President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe will have a one-on-one meeting next week, when both are in the country, to discuss a Ministry of Defence directive that has caused embarrassment to the UNF Government. The directive for the first time since independence, issued by the Defence Secretary Karunasena Hettiaratchchi, had debarred military personnel [...]


President, PM to review Defence Secretary’s directive


President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe will have a one-on-one meeting next week, when both are in the country, to discuss a Ministry of Defence directive that has caused embarrassment to the UNF Government.
The directive for the first time since independence, issued by the Defence Secretary Karunasena Hettiaratchchi, had debarred military personnel from taking part in any event where Eastern Province Chief Minister Nazeer Ahmed would be present. It had also declared that military camps would be out of bounds for the Chief Minister.

The move was the result of Mr. Ahmed publicly insulting a Navy officer at a public function in a school in Sampur. The Chief Minister had said he had not been invited by the Navy though the school came under the Eastern Provincial Council. He had been asked to come by Eastern Province Governor Austin Fernando and the US Embassy in Colombo. The Navy, however, has strongly denied the accusation and said he was invited and he reacted rudely against the officer even before the Chief Minister’s name was announced. The Navy contended that the rude behaviour could not be condoned.

The school in question was previously occupied by the Navy. It was later handed over to the Eastern Provincial Council. On the day of the incident, there was a presentation of computers to the school by a private company in Colombo. It was in the presence of Governor Fernando and American Ambassador Atul Keshap.

Since the unprecedented directive was made public, Government sources said, Premier Wickremesinghe was in receipt of telephone calls from diplomats and ministers who checked on its veracity officially. The diplomats, these sources said, had also wanted to know the Government’s position with regard to accountability issues arising from such a directive. One minister had said he would raise the matter at the upcoming ministerial meeting.

Premier Wickremesinghe, the same sources said, had briefed President Sirisena on the telephone over the matter. He had later advised armed forces chiefs not to make political statements over the current issue and to await the return to Colombo of President Sirisena.

Premier Wickremesinghe left for the South Korean capital of Seoul yesterday to address the annual conference of the Rotary International. Sri Lankan R. Ravindran is the President of Rotary International.

The PM is due back in Colombo tomorrow.Government leaders have learnt that the directive from the Defence Secretary was made on a recommendation from Navy Commander Vice Admiral Ravindra Wijegunaratne.

Sri Lanka’s Vienna concoction on  diplomatic appointments
As Maithripala Sirisena was elected President, the Sri Lanka Foreign Service Association (SLFA), the premier body representing career officers, welcomed “the new Government’s emphasis on restoring dignity and professionalism in the foreign service.”
One of the measures to ensure that objective was the setting up of a Transfer Board tasked to formulate criteria to be followed in making transfers and appointments to overseas missions — the result of a request from the SLFA. It included compliance with efficiency bar examinations, postgraduate degrees and foreign language competency.

However, there was a hole in the MFA bucket. Those measures were only for those career officers. What of the political appointees? They can simply by-pass procedures and walk into any position without let or hindrance. When Mahinda Rajapaksa was President, a Sri Lanka embassy was opened in Vienna. A special post was created for Srimal Wickremesinghe, brother of the President’s wife and of one-time Chairman of SriLankan Airlines who is at the centre of many a controversy. Later, he was ‘promoted’ as the Ambassador.

Ironically enough, under the UNF Government which is committed to good governance or Yahapalanaya, naming political appointees continues. For the embassy in Vienna, named as Second Secretary is Namal Wijayamuni de Zoysa. He is the son of Deputy Minister and Moneragala District parliamentarian Vijith Vijithamuni de Zoysa. Is that the only qualification needed to serve Sri Lanka overseas?

Foreign Office insiders say a senior ministry official who was on a visit to Vienna was well wined and dined reportedly by the Second Secretary whose task, they say, is to cover UN agencies based there. This includes the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, International Narcotics Control Board and the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs.

The question they now ask is whether another appointment at the Vienna embassy, due to fall vacant in August, will also go the political way.

CM Wigneswaran chooses Jayalalithaa over flood victims
As people here and abroad expressed grief over the devastating floods and landslides in the past two weeks and sent in relief to the victims, it appeared that Northern Province Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran had other priorities.
When the Provincial Council sessions began this week, Mr. Wigneswaran moved that the Northern Provincial Council should congratulate Jayaram Jayalalithaa on her re-election as Tamil Nadu’s Chief Minister.

It was opposition member A. Jayatillake who was quick to point out that the Chief Minister had forgotten the flood and landslide victims. “The chief minister has forgotten that even the Kilinochchi district has been affected by the floods,” Mr. Jayatillake said.
He said there were bigger concerns than rushing to congratulate Ms. Jayalalithaa. However Council Chairman C.V.K. Sivagnanam said the council was planning to discuss the flood crisis.

Eventually, the council forgot about the proposal to congratulate the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister. But the Chief Minister wrote to a letter Ms. Jayalalithaa congratulating her and seeking an appointment to meet her.  She has responded saying that she would meet Mr. Wigneswaran at a “mutually convenient time”.

She had also said that as Chief Minister she had taken steps to establish the rights of Sri Lankan Tamils during the last five years.
“I wish to inform you that I will continue to take steps through the Centre for getting justice for Tamils living in the Northern Province,” she said.

Mr. Wigneswaran in his letter said:
“You have contested the polls without allying with any political party and it is a matter of pride. We express our happiness as you have returned to power and we recognise the welfare schemes launched by your government have received tremendous support.”
He said the people of the Northern Province had strong relations with Tamil Nadu and he wanted to meet Ms. Jayalalithaa to discuss areas of mutual interest.

“I expect our relations further get strengthened and I am keen to know about the areas that will be of mutual interests through a meeting with you,” Mr. Wigneswaran said.

Mystery fall: Keheliya asked why bills not settled
The Financial Crimes Investigation Division (FCID) has begun a probe on matters relating to the nasty fall which former Media Minister Keheliya Rambukwella had from an upper floor of a Melbourne (Australia) hotel in September 2012.
It is to ascertain why he had not returned the Government funds he sought and obtained for medical treatment.
According to FCID sources, the former minister is alleged to have sought the money from the President’s Fund to pay his medical bills. This was on the grounds that it would be paid back upon his return to Colombo. However, such payment, it is alleged, has not been done, these sources said.


Krrish Tower project: FCID probe in India
A multibillion rupee project to construct the Krrish Towers, a high rise office cum apartment complex opposite the Colombo Hilton, has become the subject of a detailed inquiry by the Financial Crimes Investigation Division (FCID).
Hambantota District parliamentarian Namal Rajapaksa, described as a prime mover of this project, has been questioned in this regard by FCID detectives.

This week, FCID chief senior DIG Ravi Waidyalankara flew to India to record statements from those who were reportedly the Indian collaborators in the controversial project.

Batticaloa airport to fly higher
At their weekly meeting last Tuesday, ministers gave approval to develop and improve the Batticaloa airport.
About Rs. 200 million has been allocated for the purpose and work is to begin immediately.

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