Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Sri Lanka government defeated by private sector employees

(May 31, 2011,  Lanka PolitySri Lanka's ruling Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) Central Committee that met under the patronage of party leader President Mahinda Rajapaksa yesterday evening unanimously decided to hold the proposed private sector pension scheme temporarily.

The decision drew a close resemblance with the socialist dictatorships of the former Eastern Block in which the central Committee of the Communist Party was the actual governing council of Sri Lanka.

The Central Committee decided to reconsider the bill and to hold it until a new bill that they say suits the needs of the private sector employees is drafted.

SLFP central committee granted powers to the the parliamentary group of the ruling coalition to proceed with the matter. They say they will call for consultation from the trade unions and public, a step that could have taken prior to draft the bill. This proves that democracy  is not default in this system and it is something that should be won through struggles.

Meanwhile, the government also decided to close the Free Trade Zone in Katunayaka today to establish 'industrial' peace. Peace for them is just industrial peace. It is the peace that is needed by the investors to run their production process.

The employees of the Free Trade Zone held protests continuously and yesterday clashed with police injuring 15 police personnel including a Deputy Inspector General. Police used tear gas to disperse them. Mainstream media did not report that 230 employees of the Free Trade Zone in Katunayakewho were injured by the police attack and they been admitted Negombo Hospital, as reported by Lanka Truth website.

Sri Lanka government early yesterday said they had decided to exempt the employees working in the Free Trade Zones and the affiliated industry from the proposed Private Sector Pension Scheme, reported the official website of the Government Information Department.

The proposed private sector pension scheme (PSPS) would be optional and employees could obtain their contributions with interest if they leave a job before mandatory 120 months to be eligible for the pension benefits, the government said. It was a clear change from the original plan to give such employees only 60% of what they saved without interest when they reached the age of 60 years.

The workers of the Katunayaka Free Trade Zone of Sri Lanka launched a wave of protests against the proposed private sector pension scheme.

Sources from the Free Trade Zone said that the Marxist People's Liberation Front (JVP) led Inter Company Employees' Union was behind the protests.

The government's decision to take a step back is a real victory to the workers and also to the JVP too.

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Friday, May 27, 2011

Non academic staff of Sri Lanka's universities warns to strike

(May 27, 2011,  Lanka PolityWhile the struggle of Sri Lanka's university teachers is dragging without a solution, the non-academic staff of the universities also threatened strike action unless their demands are granted within a fortnight.

R.M. Chandrapala, the Chairman of the Inter University Trade Union Federation (IUTUF) said that the executive committee of the federation that represents 10 trade unions came to this decision recently.

He said that the decision of the IUTUF was informed to the President Mahinda Rajapaksa, the Minister of Higher Education S.B. Disanayaka, the secretary of the Ministry of Higher Education Sunil Jayantha Nawarathna and the Chairman of the University Grants Commission Gamini Samaranayaka in writing.

The trade union official said that the Minister of Higher Education S.B. Disanayaka breached the promise to the university non academic staff to grant the promised other half of the salary increase that was given in 2007 after a strike.

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Isolated open dwelling places for the stray dogs of Sri Lanka

(May 27, 2011,  Lanka PolitySri Lanka's health authorities have planned to establish isolated open dwelling places for the stray dogs.

The first of such canine dwelling grounds is to be established in a two acre land in Anuradhapura for the stray dogs in the area.

The government says it has stopped execution of stray dogs as a policy and spends around Rs. 200 million per annum for sterilization programmes for dogs.

Sri lanka Ministry of Health says that 2000 to 2500 dog bites are reported everyday in Sri Lanka. Most of these dog bites are treated in government hospitals and a single vaccination costs Rs. 30,000 for the government.

The cost for treatment for dog bites cost Rs. 500 million to the public coffers.

Sri Lanka's dog population is believed 2.5 million and the majority of them are stray dogs.

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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Twenty Sri Lankans die everyday due to smoking

(May 26, 2011,  Lanka PolityThe Chairman of Sri Lanka Tobacco and Alcohol Authority Prof. Carlo Fonseka says that 60 Sri Lankans die everyday due to illnesses caused by smoking.

Citing the latest research reports, the medical professor said that every year 20,000 persons die due to excessive smoking.

The professor accused that the tobacco companies have programmes to make the people addicted to nicotine in tobacco since very young ages.

The authority has planned programmes to prevent people from smoking to mark the World Anti-Smoking Day that falls on May 31.

Under the Mahinda Chinthana policy of the President Mahinda Rajapaksa, publicity on smoking has been banned in Sri Lanka. Selling cigarettes to under aged and smoking in public places have also been banned. Government has imposed heavy taxes on tobacco and that income is one of the most lucrative sources of income of the government.

However, not only the official reports, but also the public observances show that there is a trend of decline in smoking in Sri Lanka. The government can spend the tax money for education on smoking and also to create alternate activities for the people to engage.

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Saturday, May 21, 2011

Sri Lanka foreign policy pendulum swings from India to China this time

(May 21, 2011,  Lanka Polity) As soon as the official visit to India ended without apparent success, Sri Lanka Minister of External Affairs Prof. G.L. Peiris will leave for an official tour in China on May 23.

The Foreign Minister's tour is on an invitation of his counterpart in China, Sri Lanka Ministry of External Affairs say.

Minister Peiris is to have bilateral talks with the Foreign Minister of China and other senior politicians and officials during his two day visit.

A Foreign Ministry spokesman said that the Minister wished to raise the issues pertaining to the UN panel report on Sri Lanka at these discussions.

Same facts were reported in advance to the Foreign Minister's tour in India but the statements at the end of the tour lacked what the government aimed regarding the 'Darusman' report.

Sri Lanka's pendulum behavior of  swinging between India and China is symbolized through this tour. The foreign policy of the island nation seemed to be manipulating the interests of these two countries in relation to the Indian Ocean.

If you do not support us, we will go to your enemy is Sri Lanka's foreign policy. The defeated Tamil rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam (LTTE) also dis the same in between Europe and US.

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Friday, May 20, 2011

What a time bomb Sri Lanka's Eastern Province Chief Minister Pillaiyan is sitting on!

(May 20, 2011,  Lanka PolitySri Lanka government sources say that the Tamil People's Liberation Tigers (TMVP) party led by Eastern Province Chief Minister Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan agreed to corporate with the government further as TMVP delegation met the President Mahinda Rajapaksa yesterday.

The TMVP leader and the Chief Minister raised the problems he and his party men were facing. A team of Army reportedly raided the house of the Chief Minister without a warrant, as TMVP accuses. It is reported that the President instructed the Inspector General of Police to take measures to conduct investigations in line with the law and to pay due respect to the privileges of the Eastern Province Chief Minister.

Then who ordered the raids, if the President is against them? Some media reported that the raid was conducted under the orders of the Defense Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa.

The Police was also instructed by the President to speed up investigations regarding the arrested TMVP provincial councilor Pradeep Master. He was arrested last week in suspicion for the killing of a coordinating secretary of Deputy Minister Vinayagamurthi Muralitharan, a rival of the TMVP.

The President reportedly highlighted at the meeting the need of respect by all sections of the society to the rule of law.

The Minister of Economic Development Basil Rajapaksa, Central Province Chief Minister Sarath Ekanayaka, Inspector General of Police Mahinda Balasuriya and President's Secretary Lalith Weerathunga also participated in the discussion.

Central Province Chief Minister Sarath Ekanayaka appears as the person who arranged the meeting for Pillaiya. That means Pillaiyan has no very good rapport with the President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

The clashes between paramilitary politicians Deputy Minister Karuna Amman and the Chief Minister Pillaiyan haunt the Batticaloa district since a long time. Karuna who nearly lost the entire ground and fled to UK once to be arrested and imprisoned there for breach of immigration laws fought back after returning to the home country.

He somehow won the heart of the ruling family and elevated into national politics as a Deputy Minister and a Vice President of the ruling Sri Lanka Freedom Party.

The killings that took place in Batticloa last week appears as a direct clash between these two paramilitary leaders.

However, with Karuna's advent to the ruling family, Pillaiyan is in a very disadvantaged position. He seems sitting on a time bomb as metaphorically said by certain media. It is a time bomb of which the remote controller is in other people's hand. It may be in the hands of his arch rival Karuna.

One thing is definite. Pillaiyan who has been sidelined by the government will not be able to win a future election for a Provincial council or any other set up that will be created in future, especially in a context the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) has reappeared and invaded the main stream politics of Tamil polity.

However, Karuna will cling to power still preventing his enemy's hold. Power is power and the color of the power will not be a matter to Karuna. Poor Pillaiyan! Unknown gunmen killed the Chief Minister's secretary at Athurugiriya some times back. Culprits are yet to arrested.

Lanka-e-News that appears since recently a pro-Pillaiyan media says that Pillaiyan has the widest support of the former paramilitary cadres. It also hints that Pillaiyan has a huge arms cache as well.

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Thursday, May 19, 2011

Why military style leadership training for university students of Sri Lanka?

(May 19, 2011,  Lanka PolitySri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa will inaugurate the so called 'leadership and positive attitude training course' of the new intake of university students on May 23.

The Ministry of Higher Education has made this course compulsory for the students. One who fails to follow this course without valid reason cannot enter into a university to follow a formal course. This condition appears to be a violation of human rights and definitely it will be raised in the courts, if enacted as per what is meant by the calling letter for this course.

The ceremonial inauguration will be held with the participation of the 10,000 students that are to be taken in for the training as the first group of the batch. All 20,000 students of the 2011 batch are to be trained under the programme.

They will be provided training at 28 training centers under the Defense Ministry. The duration of the training course is three weeks.

The authorities have not clearly indicated why the Ministry of Higher Education opted to the military to provide leadership training while the university system had better teachers for such course. The university teachers' associations that have focused their attention primarily to the salary issue for which they are struggling keep mum regarding this training.

The Minister of Higher Education S.B. Disanayaka said that the programme was not a military training although it would be held in military camps. The male and female students are provided with separate lodgings in hostels and the Ministry has taken steps to guarantee the security of the students, he says.

The military style training of the university students seem to be also a post-war situation. The massive military machine that was created for the war with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam (LTTE) may be idling without meaningful tasks to their caliber. That can be one reason the government wants them to be engaged in a task like this that can earn them back a kind of respect from an elite section of the society. It is true that the military machine absorbed a good portion of the highly skilled labor of the country. Therefore, the military may adapt to the new responsibilities.

Certain sections of the polity, especially the leftists, argue that this is another move of the government to militarize the society. However, the argument inherits the counter argument itself since the move can also be a measure to demilitarize Army through actions by which they are made to engage more in non-military activities.

Yet one thing is crystal clear. A country cannot be militarized when military has no powerful enemy to engage in a war.

This can be another poor perception of the education authorities of Sri Lanka who still think that all university students are JVP members. They wonder how the JVP recruits them and think that it is done through the brainwashing conducted in ragging. Then the higher education authorities seem to take the ragging and brainwashing to their hand. The Hon. Minister of Higher Education has told that the leadership training is an action to stop ragging in universities.

The standards of the university education system in Sri Lanka is deteriorating rapidly according to some academics. Will this so called leadership training speed it up? Perhaps, this can be the intention of the government that is promoting pay universities or the private universities. The parents that do not like military style leadership training will be able to send their children to private universities when they are opened.

Leadership training is not a basic requirement to enter the private universities. Are they not making leaders?

Leaders are the people like S.B. Disanayaka, Hon. Minister of Higher Education who changes parties time to time to cling to leadership. He was once in fame of building a massive mansion in Hanguranketha. The house was named by state media under Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumarathunga as Samurdhi Mahal since the Minister held the post of Minister of Samurdhi (Poverty Alleviation). The Minister was also jailed for two years by Supreme Court for contempt of court. Later he was pardoned by the President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Elections for the rest of the local government bodies to be held on same day in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka Election Secretariat says that the Ministry of Local Government and Provincial Councils will take action to hold the elections for all the remaining local government authorities on the same day. However, the Ministry has not been affirmative of the wish of the Election Secretariat yet.

Sri Lanka government did not call for nominations for 23 local government bodies including capital city Colombo Municipal Council citing the Cricket World Cup although some of the councils situated very far from the cricket esplanades.

The elections of 67 local government bodies were postponed mainly due to judiciary action caused by petitions filed against the rejection of nominations.

The Court of Appeal is to deliver the judgement regarding these councils on May 12. The verdict was to be delivered on May 05 but it postponed due to one judge of the bench was sick on that day.

Meanwhile, a legal issue has been erupted since the postponed election will not be held before May 30 because the 2009 voters' list that was valid when the nominations were called is to expire on May 31.
Sri Lanka has 335 local government authorities. Elections were held on March 17 for 234 of them. elections for 90 of them are expected to be held in June now. In 2008 elections were held for 9 local authorities in Batticaloa District and in 2009 elections were held for 2 local authorities in the Northern Province.

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White handkerchief marks protest against forcible cremation by the government of Sri Lanka

Sri Lankan civil society is silently but strongly marking their protest against the government's inhuman  forcible  cremation of a 20-da...