Some bureaucrats are calling it the “air wars” – the tussle between the President’s Office and the Prime Minister’s Office – over Rupavahini, the national television broadcaster. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe wants Chairman Inoka Sathyangani replaced. They now want to appoint journalist and Sri Lanka College of Journalism’s Chief Executive Officer Shan Wijetunga in her [...]


Sirisena, Ranil in air war over Rupavahini chief


Some bureaucrats are calling it the “air wars” – the tussle between the President’s Office and the Prime Minister’s Office – over Rupavahini, the national television broadcaster.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe wants Chairman Inoka Sathyangani replaced. They now want to appoint journalist and Sri Lanka College of Journalism’s Chief Executive Officer Shan Wijetunga in her place. However, President Maithripala Sirisena has sought reasons for the removal of Ms. Sathyangani and has said that he would not make a change.

It was only last week, as the Sunday Times reported, that the Rupavahini extended an apology to the Premier’s Office after complaints that Premier Wickremesinghe was not shown adequately in its video footage on the day of the launching of the national campaign against drugs. The event was headed by President Sirisena.

Last Tuesday, after the end of the weekly ministerial meeting, both Premier Wickremesinghe and Minister and UNP Chairman Kabir Hashim met President Sirisena over the same issue. When they went to see him in the President’s upstairs office, President Sirisena was engaged in a conversation with United National Party (UNP) deputy leader Sajith Premadasa. Thereafter, the Prime Minister and UNP Chairman raised issue with the President.
This week, President Sirisena also met all heads of state media. It has been reported to him that a revenue drop at Rupavahini was causing financial issue with difficulties in paying salaries.

Ms. Sathyangani was appointed Rupavahini Chairman when Mangala Samaraweera was the Media Minister. As President Sirisena has publicly declared, the media portfolio was removed from Minister Samaraweera after a request from Prime Minister Wickremesinghe.

Aava cracks whip on ragging

At a time when ragging in universities seem to have gone out of control, the controversial ‘Aava Group’ members are trying to step in to control the menace.

This week posters claiming to be from the group have appeared on the walls of the Jaffna University, warning senior students to immediately stop ragging freshers.

The posters had been pasted on Tuesday night outside a building of the University’s Arts Faculty. They claimed to be from the “Anti-Ragging Committee (ARC) of Aava Group.” The posters had noted that there were disturbing reports of university freshers being subjected to severe verbal and physical harassment due to ragging and that there were also reports that students were being subjected to ragging based on their caste.

The posters said ragging activities must immediately cease and warned that any students found to be engaging in ragging freshers in defiance of these warnings would suffer severe consequences. “Ragging is a crime,” the posters stressed in English.

On Wednesday morning, student unions at both the Jaffna and South Eastern Universities issued statements, insisting that ragging did not take place inside the universities, but also assuring that steps would be taken to prevent any such incidents.  The Jaffna University students’ union had also taken steps to paste posters at the Arts Faculty building reiterating this assurance.

The poster campaign by the Aava Group and the students’ union is reminiscent of those campaigns carried out by the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) in the late 1980s.

Did our New Year grease pole tradition come from New York?

When the National New Year is celebrated in our villages over the weekend and continues next week, one of the highlights will be the traditional games, including “climbing the grease pole”.

Grease pole games in New York (above) and (right) in Sri Lanka

Did we follow in the footsteps of New Yorkers, going back to 1783 when British colonial troops finally left the island of Manhattan in New York City, two months after the end of the American Revolution?

That morning, according to the New York Times, George Washington and his troops marched triumphantly south from Harlem to reclaim the Battery, located at the far southern end of New York City, where they would replace the impeccably dressed redcoats with their own ragtag crew of citizen-soldiers.

When they finally reached Fort George, at the tip of Manhattan, they discovered the British had committed one last act of defiance: they had nailed the Union Jack atop the flagpole, which they had afterward stripped and greased, preventing an easy removal.

Sure, the Americans could have cut the greasy pole down — but then, where would they fly their own flag?

An enterprising sailor named John Jacob van Arsdale had a solution. After failing three times to climb the greasy pole the traditional way, he and a couple of his friends ran to a hardware store to get supplies. With his pockets filled with nails and the rope for a new halyard over his shoulder, he made his way slowly up the greasy pole, hammering in footholds as he ascended, the Times said. According to legend, the American Star-Spangled Banner was aloft before the British were out of sight, meaning they had seen the failure of their ploy — and the end of their presence in America.

And every year, on Evacuation Day, New Yorkers recreated their act of defiance against the British by climbing a grease pole.

Later on, climbing the ‘greasy pole’ became a synonym associated in politics with having to climb the ‘greasy pole of politics’ to the top.

And thereby hangs a tale.

New Year games: Be sensitive to disabled people

Disability rights advocates have appealed to the people to be mindful of the sensitivities of disabled individuals when organising certain folk games during the National New Year festivals.

Issuing a statement, the Disability Sensitisation Advocacy Team pointed out that the names of certain popular games played during Avurudu celebrations insult disabled individuals and demean them in the eyes of the public.

They have singled out two particular popular games; “Kana Muttiya Bindeema” and “Andayata Kiri Keweema,” as games that are insulting to the disabled owing to their names.

The statement points out these names are demeaning to over one million Sri Lankans who are vision impaired, while also noting that 8.7% of the country’s population is suffering from some form of disability.

While acknowledging that these games have been part of Avurudu celebrations for generations, the group stresses that it is time for society to move with the times and change the names of these games so as not to hurt the sensitivities of disabled persons.

They have suggested using “Vasana Muttiya Bindeema” and “Daes Benda Kiri Keweema” to replace the original names of these games.

Rajapaksa: Nothing but the tooth

Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa developed tooth problems whilst on a visit to Polonnaruwa this week.

He was compelled to go to the Polonnaruwa government hospital where dentists attended to his problem.

Rajapaksa later told onlookers that the service at the hospital was “excellent and the staff was very polite.”

It was some credit for President Maithripala Sirisena. As a onetime Minister of Health, he had improved medical facilities at this hospital, which is in the constituency he represented as a Member of Parliament.

President cancels trip to Tirupathi
President Maithripala Sirisena had planned a visit to Tirupathi in South India on a pilgrimage.
Presidential sources now say that he has called off the trip and will be in Sri Lanka.


Is the brother a bother?
“…Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the bother of former president Mahinda Rajapaksa…”
This is how London’s The Independent newspaper referred to the former Defence Secretary in a story about law suits against him in the United States.
Was it a Freudian slip?

Chunnakam power plant: Thawarasa challenges Wigneswaran for a debate

The Northern Provincial Council’s former Opposition Leader S. Thawarasa has challenged ex-chief minister C. Wigneswaran for an open debate over a disputed committee report produced during his tenure.

The ex-chief minister appointed a committee to investigate allegations that the residue oil used for the Northern Power station in Chunnakam had polluted the water in the area and hundreds of residents were affected.

The four-member committee gave a clean sheet for the project during the chief minister’s period.

However, two weeks ago, the Supreme Court, in a landmark judgment, directed the Northern Power Company (Pvt) Ltd to pay Rs 20 million to residents of Chunnakam, Jaffna, for contaminating groundwater through waste discharges from its thermal power station.

The ex-opposition leader is challenging the former chief minister to explain as to how he allowed a committee to clear the company from any wrongdoing.



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