The Maldives is apparently moving steadily away from China and heading towards the United States – as symbolised in last week’s official visit by the Maldivian Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid to Washington DC. Following the visit, the US State Department issued a glowing report on the Maldives, “applauding its commitment to advance justice sector reform, [...]


Maldives drifting away from China, and towards US


The Maldives is apparently moving steadily away from China and heading towards the United States – as symbolised in last week’s official visit by the Maldivian Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid to Washington DC.

The US State Department gives a boost to the Maldives' image as a democracy

Following the visit, the US State Department issued a glowing report on the Maldives, “applauding its commitment to advance justice sector reform, good governance, rule of law, transparent public financial management, anti-corruption, growth of civil society, responsible infrastructure development, and education”.

That was quite a mouthful for a country that has not been considered a traditional American ally.

The US also welcomed the “opportunity to deepen engagement with the Maldives in support of common priorities and a shared vision for the Indian Ocean region.”

As a gesture of goodwill, the State Department announced its intent to work with Congress to provide $9.75 million in new funding for public financial management, rule of law, governance, civil society strengthening, and vocational training.

Additionally, the US will also provide $7 million in military aid to support maritime security, humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, and military professionalisation.

The US and the Maldives are also moving towards the conclusion of a memorandum of understanding on the implementation of a $2 million programme to enhance aviation security in the Maldives and upgrade passenger screening systems at the Maldivian ports of entry.

According to the Maldives’ Finance Minister Ibrahim Ameer, the country owes a staggering $1.4 billion debt to China — a far cry from what the US is doling out.

Still, the State Department said the Treasury Department would help the Maldives government with developing a debt strategy and with domestic debt management.

Plain-sailing powers for SriLankan bosses

Some heads of state-financed enterprises have acted even beyond powers enjoyed by the President, the Prime Minister or the Members of the Cabinet, according to documents seen by the Sunday Times.

One such instance is the “premature termination of a Lease Agreement” for the purchase of A 350-900 aircraft by SriLankan Airlines, the national carrier – a matter which even surfaced at the inquiries conducted by the Commission headed by retired Supreme Court Judge Anil Gooneratne.

The decision to pay US$ 98 million compensation to Aercap as penalty for early cancellation has been made by SriLankan Airlines’ then Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Kapila Chandrasena without approval either by the Cabinet of Ministers or the Attorney General.

According to a letter written to SriLankan Airlines’ then Chairman Ajit Dias by Public Enterprise Development Ministry Secretary R. Hewavitharana, even though the Cabinet and the former Cabinet Committee on Economic Management (CCEM) “categorically requested my involvement in this transaction leading to the entering of the Agreement, I was never requested to be a member…”

Mr Hewavitharana’s letter prompted four directors of SriLankan Airlines at that time — Silva, J.M.S. Britto, R.S. Jayawardena and H.R. Balapatabendi — to write to the then SriLankan Airlines Chairman, Mr Dias.

This is what the four directors said: “We the undersigned non-executive Board Members have done our own inquiries on the facts made available to us, and collectively conclude that the Management appears to have clearly exceeded the Board Mandate and unnecessarily risked placing the company to legal claims.”

They requested that the Ministry of Public Enterprises and the Attorney General to appoint an independent panel to “confirm the findings.”  Nothing happened.

However, during late last year’s unconstitutional government, Kapila Chandrasena was named Chairman of SriLankan Airlines. A wave of protests to then Premier Mahinda Rajapaksa led to the cancellation of the move within hours of his appointment.


Navy officer’s father wants son protected from CDS

What has transpired would evoke laughter but the issues involved are yet a serious thing.

Lt. Cmdr. Krishan Welagedera made a statement to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), providing vital evidence over the alleged killings of five students in Trincomalee in January 2006.

Thereafter, his father wrote to President Maithripala Sirisena that his son be allowed early retirement and, in the interim, to provide him security.

In the letter, he has openly alleged that the threat was from Admiral Ravindra Wijegunaratne, now the Chief of Defence Staff.

Now, the President’s Office has directed that letter to Admiral Wijegunaratne to take action.

His latest appeal was for protection after Admiral Ravindra Wjegunaratne’s security detail was alleged to have intimidated, Lt. Commander Welagedera, a key witmess, and  another key witness in the case.

Admiral Wijegunaratne, an accused in the case, is currently on bail.


Mahinda cracks jokes at CC meeting
Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa provoked laughter at last Thursday’s Constitutional Council meeting chaired by Speaker Karu Jayasuriya. That was with a seeming complaint against the United National Party (UNP). He charged that the UNP was “stealing” all the Opposition’s slogans and complaints leaving little behind.

“See what Ranjan Ramanayake has said about drug addicts among parliamentarians,” he pointed out. Those issues, he declared, “are ones we would be raising.” There was laughter all round. Playing different roles and making different remarks is an art known to Ramanayake. But in real life, such conduct has landed him in deep trouble. There is a case against him in the Supreme Court for contempt.

Weeks earlier, he castigated Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and a group of ministers for attending the wedding of Rohitha, son of Opposition Leader Rajapaksa at Medamulana. The fact that even warring tribal chiefs of yore believed in the civilised conduct of meeting rivals on occasions was lost on this smooth talking politician.

On Friday, he appeared before Minister and House Leader Lakshman Kiriella, whom Premier Wickremesinghe has appointed to probe his remarks that there were parliamentarians who were drug addicts. The celluloid hero is yet to disclose the names.

Basil-Gammanpila in verbal duel; MR intervenes

The Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna’s de facto leader, Mahinda Rajapaksa, had to intervene to settle a war of words between Udaya Gammanpila and Basil Rajapaksa at a meeting of partner leaders of the ‘Joint Opposition’.

Mr Gammanpila is the leader of the Pivithuru Hela Urumaya and Mr Rajapaksa is the architect of the SLPP and its ideologue.

The heated arguments arose when Mr Gammanpila raised issue over how vacancies that occur in local councils should be filled. Mahinda Rajapaksa had the simple answer – it should go to the same party whose candidate had vacated the seat due to death or resignation.

However, here was a case where the parties of the ‘Joint Opposition’ could not be represented. Their nominations were rejected and Mr Gammanpila cited the Boralesgamuwa Pradeshiya Sabha.

It was Basil Rajapaksa’s contention that if a person who had died was an SLPP member, the seat should be filled by that party. He had some strong words to say against Mr Gammanpila.

Opposition Leader Rajapaksa interrupted at one stage and said that the verbal duel must stop. When there were exceptional circumstances, it would be incumbent on the party leaders to decide on who the successor would be.

That ended the tussle that raised eyebrows at the meeting. Democratic Left Front Leader Vasudeva Nanayakkara backed Mr Gammanpila’s position.

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