2,300 MW,” he said. (Chaturanga Pradeep) 

PM vows to look into concerns of biz sector

From DM online

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe today said he will look into the concerns raised by certain groups in the business circle with regard to non tariff barriers that Sri Lankan exporters face when they enter the Indian market. 

“There are non tariff barriers which Sri Lankan exporters have to face when their goods enter the Indian market. There is red tape in India brought on by the administration set up of that country. We are especially focusing on it. There is no such red tape for Indian goods entering the Sri Lankan market,” Mr. Wickremesinghe said while addressing a gathering at UNP head quarters Sirikotha last morning. 

“ We are going to focus on these non tariff barriers when discussing the proposed Economic and Technological Cooperation Agreement (ETCA) with India. The Indians do not face such non tariff barriers when they enter the Sri Lankan market. We will ensure that both Sri Lankan and Indian exporters have a level playing field,” the Prime Minister said. 

Elaborating on ETCA , Mr, Wickremesinghe said the government had informed India that the professional services exchange programme could not be included in the agreement. He said the government would put the frame work agreement in Parliament soon. He said everyone would have access to it through the House. “The President has also instructed that trade agreements should be discussed openly. This will be done through Parliament. There is no other democratic methodology. We are committed to carry out such a democratic process,” he said. 

"What amazes me are those from the Bamunu Kulaya who sas the government should talk with them. We will go straight to Parliament to discuss trade pacts as per the mandate given by the people. These people who make demands are those who glorified Rajapaksas . We can determine who is a Bamuna and who is wasalaya through the Wasala Suthra preached by the Buddha. The media is publishing various reports. Some reports say those who have been appointed to discuss trade pacts are not qualified. We have appointed Prof. Saman Kelegama for the job. They can find out who he is and should not ask me. The right hand of some journalists does not know what their left hand is writing. Some glorify Rajapaksas and others go behind Prof.G L Peiris. What doe he know about the economy?," Premier Wickremesinghe said. 

He said the government would set the stage for the creation of one million jobs in the coming months. “We are also making an effort to ensure a sound economic and social status for the people of this country. We pledged to create one million jobs. We are totally focusing on it,” he said adding that it would be fulfilled through trade agreements with China, India, USA, Singapore and Europe. 

“We will go for a joint economic programme with China and also go for an economic agreement. We will also work with Japan, will sign a trade pact with Singapore, restore GSP plus and get the ban of fish exports lifted. We hope these will be done before the end of this year,” he said. 

“One million jobs will be created through investments of these countries. “ Do not have doubts about it as we will definitely achieve the target,” he added. (Yohan Perera and Chaturanga Pradeep)

Exclusive: Secret Documents Reveal How Britain Funded Possible War Crimes in Sri Lanka

By Phil Miller

In 2009, as the Sri Lankan civil war reached its bloody conclusion, David Miliband touched down in Colombo to appeal for peace. "Now is the time for the fighting to stop," Miliband warned. "Protection of civilians is absolutely paramount in our minds."

Tamil protesters in Parliament Square in May 2009, flying the flag of the LTTE, Tamil Tigers (Photo by Southbanksteve)

However, Miliband's public plea stood in direct contrast to what his department was doing in private, secret Foreign Office documents seen by VICE can reveal. British aid to Sri Lanka helped set up a vigilante network that supplied police with intelligence at the height of a bloody government crack down. The documents show that the UK was aware of the risk of human rights abuses but continued nonetheless. This raises questions of British complicity in war crimes.

In 2008, the Sri Lankan Ministry of Defence "merged" a community policing project, that was being delivered by UK advisers, with civil defence activities which "involved forming unarmed youth vigilance groups to report on any suspicious items/people".

At that time, Sri Lankan police were silencing government critics through assassinations, disappearances and torture, as the military carried out a massive offensive against Tamil rebels in the north, shelling schools and hospitals inside civilian safe zones.

As many as 146,000 Tamils disappeared in the final stages of the conflict, which become known as a "war without witnesses", as media access was denied and outspoken Sri Lankan journalists were eliminated.

Although Britain has backed a UN investigation into credible allegations of war crimes committed during the civil war, the Foreign Office has spent years battling against Freedom of Information requests for details of British police assistance given to their Sri Lankan counterparts at the height of the dirty war against rebels and political opponents in 2008 and 2009.

First, the government told a court that no such documents existed. Then it released heavily censored copies, before accidentally sending out the original versions, revealing the details it had tried to cover up. VICE can now reveal these files for the first time.

They contain a string of reports from the shadowy Security Sector Development Advisory Team, a joint FCO, MOD and DFID unit, setting out plans to help Sri Lanka set up a form of "community based policing".

At the time, Sri Lanka's police were overseen by the President's brother, defence secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa. According to the documents, he decided around July 2008 that "civil defence and longer term community based policing activities would need to be 'merged'. The civil defence activities involved forming unarmed youth vigilance groups to report on any suspicious items/people and work closely with the Sri Lankan Police."

The Foreign Office realised that British aid was being manipulated, noting that the Sri Lankan defence department "clearly consider that there is an overlap between the activities comprising civil defence and those which they view as community based policing". However, the police aid project continued despite UK concerns about "a veneer of community based policing being used to cover less palatable behaviour".

Thousands of Civil Defence Committees or CDCs, comprised of local people, provided intelligence to the police. Sri Lankan media later reported the Defence Secretary as saying that "the modern 'community police' concept was introduced to Sri Lanka as CDCs [which] were used effectively particularly during the final phase of the war to enhance vigilance among communities." Although he claimed the vigilantes foiled bomb plots in the capital, several journalists including an Associated Press photographer complained of harassment from Civil Defence Committees members as early as February 2008.

"Community police" initiatives may sound fairly benign, but not in this context: at the time, Sri Lanka was a war-torn country where the majority Sinhalese population was carrying out a genocidal assault on the minority Tamil people. "In every respect, the Civil Defence Committees (CDC) were a mass intelligence network, which effectively converted the Sinhala civilian population into state spies. The true objective of the plan was to re-organise the civilians as vigilance groups that can function parallel to the official state intelligence bodies", said Bashana Abeywardane, an exiled Sri Lankan journalist who now coordinates the press freedom group Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka.

By mid-2008, the Foreign Office noted that there were "increasing restrictions on freedom of expression, including abductions and disappearances", referring to the escalating attacks on journalists in Sri Lanka. The files said that these activities "are claimed to be linked to the Secretary of Defence", the man who controlled the police force that Britain was aiding. The Foreign Office originally tried to censor this comment, probably because it shows they knowingly continued to work with people they suspected of being rights abusers.

The UK carried on its community policing project in Sri Lanka even after the outspoken editor of the Sunday Leader newspaper, Lasantha Wickrematunge, was assassinated by unidentified gunmen in January 2009. His murder muzzled other critics of the government's war and highlighted the dire state of press freedom in Sri Lanka, as the fighting in the north climaxed.

Abeywardene said that people arrested as a result of intelligence gathered by CDC members were routinely tortured, raising serious questions about British complicity. "The Sri Lankan government expected CDC members to spy on their neighbours and report back to police, which included the powers to carry out random ID checks in their neighbourhoods. If someone considered as suspicious was reported or handed over to the police by the CDC, he or she will be taken into Terrorism Investigation Division custody where they would be detained and tortured."

Video on the war as it was reported by Vice in 2009:-

The UK Foreign Office was well aware that it risked working with human rights abusers; however, it did not rule out using one of the island's most violent paramilitary groups as a source of recruits for community policing. A censored part of one document shows British officials felt that "the suggestion of employing ex-TMVP combatants as policemen in the East remains contentious and would require sophisticated vetting mechanisms to avoid those against whom there are allegations of human rights abuses being sent to promote community based policing." The TMVP was a government-backed militia, led by a renegade Tamil colonel, that was accused of killings and abductions.

The documents don't give any indication as to why Britain would want to support this genocidal regime. However, a speech by then UK defence secretary Liam Fox in 2011 could give us a clue. "Sri Lanka has a role to play in maintaining the international stability and security that, as an open, trading nation, Britain's national interest requires", Liam Fox told an audience in Colombo. "Sri Lanka is located in a pivotal position in the Indian Ocean with major international shipping routes between the Far East and the Gulf within 25 miles of your coast".

Our investigation has also found that Britain continued to work with Sri Lanka's police chief, Jayantha Wickramaratna, advising his officers about intelligence-gathering techniques, even though the Foreign Office did not trust him. One document reveals that UK advisers "congratulated the new [Inspector General of Police] on his appointment", but they tried to censor the fact that they had a "lack of confidence in his trustworthiness". Wickramaratna, who was appointed head of police in 2008, was well known to British authorities. He had previously visited Scotland for the first stage of the community policing project in 2007.

Staff from the Scottish Police College travelled to Sri Lanka to continue the work with Wickramaratna and his colleagues. David Garbutt, a former director of the Scottish Police College, told VICE that the training he delivered to Sri Lankan officers was "based on the National Intelligence Model (NIM), which provides community data to support the principles of community policing."

The National Intelligence Model is used by British police forces for gathering vast amounts of information on criminal suspects, crimes and communities at local, regional and national levels. Dr Robin Fletcher, an ex-Metropolitan police Detective Superintendent, says that the model "always has the potential to be misused" in the wrong hands. "It gathers masses and masses of intelligence...for example where did he go shopping? Who did he meet?" This information was being used by a police force that was tracking down critical journalists and anyone who sheltered them.

To reiterate, just because it was called "community policing" doesn't mean the British government was training Sri Lankan cops in stuff like fines for littering or shutting down noisy parties. One British adviser noted ominously that the term Community Based Policing was "being used for all manner of activities". The Foreign Office itself was concerned that Sri Lankan police might be receiving too much intelligence training from UK staff. One report, written by a Foreign Office adviser, claims that Garbutt promised to train the Sri Lankan police in using powerful i2 intelligence software. This technology allows authorities to build sophisticated databases of suspects and their associates. A senior Sri Lankan police officer, who had previously served in a notorious counter-terrorism unit, "was particularly interested in training to use the i2 software, which I understand had been promised to them by David Garbutt", according to the document.

The Foreign Office adviser commented that, "Whilst intelligence-led policing is a key component of a preventive approach, thought should be given as to whether this might be used for political aims and consequently whether HMG [Her Majesty's Government] would wish to be associated with such assistance." However Garbutt told VICE that although he discussed the i2 product with the Sri Lankans, he did not offer to deliver them i2 training.

Another document shows that some staff teaching community policing did have significant experience in intelligence. An email written by Britain's defence attaché in Colombo reveals that the British instructors included "some excellent ex-Special Branch" officers, whose visit to Sri Lanka "tied into work done by the Scottish Police College and other consultants on the theme of Community Policing". Home Office guidelines say that "the primary function of Special Branch is covert intelligence work in relation to national security". The defence attaché wanted a highly experienced officer to visit Sri Lanka, saying that "we tried for Ronnie Flanagan but couldn't get him". Flanagan was a former Chief Constable of the Royal Ulster Constabulary and head of its Special Branch in Northern Ireland during the British state's war against the IRA.

An "Intelligence and Security Adviser" was also among the British staff who visited Sri Lanka in 2009, raising further questions about the extent of intelligence advice given to Sri Lanka during its crackdown. The adviser, Peter Wilson, ran a private security consultancy and claims that his "early career was with the British Diplomatic Service, specialising in national security matters." Wilson met with Sanjaya Colonne, head of the Office of Strategic Affairs in Sri Lanka's Ministry of Defence, who reported to the defence secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa. According to the files, Wilson "pursued the possibility of meetings" for Colonne with MI5 in London at the end of the war.

Sanjaya Colonne attending a drinks party at the British High Commission in Colombo, 2011 (Photo via ukinsrilanka)

Wilson was among British staff who secretly met Sanjaya Colonne in Sri Lanka in February 2009, when Tamil rebels were almost defeated and the UN was warning that hundreds of thousands of civilians were trapped and under fire. While the FCO had admitted the possibility of working with human rights abusers, the minutes of this meeting barely comment on the atrocities that have shocked the international community, simply noting that the Sri Lankan government "continue to make military progress against the LTTE [Tamil Tiger rebels]."

As civilians fleeing the conflict zone were herded into barbed wire internment camps, minutes from the meeting with Colonne note that the Sri Lankan authorities were "very much alive to the problem of administering the territories they had gained."

During this meeting, the British advisers "discussed the possibility of sharing UK experience on policing and governance in post-conflict areas." Later that month, a pair of senior Northern Irish police commanders were sent to Sri Lanka as "critical friends", ostensibly to help with the community policing project. However, both officers had extensive counter-terrorism expertise and VICE has now learnt that they actually undertook some work in relation to public order provision (i.e. riot control) in Sri Lanka.

These revelations stand in stark contrast to the public position of the British government at the time of the war. The then-Foreign Secretary David Miliband visited Sri Lanka in April 2009 and called for an immediate ceasefire to protect civilians at risk from shelling. The secret files show an alarming level of clandestine UK support for the Sri Lankan authorities. British security advisers continued to visit Sri Lanka during the final fortnight of fighting in May 2009 when civilian casualties climaxed at around a thousand deaths a day. Even at that point, the files show that extra UK security cooperation was arranged, despite the FCO noting that there was "sustained harassment of the media."

Underlining just how cosy the relationship was, weeks after the war ended, UK civil servants paid for flights and accommodation for Colonne and his wife to come to London. They were even taken out for dinner in London at taxpayer's expense.

However, the Foreign Office still insists that British aid improved human rights in Sri Lanka. Responding to our investigation, an FCO spokesperson said:

"We are committed to improving human rights in Sri Lanka and continue to fund a range of projects including on issues such as women's rights and police training and reform.

"UK experts provided advice and training to the Sri Lankan Police to improve human rights through a project in 2008 and have continued with this work since then.

"The Prime Minister has recently announced a further £6.6million of funding to support further work in Sri Lanka, promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights."

G L Peiris to be questioned on Chavakachcheri haul.

Secretary to the Ministry of Defence announced that G L Peiris is to be questioned in respect of the claim made by him about the end use of the haul in Chavakachcheri. 

Video on the claim by G L Peiris  

Video - 1 Dead After Flyover Under Construction Collapses In Kolkata

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Rāvaya Follows Mainstream Media In Submitting To Yahapālana Censorship

From Colombo Telegraph

Ravaya newspaper joins other mainstream media organizations in submitting to presidential rules about what’s fit to publish and what should be left out. Colombo Telegraph learns that Ravaya, a newspaper which strongly opposed the previous regime, championed the cause of Maithripala Sirisena and agitated for media freedom, has tamely submitted to Presidential orders about killing stories considered detrimental to the President’s interests.

In this instance a news story about the high-handed behaviour of the President’s son Daham Sirisena has been killed. Daham used the Foreign Ministry to obtain visas for some of his friends to visit the UK. The Foreign Ministry issued TPLs (Third Party Letters) to the British High Commission in Colombo, but while Daham was issued a visa the applications of his friends were rejected.
Colombo Telegraph reported the reasons for rejection. One applicant recommended by Daham Sirisena had earlier overstayed his visa and had been blacklisted. Another applicant was blacklisted for submitting fraudulent documents. Thus, in effect, the son of the President of the Republic of Sri Lanka was trying to smuggle into the UK two persons who have broken UK laws.
There are serious issues that arise from this situation. Is this an attempt by Daham Sirisena to smuggle fugitives? How can the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (more to the point, M.R. Hassen, the Chief of Protocol) accept the responsibility to obtain visas for those who are not entitled to diplomatic privileges? If this is allowed, theoretically even Wele Suda, the drug mafia boss, could persuade some influential persons to ask the MFA to issue a Third Party Letter to support an application for a UK visa.
The Foreign Ministry confirmed that Sirisena had indeed sought to use the Foreign Ministry to help his friends, thereby acknowledging that it (the ministry) had operated outside its mandate in issuing TPLs.
Colombo Telegraph reported that President Sirisena had informed all media not to run the story. Ravaya, despite its stated independence from political pressure, has now joined mainstream media institutions in complying with this informal presidential decree and refused to carry Daham Sirisena story which was written and submitted by a Ravaya journalist.

Canned frogs in Chinese Canned Fish - Trader released on bail

The importer should be fined as well as the brand of canned fish should be informed to the public!!!!

From The Daily News

ඇමරිකානු යුද නැව රට ආක්‍රමණය කිරීමකැයි වහල්ලු කියද්දී න්‍යායාචාරියා යුද නැවේ..!

(ලංකා ඊ නිව්ස් -2016.මාර්.30, පෙ.ව‍.5.35) 

කොළඹ වරායට ඇමරිකානු යුද නැවක් පැමිණීම ඇමරිකාව ලංකාව ආක්‍රමණය කිරීමකැයි කියමින් මැදමූලන රාජපක්ෂලාගේ හොර පොල් නඩය පාර්ලිමේන්තුව වර්ජනය කිරීමකට යන බව දැන ගන්නට තිබේ.

රාජපක්ෂලාගේ වහලුන් එසේ හැසිරෙද්දී රාජපක්ෂලාගේ න්‍යායාචාර්ය වරයා වූ දයාන් ජයතිලක එකී යුද නැවේ පැවැති රාත්‍රී සාදයට සහභාගී වී සිටි අයුරු මෙහි ඇති සේයාරුවේ දැක්වේ. ශ්‍රී ලංකාවේ ඇමැරිකානු තානාපති අතුල කෙෂාප් වෙත ගැරඬියෙකු මෙන් ඇදී ගිය දයාන් ජයතිලක තමන් ආචාර්ය දයාන් ජයතිලක යැයි තමා විසින්ම හඳුන්වා දෙමින් කතා බහ කළ අතර සේයාරුවේ දැක්වෙන්නේ එහි අවස්ථාවකි.

තම න්‍යායාචාරියා යුද නැවේ සාද පවත්වද්දී හෙංචයියෝ යුද නැව රට ආක්‍රමණය කිරීමකැයි පැවසීම හතර මර විහිළුවකි. රාජපක්ෂලා බලයේ සිටියදී 2011 දී ද ඇමරිකානු යුද නැවක් ලංකාවේ කොළඹ වරායට පැමිණියේ ය. එවිට එය ඇමරිකාව ලංකාව ආක්‍රමණය කිරීමක් වූයේ නැත.

Video - John Amaratunga have you got answers???

Present crisis due to govt’s haphazard foreign borrowings

Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa says that his government did not take negotiations with India on the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) forward due to the “misgivings” expressed by wide sections of society. 

In a statement issued today, he said that incumbent President Maithripala Sirisena recently publicly endorsed the proposed Economic and Technological Cooperation Agreement (ETCA) with India and that all SLFP members serving in the government will now have to make a very personal decision as to where they stand on this matter which will have “far reaching consequences” for Sri Lanka.  

 “When the President said that it was the ‘old government’ (parana anduwa) that had started negotiations for the CEPA with India, he was not referring to my government. CEPA was initiated in 2002 under the previous UNP government led by Mr Ranil Wickremesinghe.”

 “My government did not take the CEPA negotiations forward due to the misgivings expressed by wide sections of society,” Rajapaksa said. 

He stated that though Indian exports flow into Sri Lanka without any obstruction under the existing free trade agreement, Sri Lankan exports to India have come up against various impediments such as quantity limitations, licensing requirements, non-acceptance of Sri Lankan product certification and state taxes at the Indian end.  

Our suggestion to the present government is that such outstanding issues be sorted out to enable Sri Lanka to obtain the due benefit under the existing FTA before the trade relationship is taken to the next level, the Kurunegala District MP said. 

“It is the height of irresponsibility to sign an ETCA ‘framework’ agreement leaving the specific details to be negotiated later when there are so many unresolved trade issues between the two countries,” he charged.  

Rajapaksa further said that two ministers admitted publicly that the ruling government had indeed taken foreign loans amounting to more than 6,361 million USD since March 2015, but had claimed all these loans had to be taken in order to pay off the loans taken at high interest rates by the former UPFA government.  

The ex-President said that the project loans taken by his government was long term credit at an interest rate of 2% or less.  

“The government borrowed 375 million USD through a development bond issue a few days ago. This combined with the three month 700 million USD currency swap announced by India yesterday, brings the total foreign borrowings of this government from March 2015 to March 2016 to 7,436 million USD.”  

Of this amount around half - 3,298 million USD falls due in 2016, he emphasized.  

“The present crisis is due to the haphazard and irresponsible foreign borrowings of the present government and not due to any loans taken by previous governments.” 

The full statement has been reproduced below…. 

In a TV discussion broadcast last Sunday, the President publicly endorsed the proposed Economic and Technological Cooperation Agreement (ETCA) with India. All members of the SLFP serving in the government will now have to make a very personal decision as to where they stand on this matter which will have far reaching consequences for Sri Lanka.  When the President said that it was the ‘old government’ (parana anduwa) that had started negotiations for the CEPA with India, he was not referring to my government. CEPA was initiated in 2002 under the previous UNP government led by Mr Ranil Wickremesinghe. My government did not take the CEPA negotiations forward due to the misgivings expressed by wide sections of society. 

Though Indian exports flow into Sri Lanka without any obstruction under the existing free trade agreement, Sri Lankan exports to India have come up against various impediments such as quantity limitations, licensing requirements, non-acceptance of Sri Lankan product certification and state taxes at the Indian end. Our suggestion to the present government is that such outstanding issues be sorted out to enable Sri Lanka to obtain the due benefit under the existing FTA before the trade relationship is taken to the next level. ETCA envisages a trade in services as well as goods. Sri Lankan professional associations have warned that the mismatch between the regulatory frameworks for professions in India and Sri Lanka will result in Indian professionals gaining unrestricted access to the Sri Lankan market while Sri Lankan professionals are shut out of the Indian market in a repetition of what has happened in the trade in goods. 

It is the height of irresponsibility to sign an ETCA ‘framework’ agreement leaving the specific details to be negotiated later when there are so many unresolved trade issues between the two countries. In justifying his endorsement of the ETCA with India, the President observed that while some people in the SLFP spoke highly of the manner in which Mrs Sirimavo Bandaranaike maintained close relations with Mrs Indira Gandhi, the same individuals were against the present government maintaining a similar relationship with Prime Minister Modi. We should bear in mind that though Mrs Sirima Bandaranaiake and her son Anura were personally very close to Rajiv Gandhi, neither of them supported the 1987 Indo-Lanka Peace Accord. We should be guided in such matters by considerations of the national interest. 

Speaking of constitutional change during his TV interview, the President stressed the need to give priority to solve the problems of the Tamil people. The Prime Minister also now speaks of the need to devolve power. However the single most important slogan in the ‘yahapalana’ campaign was the abolition of the executive presidency with electoral reform coming next. Hence I stress once again that constitutional reform should focus on abolishing the executive presidency and bringing about electoral reform. More contentious matters such as the devolution of power can be dealt with later. The yahapalana government should respect the public opinion that they themselves helped create. 

In response to a previous statement I made on foreign loans, the Finance Minister has been repeatedly telling the media that though I had said that the Mattala airport and Hambantota harbour cost 190 and 426 million USD respectively, the records of the government indicated expenditure of 210 and 1,300 million USD and that the difference has not been explained. The total cost of the Mattala airport was 210 million USD with the loan from the China Exim Bank amounting 190 million. The rest was the ‘local component’ of the project paid by the government of Sri Lanka. We mentioned only the loan component in our previous statement because we were speaking on the subject of foreign loans.  The Hambantota Harbour Phase I cost 501 million and the 15% local component was met by the Ports Authority. The foreign loan component was something like 426 million USD. When the Finance minister says that the cost of the Hambantota Port was over 1,300 million USD, he has included the cost of the 808 million USD second phase which commenced in 2012 and is still under construction. 

Two other ministers admitted publicly that the government had indeed taken foreign loans amounting to more than 6,361 million USD since March 2015 as we said in our previous statement, but they said that all these loans had to be taken in order to pay off the loans taken at high interest rates by my government. The project loans taken by my government was long term credit at an interest rate of 2% or less. The government borrowed 375 million USD through a development bond issue a few days ago. This combined with the three month 700 million USD currency swap announced by India yesterday, brings the total foreign borrowings of this government from March 2015 to March 2016 to 7,436 million USD. Of this amount around half - 3,298 million USD falls due in 2016. The present crisis is due to the haphazard and irresponsible foreign borrowings of the present government and not due to any loans taken by previous governments.

PM Slams CEB Top Management At Closed Door Meeting At Temple Trees

From Asian Mirror
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe slammed the CEB's top management at a meeting held at the Temple Trees on Monday saying the institution's top official should pull their socks up and work.
Before addressing the meeting, the Prime Minister examined a report on circumstances leading to the all island power failure.
The report was prepared by Maschinenfabrik Reinhausen GmbH (GR), a German company active in power engineering and consists of over 25 subsidiaries and affiliated companies globally.
The company, as per a request by the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB), carried out a comprehensive investigation on the exploded transformers at Biyagama and Kotugoda leading to a blackout two weeks ago.
The company’s experts conducted their investigations at the two camps on March 22 and 23. Then they handed over their report to the CEB for further action. However, the CEB did not show any inclination to present this report to the government for obvious reasons.
The report highlighted some serious shortcomings and negligence on the part of the CEB and it was quite clear that the CEB did not want to give it “much publicity”.
The report said, “the reason for the explosion is that the oil within the On Load Tap Changer (OLTC) compartments were highly contaminated with moisture, hence poor quality oil caused the insulating bars to deteriorate and caused the flashover.
You will observe the experts have concluded – water content in oil was between 53 and 71 ppm, maximum permissible value is 30 ppm. The oil quality was good after oil exchange last year on all three transformers, thus a systematic error caused the fast deterioration of oil.
“We have currently observed that 135 transformers are in operation, which have not been maintained and serviced as per our standard recommendations
We have been recommending the CEB to carry out regular maintenance from the first installed OLTC.
The latest available records prove that on February 18, 2009, we have recommended maintenance to be carried out on the exploded transformers at Kotugoda and Biyagama.
We have been constantly reminding the CEB to carry out maintenance on priority basis but the CEB had not taken action citing “lack of funds”. In the event the above maintenance had been carried out, the explosions would not have occurred.
On April 24, 2015, we have once again recommended the CEB to carry out maintenance on another 14 “crucial” transformers in the Colombo city area, which are yet to be performed.
“With our detailed technical report following our investigations, we are recommending maintenance and upgrading to be carried out in 135 functioning transformers (which include Kotugoda and Biyagama transformers as well)
Among the, there are approximately 30 to 40 transformers which are in critical stages and need immediate attention.
However, the rest of the transformers too, require maintenance and upgrading, as those too have passed the recommended maintenance intervals.”
When the Prime Minister read this report, he was livid at the fact that the CEB was ‘suppressing it’. Probably, the Prime Minister was of the view that the government was paying a political price unnecessarily for the CEB’s lethargy and negligence.
He immediately summoned a meeting with the top management of the CEB and its General Manager and the Ministry Secretary arrived at the Temple Trees in 15 minutes.
As they walked into the meeting room, the two officials looked pale as they sensed some trouble.
The Prime Minister, while speaking to the officials, said in no uncertain terms that the CEB officials should do their “homework” to address real issues in the power and energy sector. It was quite clear that the Prime Minister was referring to the content of the two-page report.
The officials seemed crestfallen when the Prime Minister asked them to ‘pull their socks up’ and work without looking for easy escape-routes, highly placed government sources said.