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Zardari, MR agree to enhance economic, defence cooperation

Pakistan and Sri Lanka yesterday agreed to work towards enhancing economic and defence cooperation.

Diplomatic and government sources told The Island, that the decision had been taken during one-to one talks between the visiting Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari and Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, in Colombo.

They said that Zardari’s four-day state visit, which commenced on Saturday, was aimed at further strengthening bilateral relations between the two countries which dated back to Buddhist civilisation.

Sources said that regional peace, stability, money laundering and the fight against militancy had also figured in the discussions between the two leaders.

“The other areas agreed on were connectivity and cultural exchanges. Tourist,educational, technology and media sector exchanges were also discussed. The Pakistan Presidents visit is part of a long tradition of high-level contacts between the two countries,” sources said.

Pakistani diplomatic sources said that Pakistan had stood by Sri Lanka in good and bad times and expected the same solidarity with Pakistan now.

“The security situation in Sri Lanka was never an issue for us to do business or visit there. We expect the same solidarity now. The situation in Pakistan is not so bad as it is made out to be by some media groups with vested interests,” they said.

External Affairs Minister Prof. G. L.Peiris, asked to comment on his discussions with Zardari on the question of regional peace stability and the fight against militancy, told The Island that no country could act in isolation and that SAARC had to adopt a joint approach on the issue.

Money laundering, he said, was an equally serious problem that had to be tackled together as it was fast spreading its tentacles.

Prof. Peiris said: “The important thing is that violence is behind us and there is a huge scope for economic and social development. We discussed political, economic, social and cultural cooperation. Broad agreement was reached on enhanced bilateral trade in tea, sugar, betel leaves, edible oils etc. President Zadari will have a meeting the Sri Lankan Chambers of Commerce tomorrow, where the specifics will be gone into.”

Sri Lanka-Pakistan bilateral trade has increased from US$ 150 million to around US$ 350 million since the Free Trade Agreement signed in 2002 became operational in 2005. The two countries are also exploring the possibility of establishing an Investment Bank.

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Sri Lanka unveils tax reforms to boost post-war economy

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse yesterday announced a major tax reform package aimed at boosting the economy of the island as it recovers from the civil war that ended last year, reports AFP.

Rajapakse, who is also finance minister, unveiled the new measures as he presented the annual budget for 2011 with the deficit predicted to fall to 6.8 per cent of gross domestic product from 8.0 per cent this year.
He slashed import taxes on many capital goods, including on vehicles and industrial machinery by 25 per cent, and also simplified taxes charged on imports and retail trade. “Having ended the war, and with vital infrastructure in place, we are now in a better position to engage in an accelerated development process within the next six years,” Rajapakse said.

As part of foreign exchange liberalisation, he said foreigners in future would be able to buy into companies through local investment funds.

He also announced plans to lower value added tax for banks from 20 per cent to 12 per cent, ease taxes on construction companies to 12 per cent and offer breaks on commodity exports like tea, rubber and spices.
Tax breaks for the fisheries, agriculture and construction sectors were among the schemes to boost economic activity in the island after the bloody conflict between government troops and Tamil separatists ended in May 2009.

“One of the main objectives of my government is to double per capita income to 4,000 dollars by 2016,” Rajapakse said. “But, that is not the only objective, I want real incomes to go up.” “A high per capita economy will help us to regain many opportunities we have lost during the war years.”

Rajapakse, who has a strong grip on power in Sri Lanka after overseeing the defeat of Tamil Tiger rebels, raised taxes on casinos, alcohol and international phone calls.
Charges for overseas calls have fallen to historic lows due to stiff competition among phone companies.

The president said he would cut income tax for tourism- related businesses, but added tax breaks would favour more expensive hotels in Sri Lanka in an attempt to push the island towards the luxury holiday market.

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The right and wrong pertaining to Poddala Jayantha

Poddala Jayantha, Secretary of the Sri Lanka Working Journalists’ Association was abducted and assaulted on June 1, 2009. The ‘who’ and the ‘why’ of this attack is yet to be determined and I believe it is of little use to engage in conjecture.

On the other hand, this attack is not the first on a journalist. Over the years many journalists have been abducted, attacked and even killed. Some of these incidents have been investigated to conclusion and some have not.

I am not a member of any media collective. I believe that there are people out there who prefer quiescent journalists to relatively independent ones (‘an independent journalist’ is a non-existent creature) and I know that politicians are pretty sensitive creatures who for the most part don’t have what it takes to stomach criticism. At the same time, we have to keep in mind that journalists are hardly the saints they would like people to believe they are. Journalists are not above the law; they don’t enjoy any special immunity. They have enemies and not all of these enemies are in the Government.

We know that some arrests have been made. We know that Poddala Jayantha was quite an activist, even though one might not agree with the causes he championed or endorsed the policies his fellow-travellers.

Today, there are few, if any, who would stand up and say ‘this was wrong!’ when the news came that Poddala Jayantha had been attacked. Why? First, it was Poddala Jayantha who was attacked. He not only spouted nonsense on occasion regarding the situation in the country, but his organization had intimate dealings with forces that were actively operating to destabilize the country and give leg-room for the Tigers. Under these circumstances and especially after all such efforts have been comprehensively squashed, few would be ready to stand with Jayantha as per the basic civil duty of opposing anything outside the framework of the law. This is after all a period when everyone is a ‘patriot’ and when it is not easy to not be one.

Poddala Jayantha was never a patriot in the sense that he belonged to a motley group of disgruntled Enjoyists (NGO activists) whose livelihoods depended on bad mouthing the Government, the Sinhalese and the Buddhists. The organization he was associated with, the Working Journalists’ Association and its sister organizations in the sphere of agitation are moreover are currently in the dock (along with Jayantha and his pals Sunanda Deshapriya and Balasuriya) for perpetrating fraud. He was certainly a man whose hand can be held even in a moment of tragedy only with trepidation.

Let me repeat, I do not wish to go into the ‘who’ and ‘why’ of this attack. At the same time, one needs to remember that there have been strident ‘expose and kill’ calls regarding journalists and others deemed to have acted against the national interest. Such cries have been raised perhaps by a nationalist urge that has spilled over the boundaries of reason and the need to respect the structures that dispense justice in this country. A moment of euphoria cannot be grudged a nation that has suffered for 30 years under the shadow of terrorism, but that does not justify in any way the call for lynch-mobs.

I should mention also, that not all ‘patriots’ lighting crackers in the print and electronic media were exactly patriotic during those long years when one was called ‘war monger’ or ‘racist’ for saying that the LTTE must and can be defeated militarily. As my friend Shamindra Ferdinando observed in a good-humoured tone laced with a dash of irony, the media war was the private property of ITN and Rupavahini. Until they came into the picture, the media and journalistic fraternity in general was ‘unpatriotic’, they would have us believe.

This mindless ‘call for blood’ may or may not have precipitated this incident. It may be come from elsewhere, but it should alert all of us to the dangerous consequences of irresponsible journalism. On the one hand, a cogent argument can be made for arguments of the Jayantha-asked-for-it kind, even though, strictly speaking Jayantha was not a journalist and not even a working journalist but a person who profited from activism and a man who is under a shadow for defrauding organizations he is associated with. On the other hand, this lets-bypass-the-law attitude is the bread and butter of the worst kind of anarchy possible. We can’t afford it.

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Traitor who was on LTTE payroll and leaked sensitive info to ‘Prabha’

Recently State Intelligence Service (SIS) agents arrested a LTTE suicide cadre in Negombo who revealed the whereabouts of another suicide cadre in Wellawatte, residing in a luxury apartment located in 37th Lane. When SIS agents arrived at the apartment, second suicide cadre committed suicide by jumping from the 7th floor. SIS agents recovered four suicide kits. A mobile phone used by this LTTE agent had the phone number of an Army Colonel attached to Military Intelligence (MI) as well as to the SF. It was Lt. Col. Ranjith Perera attached to the Ratmalana Army Transit Camp.

The suicide cadre revealed that this Colonel facilitated the transportation of cadres and suicide kits to several areas. He further said that they had tried their utmost to carry out a suicide mission during the recent ‘Deyata Kirula’ exhibition at the BMICH. Their target had been to kill the President, the Defence Secretary or Army Commander. But the attempt had failed as the security cordon was too tight. The Colonel had suicide cadres in his vehicle when the President visited the ‘Deyata Kirula’ exhibition at the BMICH.

‘Colombo’s Praba’ caught & Lt. Col. Ranjith Perera exposed

A person had been in the habit of meeting diplomats at the Colombo Swimming Club (CSC) whom he lobbied and misled, regarding the conflict in Sri Lanka. His name is Prabha and lived in Wellawatte. He was the owner of an electronics outlet called Panama Traders, Shop Numbers 3-26 and 3-27 on the 3rd Floor of Majestic City. His mobile phone number was 0777 398 117 and his shop phone number was 011 4527057.

One of Prabha’s major links was Lt. Col. Ranjith Perera, a Colonel General Staff (GS) of 52 Division. He served from 2006-2-9 to 2008-1-8. He had been denied promotion to the rank of full Colonel by the Army Commander. This was because during a battle at Tanankilappu in Jaffna when the LTTE had attacked this Lt. Col.’s battalion, he had not offered resistance, and without his superior officer’s command, he had withdrawn his battalion from battle.

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Sri Lanka Frost Over Sri Lanka Live

An international aid group has suspended its aid operations in Sri Lanka due to restrictions placed on it by the government.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) told Al Jazeera on Wednesday, a day after Sri Lanka’s government declared victory over the Tamil Tigers, that “additional restrictions” meant it had no choice but to halt its activities.

About 265,000 ethnic Tamils were displaced in the military’s recent offensive against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, or LTTE, and many of them have been sent to overcrowded camps in the country’s north.

“Since last weekend there have been additional restrictions imposed on aid organisations, including ICRC,” Paul Castella, the head of the group’s Sri Lanka operations, said.

“The authorities have said that because of security they had to restrict access to certain areas.

“What is the take of these civilians and what the conditions are we don’t know because we are not granted access to the area.”

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Tigers lay down arms

The Tigers’ armed campaign against the government left more than 70,000 people dead during decades of battles, suicide attacks, bomb strikes and assassinations.

“This battle has reached its bitter end,” Tigers’ representative Selvarasa Pathmanathan said in a statement published on the Tamilnet website.

“We remain with one last choice — to remove the last weak excuse of the enemy for killing our people. We have decided to silence our guns.”

“Our only regrets are for the lives lost and that we could not hold out for longer,” Pathmanathan said.

“This statement put out on Tamilnet is essentially an admission of what the military has been saying for some time”, says correspondent Amal Jayasinghe, who dismisses the reports of the death of LTTE leader Vellupillai Prabhakaran as “rumours”.

However, a military representative reached by RFI said that mop-up operations continued on the ground.

“The last remaining area – it’s about 300 metres by 300 metres,”

Général Udaya Nanayakara told RFI. “There are LTTE fighters still manning fortified bunkers engaging the army troops conducting the mopping-up operations.”

“We heard certain explosions inside the area. We assume that they must be burning ammo dumps, explosives and guns so that even if we capture it we will not be able to use it,” Nanayakara said.

“The end is very near….within a couple of days, we will be able to say that the whole area is liberated,” he said.

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A point of view by a peace loving Sri Lankan Tamil

A point of view by a peace loving Sri Lankan Tamil having spent 30 years in Sri Lanka and the later 30 years in the U.K.

This is my personal view of Sri Lankan Tamils: Karunanidhi, Jayalalitha, Vaico, Nadumaran all are dancers to the changing tunes of the Tamil Nadu Politics poor Sri Lankan Tamils are used as Pawns for their political board game.

The truth is as follows as I was a Sri Lankan Tamil born and brought up in Sri Lanka grown with the Sinhalese, Muslims and Jaffna Tamils.

I am a Colombo born Tamil; I know my father came from Tamil Nadu in 1912. My mother also Colombo Tamil, born in Gampaha and her grand parents may have come from Tamil Nadu. My mother’s side all were Ceylon Government Railway (CGR) workers, under British administration and my father had a Government service with the CGR for 40 years in Colombo.

After my father’s retirement from Railways we lived in Kandy, I was a Trinitian went to Trinity College in Kandy. I had very good Sinhala and Muslim schoolmates and friends. We had good Teachers from Batticaloa, Jaffna and a very strict Sinhalese Principal. Sri Lankan Government services not oppressed me.

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Michael Coren – Toronto Show Panel Discussion about Tamil Tigers of Sri Lanka

Michael Coren Show – Panel discussion about Tamil Tigers of Sri Lanka on 28th April 2009. Mrs. Ira De Silva, Mr. Lenin Benedict, Mr. David Poopalsingham and Ms. Manjula Selvarajaha were the guests of Michael Coran.

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Spur Media Release: Suicide Bomb Attack on a Religious procession by LTTE

The Society for Peace, Unity and Human Rights for Sri Lanka condemns the brutal massacre carried out by the suicide bomber of the LTTE. Time and again the LTTE have proved that they are no respecters of religions. To carry out such a dastardly act at such a holy occasion shows up the LTTE for what they really are: a brutal, barbaric and bloodthirsty organisation.

By selecting a Muslim festival to carry out such an attack on civilians, the LTTE have again shown their contempt for the Islamic religious activities.. On previous occasions, the LTTE attacked mosques while the faithful were at prayer, and this time, they selected the celebration of the Prophet Mohammed’s Birthday, one of the most holy days on the Islamic calendar, to carry out this brutal attack.

Media like the BBC are questioning how the LTTE can carry out such suicide attacks if they are cornered in Puthukudiyiruppu. It is the cadres who were sent to the south during the infamous ceasefire for this very purpose who carry out these attacks. Then the plan was to cow the south into submission, now these attacks are intended to provoke a backlash against those Tamils who have chosen to live in peace and safety away from the bloodthirsty LTTE. The LTTE are hoping to gain the goodwill of the international community through fabrications that the Sinhala people are bent on genocide. Instead, the LTTE are shown up as those who commit genocide – even against their “own” people and minority Muslims.

The international community and the international media should recognise the LTTE for what they are, not your friendly freedom fighter, but a brutal terrorist organisation interested only in turning Sri Lanka into a killing field – even if they do not achieve their Eelam. The Tamil people do not need the LTTE to fight for their freedom for they are free. They live and work, carry on their businesses and their day-to-day lives among the rest of the Sri Lankan community in the south.

For the past twenty-five years, it has been the ordinaryTamils in the North who have not had that freedom. They have been forced to give up their right to freedom in order that the LTTE may thrive. Even the food supplies provided by the Government of Sri Lanka have been stolen from them by the LTTE who hand out a pittance to the civilians keeping a lion’s share for themselves. Their children, boys and girls alike, have not been safe from the LTTE. Today, they have been forced to become a human shield to safeguard that very LTTE that preyed on them all these years.

We call upon the international community, the UN and human rights organisations like the HRW and other organisations like AI, to urge the LTTE to stop the carnage they wreak on civilians, free the Tamil civilians they are holding hostage, lay down their arms and surrender to the Sri Lankan security forces immediately.

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Suriya Sinha Awards Presented by Mawbima Lanka Foundation

Suriya Sinha Awards, an annual awards ceremony of the Mawbima Lanka Foundation was held at the BMICH last morning (18).

The event saw 46 Sri Lankan home grown corporates being awarded brand names while 300 were presented with Suriya Sinha Award. ITN and Lakhanda Radio were honoured for their media role on innovations.

The http://www.gannaapede.com website was also launched.

Chairman Maubima Lanka Foundation, Ariyaseela Wickrmanayake said Sri Lanka has spent Rs. 30billion for the import of milk when the country can be self-sufficient. There has been a 15 per cent increase of milk production after the ban of slaughter of cows from last year. `Milk production is a major contributor to the New Zealand`s GDP and 85 per cent of their produce is for export. With the present initiative taken I am sure Sri Lanka will be self sufficient in milk in five years. Similarly Sri Lanka can be self sufficient in sugar and many other imported commodities, he said.

He also said the telecommunication industry had revenue in the excess of Rs. 8 billion and appealed for the companies to reduce tariff. He appealed from the users to use a handset for a longer period to cut foreign exchange flowing to foreign manufacturers. He appealed from the public to buy Sri Lankan products thus saving foreign exchange, encouraging entrepreneurs and strengthening Sri Lankan economy.

The Minister Kumara Welgama addressing the ceremony said that the Government was implementing a major programme for the well being of the local industrialists. This he said had been consolidated through the Budget.

It was also mentioned that President Mahinda Rajapaksa presented the last budget travelling in a locally assembled Micro car powered by locally made Ethanol.