Ministers at their weekly meeting on Wednesday turned down a request by some media groups to buy motorcycles at concessionary or duty free rates. The move seems to have come as a tit for tat. As one minister pointed out at the meeting, it was the media that had given wide publicity to a move [...]


Motorbikes for journalists: Roadblock by angry ministers


Ministers at their weekly meeting on Wednesday turned down a request by some media groups to buy motorcycles at concessionary or duty free rates.

The move seems to have come as a tit for tat. As one minister pointed out at the meeting, it was the media that had given wide publicity to a move to increase different perks enjoyed by Members of Parliament (including ministers). So, how do they make a claim for concessions, he asked.

Ministers decided to turn down the request. It was decided that the minutes should record that the request was “not approved”.

Under the previous Mahinda Rajapaksa administration, selected media personnel were given loans up to one million rupees to buy vehicles. Others were given lap-tops and the media itself referred to the exercise as the then Government trying to make ‘lap-dogs’ out of journos. Once the recipients were selected, the cheques were doled out to them at a highly publicised ceremony.

Interestingly, even Sri Lankan journalists who were then with foreign media also sent in their applications. At least one of them received two million rupees, a million for him and another million for his ailing father. The application claimed there was no vehicle then to take him to hospital if there was a medical emergency.

Minister takes tough stand on Vauxhall Street land
The previous Mahinda Rajapaksa Government leased out 247 perches of state land in Vauxhall Lane, Kompannaveediya (Slave Island) for a mere Rs. 20 to Rs. 30 a square foot, Enterprise Development Minister Kabir Hashim said yesterday.
He said the land belonged to the Janatha Estate Development Board (JEDB) and the market rate prevailing at that time was Rs. 125 a square foot.

“Having done that,” Minister Hashim said “brokers are approaching us now to continue with the same concession.” He said he had told the lessee, a businessman from Kandy, that the matter should be regularised by paying the difference. “It is only then that permission will be given for them to continue to hold the land. Otherwise, I will cancel the lease,” he told the Sunday Times.

Mr. Hashim said when different brokers failed in their efforts to continue with the same lease agreement, they began throwing mud at Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and members of his family. “This was all rubbish,” he said adding that “our position is clear. Comply with our conditions or we take back the land. That is all there is in it.”

President disturbed by Rajapaksa veiled  threat to judiciary
President Maithripala Sirisena told Wednesday’s weekly meeting of ministers that the joint opposition rally in Hyde Park last week portended a dangerous trend.

His predecessor Mahinda Rajapaksa in his speech had made a “veiled” threat to the judiciary. That was an indication that Rajapaksa was organising different meetings and inducing crowds to deliver threatening messages to the judiciary.
According to reports received by him, President Sirisena said, crowds had come to Colombo in 450 buses. Around 11,500 people took part in the meeting. He noted that it was not uncommon for political parties to line up such crowds for public meetings.

Sexual harassment of female students: Jaffna academics suspended
The Jaffna University suspended an Associate Professor and a lecturer over the charges of soliciting sexual favours and abusing female students in the campus, a senior academic official said.Vice Chancellor V. Arasaratnam told the Sunday Times that she had taken the decision to suspend them following complaints by female students.

“Disciplinary inquiries have been initiated against these two academic staff and the next course of action will be determined following this. Without establishing the fact that they had behaved in a wrongful manner, I can’t sack them,” she said.
Speaking at “Women’s Day” celebrations arranged by the Voice of Women organisation at the Veerasingham Hall in Jaffna on Tuesday, Prof. Arasaratnam told a packed audience that sitting as Vice Chancellor in the University, she had to take stern action against this type of incidents immediately.

While noting that part of the responsibility lies with the students for not informing the authorities on time, Prof. Arasaratnam said if the university administration had been notified earlier, such incidents could have been avoided. ”People who talk about women’s rights and feminism should take more initiatives to empower women with self-courage to come out against this type of incidents in future, so we can act early,” she said.

Brussels terror: Lanka scores a TV point
When the Belgian capital was struck by coordinated terrorist attacks on Tuesday, our ambassador to the EU was hosting a Belgian TV crew that had spent two weeks filming wildlife in Sri Lanka.

The ambassador grabbed the opportunity as the news came, to observe a minute’s silence for those who had perished in the attacks. He then went on to give the RTBT journalists a good lecture on how Sri Lanka went through such travails not long ago and how the country went through the entire Conflict Resolution guidelines to reach a peaceful settlement to the conflict, but eventually had no other recourse than to end it militarily.

The TV documentary will be shown on TV-5, the French equivalent of CNN.

Krrish deal: Detectives go to Singapore
A probe on the Krrish project — the construction of a mixed development project in Colombo Fort — took investigators to Singapore last week.
Officials of the Financial Crimes Investigation Division (FCID) and the Attorney General’s Department were verifying remittances from Singapore for the project. They have been assisted by the Singapore Police.

No benders for tenders
The Cabinet of Ministers decided on Wednesday to amend laws relating to awarding of tenders.
The idea, a senior minister said, was to tighten loopholes that enabled those calling for tenders to manipulate or promote the case of a particular tenderer.

He said the shortcoming in the existing laws had already been identified.

Former envoy to prepare way for PM
A senior Foreign Ministry official has flown to Beijing to make arrangements for the visit by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and an entourage.
The official, the last envoy to Beijing before being assigned the MFA, will work with the Ambassador who is a political appointee.

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