Thursday, October 01, 2009

A political dynasty rises in Sri Lanka

Feizal Samath - With Sri Lanka heading for a prolonged bout of elections in the next six to eight months, a new political dynasty is in the making with more members of President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s extended family taking to politics.

Parliamentary polls are due before April and the government has said it would call a presidential poll by the end of December or early next year.

Some local council elections are also on the cards. According to the country’s constitution, Mr Rajapaksa can call a presidential election after he completes four years of his six-year term. This happens next month.

Government ministers have repeatedly said the president will call an election in the next six months to take advantage of his huge popularity following the success of the military in crushing a 25-year insurgency by Tamil separatists, a battle no one thought could be won by government forces.

Mr Rajapaksa, 64, has two brothers, Chamal and Basil, who are influential ruling parliamentarians while another, Gotabhaya, is the powerful defence secretary.

According to newspaper and website reports, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, Namal Rajapaksa, the president’s eldest son, and Shashendra Rajapaksa, Chamal’s son, will probably contest the forthcoming parliamentary polls, and if they succeed, the Rajapaksa clan would extend to six members in politics at the same time. President Rajapaksa’s cousin, Nirupama, is also a parliamentarian.

Shashendra Rajapaksa, the nephew, led a highly successful campaign for the ruling party during a regional council poll in Uva province. He won 85 per cent of the vote in August. The parliamentary elections is a bigger stake for him.

According to Sirisena Hettige, the head of the sociology department of the University of Colombo, political dynasties in a country such as Sri Lanka are a problem because “we have not moved to a society where there is a balance between traditionalism and modernisation”.

India, he said, was a good example of how societies were able to manage tradition vis-√†-vis modern times. “In India, intellectual capability is recognised by the people side by side with traditional values and that’s why you have an eminent economist, [who is] also a member of the minority community, as the prime minister,” he said. Manmohan Singh is a member of the Sikh community.

“Intellectuals … don’t appeal to the masses, unlike in India,” Prof Hettige said.

Apart from President Rajapaksa, who is likely to win re-election based on his popularity and lack of a strong opposition candidate, the widely accepted view in Colombo is that his brother Basil is a potential presidential candidate in a future election or could take a powerful post in government, a member of the Rajapaksa family said in an interview.

Basil is a parliamentarian and powerful adviser to his brother, and is tipped to be appointed prime minister or foreign minister in a future cabinet, the family member said on condition of anonymity.

Such a dynasty-in-the-making is not a rarity on this island nation. The Bandaranaikes saw its patriarch, Solomon Dias, become prime minister in the early 1960s followed by his wife, Sirima, after the former was assassinated by a Buddhist monk.

In the mid-1990s, their daughter Chandrika was elected president in a cabinet where her mother served as prime minister. The Bandaranaikes’ son Anura was also an influential politician and served as foreign minister before his death.

Most political families in South Asia emerged from a background of wealth, aristocracy and feudalism, but the Rajapaksa clan is from a middle-class background as, the member of the family described, “those owning land in villages”.

© The National

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Thursday, October 01, 2009

JVP complains to Supreme Court of discrimination

By S.S. Selvanayagam - Candidates of the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) have complained to the Supreme Court that only they have been named as suspects in respect of the alleged display of their party symbol (the bell) on the highways despite rival United Peoples Freedom Alliance (UPFA) candidates too displaying the betel leaf symbol and words in support of such candidates on the very same roads.

The petitions were filed by the JVP candidates for the Hambantota District in the forthcoming Southern Provincial Council elections.

The petitioners also allege that although the police has promptly filed the ‘B’ report naming the petitioners as suspects, neither the Road Development Authority (RDA) nor the police have taken any steps against the candidates of the UPFA contesting the same elections even though the betel leaf symbol and words in support of such candidates are demonstrably drawn on the very same roads.

The petitioners are S.K. Wahalathanthri, P. Ramanayaka, J. Wanniarachchi, A. Welandagoda, I.T. Medaduwage, M.G. Nandasena, M. Sugathadasa, C. Welhenage, P.R. Senarath, K.S.P.L. Hennadige, M.P.N.J. Muthumala, H.L. Jayasiri, L. Chandradasa, S.C. Yapa and S.H. Sujith.

The petitioners state that they received notices requiring them to appear before the District/Magistrate’s Court of Tangalle in respect of purported charges of mischief done to roads belonging to the RDA.

The petitioners state that the ‘B’ report was filed in the court by Inspector Suwaris naming them as suspects and the investigations had revealed that the said acts were done with the approval of and according to the needs of the said JVP candidates.

The petitioners allege that although Inspector Suwaris had stated in the said ‘B’ report that he had conducted an investigation on the complaint of a RDA Executive Engineer neither the petitioners themselves nor any of their supporters have even been questioned as to the said alleged offences.

The petitioners allege that the respondents have acted maliciously towards the petitioners purely due to their political affiliation with the JVP, in a discriminatory manner and on grounds of political opinion.

© Daily Mirror

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Thursday, October 01, 2009

Cairn seeks two offshore rigs for drilling in India, Sri Lanka

Cairn Energy Plc, the U.K.-listed explorer focused on India, wants to hire two offshore drilling rigs as it seeks new oil and gas deposits in South Asia, New Delhi based web agencies said yesterday.

An agency report said: The explorer called for bids for one rig each in India and Sri Lanka, according to an advertisement in the New Delhi edition of the Economic Times newspaper today. Cairn plans to drill in Sri Lanka by January 2011 and off India’s east coast by October 2010.

Cairn started output from its biggest field in India last month. The number of rigs used by oil and gas explorers in Asia fell 9 percent in August as the global recession sapped demand for energy and reduced credit, according to data from Baker Hughes Inc.

The explorer wants to hire a drillship or a semi- submersible rig in Sri Lanka. A drillship currently costs about $250,000 a day and a semi-submersible rig about $280,000, according to

Cairn plans to drill three wells with an option to drill two more in a deepwater block in the Gulf of Mannar in Sri Lanka, according to the advertisement. It plans to drill three wells with an option on an additional three in a shallow-water area off the coast of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh states in partnership with Oil & Natural Gas Corp. and Tata Petrodyne Ltd.

Sri Lanka awarded its first exploration rights for an offshore block to Cairn India Ltd. last year after evaluating proposals for one of three blocks offered through competitive bidding.

© The Island

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Thursday, October 01, 2009

'GSP+ rejected due to human rights violation' says JVP Parlimentarian

By Hemanthi Guruge - The European Union had rejected the GSP+ concession to Sri Lankan garment industry because of the human rights violation in the country, JVP MP K.D. Lalkantha said yesterday.

Addressing the 1st anniversary of the Railway Technologist’s Union yesterday he said that the government should protect human rights to get GSP+ concession to Sri Lanka.

“Government said that rejection of GSP+ is a conspiracy. About 85% of votes from the Southern Provincial council election need to defeat conspiracy”, the MP said. He also said about 11 Journalists have been killed during the past three and half years but the government had not taken action to arrest the suspects involved in there killing.

About 50 Journalists left the country as a result of the political problem and he has got the list of names and present residences of the journalists who have left the country, Lalkantha said.

The European Union had considered these factors in granting the GSP+ concessions.

The garment industry is the second largest income earner in the country and thousands are working in these factories, the MP said.

Meanwhile the MP has visited the Southern area for the election campaign during past few weeks and he has been notified of the issues of the people in the area. He also said these people are not satisfied with their living conditions.

© Daily Mirror

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