Finally GoSL ready to join int’l anti-personnel mine treaty

More than six years after the conclusion of the war, Sri Lanka is ready to sign the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines.

Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera and Canadian High Commissioner Shelley Whiting yesterday flew to Madhu, Mannar where they visited a mine clearing site.

Minister Samaraweera has assured Canadian High Commissioner Whiting of Sri Lanka’s eagerness to join the Canadian initiative launched in 1997.

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Sri Lanka on Dec. 1 told the 14th meeting of States Parties to the Ottawa Convention that the National Unity Government was considering seriously of joining the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Treaty as a matter of priority. The Foreign Ministry quoted a GoSL representative as having told the meeting: “There are positive signals that my Government may decide to be a State Party within the course of next year. The Government wants to see Sri Lanka again a committed member of the international community to promote disarmament and humanitarian mine action.”

Senior military officials told The Island that the eradication of the LTTE in May 2009 had paved the way for Sri Lankan to join the Ottawa Treaty.

The LTTE introduced mine warfare in the Northern Province in the early 80s and gradually expanded it to other parts of the country. The use of mines intensified with the deployment of the Indian Army in July 1987. Sri Lankan security forces, too, used a range of mines, primarily to protect bases and front line positions vulnerable to LTTE attacks.

Successive Sri Lankan governments declined to join the treaty due to security forces’ requirement and the conventional military challenge posed by the LTTE, military sources said. Since the conclusion of the war, the armed forces as well as several international mine clearing groups are engaged in the de-mining process.

-Shamindra Ferdinando

Govt commences process to draft new Constitution

The government has embarked on the process to gather public opinion to draw up a new Constitution, said Co-Cabinet Spokesman, Minister Rajitha Senaratne yesterday (17) at a Cabinet media briefing.

On 18 November, the Cabinet appointed a committee headed by MP and President’s Counsel Dr. Jayampathy Wickramaratne for the formulation of a new Constitution. In accordance with its recommendations, the Cabinet this week approved the appointment of a committee of 24 experts to gather public opinion and proposals on the matter. These experts will be divided into teams of three experts each and they will be sent to each district to speak to public representatives and the local people in each area to ascertain what they would want in a new Constitution.

The Prime Minister also informed Cabinet that he would present the proposal to turn Parliament into a Constitutional Assembly on 9 January 2016 in order to work on the draft of a new Constitution.

Justice Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe speaking to the media earlier that day said a draft for the new Constitution would be ready by July 2016.

Zahrah Imtiaz, Ceylontoday

Award winning factory closed over Rs. 2,500 pay hike dispute in EPZ

Among those who had won presidential awards at Wednesday’s ceremony at the Nelum Pokuna theatre was Everest Industrial Lanka Pvt Limited recently closed due to a strike launched by its workers demanding a Rs. 2,500 salary increase proposed by the government.

The factory situated at the Katunayake Export Processing Zone (EPZ) received presidential awards for electric and electronic export category for 2012 and 2013.

The Export Development Board (EDB) recognised top exporters for their performances from 2010 to 2013 at a ceremony held under the patronage of President Maithripala Sirisena.

Although there hadn’t been any reference during the awards ceremony to the crisis

caused by a section of the workers, well informed sources told The Island that demand for an immediate increase in workers’ salaries by Rs. 2,500 had led to the closure.

Sources said that a section of workers had launched a protest soon after the government, during its 100-day project, proposed a Rs. 2,500 salary increase to private sector workers. Amidst the rapidly deteriorating situation at the factory, the management in consultation with the Board of Investment (BoI) and the Manufacturers Association increased workers’ salaries by Rs. 1,000. However, some workers told the management that they should be paid the full amount or face the consequences, causing the top management to seek the intervention of the Labour Department.

The Syrian-owned venture had commenced commercial operations during 2007 at the height of eelam war IV and was one of the most successful foreign enterprises active over the past eight years. Sources said that the factory had experienced severe difficulties due to cancellation of almost all orders due to labour unrest. Subsequently, the management paid workers’ salaries for a few months in spite of the factory being closed, sources said, adding that the top management had finally decided to terminate services of those who had been undermining the successful venture.

The group managed production facilities in Dubai, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Sri Lanka and Syria. Sources said that the Syrian project had been disrupted due to violence there whereas the successful project to supply the lucrative Indian market was now in shambles.

Responding to a query by The Island, sources said that the management was in the process of exploring the possibility of paying compensation to the workers. In accordance with labour laws, each worker has to be paid two and half months’ salary, sources said, adding that the workforce comprised over 550 persons. Sources said that the company would need as much as Rs. 60 mn to pay compensation.

Negotiations between the workers and the Labour Department are nearing completion.

Addressing the Nelum Pokuna gathering, President Maithripala Sirisena stressed the importance as well as the urgent need to enhance exports. Assuring that the government would take measures to strengthen exports, he said that the new administration had gone to the extent of setting up a new ministry to promote exports.

Industry sources alleged that a certain trade union had deceived the workers at the Everest Industrial Lanka Pvt Limited in spite of them being well paid with free three meals a day, transport as well as uniform. Even workers represented by lawyers had, at one point, suggested that they should reach an understanding with the management to avoid an unfortunate situation, sources said.

Sources said that unless the government initiated an immediate dialogue there could be widespread turmoil at EPZs with interested parties causing unrest.

-Shamindra Ferdinando

Guide book for systematic cultivation and management of Cinnamon

Systematic Cultivation and Management of Cinnamon, a timely publication authored by A. D. Wijitha K. de Zoysa Jayatilleke of Dassanayake Walauwa Plantation, Nape, Kosgoda, Sri Lanka, was recently launched as a part of the events at the Annual General Meeting of The Sri Lanka Spice Council held at the Taj Samudra Hotel, Colombo.

Author of ‘Systematic Cultivation and Management of Cinnamon’, A. D. Wijitha K. de Zoysa Jayatilleke hands over copies of the publication to Daya Gamage, Minister of Primary Industries.
Author of ‘Systematic Cultivation and Management of Cinnamon’, A. D. Wijitha K. de Zoysa Jayatilleke hands over copies of the publication to Daya Gamage, Minister of Primary Industries.

The book deals extensively with systematic cinnamon cultivation from initial stage of land clearing and planting of cinnamon to harvesting. It also provides guidance and practical know-how to develop cultivated cinnamon lands. The author, a professional planter of cinnamon for over 40 years, has , generously imparted his wealth of knowledge in the field of cinnamon cultivation and practical guidance which is extremely useful for cinnamon planters in general and for Small, Medium and Large, Landed Proprietor Planters in particular.

The principal objective of the publication is to upgrade the quality of cinnamon production and also to enhance productivity of cinnamon lands under Systematic Cultivation and Management. The publication would serve as a practical guide book and also as a knowledge book at field level education on the systematic cultivation of cinnamon.

The book contains 26 captions with facts relating to the Cinnamon Industry and over 170 Photographs. The book written in simple Sinhalese covers the field operational activities of cinnamon and is a result of meticulous research over a period of 03 years.


The author A. D. Wijitha K. de Zoysa Jayatilleke, Producer Representative of The Sri Lanka Spice Council and a pioneer in the Cinnamon plantation, was awarded the internationally certified standard certifications such as GMP Certification, HAACP Certification, ISO: 22000 Certification and FSSC 22000 Standard Certification for designing and introducing the first ever, the state- of-the Art Model Cinnamon Processing Factory of the world. He also, possesses and manages the Model Field Cinnamon Plantation, registered with The Sri Lanka Spice Council and the Model Coconut Plantation intercropped with pepper, registered with The Sri Lanka Coconut Cultivation Board.

In 2011, the author served as a National Expert for The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO)’s Project under the Standards and Trade Development Facility of the World Trade Organization, a Joint Venture with The Sri Lanka Spice Council. He provided his professional services by conducting Workshops to develop and safeguard the Cinnamon Industry for Small; Medium and Large scale Industrialists; Processors and other stakeholders of Galle; Matara; Kalutara and Ratnapura Districts.

A limited number of copies of the book are available for purchase from Dassanayake Walauwa Plantation, Nape, Kosgoda (inquiries: 0777370871). The author has successfully conducted Field Workshops for a long period of time, for the Estate Superintendents, Assistant Superintendents, and Field Officers and to Small; Medium and Large scale Landed Proprietor Planters, at his own registered Model Cinnamon and Coconut Plantations.

The author has , among other things, intended to change the olden method of cinnamon processing confined to a ‘Wadiya’ , where the Cinnamon Peeler seated on a gunny-bag on an open floor , over to the modernised methods and re-defined the Cinnamon Peeler as’ cinnamon Processor’, thus awarding him the due self-respect in the society.

The author has dedicated the publication to his late father Mr. A. D. Percy A. de Zoysa Jayatellike.

-Ceylontoday, Sundayobserver

Slain media persons and comensation: Points to ponder

Speaking during the committee stage debate on the budgetary allocation for the Ministry of Mass Media and Parliamentary Affairs, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said that a compensation plan would be implemented for 44 media persons who were killed due to political reasons under the former regime. He said that President Maithripala Sirisena had also supported the move to pay compensation to these murdered journalists. When he speaks of 44 media personnel having been killed during the previous administration, he is referring to the list put out by media NGOs such as the Media Movement for Democracy (MMD).

The list put out by the MMD of journalists killed since 2004 is by and large acknowledged by other media NGOs such as the Free Media Movement (FMM) which has a more comprehensive list of murdered ‘media persons’ going back to the early 1980s. The list of 44 killings that the prime minister speaks of dates from early 2004, not from late 2005 when the Rajapaksas assumed power. So there is some overlap with the latter part of President Chandrika Kumaratunga’s rule. That may not be any cause for concern for the PM because that too falls into the period of the ‘previous regime’ as far as he is concerned. The list of 44 murdered journalists (as well as others associated with media institutions) compiled by the media NGOs is as follows:

2004 May 31, Aiyathurai Nadesan of the Virakesari ; 2004 August 16, Kandasamy Aiyar Balanadaraja of the Thinamurusu; 2004 December 11, Lanka Jayasundara of the Lankadeepa; 2005 April 28, Dharmaratnam Sivaram of the TamilNet, Daily Mirror and Virakesari; 2005 June 29, Kannamuththu Arsakumar circulation officer of the Elanatham; 2005 August 12, Relangi Selvarasa an announcer of the SLBC; 2005 August 29, David Selvaratnam security guard of the Sudaroli; 2005 September 30, Yogakumar Krishnapillai distribution officer of the Elanatham; 2005 December 2, writer N. Faleel the Kattankudy Divisional Secretary; 2005 December 22, K. Navaratnam Circulation officer of the Thinakkural; 2006 January 24, Subramanium Sugitharajan Trincomalee correspondent of the Sudaroli; 2006 February 1, S. T. Gananathan, who ran a Tamil news agency; 2006 May 3, B. G. Sagayadas circulation manager of the Uthayan; 2006 May 3, Rajaratnam Ranjith Kumar circulation inspector of the Uthayan; 2006 July 2, Lakmal de Silva of the Lakbima; 2006 July 27, Mariyadasan Manojanaraj distribution agent of the Virakesari and Thinakurral; 2006 August 15, Sathasivam Baskaran circulation Dept. of the Uthayan; 2006 August 20, Sinnathamby Sivamaharaja, Manager of the Namathu Elanadu; 2007 February 12, S. Ravindran printing technician of the Namathu Elanadu; 2007 February 15, Subramanium Ramachandran reporter of the Namathu Elanadu; 2007 April 16, Chandrabose Sudakar writer to the Elanatham; 2007 April 29, Selvarasa Rajivarman contributor to the Uthayan and Thinakural ; 2007 August 1, Sahadevan Nilakshan part time writer and university student; 2007 August 21, Sivathamby Sivarasa of the Elanadu; 2007 November 5, A. S. Siddiranjan sales agent of the Yarl Thinakural; 2007 November 17, Vadivelu Nimalaraj proof reader of the Uthayan; 2007 November 27, Isaivishi Chempian of the Voice of Tigers; 2007 November 27, Suresh Limbio technician of the Voice of Tigers; 2007 November 27, T. Dharmalingam of the Voice of Tigers; 2007 December 5, W. Gunasinha reporter of the Divaina; 2008 May 28, P. Devakumar of Shakthi TV; 2008 October 6, Rashmi Mohamed Sirasa TV; 2008 October, Rasaiah Jeyanthiran journalist of the Elanatham; 2009 January 9, Lasantha Wickremetunga of the Sunday Leader; 2009 February 12, Punyamurthy Satyamurthy journalist of the Elanatham; 2009 March 5, Shashi Madan distribution agent of the Elanatham; 2009 March 13, ; distribution agent of the Elanatham; 2009 April 9, Rajkumar Dense, computer operator of the Elanatham; 2009 April 25, Jeyaraja Sushidara printing technician of the Elanatham; 2009 May 14, Anthony Kumar reporter Elanatham; 2009 May 14, Thuraisingham Darshan computer operator of the Elanatham; 2009 May 18, Isaipriya of the LTTE TV station; 2009 May, Tirukulasingham Thavabalan head of the Voice of Tigers

Of these only four are Sinhalese. Lanka Jayasundara of the Lankadeepa was killed on 11 December 2004 in a bomb blast at a musical show in Colombo featuring Sharuk Khan. W. Gunasinha reporter of the Divaina was killed in an LTTE land mine explosion in December 2007 and neither of these deaths can be connected to either the Chandrika Kumaratunga or the Mahinda Rajapaksa governments. The 2006 killing of Lakmal de Silva of the Lakbima is still shrouded in mystery as is the 2009 killing of Lasantha Wickrematunga. With regard to the latter, the then opposition leader and chief opposition whip went so far as to name in parliament the individual who they thought was responsible for Lasantha’s death but since then, there has been absolute silence about Lasantha’s murder even though the disappearance of Prageeth Ekneligoda is being probed. In any case, there is the possibility that state related actors could be involved in both Lakmal Silva’s and Lasantha’s deaths.

There are two Muslims on this list. Of these A. L. M. Faleel may have been a part time writer but he was no media person. He was a public servant – the Divisional Secretary of Kattankudy at the time he was killed. The other Muslim mentioned is Rashmi Mohamed of Sirasa TV, who was killed in the same bomb blast that killed Maj Gen Janaka Perera. Neither of these two deaths can be connected to governments.

The rest of the 38 media persons killed are Tamils. It is important for the government to be aware as to who these Tamil ‘media persons’ are. There is a vibrant if small Tamil mass media in this country. The Virakesari, Thinakural, the Jaffna edition of the latter known as the ‘Yarl Thinakural’, the Uthayan and its sister paper the Sudaroli, the Valampuri and even the Thinamurusu run by the EPDP can be considered the legitimate Tamil media. In addition to these newspapers, there were propaganda organs of the LTTE like the Elamurusu in the 1980s and 1990s and its latter day offshoots the Eelanadu and Namathu Eelanadu. Those working for the Elanadu and Namathu Elanadu and electronic media belonging to the LTTE like the Voice of Tigers are members of the LTTE. About 20 of the 38 Tamil ‘media persons’ listed above were members of the LTTE. In practical terms, there may be only a marginal difference in the ideological trajectory of a legitimate Tamil newspaper like the Uthayan and the Eelandu which belonged to the LTTE. But, one newspaper is run as a part of the private media industry whereas the other is a part of a terrorist organisation. There is a difference. When the prime minister says that the government is going to pay compensation to the families of 44 journalists killed by the previous regime they include these 20 LTTE cadres. The government has obviously not done a study to find out who these murdered ‘journalists’ are. The prime minister comes from a family with deep roots in the media industry. He, of all people, should be aware that if 44 real journalists had been killed by the government, the media industry would have ceased to exist. Nobody would have joined a mediorganisation and even those already working in the industry would have been looking for other jobs. Only about 10 of the names mentioned above, Lasantha Wickremetunga, D. Sivaram, Kandasamay Balanadaraja, Lanka Jayasundera, Relangi Selvarasa, Subramanium Sugitharajan, Lakmal de Silva, W. Gunasinha, P. Devakumar and Rashmi Mohamed can be considered journalists in the proper sense of the term. Of these, half were killed by the LTTE. State related actors can be suspected only in the case of Lasantha Wickrematunga, Lakmal de Silva and S. Sugitharajan. D. Sivaram and Lanka Jayasundera were killed by non-LTTE, non-state actors. In the case of Sivaram, it was proved to be the doing of a rival Tamil group.

If you eliminate the LTTE cadres from the list of Tamil media persons killed, there still are a fair number of Tamil persons left on the list. If one looks at the profiles of the murdered Tamil ‘media persons’ who were not directly working for the LTTE, it can be seen that it was far more dangerous to work in the circulation or administrative department of a Tamil newspaper than to be a journalist. It can be the case that when one needs to stop a newspaper from circulating, one way to do that is to terrorise those distributing it. The JVP also tried similar tactics in the late 1980s. So, even though many of those killed were not journalists in the proper sense of the term, they, too, should be taken into account in talking of the suppression of the media.

In any event, the government should be very careful as to who it pays compensation to on the basis that they were journalists. As a journalist myself, I wish to register my protest at lumping Lasantha Wickrematunga with LTTE cadres involved in running the Tiger newspaper. Sivaram was an LTTE supporter, but he had an identity as a journalist independent of his connection to the LTTE. The prime minister should be aware that these figures of journalists supposedly killed by the Rajapaksa government were compiled by media NGOs who have a vested interest in inflating data relating to media suppression. Such tainted figures and data should not form the basis for governmental decision making.

The much longer list of murdered media personnel compiled by the Free Media Movement has actually listed the editor of ‘Wedihanda’ the newsletter of the JVP’s death squad in the late 1980s as a murdered newspaper editor! According to the MMD list reproduced above those who served in the LTTE propaganda arm have also been considered journalists. Is it too much to ask that journalists in legitimate private media organisations be distinguished from terrorists? It is one thing for a media NGO to compile lists lumping real journalists and terrorists together but it will be another thing altogether for a government to pay compensation to dead terrorists on the grounds that they were media persons. If the government wants to pay compensation for real journalists killed, they should perhaps get the relevant list from a body like the Editor’s Guild which has real newspaper editors as members.

-C. A. Chandraprema


Govt. postpones amendments to Penal Code

Government has decided to postpone the enactment of legislations to ban hate speech, Leader of the House Lakshman Kiriella informed Parliament today.

Mr. Kiriella who responded to a question raised by Opposition MP Dinesh Gunawardane on the matter, said the Bills pertaining to amendments to Penal code and Code of Criminal Proceedings will not be taken up on January 8, 2016.

He said a final decision on the matter will be made later.

-Yohan Perera

NPC not used a cent for development: Douglas

The Northern Provincial Council (NPC) had become a meaningless institution as it had not used a single cent out of the funds allocated for it by the Central Government, Opposition MP Douglas Devananda told Parliament today.

Mr. Devananda who is an MP representing the Northern District of Jaffna said the funds allocated for the provincial council even in 2013 and 2014 had not been utilized.

He questioned as to whether the Central government would take any steps to reclaim the unutilized funds from the provincial council.

Mr. Devananda recalled that even the ENDLF and EPRLF alliance which formed the North East Provincial council had failed to fulfil political aspirations of the people in the area.

Further, he said the NPC is special compared to other provincial councils as it has to serve a group of people who had been battered by the war.

Leader of the House Lakshman Kiriella who responded, said Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe would make a statement on the matter in Parliament soon.

-Yohan Perera

IS leanings put 16-year-old from Pune under ATS radar

A 16-year-old college girl from Pune, who was allegedly in touch with arrested Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) executive Mohammed Sirajuddin, has been put under surveillance for her suspected links with the Islamic State (IS), assistant commissioner of police Bhanupratap Barge of the anti-terrorism squad, Pune unit, said on Thursday.
Sirajuddin had formed closed groups of IS sympathizers, including boys and girls from Maharashtra, on Facebook and WhatsApp. He was allegedly spreading IS activities online and trying to recruit Indian youths for the terrorist group. He was arrested in Jaipur last week.
The girl, from an elite, city-based Muslim family, was deeply influenced by IS activities and radicalized online. She was in regular touch with many sympathizers of the dreaded terrorist group, Barge said.
“We have kept the girl under surveillance,” Barge said. “Efforts are on to de-radicalize her. Her parents, religious scholars and Muslim community leaders have been asked to help.” Religious scholars have been told to sensitise the girl about Islam and how the IS is wrong, he said.
Officials said the girl was in touch with Sirajuddin and was about to visit Iran or Syria because IS members were ready to bear her medical education and other expenses. They had told her that she should be in a position to do anything in her country for Islam, they said.
Technical investigations and contacts helped the ATS identify the girl, a Class XI science student in a city-based college. During investigations, the ATS discovered that the girl has around 200 friends on Facebook. She was regularly interacting with IS sympathizers on WhatsApp and Twitter and exchanging mails with people in Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Jammu & Kashmir and Karnataka, and countries such as the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Dubai, Saudi Arabia, Kenya and some in Europe.
ATS additional director general of police Vivek Phansalkar and special inspector general of police Niket Kaushik had received reliable information that some young boys and girls from Pune were in regular touch with IS through social-networking sites.
Investigations showed that the girl was attracted to the IS ideology while watching a television channel four months ago. She began searching for more information on IS on internet portals and established contact with an IS agent in Sri Lanka.
ATS officials said the girl began believing that the world should follow an Islamic ideology and Muslims in India should “do anything for the sake of Islam”. Her parents noticed a sudden change in her behaviour. She gave up wearing T-shirts, jeans and dresses to college and began to sport a burqa.
“We have not registered a complaint against the girl because she is a minor and she did not radicalize others,” Barge told TOI. “As part of our national programme, we have undertaken an exercise for the past eight days to de-radicalize her with support from her parents.”
Barge said they had prevented the girl from joining IS. “The girl has shown remarkable signs of improvement because she has realized that she has done something wrong,” he said.
Teams have been sent to collect more details of Sirajuddin and other ATS units have been alerted. They have information about IS sympathizers who were constantly in touch with the Pune girl.
The ATS Pune unit has told parents with children in the 14-20 age group to contact them if they notice a change in their behaviour to prevent them from following the IS. Parents should monitor the activities of their children and keep a watch on their social-media interactions, the unit said.

John lashes Ravi’s Budget

Minister of Tourism and Christian Affairs, John Amaratunga yesterday said taxes being imposed on several sectors affiliated to the tourism industry by the Budget 2016 proposals would realistically result in obstacles to development objectives.

The Minister said that Budget 2016 had imposed serious constraints on development making it difficult to sustain several progressive measures in the tourism industry.

“By developing the tourism industry, we intend creating about 500,000 youth employment opportunities in the country. It is through further streamlining development of the tourism industry that this country can earn its biggest revenue. The failure of Budget 2016 to allocate sufficient funds to the tourism sector to enable it to sustain its long-term developments projects has become an issue now. Sufficient funds have also not been set apart for the Christian Affairs Ministry as well,” the Minister said.


Systems ‘Go’ for all Chinese projects

The government will go ahead with all Chinese projects and other foreign funded projects undertaken by the previous regime, said Co-Cabinet Spokesman, Minister Rajitha Senaratne yesterday. The minister said at the weekly Cabinet briefing yesterday that it was too late to cancel anything as many of the projects had already been started with all agreements finalized in relation to all projects.

Controversy was sparked when the new government suspended Chinese funded programmes, notably the US$ 1.4 million Colombo Port City Project, earlier this year.

“We only said that we would halt ongoing work on such projects to plug corruption connected to them. We are not against Chinese investment in the country,” Senaratne added. He said government expected to receive the full Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report by January 2016 and the Chinese company could resume work thereafter. The Chinese investor would however, only receive land on a 99-year lease.

The minister added, government would have to pay the Chinese company compensation for the six month delay in their work and for the damages incurred during the time that the government was re-evaluating the project.
While the government criticized its predecessor for cozying up to the Chinese, Cabinet this week approved the Chinese loans for the projects to improve the Southern Transport System (EXIM Bank China) and the Central Highway Project (Metallurgical Corporation of China). The government also pacified India with the decision to buy trains on an Indian loan scheme.

Zahrah Imtiaz