Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Journalist unions condemn attack on media in Deniyaya

By Kurulu Kariyakarawana - Condemning the brutal attack on media personnel who went to cover the misuse of state property in constructing a private road in Deniyaya along with a group of UNP parliamentarians, independent election monitoring bodies and journalist unions expressed their displeasure yesterday.

Centre for Free and Fair Elections (CAFFE) issuing a statement said that they are highly concerned about the attack on five journalists who went with a group of UNP parliamentarians to cover the progress of a private road allegedly being constructed using state machinery leading to Bevaraliaya Estate in Deniyaya on Sunday.

It stated that the public is highly concerned about the activities of political parties especially during an election period and it is not uncommon to see how media is greatly concerned to cover such activities or events in order to report to the public.Obstructing, harassing and assaulting journalists engaged in duty had been utterly condemned by CAFFE requesting competent authorities to ensure the right and safety of journalists to cover the news in an election period.

Meanwhile newly formed National Forum for Journalists (NFJ) expressing its deep displeasure said that they were disgusted by the brutal attack on five journalists in Deniyaya saying it depicts the government’s abhorrence look on the media. The NFJ appealed to the President and the law enforcing authorities to conduct an impartial inquiry into the incident and bring the culprits to book immediately.

© Daily Mirror

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Tuesday, October 06, 2009

More election related violence reported from South

The Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) has confirmed 63 incidents of election related violence. Of these 17 have been categorized as Major and 46 as Minor.

Incidents of violence are increasingly being reported from the Galle District. Eleven (11) of the 17 Major incidents have been reported from there. Most of the minor incidents, 28 out of the 63 have been recorded from the same district.

The CMEV has recorded a total 22 incidents from the Hambantota District and 13 from the Matara District.

It is alleged that a group of supporters of Sajin de Vas Goonawardana (Candidate No. 25) of the UPFA for the Galle district had assaulted a group of supporters of Nishantha Muthuhettigamage (Candidate No. 20), another UPFA candidate in the same district on 2nd October 2009 in the Ahangama Police Division. A complaint has been lodged with the Ahangama police by T. Himal Kumara, stating that the alleged perpetrators – the supporters of Sajin de Vas Goonawardana had assaulted them with swords, wooden batons and that Daya Hemantha, a supporter of Nishantha Muthuhettigamage, had allegedly been kidnapped and robbed of Rs. 1,700.

A CMEV monitor visited the Karapitiya hospital on October 3, 2009 and reported that two victims of the incident D. H. Kumara and P. M. L. Senevirathne had been admitted for treatment. The CMEV contacted the OIC of Ahangama police and was informed that no suspects had been arrested and that further investigations were underway.

On October 3, 2009 at around 10.00 p.m. three supporters of JVP candidate Priyantha Rajapaksha (Candidate No. 19), namely Ranjith Nishantha, Jinadasa and L. K. Dayananda were assaulted by a group of supporters of UPFA candidate Sarath Weerawansa (Candidate No. 05).

Jinadasa sustained injuries to his head while Ranjith Nishantha’s leg was injured in the attack. They were admitted to the Morawaka District Hospital.

When CMEV contacted Priyantha Rajapakse, he stated that the supporters were attacked while pasting posters in the Morawaka town for the JVP meeting scheduled for October 5 at the Sanath Jayasooriya Stadium. He alleged that the supporters were assaulted by the groups of supporters of UPFA candidates, Weerawansa and Chandima Rasaputhra (Candidate No. 12), who came in four vehicles. He also stated that the perpetrators had threatened them by brandishing a pistol and that Weerawansa was seen inside the car when the incident occurred.

The CMEV contacted Weerawansa and he stated that they were obstructed and a side mirror of his vehicle was damaged by a group of JVP supporters when they were returning after a meeting. He further mentioned that a clash occurred between the two groups of supporters and that he instructed his supporters to leave the place soon in order to calm the situation. However, two of their vehicles were taken into custody by the Pitabedda Police, acting on a message from the Morawaka police. Their vehicles were returned to them after two hours.

Prabath Deshapriya, OIC Morawaka Police, stated that a compliant had been lodged by Ranjith Nishantha on October 3 and that a counter complaint has also been made with the Pitabeddara Police by UPFA candidate Sarath Weerawansa in this regard. He further stated, that investigations are being carried out by the Morawaka police and that the vehicles taken into custody were released on Police bail by the Pitabeddara Police.

The CMEV noted that as Polling Day approaches, both inter and intra party clashes have increased thereby creating a context of political violence in all three districts of the Southern province. Therefore, the CMEV called on the leaders of the political parties, the Election Commissioner and the Police to take immediate and effective steps to curb the violence perpetrated by various candidates and supporters which are clear threats to the integrity of the electoral process and democracy in Sri Lanka, the CMVE said.

© The Island

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Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Sri Lanka seeks foreign cash for war-displaced

Sri Lanka will tap foreign donors to raise more cash to look after over 250,000 people displaced by its offensive against Tamil Tiger rebels, a minister said Monday.

"We are drawing up a fresh appeal to meet our running costs next year that will include funds for livelihood support and resettlement projects," Minister of Disaster Management Mahinda Samarasinghe told reporters in the capital Colombo.

Sri Lanka already received 225 million dollars in aid pledges just before the fighting ended in May to look after civilians who lost their homes, he said.

Some 195 million dollars of that pledge money has been received so far, Samarasinghe added.

He declined to say how much Sri Lanka was hoping to receive for next year.

But the sum sought from foreign donors would be "much, much more than the 225 million dollars raised this year," the minister said.

He made the remarks before a meeting attended by representatives of the Sri Lankan government, various UN agencies, the Red Cross and diplomatic officials.

The money is given both directly and through multilateral organisations.

Sri Lanka has detained at least 250,000 Tamils in camps since the end of the island's ethnic conflict six months ago.

The government, which promised the UN it would re-settle all people displaced during decades of war by January, says it must detain the civilians until they are screened to see who are former Tiger fighters.


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Tuesday, October 06, 2009

250 suicides committed during past 4 months

Two hundred and fifty persons have committed suicide in the Kurunegala district during the past four months.

According to D. K. Amarasinghe, City Coroner, Kurunegala, 98 per cent of these suicides have been committed by eating poisonous seeds. Most of them were in the age group of 15 to 25 years. Most of the suicides committed by eating poisonous seeds were reported from Polpithigama, Maho, Ganewatta, Wellawa and Gokarella areas.

"During the last two weeks I had to hold inquiries into 12 such deaths. Reasons like broken love affairs, unemployment and poverty have led to these deaths. We all should get together and implement special programmes to make the young males and females aware of the value of human life. Otherwise the number of such deaths will increase," the City Coroner said.

© The Island

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Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Sri Lanka's internment camps for Tamils: experience of an inmate

South Asia has never witnessed such a large scale, state-organized crime as one committed on Eezham Tamils by the government of Sri Lanka. Perhaps the world has never witnessed hitherto that such a crime of internment camps for civilians could be initiated collectively by all the powers of the world and the UN, and could be left like this without anyone being able to do anything about it. A civilian woman who was a captive in the Zone 3 of the internment camp of Menik Farm for four months, and managed to come out by ‘other means’ a month ago, writes on her experience in the camp – an indelible shame for the so-called civilised world.

Menik Farm is divided into five zone camps. Each zone has a Tamil ‘figure head’ from the administrative service receiving orders from Sinhala civil servants who work closely with the military. The Tamil ‘figure head’ and all other interned staff take orders from the military.

On occasional visits by dignitaries, she writes, “Then a van with video cameras drove by and started throwing bread and some “sambol” at the inmates crowded behind the office. The inmates rushed competing for the bread while the amused cameramen were videoing. Inmates on many occasions have told me of seeing similar scenes being videoed.”

Gun and stick (long baton rods) wielding military control the inmates at all times.

Reporting misbehaviour of the military could be fatal, she writes: I asked one senior government employee inmate if this misconduct by the military ought to be reported. I was told that if I attempt anything like that I will “disappear.”

The wind during June/July was extreme and it was like living permanently in a sandstorm. Everyone was covered with sand that will come raining down every few minutes. There were a couple of heavy downpours soon after we arrived in the camp. Some of the camps in the lower lying areas were flooded.

The toilets are only less than five meters from my tent and the smell was strong when the emptying of the toilet pits is not carried out in time, which is always the case. When there is water shortage, which is frequent, concern about how one is going to use the toilet becomes the most serious problem of the day, surpassing the problems of food, health and other major issues.

I have never seen flies and mosquitoes in such numbers in my life. While eating, one hand is fully occupied with chasing the flies; a practice that children will not adopt thus consuming food contaminated by flies that come straight from the toilets very nearby.

The campsites are zigzagged with open canals that take away the dirty water. This is the best breeding area for the mosquitoes and the water in the canal is always covered with a thick layer of mosquitoes lying low during the daytime ready for swamping once the sun sets.

The very first commercial event in the camp after our arrival was the bank. Banking advertisements were the most prolific in the camp and everyone knew that they were all competing for the savings of the war refugees now interned in terrible conditions.

Other sellers came along and curiously all of these sellers were Sinhalese except for an odd Muslim seller.

Most of the items brought in for sale were those that could be sold with big profit like ice-cream, soda, and biscuits. Basic needs, such as sun hats for children were not sold. Anyone who visited the camp could see very young children roaming around without a hat, one cause for the frequent illness suffered by the children. It was a profit driven retailing with no concern for the people and the inmates understood this clearly.

The UNHCR staff inquired the Tamil officers about vegetables and they were told that Tamil officers have been instructed by the Vavuniya District Secretariat that no vegetables are to be given to inmates. This remained the case until I left the camp. The people with regular salaries could afford to buy the vegetables, which were very expensive and the others, the majority just survived with the dry rations.

Majority of the children including infants did not have milk (powder) except an occasional packet handed out by some charity. Once a father of a seven-month-old baby came begging for some sugar to put in the plain tea (black tea) to be given to his seven month old baby because the mother did not have enough breast milk and the baby was hungry. Plain tea had become the regular diet for this baby.

Each zone has two or three OPD clinics of varying sizes. Most of the doctors attending the clinics are non-Tamil speakers.

The queues are very long and the doctors work at break neck speed. I have seen a doctor writing a prescription to a 12-year-old boy without finding out what is wrong with the boy.

Once an educated mother told me that she visited the doctor for treatment for her baby as well as for herself. The medicine dispensers mixed up the medicines and gave the baby what should have been given to the mother.

People young and old suddenly dying after a few days of fever is a common occurrence.

The camp zones are divided by barbed wire and crossing from one zone to the other to see relatives or friends is a punishable crime. The writer described a few instances she witnessed and says, “It is these people suffering intense anxieties about friends and families who were brutally stopped by the military from entering adjacent camps to checkout if the missing loved one has arrived there. The number of times inmates were brutally beaten when caught attempting to cross is countless.”

Once I saw an old man just squatting on the zone-3 side of the gravel road watching through the barbed wire the goings on in zone-2. A military person walking past called the old man on to the road and started beating him. It was clear to me that the beating on this occasion was purely for sadistic pleasure. I have seen a few more instances of sadistic actions by the military.

The military also separated families by taking away people suspected of LTTE membership at Omanthai where all refugees were first recorded. Trying to locate the whereabouts of such members was the most traumatic.

If there was any doubt that the Menik Farm camps are anything other than prisons the procedure in place for outside visitors to meet inmates will clear away any doubt.

The actual meeting area is divided by iron sheets up to the chest and above it are wooden grills similar to what one would find in a prison. The visitors and inmates can talk through this grill and also exchange items over the grill. One is permitted only around 20 minutes maximum to talk because there will be hundreds more waiting. Even within this short time one is often interrupted by the military demanding the national identity card of the visitor and details about the relationship to the inmate.

If an inmate dies in a hospital outside camp to which the inmate was transferred earlier, there is a small chance he or she will get something resembling a funeral.

A three and a half year old boy died near my tent and his aunts who brought him up were not allowed to even go and see the dead body of the boy.

Any death within the camp has no chance of a funeral. The body is just removed by the military and nothing is heard of after that.

There were these people whom the camp inmates called ‘CIDs”. They were apparently senior LTTE members who had been taken away and then “released” into the camp to be with their families.

We also heard another well-known female LTTE member coming in Sri Lankan military uniform to the camps and identifying LTTE members in the camp.

Those who arrived in May described the experience of the last few days of the war in great detail. Many said that during the last few days they never walked erect due to fear of being hit by shelling. When making the move to exit the area they said that they had to walk over dead bodies.

To Read The Full text, click here.

© TamilNet

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Tuesday, October 06, 2009

CPC workers stage protest demanding pay hike

By Hemanthi Guruge - More than one thousand Ceylon Petroleum Corporation workers yesterday staged a protest demanding a pay hike and the interim allowance of Rs 5000 promised by the Petroleum and Petroleum Resources Minister A.H.M. Fowzie in front of the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation at Kolonnawa.

An activist of the Ekabaddha Podu Sevaka Sangamaya D. J. Rajakaruna said that institutions such as Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) and Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) salary increase is made once in every three year and the salary increase due this year is yet to be given. He said the last salary increase was given in 2006.

He added that the Petroleum and Petroleum Resources Minister had submitted a Cabinet memorandum to get approval of the salary increase, but the cabinet in turn has sent it to the Salaries and Cardre Commission to get further approval. The decision of the Salaries and Cardre Commission has not been given yet, he said.

“The Minister agreed to pay Rs 5000 as interim allowance pending increase of salaries at the end of this month but it was rejected by the CPC board” he said. Rajakaruna added that they have already sent letters to the subject Minister and they would be compelled to take trade union action unless their demands are met.

The Executive Officers Union, All Ceylon Petroleum Workers Union, Petroleum Industrial Union, Ceylon Petroleum Common Services Union and Jathika Seva Sangamaya took part in the protest.

© Daily Mirror

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Tuesday, October 06, 2009

"No job vacancies" : Labour Relations and Manpower Minister

Employment opportunities in the public and private sectors have currently reached saturation point. The public sector alone has a workforce of 1.2 million, Labour Relations and Manpower Minister Athauda Seneviratne said.

During the UNP regime 6,000 were provided with government jobs while the present regime has provided employment for a further 6000, Seneviratne said. He was speaking at a ceremony in Kegalle where loans were granted to small and medium scale self-employed businessmen of the district.

He said that both, the State and Private sectors had expedited the recruitment process to fill all vacancies and as a result both sectors had reached saturation point.

He said that the Government had realized the importance of self employment by small and medium scale entrepreneurs who had supported the country’s mainstream economy. The Government had meticulously formulated a plan to improve small and medium scale businesses and would provide loan facilities to further improve them.

Minister Seneviratne also said that the Government had an intention of opening new ministries, departments and various organizations in the near future and skilled young men and women would be recruited to fill the vacancies. The Government would give loans to 30,000 small and medium scale businessmen throughout the country. Its target was to complete the project before the end of the year.

© The Island

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