The Web Sri Lanka In Focus

Saturday, 16 February 2008

Sri Lanka's controversial Minister to resign from parliament

Sri Lanka's Deputy Minister of Labour, Dr. Mervyn Silva says that he will resign from the parliament in order to secure a position in the Constitutional Council.

Speaking to media he said, that obtaining a position in the Constitutional Council where only 10 members will be allowed to chair, would give him a better opportunity to serve the people.

Asked whether his decision has anything do with a disciplinary inquiry to probe the alleged assault of the news director at the state owned TV station by the Minister and his supporters, the Minster said that he took the decision by himself and has no connection with any disciplinary inquiry as he has not involved in any breaching of discipline.

Following the assault the SLFP Central Committee appointed a three-member committee headed by Health Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva to probe the incident. The report of the investigation is due next week.

The Minister, who entered the parliament in 1994 from the Tissamaharama electorate in Hambantota from the Opposition United National Party and later crossed over to SLFP, said that he will continue to engage in political activities despite his resignation from the parliament.

Source: colombopost

Sri Lanka airforce 'bombs rebel base': ministry

Sri Lanka's airforce kept up air strikes on suspected Tamil Tiger rebel targets in the island's north for the third day in a row on Saturday, the defence ministry said.

It did not give details of casualties or damage but said a rebel coordination centre in Mannar on the northwest coast was hit.

The air attacks are part of an escalation of operations by the government, which pulled out of a Norwegian-brokered truce with the ethnic guerrillas last month.

"This (rebel centre) was located in the jungle and was a threat to the current army operations in Vavuniya and Mannar districts," the ministry said in a statement.

There was no immediate comment from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), but the rebels said a raid on Thursday against the guerrilla stronghold of Mullaittivu in the northeast wounded five civilians.

At least 1,248 rebels have been killed by security forces this year, according to the island's defence ministry, which has placed government losses at 70 soldiers and police.

Both sides are known to offer wildly different casualty claims that cannot be independently verified as journalists and human rights workers are barred from frontline and rebel-held areas.

Source: AFP

11 Tamil refugees arrive from Lanka

Eleven Sri Lankan Tamil refugees, including four children arrived at Kunthukal Sea shore here today in view of the fierce fighting between the Lankan Army and LTTE.

Official sources said the refugees, comprising four families hailing from Vavuniya and Thalaimannar in the Island nation hired a boat clandestinely and paid Rs 50,000 each to reach Indian shores.

The refugees disclosed that due to heavy fighting, there was severe shortage of essential commodities in the Tamil dominated areas. One kg of rice was being sold at Rs 80. ''We will work even as coolie labourers to save our children and live in peace in Tamil Nadu'', they said.

Immediately after their arrival, they were interrogated by intelligence officials. Later, they were accommodated at the Mandapam Refugee Camp.

Source: newkerala

Downgrade for Sri Lanka's credit outlook

Standard and Poor's on Friday downgraded Sri Lanka's credit outlook to "negative" and warned that the troubled tropical island was depending too much on foreign borrowing.

The ratings agency lowered Sri Lanka from "positive" and said its credit rating was still below investment grade at "B+".

The outlook revision also takes into account adverse changes in the country's debt composition, the risk evaluator said.

"The rising share of external debt, estimated at about 49 percent of the total, and, within that, more expensive and shorter-maturity commercial funds, is gradually eroding what has so far been a relatively favourable debt profile," the agency said.

The warning comes as Sri Lanka is preparing to raise 300 million dollars in debt capital this year after a similar bond for 500 million dollars in 2007 was oversubscribed three times.

The agency also warned against the government's spending programme amid soaring inflation and an escalation of the war with Tamil Tiger rebels.

"The official end of the ceasefire and the (rebels') stepped-up attacks on civilians in response to government military gains make peaceful resolution a more distant prospect," the agency said.

However, Sri Lanka's central bank hit back, accusing the risk evaluator of not taking into account the government's efforts to put together a political solution to end more than three decades of war with the Tamil Tigers.

The bank also said the downgrade was unwarranted and cast doubts over the agency's "objectivity and impartiality."

"Sri Lankan authorities view Standard and Poor's decision as being illogical, ill-advised and without rational basis or foundation," the bank said in its rebuttal.

Source: AFP