Govt rules out vehicle imports on concessionary terms for engineers
22-June-2008 12.35 am | By Maduhshala Senaratne
The Government is ruling out the possibility of granting approval for importing motor vehicles on concessionary terms to engineers in Government boards and corporations in the immediate future.
A collective of 14 engineers’ unions and associations in Government Boards, Corporations and other statutory bodies threatened to launch trade union action this week against their exclusion from the facility to import a motor vehicle on concessionary terms which they deem as unfair treatment.
“The cabinet took a decision that these engineers would be granted this facility. However with regard to the country’s foreign exchange situation, it is not possible to give them such a facility at the moment”, Power and Energy Minister, John Seneviratne who, along with three other Minister forwarded a Cabinet Paper in this regard in April this year.
“I request them not to protest”, he said, adding that it is necessary for the engineers to understand the country’s situation.
However he gave no specific date as to when such a facility would be granted.
Several Engineers’ Unions have resorted to a Work to Rule action where no work is being carried out after office hours and on weekends as a mark of protest against them being excluded from this facility and privilege enjoyed by engineers.
Engineers’ unions protesting include the Road Development Authority Engineers’ Association, Ceylon Electricity Board Engineers’ Union, Sri Lanka Ports Authority Engineers’ Association, State Engineering Corporation Engineers’ Union and the National Water Supply and Drainage Board Engineers’ Union.
The Engineers’ Association, Secretary, Sabeena Rathnayake said, “Motor vehicles are not our main concern. Engineers in Departments have being issued with this permit. But the majority of the engineers are in Boards and Corporations. We have being sidelined and are being treated unfairly”.
The RDA Engineers’ union already took no corporation action for two weeks from May 28, she said. A work to rule action was then resorted to, since June 16.
She said that although the unions have referred the matter to relevant authorities including the Treasury and the Ministry of Finance and Planning, little has being done with regard to the issue.
The facility to import a motor vehicle on concessionary duty terms, a special privilege granted to certain executives in the state sector was extended only to engineers in the government departments and statutory bodies in 1978. It was intended to be an incentive to retain in the country the engineers who were migrating in large numbers. Later the facility was extended to various other categories but in all the occasions the concession was reintroduced the engineers were invariably included.
“However, when this was reintroduced last year, we were not included in it”, she said.
CEB Engineer’s Union spokesperson, A. Wanniarachchi said that over 1500 engineers are affected by such a decision to exclude them from being granted the facility to import a motor vehicle on concessionary terms.
The CEB engineers union is also carrying out a work to rule action. There were reports of power failures in Kelaniya, Dalugama and Wattala on Thursday night. However due to the ongoing work to rule action, there was no power till the next day.
National Water Supply and Drainage Board Engineers’ Union, President, G. Rathnayake said that the union followed a Work to Rule action since June 13 as a mark of protest. However it would not have any bearing on major service breakdowns.
“We have attended to the recent major service break down at low level road where major transmission pipelines were broken due to an earth slip”, he said.
Meanwhile, a group of engineers of the forces have also appealed to the authorities that they too be granted permission to import motor vehicles on concessionary terms.
Finance and planning Ministry approved concessions for professionals in the armed forces such as engineers, doctors, auditors and lawyers under the salary structure of the Public Administration Circular 6/2006.
However, engineers of the armed forces claimed that only a few among the qualified persons who applied for such vehicles permits were able to obtain the permits.
“We joined the army as engineers to serve the country. We have being working in tandem with other officials in upholding the country’s territorial integrity”, group of engineers said.
Vaccine with side effects suspended
22-June-2008 01.15 am | By Nadia Fazlulhaq
The administering of the pentavalent vaccine to children from January 1 this year had been suspended as it had side affects on some children, according to the deputy head of the Health Ministry Epidemiology Unit.
According to Dr. Paba Palihawadane, the reason to effect the suspension immediately was that some of the children had shown abnormal responses.
“It’s usual that a child would be not that active after a vaccine is injected, and even have a slight fever. But after this vaccine was injected a number of children went through a hyper-response situation quite different from side effects experienced after previous vaccines were injected,” she said.
The vaccine which was a multi-dose one consisting of five vaccines and was given under the National Immunization Programme.
“We are continuing the former vaccine process and would be giving a triple vaccine for Diphtheria, Tetanus (lockjaw), Pertussis (whooping cough) and a vaccine for Hepatitis B besides the oral polio vaccine,” Dr. Palihawadane said.
Ticket fares to visit Sigiriya increased
22-June-2008 01.45 am | By Himal Kotelawala
The prices of tickets to visit Sigiriya have been raised as of last Wednesday in the face of skyrocketing maintenance costs, a high-ranking spokesman for the Central Cultural Fund said.
The ticket price for an adult local tourist has gone up to Rs. 40 from Rs. 20 and that for a child has been increased to Rs. 20 from the previous Rs. 10.
The ticket prices for foreign tourists will also increase to US$ 25 from US$ 20 on August 1 and for minors a ticket will cost US$ 12.50.
“We have to beg for money from the treasury. We have to pay salaries, and pay for maintenance, etc., and what with the current situation of the country, we are compelled to increase ticket prices,” the spokesman said.
Meanwhile there has been a drop in foreign tourist arrivals, particularly from Europe and Latin America who, according to the CCF spokesman, are the only ones among visitors to Sri Lanka who actually travel to places of cultural and historical significance such as Sigiriya, Anuradhapura, etc.
“There has been an increase of about 50% in arrival of tourists from Middle East and India but they hardly ever visit heritage sites like Sigiriya,” he said.
All most all those coming from the Middle East are here for business purposes and those from India are not interested in looking at things similar to what they have already seen in their own country, he added.
A total of Rs. 3 – 3.5 million rupees is spent monthly on Sigiriya alone, and the official says that lack of proper finances is the biggest problem.
“There has been a significant increase in the income after the increase. We have made about Rs. 650, 000 on Poson Poya Day,” he said.
STF officer and PC killed in Batticaloa
22-June-2008 11:20 am
A Special Task Force (STF) officer and a police constable were killed in a roadside claymore mine explosion in Kaludaveli, Batticaloa on Sunday morning, the Defence ministry said.
The bomb was placed inside a luggage of a push cycle which was parked on the church road, Kaludaveli. The STF officer and PC was about to check the cycle when the explosion had been triggered off by a remote control.
A civilian was critically injured in the blast.
Kingswood win schools title
22-June-2008 6 p.m.
Kingswood took the schools' Premier League Division One title when they beat Trinity by 12 points ( a goal and a try) to 5 points ( a try) in the schools rugby final match in Kandy. At half time the winners led at 12 points to nil. For Kingswood skipper and number 8 Gayan Ratnage scored both tries while Piyaratne converted the first try. For Trinity flanker Jaris Omar scored their unconverted try. Asela de Silva refereed.
LTTE cadre killed, as STF encounters small arms attack in Batti
22-June-2008 09:20 pm
(UPDATE 1) - Special Task Force (STF) commandos gunned down an LTTE cadre during a confrontation at Kaludavalai in Batticaloa during a search operation after a STF officer and a police constable were killed earlier on Sunday, the Defence ministry said.
The STF personnel had encountered small arms fire during the search, originated from an abandoned house around 2.45 pm and the STF personnel had retaliated killing the LTTE cadre. Two hand grenades, and a cyanide capsule was found in his possession.
The STF officer and the PC were killed in a roadside claymore mine explosion in Kaludavalai, the Defence ministry said.
The bomb was placed inside a luggage of a push cycle which was parked on the church road, Kaludaveli. The STF officer and the PC had made an attempt to check the cycle which had been parked in a suspicious manner.
Employee of Pvt insurance company shot dead in Trinco
23-June-2008 10.28 am | Times Online
An employee of a private insurance comapny was shot dead in Trincomalee on Sunday night, Police said.
The victim was identified as Ravi Tharoshan, 36, a resident of Trincomalee.
An unidentified gunman had arrived on a motorcycle and shot him dead.
Colombo stocks rise on Hayleys demand
23-June-2008 11.50 am
Colombo stocks rose in early trade on Monday on interest in Hayleys stocks after weekend reports that the blue chip firm needs equity capital and may consider raising money from the public, brokers said.
The All Share (ASPI) gained 29.46 points to 2489.43 while Milanka rose by 56.41 points to 3006.82 by mid-day trades. Hayleys traded stock showed a turnover of Rs 53 million at the time of this report. Hayleys was up Rs 4.75 and trading at Rs 131 per share.
The Sunday Times yesterday quoted Hayleys Chairman N.G. Wickremeratne as saying that Hayleys needs capital and was considering seeking money from the public. Just as trading opened on Monday, the company sent a statement to the Colombo Stock Exchange saying the comments made by its chairman were in response to questions asked by The Sunday Times reporter.
“It is generally accepted that Hayleys needs an infusion to equity capital; this has been a matter of internal discussion for some time and that discussion continues. No finality has been reached in this respect, and the Stock Exchange and our shareholders will certainly be kept advised when there is a definite plan to be implemented,” the statement said.
Brokers said trading during the day was expected to show gains, following up from Friday’s buoyant market.
CORRECTED- Govt. foreign bonds oversubscribed-CB
23-June-2008 5.23 pm
The latest offer of US$200 million worth of Sri Lanka Development Bonds (SLDBs) issued by the government to fund state expenditure has been oversubscribed by over 150 percent, the Central Bank said.
The Bank, the issuer of these bonds on behalf of the government, said the offer drew a total subscription of $310 million from local and foreign commercial banks. “The government has decided to accept $230.3 million (more than the offered amount) of the two year SLDBs at the market determined rate of US Dollar 6-month LIBOR + 2.9492 per cent (weighted average margin),” the statement said adding that today’s USD 6-month LIBOR rate is 3.180 percent.
The offer was opened on June 16 and closed on June 23.These funds would be utilized to settle the SLDBs that are maturing this year. The government, through the Central Bank, has resorted to a variety of commercial borrowings over the past several months to finance government expenditure.
The Bank said the latest offer was in the form of 2-year maturity bonds worth $125 million, 3-year maturity bonds worth $50 million and 5-year maturity bonds worth $25 million.
13 further remanded for promoting Pyramid scheme
23-June-2008 05:40 pm/ By Hiran Priyankara
Thirteen persons arrested by the police for their involvement in promoting an illegal pyramid scheme, a scheme that draws money out of the country without authority, promising high returns for the depositors were further remanded by the Mahawa District Judge, A.K.M. Patabendi on Monday.
They were earlier arrested in the Mahawa police division while promoting the scheme to an audience.
Police and Central Bank were closely monitoring those promoting the scheme before the arrest. They had also obtained recordings of the promotional campaign.
The suspects will be produced before courts on July 2.
Colombo stocks close high on Vallibel speculation
23-June-2008 5.50 pm
Colombo stocks closed higher on Monday on interest in Vallibel Power Erathna Ltd after its main shareholder, aggressive investor Dhammika Perera, reached a tentative agreement with an potential investor to sell his 70 percent stake.
“He has just confirmed that a prospective investor has approached him today for a possible purchase of (his) entire shareholding of the company,” the company said in a statement earlier in the day. Later towards the end of trading, the company in another statement said Perera had told the company that he ‘reserved the right to sell the entire shareholding to any other investor provided he would get 12% more that what it was being offered now (Rs 5 per share).’
The uncertainty in the stock compounded by the confusing statements saw large parcels being traded of a total of 19.2 million shares at Rs 4.40 per share, up from Rs 3.80 on the previous trading day. “Tomorrow there will be more speculation in Vallibel shares. Since it is a ‘tentative’ agreement according to the company, it may not be a ‘binding’ agreement, such as a written one,” a stock broker said. He said tomorrow may see the share pushed even further by the brokers. “It may reach up to Rs.5.00,” he said. The potential investor was not named in the two statements by Vallibel.
Nimal Perera, Director Vallibel Group, said that the deal may or may not happen. “It is all subject to the due diligence being done. It will be completed in two months time,” he said.
This and early interest in Hayleys, following reports that it was considering raising equity from the public, drove the All Share (ASPI) upwards with a gain of 19.55 points to close at 2479.53 while Milanka rose by 36.09 points to 2986.50 with total turnover at Rs 236 million.
Nawaloka Hospitals, Hayleys MGT Knitting Mills and Hunas Falls Hotels will hold their AGMs tomorrow.
Three PCs killed in Batticaloa
23-June-2008 09:10 pm
Three Police constables were killed and another injured when a bomb exploded within 400m distance of the Ayithamalai Police post in Batticaloa Monday evening, Police said.
The three constables had gone for a bath to a nearby lake when a time bomb had been set off by suspected LTTE cadres who had infiltrated the area, police said.
The injured identified as PC Amila was rushed to the general Hospital at Batticaloa.
Since last month 11 police personnel have been killed in Batticaloa.
Former British High Commission property up for sale
24-June-2008 09.30 am
The former British High Commission premises – 434 perches of prime land – adjoining the American Embassy and ‘Temple Trees’, the residence of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, is up for sale and could be worth around a billion rupees, according to advertisements placed in local newspapers at the weekend and today.
The same information has also been placed in the website of Savills, an Australian property developer, which has been selected as the marketing agent along with Sri Lanka’s well-known auctioneer Schokman & Samarawickreme, to sell the property owned by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) of the British Government.
Savills said it secured the ‘job’ after selling the Australian Embassy in June 2007 for around $4.9 million, which was purchased by aggressive Sri Lankan entrepreneur Dhammika Perera. The website ad says the unique waterfront site of 10,977 square metres has an 81.7 metre frontage to the Indian Ocean and comes complete with a seven-storey commercial building of about 3000 sq metres, large front and rear garden compound, tennis court, swimming pool and ancillary structures.
Savills said it expects the selling price to be around $9.5-10 million (Rs 1.02 billion at Australian dollar rates).
The British High Commission moved into its new location at Bauddhaloka Mawatha, opposite the BMICH, recently. Full page advertisements in local newspapers which provide an attractive view of the back of the building with a swimming pool and a map of the location, say ‘this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to acquire 268 feet of Galle Road and coastal frontage with pristine uninterrupted views of the India Ocean. Expressions of interest close at noon on August 4, the ads said. (See also picture of the property on our website)
Colombo stocks seen gaining today
24-June-2008 11 am
Colombo stocks slightly rose in early trade today on the back of peace sentiments together with the anticipated deal on Vallibel Power Erathna after its main shareholder Dhammika Perera, reached a tentative agreement with a potential investor to sell his 70 percent stake, stock brokers said.
“People have some sort of thinking that the high powered delegation who left the country last Saturday may have brought prospects for peace,” Dimuthu Abeysekera, CEO Asha Phillips Securities, said.
However he noted that this may not contribute to stocks rising in a big way today, “We cannot see the market rising in a big way, but it will not be as bad as what we saw during the last couple of weeks,” he noted. “People seem more confident now.” Stock market analysts said that there will be more speculation in Vallibel shares today.
The All Share (ASPI) was up with a gain of 0.31 points to 2487.14 while Milanka rose by 0.61 points to 3004.72.
Brokers said trading during the day will likely show some gains, following up from yesterday’s highs.
21 LTTE cadres and 5 soldiers killed in north
24-June-2008 11:10 am
At least 21 LTTE cadres and five soldiers were killed in fighting in the north on Tuesday, Military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara said.
He said in Welioya 10 LTTE cadres were killed while eight were killed in Mannar and three others in Vavuniya.
Lankan gas prices – up or down – known today
25-June-2008 10.35 am
The Consumer Affairs Authority (CAA) will give a ruling later this evening on local gas prices – whether it should go up or come down, industry officials said.
A spokesman for Laugfs Gas said the decision from the CAA on whether prices should rise or be reduced is based on a current formula where the gas suppliers (Laugfs and Shell) provide their costs, etc and the CAA decides on the ‘correct’ pricing.
There was speculation this morning that prices might rise. Asked whether prices could be sold at lower than current rates, the Laugfs spokesman said “yes”. Officials from Shell Gas were not immediately available for comment.
Shell sells at Rs 1,729 (per 12.5 kg) cylinder and Laugfs at Rs 1,721.
SriLankan Airlines increasing flights to the Middle East
25-June-2008 12.15 pm
SriLankan Airlines is increasing its flights to the Middle East to back government initiatives to generate more tourists from those oil-rich countries, the airline said today.
SriLankan will have 37 weekly connections to nine cities in the Middle East – Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Bahrain, Doha, Muscat, Dammam, Riyadh, Jeddah and Kuwait. Additional flights are to three cities – Doha which increases from the present four flights up to six; Bahrain which goes from five to seven; and Dammam which will have three flights, up from the present two.
The airline said the government has identified the Middle East as one of four major thrust markets to Sri Lanka, and has launched a series of marketing campaigns to raise awareness of the island’s attractions. There has been an 80% increase in Middle Eastern tourist arrivals during the first quarter of 2008, the airline statement said.
The labour market in the Middle East is also increasing and expected to see an increase in the number of job opportunities there for Sri Lankans, labour industry analysts said.
JVP Chief Ministerial candidates officially announced
25 June-2008 01:30 pm/ By Damith Wickremasekara
The JVP Wednesday officially announced its chief ministerial candidates and district leaders for the North Central and Sabaragamuwa provincial council elections.
Member of Parliament Wasantha Samarasinghe will contest as the NCP Chief Minister while serving as the Anuradhapura district leader while President of the student union of the JVP, Chameera Koswatta will contest as the Sabaragamuwa CM while being the Kegalle district leader.
Veteran teachers union leader Mahinda Jayasinghe will be the Kegalle district organizer leading the group while in Kegalle. Former NCP provincial council JVP group leader, Indrananda Silva will be leading the group in Polonnaruwa.
HNB profits soar in first quarter 2008-09
26-June-2008 8.10 am
Hatton National Bank (HNB) recorded a first quarter profit of Rs.741 million, sharply up 115.5% from the same 2007 period which showed a net of Rs.344 million, a Colombo broker said today.
In a report, C.T. Smith Stockbrokers said HNB in first quarter 2008-09 reported robust growth in both Net-Interest Income and Non-Interest Income while foreign exchange income was up 16.2% year-on-year to Rs.285 million.
HNB's provision for bad and doubtful debts and loans written off fell 59% to Rs.177 million with the decline being attributed mainly due to general provisions falling 51% to Rs. 92 million. Brokers said more quarterly reports of companies are expected this week.
Lankan inflation highest in the region-report
26-June-2008 8.20 am
Sri Lanka has the highest annual inflation in the region (Asia) with April figures touching 25 percent and Vietnam at 21.4 percent being the closest to such high inflation, an international bank has said.
HSBC’s Global Research in a May 15 report titled ‘Sri Lanka Inflation: How high will it go?’ and released on May 15, a copy of which was obtained by TimesOnline, says ‘even by its own history, inflation in Sri Lanka is on the high side.’
Quoting the New Colombo Consumers’ Price Index, the analysis notes that the country has a history of high inflation, averaging around 11% year-on-year since 1990, and suggests that policy management has not been consistently successful in controlling price pressures in the economy.
Second Grenade attack on UNP MP Range Bandara's office
26-June-2008 08:45 am/ By Hiran Priyankara
UNP Puttalam district MP Range Bandara's Anamaduwa office came under a grenade attack on Wednesday night, police said.
Police said no one was inside the office, but the building has been damaged.
On Tuesday a grenade was thrown at his Puttalam office, but the grenade did not explode.
More UNP memebrs to support G'ment-Media Minister
26-June-2008 11.10am/ timesoneline
Media Minister Anura Priyadharshana Yapa hinted today that there are more UNP members waiting to support the Government.
“I will soon tell the journalists the names of the UNP members who are with us,” the Minister said during the weekly briefing held to announce Cabinet decisions.
When queried for further details, the Minister said he is unable to say more at present but would do so at the appropriate time.
Oil prices ease in world stage
27-June-2008 6.45 am
World oil prices eased to $133.09 per barrel on Thursday from $135.39 the previous day for the Brent variety while the OPEC Basket was trading at $129.87 against $130.70 earlier, the Central Bank said.
In the Singapore refined market, petrol was pegged slightly up at $140.40 against $139.10, diesel at $168.60 against $166.87 and kerosene at $165.38 against $164.89.
The Bank said these rates based on information provided by Reuters News Agency are being disseminated to make the public aware about the current oil prices in the world market.
24 LTTE bodies recovered
27-June-2008 3.37 pm
Security forces have recovered the bodies of 24 LTTE cadres killed in the confrontations with the military the Chiraddikulama area in Vavuniya on Thursday.
The bodies were recovered by troops who were engaged in search and clearing operations while consolidating the newly established defenses in the area, security sources said.
Troops also uncovered 20 T-56 assault rifles, one 12.7mm anti-air craft machinegun, two RPG launchers and one light machinegun, the Defence Ministry said.
LTTE bodies handed over to Vavuniya Hospital
UPDATE: Bodies of 25 LTTE cadres killed in confrontations with the military in the Chiraddikulama area in Vavuniya on Thursday were handed over to the Vavuniya Hospital this evening.
The bodies were recovered by troops who were engaged in search and clearing operations while consolidating the newly established defenses in the area Thursday evening, security sources said.
Security force capture Andankulam in Mannar: Defence Ministry
28-June-2008 08:50 am
Security forces on Friday captured the Andankulam area in Mannar killing at least 11 LTTE cadres, The Defence Ministry said.
Troops have also gained full control over 13 square kilometers surrounding the Andankulma area, the Ministry said.
Earlier the Defence ministry said that pitched fighting was reported in the Papamoddai and Neduvarampu areas from Friday morning until evening. At least 21 LTTE cadres were killed in the clashes.
Three soldiers have received injuries, while military claimed to have uncovered another slain LTTE body along with a T-56 assault riffle following a search operation conducted in the area, the Defence ministry said.
Girl abducted, but rescued by police
28 June-2008 10:25 pm | By Hiran Priyankara
A 23 year old girl, abducted by a group of men in a white van in Baranankattuwa, Mundalama on Saturday evening was rescued by the Wennappuwa police at a security checkpoint in Thoppuwa.
The girl, an employee of a garment factory was taken away when she was going for a bath with her sister.
The sister had immediately rushed to the Mundalama police with her parents and lodged a complaint about the abduction. Accordingly the security check points had been alerted.
The white van was stopped at police road block cum checkpoint in Thoppuwa, Wennappuwa. Two suspects were taken into custody along with the van.