Monday, October 16, 2017

Seventh mother dies since families of the disappeared ongoing protests began

 Home15Oct 2017

A Tamil woman that has been searching for her disappeared family members died from a heart-attack on Saturday.
55-year-old Jesintha Peiris is the seventh protestor to die since families of the disappeared began protesting, eight months ago.

She was searching for her son Rosanly Leon and husband Amalan Leon, all from Mannar, who were abducted by white van in Colombo in 2008.
Despite ill health, Mrs Peiris had been travelling often to Colombo to attend the trials looking into the discovery of 12 identity cards found in a secret camp run by the Sri Lankan Navy.

Rosanly and Amalan Leon’s identity cards were among those found.

Families of the disappeared have been protesting in Kilinochchi and other locations for almost 250 days.

SRI LANKA’S STATE MINISTER FOR DEFENCE ATTACKS TNA; SAYS PTA DETAINEES WILL NOT BE RELEASED

Image: Campaign for the release of political prisoners are gathering momentum. ©s .deshapriya.

Sri Lanka Brief15/10/2017

Defence State Minister Ruwan Wijewardene has reiterated that the remanded LTTE suspects, who had allegedly committed serious crimes,will not be freed without a judicial process despite the hartal campaigns in the North, according to state controlled Daily News.

Wijewardene, a close relative of the PM Wickremasinghe, has  made these observations speaking to the media after an event at a school in Biyagama.

The State Minister had said  that several TNA members are trying to disrupt the day-to-day life of the people in the North by organizing a hartal campaign.

The Minister, pointing out that there are no ‘political prisoners’ as claimed by the TNA, said that the investigations have revealed that those prisoners were involved in serious crimes during the time of war. He  had emphasized that  those prisoners could not be released without a judicial inquiry.

“If there are delays in the judicial process, those must be rectified. However the prisoners must go through the judicial process and either be convicted or released at the end of it,” he had said.
With the inputs form Daily News.

Attorney General Abused Office To Deny People’s Franchise

Nagananda Kodituwakku
Attorney General to act for the people
logoThe law requires the Republic’s Attorney General to be absolutely independent in performing his statutory duties, which also includes the constitutional duty of examining Bills for the contravention of the requirements of the Constitution and expressing his views as the guardian that protects the sovereign rights of the people.
Unfortunately, recent experience shows that this is not happening in the Republic of Sri Lanka, despite Attorney General’s mandate has been clearly defined by Law, where it stipulates that ‘Attorney General represents and acts for the people of the Republic, who are supreme over all organs of the government‘ (Land Reforms Commission v Grand Central Ltd)
The most recent and patent let down of the people by the Attorney General is the passing of the Provincial Council Election Act No 17 of 2017 on 20th Sep 2017 by fraudulent means, absolutely disregarding the entrenched provisions set out in the Constitution and also with a scant respect to the authority of the Supreme Court that declared the approval of the people was required to postpone the provincial council elections.   
In this backdrop the concerned citizens of the country are entitled to know as to why, the Attorney General acts in this inappropriate manner, which is an insult to the sovereignty of the people.  The compelling reasons for the serious crime committed by the AG are identified as follows.
The flawed appointing process of judges to the Superior Court System
It is noted that there is no proper guidelines, in the Republican Constitution now in operation, regarding the process of appointing judges to the superior court system (Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal). The system currently in progress is that the Executive President sends a list of names as he pleased to the ten-member Constitutional Council for its approval, in which seven are MPs. This list always includes several names of those who serve in the Attorney General Department and thus it provides adequate leverage to the Executive President to abuse the process to ensure those who have protected the interests of the government to enter the superior court system.
This flawed practice is never followed in other leading democracies including the UK, where no person serving in the Crown Prosecution Service, is considered for any judicial appointment.
Good judges are sidelined
And this prevailing practice causes a tremendous damage to the independence of administration of justice in the Republic of Sri Lanka by effectively disregarding the judges who perform their judicial duties impartially. For instance, when President Kumaratunga was determined to install her favorite Sarath N Silva to the office of the Chief Justice, who was then a very junior judge (not even a judge in the Supreme Court), she first made him the Attorney General and paved the way for him to leapfrog to the office of the Chief Justice, bypassing all the other senior disserving judges in the Supreme Court. This includes one of the most respected judges of that time, justice Mark Fernando.  The same fate was meted out to justice Sri Skandarajah, the, then President of the Court of Appeal who had been overlooked throughout by the Rajapaksa regime until his sudden demise. Justice Sri Skandarajah had the courage to declare that the removal of the Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake was patently illegal at a time when Rajapaksa was dictating terms on the judiciary. President Rajapaksa then appointed his own advisor Mohan Pieris, a former Attorney General to the office of the Chief Justice,.
Bar Association condemns the prevailing system
This wrong procedure of appointing judges to the superior court system has been severely criticized by the Bar Association in many occasions and on 11th Sep 2014 the, then President of the Bar Association Upul Jayasuriya, made his observations on improper judicial appointments as follows.
Upul Jayasuriya, hit out at the appointment of the new President of the Court of Appeal, (ASG Vijith Malalgoda) reiterating the need for judicial appointments to be made on the basis of merit and seniority and not on political considerations.
He said that there should be a set of transparent criteria and a due process for the appointment and promotion of Appellate Judges, which is not vested solely in the hands of one appointing authority and further quoted as follows.
“… What does the Executive want? A subdued Judiciary! A Judiciary that makes orders on the will and desires of the Executive? If that be the case, you don’t need a Judiciary. You can rule with Executive order …” 
Dangling the carrot before the Attorney General
This undesirable system of appointing judges to the superior court system paves the way for the government to appoint the Attorney General as a judge or Chief Justice in the Supreme Court whilst the other officers serving at the AG’s Department too are considered for judicial appointments in the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal and High Court.

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Federalism is the antithesis of separatism Wiggy


By Sulochana Ramiah Mohan-2017-10-15

Descended from the family that produced Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan, C.V. Wigneswaran is a celebrated Sri Lankan. Lawyer, Supreme Court Judge and now Chief Minister of the Northern Province, he is a man unafraid to voice his convictions. Recovering recently from minor surgery, Wigneswaran emailed answers to a series of questions around the debate over the proposed new Constitution.

Here is the second part of that email:

You have objected to the term 'Ekiya Rata' in the new Constitution. Why?

A: I have pointed out that this is another way of continuing the unitary status of the country. If the word used was 'Eksath' I could understand that there is a change of heart among the Sinhala leaders. But they preferred 'Ekiya Rata' to 'Eksath Rata'. The Supreme Court will interpret 'Ekiya Rata' as a unitary State. This country was never a unitary nation. Several groups of people living separately were brought together by the British and the unitary status was imposed subsequently by the majority community. Nevertheless, Sir James Pieris and E.A. Samarawickrema, the Sinhala leaders around 1919 or thereabout, accepted the fact that Tamils were the dominant community from time immemorial in the North and East. Thus when we are enacting a Constitution acceptable to all communities we must accept the fact that the British 'united' the disparate units in this country. That is why we want theword 'Eksath' (united) used.

Minister S.B. Dissanayake criticized you in Jaffna as being the voice of the Tigers. He said by yourself you were different. But now you are acting for the Diaspora. What are your comments?

A: That I am acting for others is correct. I act on behalf of my people of the Northern Province. I am like a lawyer presenting the case of our people to our Sinhalese brethren as well as the world at large. A lawyer must believe in his clients' case. I do believe in the cause of our Tamils. As an erstwhile man of religion I loved the entirety of humanity. I still do. That is why those who conspire against me and think of harming me are quite at ease in my presence. I brook no hatred towards anyone. But that does not prevent me from criticizing those who need to be criticized and supporting those who need to be supported. I am critical of wrong action rather than the actors. What the minister is trying to say is that I supported 'separatism' advocated by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

What he forgets is that I was elected by over 133,000 people not to pursue separation but on the platform of self-determination, North East merger and federalism all of which are in our election manifesto – 2013. Minister Dissanayake is a graduate. He was the Minister of Higher Education.

Does he not know the difference between separatism and federalism? In fact, federalism is the antithesis of separatism. Federalism brings together disparate units into a composite whole. When he says I am a voice for the Tigers, he must identify the LTTE unit which he is referring to. The government took pride in saying LTTE was finished, destroyed and decimated. Whom is he now talking about? Surely for me to advocate what we had inserted into our election manifesto in 2013, I do not need outside support. Knowing what it means, I contested the election. I am only advocating what we mentioned in our election manifesto for which I got elected. That is my duty.

Is he now saying that the remaining members of the LTTE (if there be any) have all accepted federalism and are advising me regarding federalism? In that case they should become my mouthpieces and voice and not vice versa. I expected much better comments and statements from the minister, not statements that illiterate men on the street make.

You have said the Interim Report released by the government on the intended constitutional amendment has disappointed Tamils. You have also said the Interim Report has been prepared without understanding the root cause. What is that?

A: The root cause of the problem is that the Sinhala leaders from around 1919-1921 have usurped political leadership unto themselves. Having promised to the British, studiously that all so-called minorities would be looked after very well by them, as soon as power came into their hands they started depriving the rights of the minorities gradually. I said so-called minorities because the Tamils have been the majority in the North and East from time immemorial.

First, they disenfranchised the Indian Tamils in 1949. Then contrary to the provisions of section 29 of the first Constitution they passed the Sinhala Only Act in 1956 depriving the rights of the Tamils of the North and East of their language. Then around 1971 standardization was brought in to deprive competent Tamil children from entering universities. While this was going on surreptitious colonization of Tamil speaking areas with Sinhala speaking colonists was taking place contrary to Natural Law.

Natural Law expects people from the area where colonization takes place to get the first preference. Thereafter persons from the same district, then same province and so on. But straightaway Sinhala colonists were brought into the North and East with the idea of changing the demography of the North and East.

All this was possible because the Sinhalese were able to retain the majority in Parliament through the Territorial Representation they opted in 1919-1921. The then Sinhalese leaders got Sir Ponnambalam Arunachalam to prevail upon Sabapathy who led the Jaffna Association to give up Communal Representation for Territorial Representation. Having taken control and passed dubious discriminatory laws they started bargaining with the affected people. Even their bargaining came to naught. The Bandaranaike-Chelvanayagam Pact, the Dudley-Chelvanayagam Pact and many other agreements reached after bargaining and agreeing were thrown to the winds in no time.

Hence, the Interim Report should have found ways and means of putting the wrongs set right. What was expected of Sinhala leaders in 1919-1921 and 1948 by the British were fairness, justice and dignity towards the so-called minorities. They did not show fairness, justice or dignity towards the minority. They showed only preference for Sinhala Buddhists. As far as the North and East are concerned we felt a Federal Constitution giving rights of self-determination to those people would put right the wrongs done by the Sinhalese leaders so far to the Tamil speaking people. The Interim Report does not even discuss why federalism cannot be granted. How could it be acceptable to the Tamils?

Better suspend ‘New Constitution’ and focus on economy


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Prime Minster Ranil Wickremesinghe presenting the interim report of the Constitutional Council to Parliament.
(File Photo)

By Laksiri Fernando- 

The Steering Committee of the Constitutional Assembly has produced an Interim Report on six key issues after 73 sessions between April 2016 and September 2017, without basic consensus among the key partners of political party representatives in the Committee. There were six sub-committee reports submitted before, in November and December 2016, and some of them were more controversial than the present report.

The Report perhaps has tried its best to incorporate alternative views expressed by members on key matters, but 13 out of 22 members have submitted their ‘dissenting opinion’ in separate submissions. The report is of 26 pages but these submissions run into 66 pages. While the introduction to the Report says these are ‘observations and comments by Members of the Steering Committee on the principles and formulations,’ it does not appear that way. Out of six separate submissions, five are very clearly on behalf of political parties (SLFP, JVP, JHU, JO and ACMC). All these are signed and addressed to the Chairman of the Steering Committee, although the Interim Report is not signed by anyone even by the Chairman. It is fair to say on that basis, the Steering Committee Report primarily represent the views of the UNP.

Consensus Building

There is no question that consensus building on a new constitution is not an easy task. However, without consensus, at least between the two main political parties in the government, the UNP and the SLFP, it would be extremely difficult to get a draft through the two thirds majority in Parliament, not to speak of a referendum. When the idea of a new constitution was mooted, the three key areas for reform identified were: (1) the executive presidential system (2) devolution of power and (3) the electoral system.

What transpires from the Report and the submissions is that, there can be possible consensus on electoral reforms, than the other two. Although the abolition of the executive presidential system appeared largely agreed, prior to the begging of the present process, it has become more and more entrenched in the devolution debate. The nature of the state is also naturally embroiled in the same.

Therefore, one practical suggestion would be to have electoral reforms first, allowing more time and effort to build possible consensus in the future, perhaps after the next elections. Why have a half-baked constitution, when there is a possibility of a better constitution in few years’ time? A constitution for a country should be for a long period. Another reason to make this suggestion is the economy. It is in bad shape. Think about the people and not the elite. There is some ‘intellectual poverty’ in economic thinking. Take the example of the Vision 2025. It is more of a fantasy than a vision. After two years of government, what the country requires is not a wish-list or an academic discourse, but practical steps and action within a viable planning framework. The vision document does not supply such a framework.

Some Features of the Report

There is no doubt that the present constitution is ‘obnoxious’(Bahubutha). However, after the 19th Amendment, it has come to a decent shape. It would have been better, if Sri Lanka had a new constitution by now, especially considering national reconciliation. But it is not the reality. The quality of parliament that was produced at the August 2015 elections is quite poor for an enlightened constitution. There have also been some blunders or hick ups in the constitutional assembly process. The Steering Committee Report does not appear very professional either. Apart from the obvious disputes, the way the disputes are handled does not appear frank or open.

One example is the formulation of the nature of the state as ‘aekiyarajyaya / orumiththanadu.’True, avoidance of controversial formulations is necessary in certain instances. However, one cannot fudge key issues. What (some) people understand on a given constitutional feature at a given time cannot be the principle of a constitutional formulation. Formulations should be closer to the existing reality or the expected change. What Sri Lanka at present is a ‘unitary state with devolution.’ If the representatives or the people are ready go beyond for federalism, then it should be reflected in the formulation.

More dangerous is the way some have proposed to resolve the dispute over the executive presidency. If I am not mistaken, the proposal is to keep the executive presidency until 2025, allowing the present (SLFP) President to continue, and then completely abolish it. A constitution,or even interim arrangements, should be made on principles, but not to suit individuals, however good they might be. If the present President wishes to continue, he should best be elected by the people but not as a constitutional gratuity. This reminds what happened to the August 2000 constitutional draft. After agreed by the two main parties, the SLFP and the UNP, certain interim arrangements were allegedly made to suit the incumbent President. Therefore in Parliament, it was opposed and the document was burnt by the UNP members. These are constitutional manoeuvres, not principles.

As mentioned before, the 19th Amendment undoubtedly is an enhancement of democracy. However even there, the prohibition of dual citizens contesting parliament was introduced aiming at some people, not as a general principle. This has become a major disappointment to many dual citizens.

The above are some glimpses of the situation and not the whole story.

Limits of a Constitution

A constitution is not everything. To believe such is too rigidly legalistic. A constitution is only a part of a country’s political superstructure. Even in constitutionalism, customs, traditions and practices are accepted. A constitution is also the way you handle the given powers of a particular office or powers as a whole. That is why good governance (transparency, accountability, rule of law, justice, democracy) is important not as a slogan, but as a practice.

President D. B. Wijetunga was different to R. Premadasa. Apart from the 19th Amendment, Maithripala Sirisena apparently is different to Mahinda Rajapaksa. Of course, no one can be trusted fully. Therefore, constitutional and legal safeguards are necessary. However, the country may live with the present for a moment, as a good new constitution does not appear feasible at present. A better opportunity for a better constitution might be created, if there is some patience and no particular hurry.What should and can change at present for the better is the electoral system. Others might be handled through flexibility and political consensus i.e. powers of the President and/or the Governors. An electoral system is something that should be followed to the letter. No conventions are possible.

Three main issues the country facing today are (1) economic progress (2) national reconciliation (3) enhancement of democracy. The relevance of the constitution in resolving these matters could be counted as 40 to 60 percent, in my opinion, not 100 percent. Let me outline few areas where measures could be done for reconciliation even within the existing constitution.

Handing over all private land occupied by the military, release of prisoners who have no apparent charges, assistance to the war affected in housing, education and employment, and the full implementation of the official language policy could go a long way in addressing reconciliation even without a single change in the constitution. This is just an example. In the broader area of devolution, the proposed apolitical and non-interfering governors or chief minister’s conferences could be implemented even without a new constitution. What is more important, even for reconciliation, is the addressing of the issues of the economy, without neglecting the political.

Priority to the Economy

It is said that the Prime Minister is so involved in political reforms and constitutional making, economic reforms have got the second place. He is the Minister for National Policies and Economic Planning. An important Deputy Minister has said a growth rate of 4 percent might be sufficient until political reforms are fulfilled. However, the targets announced in the Vision 2025 are quite high, almost impossible to achieve. Complacency, mere pronouncements or wishful thinking is not going to help.

Sri Lanka at present is around $ 80 billion economy. Still the per capita GDP is below $ 4,000. All these calculations are on the basis of current prices. Sri Lanka managed to double her per capita income between 2003 and 2009 and became a lower middle income country with a per capita GDP of $ 2,057. That was within six years. How did she manage to do so? By maintaining a growth rate above 6 percent. However, she has not managed to clearly double her per capita income during the last six years. Per capita income in 2016 was $ 3,835. It was even slightly below the 2015 mark of $ 3,843. After the change of the government there was a policy or planning discontinuity. This was over and above the slowing down of the economy since 2013.

Sri Lanka has not been able to manage a growth rate above 6 percent since 2012. It was mere 3.4 in 2013. It slightly picked up in 2014 as 5.0 percent, but diving down since then as 4.8 and 4.4. This is irrespective of roads and ports development. Most obviously financial mismanagement was the reason for this slump. Because, generally infrastructure projects and development uplift any economy. What is absent at present is exactly the same, while it might be too early to assess the overall mismanagement except the bond scam.

There has been an interesting dispute within the Cabinet over the Colombo-Kandy (Central) expressway recently. The President has given the nod although some of the counter arguments must have been correct. The reason is that this is the only significant infrastructure project this government might complete before 2020.

Some Lessons

If we take some lessons from the past, there had been two periods when Sri Lanka managed to go above 6 percent growth. First was between 1977 and 1982, when the economy was opened up and Mahaweli programme was accelerated. Then came the war, end of the rubber-rice deal with China, and political mismanagement after the famous lampu-kalagedi sellama (disgraceful lamp and pot referendum).

Second was between 2003 and 2012 (except 2009), when major highways and expressways were under taken, while the open economy and free trade continued. GSP+ also was beneficial for exports, while labour migration benefiting the foreign exchange situation. This was irrespective of the war. An estimated $ 15 billion came to the country from China, over 8 billion being loans and around 2 billion being FDI. What made the nosedive after that period was manly mismanagement, among other factors, after the 18th Amendment.

End of the war boosted the economy. But end of the Rajapaksa era has not done anything similar. Why? It is not only the excessive focus on constitutional or political reforms that has stalled the economy. (Don’t get me wrong. I am for a new constitution and even wrote a book!, but I am not for a half-baked loaf). There is something missing or wrong in the economic thinking as well. The sole focus seems to be on free trade and free trade agreements, expecting others to emerge automatically. To be brief, a comprehensive economic strategy should need a combination of (1) free trade (2) infrastructure development (2) export promotion and (3) foreign direct investments.

As a small island nation, there can be genuine as well as created concerns over foreign participation. This is an urgent public educational matter that the government should address. Time is running out and rising cost of living and other issues are working against the government. The economic issues should be addressed and resolved not merely to save the government, but to save the country and the people.

Rural Reawakening As The Solution To Economic & Social Problems

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Dr. Siri Gamage
We often criticise the current development model due to its dependence on foreign sources of funding, expertise, potential for corruption and ideology that it creates, i.e. idea that we don’t have necessary intelligence to conceptualise the problems and solutions. We also criticise the government leaders who rely on such a model to attract more loans, investments and expertise from abroad. This applies even to the fields of education and learning, medicine, construction, culture, food production, etc. However, we tend to forget or give less priority to our own talents, expertise, intelligence and wisdom except in the areas of our religions. This is a syndrome or illness that we have inherited as a nation from European colonialism and continue to suffer from. It is time to reflect on the possibilities for a rural reawakening from the Southern, Northern and Central heartlands of the island and act upon the same with a steely determination to circumvent this dependence on anything foreign. 
This is easily said than done in a society where all rivers flow towards Colombo and beyond. Though we have Provincial Councils for so called decentralisation, these bodies contribute only to the existing chaos and the dependency syndrome mentioned earlier. Commentators spend valuable time and energy for discussing the postponement of local government elections. Though they are important, we need to think beyond Local Government bodies when we talk about the rural heartland and its predicament.
There is out migration of the educated youths from rural heartlands to capital city and other urban centres. Some set their eyes on foreign destinations for employment in countries like South Korea. Many choose to engage in quite demeaning work for a few dollars in foreign countries instead of suffering the humiliation of being unemployed in your own backyard and be powerless. The rural population rely on their elected representatives to do the right thing by their kith and kin, a dream they held since independence. Yet by each year that passes, they realise that the solutions to local problems are far away. They observe the activities conducted in the name of development, fancy vehicles with Logos and officials, foreign consultants visiting their locale. They also answer questions these experts and survey conductors ask of them thinking something good can happen. Yet day-by-day they realise how their life is being controlled, taxed, and subjected to rampant consumerism leaving very little in their pockets. They see the way the land, water, and other resources that give sustenance for contented community life are being appropriated by the state, rich classes or foreign companies. It is like another tsunami, intended or unintended.
There is one resource the country has not utilised well for the purpose of rural uplifting or reawakening. It is the rural talent and collective intelligence of the people. This is because there are no vehicles or mechanisms to do so. eg. Community based organisations such as self-help organisations. When I was a school going boy in Walasmulla area in the late 50s, there were rural development societies (Gramma Sanvardhana samagam). There was also Gam Karya Sabha, an elected local government body. Cooperative societies also existed along with temple societies. However, in the following decades these entities evaporated in significance. In the 70s, there was an interest in the idea of rural awakening and development. I remember research projects and seminars conducted by Marga Institue to influence policy making. Mr Sunimal Fernando led some of these projects then. Marga also published books, seminar papers etc. on the subject. Then came the ARTI affiliated to the Ministry of Agriculture doing similar research, training etc. But what is the situation today not only in terms of research but also training and aiding rural agriculture development?  How far rural development figure in the minds of policy planners? What priority has it been given in the overall future vision of the government?
The lethargy in coming together as communities and forming rural development societies for the very welfare and development of one’s area is partly due to the fractured nature of rural society. Rural society is divided along political party, rich and poor, caste, ethnicity, and other factors. Secondly, it is fractured along those with economic and political power vs. those who lack these. Thirdly, it is divided on the basis of those who have access to modern knowledge, networks, mobility and technology vs. those without. Most women still play a subservient role to men. Rural youths are marginalised by the social and political system. Though unhappy, many in this situation leave governance to professional politicians and mind their own affairs. Our intellectuals do not discuss or do research on how we were exploited during the colonial time and postcolonial time with the active support received from Walawwa families of the officially appointed local chieftains. They don’t care about how our rural heartland is exploited even today either! Instead, they tend to talk about the merits of foreign investment in getting us out of the debt trap we are caught in or a development imposed from above until the allocated money for projects run out.  They also utter the economic development manthrapassed down from the World Bank and other multilateral agencies using the same terminology, arguments and statistics. Hardly we see a critique of the same.
Even our education system is not designed to encourage young people for innovation and creativity. It does not provide the necessary tools and ideas or the encouragement to find out how we can utilise our own resources in the rural heartland? I give an example. People who grow coconuts dry them in the sun or barns and make copra. They sell copra to oil mill owners in provincial cities. My father used to do this and I still remember how I went with him to Matara to collect money from the mill owner. But now the world has changed. Many in Western countries use coconut oil and products made from such oil in food consumption as part of healthy diet. In super markets, there is coconut water along with fruit juices. Thus instead of making copra, our coconuts industry can be developed to bottle coconut water and supply to the market and export. Yet, there is no vehicle to do so perhaps except in the private sector. If there are rural development societies focused on the better utilisation of resources and the government provides necessary know how and probably the finances on low interest basis, small entrepreneurs can emerge from the rural heartland in hundreds and thousands.  In South East Asian countries like Indonesia and Thailand, there is a concept called Social Enterprise.  It is one that is used to articulate policy and programs by the non-government sector to help small entrepreneurs not only in terms of ideas, marketing and loans but also encouragement to start small enterprises. One organization has helped to run 700 petrol service stations in and around Bangkok.
Rural awakening and development cannot be at the expense of spiritual awakening and development. The two need to go hand in hand. Sarvodaya ideology and movement are based on this concept. They are respected internationally. Do we adopt the principles advocated by Sarvodaya in our development initiatives in the rural heartland? If not why not? It is an integrated rural development concept that combines welfare of people, spirituality and economic development. In any rural reawakening, we need to revive our interest on Sarvodaya and other indigenous development models. If our minds are set on distant dreams and fake lifestyle preferences, our villages and the life of sanity that they offered us around the tank, dagba and the paddy fields will be lost forever.

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More on tender scam at Education Ministry
 Oct 15, 2017

As exposed by us previously, top officials of the Education Ministry have conspired to grant the tender to provide GCE advanced level students with tabs to Metropolitan company in order for personal gains. 
For that, the additional secretary (procurement and construction) of the ministry and the chairman of the technical committee got together and prepared an evaluation report to the advantage of that company. At the procurement committee meeting to discuss that recommendation, despite attempts by the chairman, the committee said that since that company’s bid price was very high, discussions should be held with that company to get the prices reduced. The additional secretary did that and the company brought down the price from Rs. 7.4 billion to Rs. 6.8 billion. But, that was not at the level expected by them. It is a violation of tender procedures to discuss with only one bidder to get the bid price reduced.

In the meantime, another company that made a Rs. 5.5 billion bid and produced fake certificates for a certain accessory of the tab, instead of the FCC certificate requested by the technical committee chairman, came forward to fish in the troubled waters by bribing the minister and the chairman. The result was that on the minister’s instruction, the chairman and another technical committee member, a lecturer of Colombo University, got to work. The chairman held another meeting with the members and tried to convince them that the FFC certificate produced by another bidder, Abans which was removed at the technical evaluation, was a genuine one. That left other members surprised. They suspected his attempt to change their previous decision, and carefully observed the certificate together with the samples given to the ministry. They found them to be incorrect and contradictory.

Therefore, they rejected the chairman’s request and decided their previous decision be implemented.

Ashamed, the chairman had to accept their decision, and the attempt by him and the minister failed.
Recently, the procurement committee met to take a final decision, where the chairman made a lengthy speech justifying his decision. Following arguments, the committee decided to grant the tender to Metropolitan, whose bid was Rs. 3.2 billion higher than the lowest bid. Anyone closely watching the procurement procedure will understand that the officials tried to swindle public money, with political backing by the minister, additional secretary, technical committee chairman and the secretary of the education state ministry who was the overall coordinator.

This government came to power on the promise of eliminating fraud and corruption, but responsible officials are planning a massive swindling while the ministry secretary keeps silent, giving rise to suspicion that he too, is party to the conspiracy.

As we said previously, the additional secretary Anuradha Wijekoon, when he was at the Department of Motor Traffic, gave all its tenders to Metropolitan. Now, at the Education Ministry, he is trying to do the same. By citing a certificate applicable only to the USA, they are trying to swindle Rs. 3.2 billion of public money allotted for the education of the country’s children. The expression of interest letter awarding the tender to Metropolitan is given below.

We are ready to accommodate, if additional secretary Anuradha Wijekoon has anything to say about this.

Intention to Award 1

The Myth of Lazy Jaffna Youth

2017-10-16
ot long ago, soon after the war, a common refrain about the Jaffna society was how hard working, thrifty and prudent its people were. But today, one often hears people decrying Jaffna society as having become lazy and spendthrift, landing itself in debt. It is true that Jaffna society is greatly mired in debt, but what are the causes of such indebtedness? How did the narrative around Jaffna youth change so much in the last few years? 
Both local and international pundits have attributed the said laziness to foreign remittances from the Tamil diaspora. Drawing upon their armchair analyses, they talk endlessly about the Tamil diaspora, with pots of money, channelling their savings to people in Jaffna, making them lazy and complacent. However, a careful look at the flows of remittance in recent years tells another story about how a majority of the Tamil society is struggling to cope with the economic crisis, and about how rural youth are responding to their family needs. 

Repressive Discourses


During difficult periods and times of crises, social discourses tend to invariably blame the people, particularly the oppressed sections of society. Not only do they distort hard facts on the ground, but also lead to further oppression and exploitation of those on the margins. 
If the young men are blamed for using mobile phones and “loafing around”, the young women are held responsible for the “cultural deterioration” of society, something you hear about repeatedly in Jaffna. As for the women, such a narrative is really about controlling women and their bodies, and restricting their freedoms. Furthermore, “cultural deterioration” becomes the umbrella argument to condemn youth in general, for how they dress, their absorption of popular culture from music to film, and of course their “laziness”. 
It is not just the elite pundits who deploy this crude analysis; it is proliferated through the media, and eventually internalised by rural community leaders and at times, the people themselves. What is more problematic is that even economists and policy makers,when pushed on questions about livelihood concerns and lack of economic growth in Jaffna,resort to such cultural explanations. 
In this context, any political economic analysis of the systemic challenges is ignored. The accumulation through dispossession with the proliferation of financial institutions is hardly considered despite the crippling indebtedness. Indeed, there is little reflection on the consequences of past policy choices and in turn societal responses. 
The Jaffna middle classes for example curse the rural youth, claiming that their laziness is reflected in the lack of day wage labour. Here, a young man or woman for whom they offer work once every now and then may not turn up. That is used as proof to blame the youth, and such blame always begins with an individual they know. They do not consider the precariousness of day wage labour, it does not exist if there is rain, and it is all at the whims of the middle class person looking for casual labour. So, what are the Jaffna youth doing in response to the crisis in their households? How are they approaching work?

"I am not providing this data to claim that Jaffna men are more perseverant than men in the rest of the country! Rather, my point is that arguments about “laziness” and “hard working” are shaped by cultural biases"

Out-migration and remittances

In my research in rural Jaffna, there is little found by way of regular remittances from the diaspora. The households that do get remittances, in fact, only get occasional bulk transfers for weddings and social occasions. Village societies in the diaspora also have put funds into caste-linked social institutions, particularly temples. In any event, such remittances from the diaspora are clearly on the decline. 
On the other hand, there is a considerable increase in the regular remittances sent by migrant workers. In the case of Jaffna, it is mainly young men, who make the arduous journey to the Middle East and places like Malaysia and work under harsh conditions to send a regular monthly remittance on the scale of Rs. 20,000 per month. 
So how are so-called lazy young men in Jaffna faring in comparison to the rest of the country? According to Census and Statistics data, the male population of Jaffna District is 2.8% of the national male population in 2016. Now, the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment data only records departures for foreign employment and not the total number of foreign employed. The number of men migrating for employment from Jaffna compared to the rest of the country was 2.7% in 2010. With the deepening economic crisis in Jaffna out migration for foreign employment doubled between 2012 and 2014, from 3,621 to 7,817 departures. As a percentage of national migrant male workers, it was 4.1%, 3.3% and 3.7% in 2014, 2015 and 2016 respectively, which point to a much higher ratio of men from Jaffna willing to go work abroad. 
I am not providing this data to claim that Jaffna men are more perseverant than men in the rest of the country! Rather, my point is that arguments about “laziness” and “hard working” are shaped by cultural biases. The real situation of the economy and labour are better found in systemic explanations of social and economic dynamics. Certainly, if men are willing to go for gruelling work abroad, then a careful analysis of the local economy is required to find out as to why they cannot work in their own setting. 
Similarly, during field research in Jaffna and the Vanni, I have found that an increasing number of young women are willing to work in the exploitative garment industry. They are even moving to Free Trade Zones in the South when local employment is not forthcoming. A key lesson from this reality is that a sympathetic starting point with a political economic analysis may go a longer way in understanding rural social life than succumbing to conservative social discourses.

"Both local and international pundits have attributed the said laziness to foreign remittances from the Tamil diaspora"


Employment and Integration

In most villages in Jaffna, what people yearn for is a regular monthly income so they can ensure a stable home. That also explains the rising numbers of migrant and garment labour under severe conditions of exploitation and exclusion. 
The state’s reconstruction policies and the initiatives of donors and NGOs, focused on self-employment and self-generated livelihood programmes, have failed miserably in post-war Jaffna.Placing the burden on individuals to generate incomes after devastation by war meant incomes were irregular and eventually led to dispossession. Instead of recognising the failure of such a vision, the youth are blamed instead.   
A more meaningful approach to address both the economic problems in Jaffna and the aspirations of the youth would be investment to create local jobs that provide a regular income. That would mean investment to develop local resources and small industries. That would also require some critical reflection on the part of the economists, policy makers and other pundits who rarely consider the social and economic dynamics in rural settings.  As for the cultural life of youth, the elite classes and grumpy old men will always prefer the status quo rather than changes in society. That way, their dominant place in society is secure. Any serious change in Jaffna as in the rest of the country is likely to come from the youth, and we may want to listen to them before writing them off with moral judgments.  

President jolts security detail Confronts Jaffna protesters




By Sulochana Ramiah Mohan and T. Pratheepan-2017-10-15

President Maithripala Sirisena took his security detail by surprise after he threw caution to the wind and abruptly alighted from his official vehicle to confront a group of protesters in Jaffna yesterday.

The President was in Jaffna to inaugurate the National Tamil Language Day celebrations at the Jaffna Hindu College when the incident took place.

According to eyewitnesses the President had calmly walked up to the black flag waving protesters and inquired into their problems.

The protesters numbering around 75 and led by former MP M.K. Sivajilingam, along with Eelam People's Revolutionary Liberation Front (EPRLF) Leader Suresh Premachandran and attorney Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam told the President to settle the issue of the LTTE prisoners who are being held without charges.

They also told the President to halt the transfer of cases that are currently being heard in the Vavuniya Court to Anuradhapura.

President Sirisena was heard as saying: "Come let us discuss and see how the matter can be solved. The Tamils voted for me, you must remember."

Sivajilingam replied: "So how do you pay back your gratitude to the people who supported you."
Sivajilingam told the President that 160 Tamil prisoners held under the Prevention of Terrorism, Act (PTA) are languishing in prisons without trial.

He also lamented that another three Tamil prisoners are currently on a hunger strike in the Vavuniya Prison and their condition has worsened over the last few days.

The move to transfer the cases of these three prisoners from Vavuniya to Anuradhapura is not justifiable and carried out on racist lines, Sivajilingam further charged.

"You said you are working on national reconciliation and so why can't you sort out this simple matter of the three prisoners who are dying owing to the hunger strike they have carried out for the last 19 days. If you can't solve this simple problem, how can you solve bigger problems," Sivajilingam further said.

The protesters told that they were exhausted with discussions that were held from time to time regarding the prisoner issue and demanded immediate action.

"We will now wait for his response before informing the three prisoners currently on the 'death fast' in the Vavuniya Prison. What is needed is action and not discussions," Sivajilingam told Ceylon Today.

Meanwhile, the President, while addressing students later on said there is nothing like communications and discussions to deal with problems.

"When I speak of discussions the protesters insist on implementations. Many problems could be sorted out through proper communication," the President told the student audience at the National Tamil Language Day event held at the Hindu College.

President Sirisena was escorted to the venue amidst tight security that had been beefed up since Friday following a major hartal in the peninsula on that day. Organizers of Friday's hartal had planned a similar protest during the President's visit yesterday but were forced to have a re-think following a Court order that banned public protests in the area.

However, following yesterday's protest and related events it was also clear that the court order had been flouted.

‘If you cannot abide by laws of prisons, please get out’ Minister Swaminathan tells prison doctor racketeers..!


LEN logo(Lanka-e-News - 15.Oct.2017, 12.30PM)  ‘If there are doctors who cannot carry out my orders ,they can leave and go .‘ Prisons reforms minister D.M. Swaminathan issued this  stern categorical warning to  the secretary of prisons , Prisons chiefs and doctors in the prisons. In other words the minister told them plainly  if these racketeer doctors leave it will be like good riddance of bad rubbish (GROBR ) !
 ‘Lanka e news’  news website is hurling  grave criticisms against the ministry of health and myself. I am a clean politician and I have promised to resolve this issue. I have instructed ,  the recommendations of three doctors are necessary to admit a patient to a prison hospital , but that instruction has not been  followed until today, ’ Swaminathan bemoaned.

Swaminathan a popular minister  , at  the meeting held on the 10 th at 4.00 p.m. at the prison headquarters with the participation of all the officers involved in this issue including the ministry secretary and  prison chiefs,  made the above  announcement  in no uncertain terms.

Three  doctors, Sujeewa Jayawardena , Tirani Atapattu and  Shanika Kottachi of the corrupt group of prison doctors  in reply said , they are answerable only to the ministry of health .
‘I am the ministry of prisons. I know the bloke  in the ministry of health who is supporting criminals.  I cannot walk on the road when this prison is being made a rogues’ den. If you are incapable , you can get out today itself.  I know with whose support the one who was  transferred with effect from 2017-01-01 is remaining back,’ the minister said to  his secretary while pointing the finger at Dr. Sujeewa Jayawardena .
Until the minister furiously questioned ‘ were Dr. Lakshman and Dr.Shanika sent here powered by  money?’ even   the secretary of prisons was not aware that Dr. Nirmali Thenuwara and Dr. Sujeewa Jayawardena who were sent out from prison  have been serving in the prison exceeding their stipulated period  with the support of the secretary to health, and the GMOA alias GOMA association alias ‘Government Medical Oppressors Association’. 
When Doctor racketeer  Shanika Kottachi tried to explain  , because Tissa Wimalasena alias Major  Tissa (suspect in Thajudeen murder)  Sarana Gunawardena  (extortionist)  and  Vaas Gunawardena (murderer) had to be hospitalized because insulin must be administered to them , the minister who  flew into a rage again , asked ‘ for administration of insulin , should every patient be warded?’ from the doctor racketeers .
Thereafter the prison doctors agreed to enlist the 9 nurses in the prison hospital and administer insulin injections to the diabetic patients at the out patients ward. 
It is significant to note despite these arrangements , criminals Duminda Silva and Major Tissa continued to be in the prison hospital even on the 12 th .  
It is clear evidence from the above scenario , ‘Kudu money’ (heroin filthy lucre) and corrupt criminal  Rajapakse power are holding  sway , and are overriding  even two powerful and popular ministers namely , Swaminathan and Rajitha Senaratne.  
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by     (2017-10-15 07:01:24)