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22nd August 1999
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Govt.'s Vision 2010 

President Chandrika Kumaratunga yesterday outlined the government's goals it hoped to achieve by 2010 while identifying weaknesses and challenges faced by the country.

The President addressing the nation from the BRC grounds in Colombo to mark the fifth anniversary of the PA government said the government hoped to solve the ethnic crisis by next year and to achieve the other goals including high economic development, improving efficiency in the state sector and reducing the unemployment rate.

Below we give the high points of vision and weaknesses and challenges

A promising government

The following are the 22 goals outlined by the President:

oEconomic Development; Increasing economic activity and maintaining an annual economic growth rate of 7 to 8 per cent.

o Per-capita income; The per capita income to be increased to US dollars 2500 (Rs. 175,000) by year 2010 from the existing US dollars 850 (Rs 60,000).

o Economic Diversity; Increasing the income level of about eight million population who fall into the low-income category and increasing the income level of the lowest income range from the current 4 per cent to 15 per cent by year 2010.

o Budget Deficit; Reducing the budget deficit to 5 per cent by next year and 3 per cent by year 2010.

o Inflation rate; Reduce the inflation rate from the existing 8 per cent to 3 per cent by year 2010.

o Savings; Increase the per centage of savings to 35 per cent by year 2010 from the existing 23 per cent.

oEconomic stability; Further reducing the interest rate which has been already reduced to 15 per cent from 25 per cent. Maintaining economic stability.

o Infrastructure facilities; Improving these facilities by expanding the basic facilities of drinking water, housing and electricity to 100 per cent of the population by year 2010. Improving highways by the year 2010.

o Production sector; Achieving self-sufficiency in potatoes, chilies and vegetables and improving exports.

o War and Peace; Finding a political solution to the problems of Tamils and the minorities by next year and through that end the war.

o State Sector; Bringing the salaries and other facilities of the state sector, Police and armed forces in par with the private sector. 

o Providing every state sector employee with his own house, electricity, drinking water and telephone facilities.

o Health; Improving health facilities.

o Estate sector; Improving drinking water facilities, electricity and schools to 75 per cent of the requirements.

o Youth; Reducing the unemployment rate to 5 per cent by year 2010.

o Senior citizens; Opening an elders home in every district with all facilities.

oWomen: Improving facilities for the women.

oDisabled and Displaced persons; Opening up an authority for the persons affected by the war.

o Children; Improving child education, reducing malnutrition and minimizing child exploitation.

o Productivity; Improving productivity in the agricultural, industrial and service sectors by 75 per cent.

o Religion; To provide all facilities for the promotion of religions.

o Environment; Taking maximum steps to protect the environment and educating children on the subject.

Weaknesses and drawbacks

The following are the 21 weaknesses and challenges identified by the President:

o The war and the ethnic problem.

o The backwardness related to poverty.

o Lack of sufficient infrastructure facilities.

o Low Local investment.

o Primitive industrial and primitive agricultural systems.

o Outdated administrative and law systems.

o The lack of experience in working towards long-term and mid-term plans goals.

o The high cost incurred in production and low productivity.

o The colonial attitude of depending on social welfare schemes.

o Inefficiency, low motivation and a lack of dedication.

o The failure to breakaway from old traditions and thinking and entering a new thinking.

o The lack of dialogue on knowledgeable social, political, economic aspects.

o The resistance of trade union leaders to new concepts and practices.

o Personal ambitions taking over national and institutional ambitions.

o Lack of patriotism.

o Social problems like AIDS, Tobacco, and drugs.

o The economic impact of the fast developing south Asian and Asian nations.

o The adverse impact of globalization and international agreements.

o The lack of dedicated and honest politicians.

o Corruption which has spread throughout the state sector and the entire society.

Jaffna: the most dangerous mine-field in S. Asia

By Frederica Jansz
Jaffna has been identified as one of the most densely mined areas in South Asia, experts told a regional seminar on landmines held in Wadduwa this week.

The seminar which brought together retired and active military officers, officials from the region, international and non- governmental organizations, was organized primarily to initiate an inter-government discussion on the removing and banning of anti-personnel mines in South Asia.

Peter Herby, Coordinator of the Mines-Arms Unit, Legal Division, ICRC Geneva, told the seminar until mine filled land is cleared it is extremely difficult to estimate the number of mines laid in Jaffna and other parts of the region.

Mr. Herby said the number of APM producers had dropped dramatically from 54 to 16. The 38 who have stopped production included large-scale producers and it was these producers who should bear much of the responsibility for the tens of millions of mines now buried under the ground, he said.

The APMs which kill or injure some 2000 people, including a significant number of civilian victims a month, continued to kill and maim long after a conflict was over, Mr. Herby said.

He added that resources in terms of financial and mine clearance expertise needed to be identified to combat the problem in South Asia.

Core groups fighting to eliminate the use of land mines globally estimate that there are more than 250 million antipersonnel mines stored in the arsenals of 108 countries. The International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) maintains that it is imperative these mines are destroyed before they get into the ground.

Representatives from six South Asian countries which included India, Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh, took part in the three-day seminar to address the global scourge of the use of anti-personnel mines. 

At the end of the conference, no guarantees however were given by the Sri Lankan Government officials present that they will agree to sign the Ottawa Treaty banning the use of antipersonnel mines. "It all depends on the LTTE's willingness to stop using the mines first," a top military official told the conference. 

Only the Maldives and Bangladesh from South Asia are signatories to the Ottawa Treaty. Mr. Herby said the other countries in the region had agreed to set in motion a gradual process which would ultimately see the elimination. This process would require the identification of alternatives, adjustments to military practice and the reduction of tensions in the region, he said.

A prominent feature of the conference was identifying non-governmental organizations, religious bodies and international organizations which have an important role to play in limiting landmine use by rebel groups.

Sol Santos, Co-Coordinator in the Philippines for the International Campaign to Ban Landmines discussed with The Sunday Times future policy decisions that would bind rebel groups to eliminate the use of anti- personnel mines.

He said some 165 armed rebel groups had been identified worldwide. Mr. Santos said that involving rebel groups or (non-state actors) was necessary for the landmine ban to become truly universal. He said some 'gaps' identified in the Ottawa Treaty "does not allow for a mid-way path" in that it demands a total ban on the use of anti-personnel mines and does not allow for the use of APMs in a more responsible manner.

This more or less can prevent state and non-state actors from agreeing to be signatories to this treaty, he said.

Mr. Santos said that as an amendment to the Ottawa Treaty, plans were underway to initiate a possible mechanism which in effect would mean a Deed of Renunciation of APMs with the Geneva authorities.

A plan has been mooted he said to promote a 'Geneva Call' that will float a uniform agreement, possibly a mine ban treaty rather than the 'Ottawa Treaty.' This treaty would hold a Geneva-Convention- type language that clearly applies to rebel groups and is jointly supported by the ICRC during such negotiations.

Rebel adherence will help push more governments to reciprocate and accede to the Ottawa Treaty, Mr. Santos said, adding that to fully resolve the problem at ground level (with regard to mine clearance), engaging rebel groups is "absolutely necessary and vital."

Mr. Santos said the rebel dimension cut across many landmine aspects and issues, for example like improvised anti-personnel mines and command detonated APMs.

The delegates agreed to put before their governments recommendations, mainly on the non-use of mines on certain common borders, regionalizing existing national or legal bans on transfers of anti-personnel mines and multi-lateral and bilateral agreements on the non-use of mines delivered illegally into the region.

Sorry, we had to do this: cameramen

The Photo Journalist's Association (PJA) of Sri Lanka yesterday boycotted the fifth anniversary celebrations of the People's Alliance (PA) in Colombo as a mark of protest against the recent assault on its members.

The PJA in a statement earlier, said it was reluctantly compelled to take this measure as the authorities have failed to take action against those responsible for the attack against eight photographers who were covering an opposition rally on July 15.

'There has been no response to the PJA call to compensate the victims of the various attacks carried out by the police, some of whom have been identified as President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga's security staff,' the statement said.

'However the PJA takes this opportunity to thank Cabinet ministers and other well wishers for the contribution they have made in their personal capacities to a fund set up by the PJA to help the victims of the July 15 attack,' it added.

Russian city wants links with Colombo

The historical Russian city of St. Petersburgh, capital during the days of the czarist empire, is to forge closer trade and investment links with Sri Lanka.

The use of Russian technology in manufacturing of deep freezers and container trucks with refrigerating facilities for the transport of vegetables was discussed between the Trade Minister and the visiting head of the State University of Economics and Finance, St. Petersburg, Russia.

At the talks held this week, joint ventures in building trawlers, production of out-board motors for the trawlers and the assembling of tractors were also discussed. 

Vice Chancellor Professor L.S. Tarasevitch and Minister Kingsley T. Wickramaratne also discussed the establishment of a permanent trade centre in St. Petersburg and in Sri Lanka in view of the potential Sri Lanka-Russia trade and investment expansion.

The Vice Chancellor informed the Minister that he would organise a delegation of leading businessmen from the Business Council of St. Petersburg to visit Sri Lanka by next year.

JVP classes again

By Shelani de Silva
Reminiscent of the 'indoctrination classes' before the 1971 insurrection, the JVP is to hold seminars all over the country next month as part of a new recruitment drive in view of upcoming national elections. 

The seminars to be held in twenty districts will focus on major issues, especially the ethnic problem and economic policies, spokesman Wimal Weerawansa said. 

He said the seminars aimed mainly at the youth would be addressed by General Secretary Tilvin Silva among others and would be in dialogue form with questions allowed.

In preparation for the elections, the JVP will launch a restructuring programme of the party at grassroots level in all electorates.

"The party is ready to face any election but we will strengthen our system and restructure the party. This will begin in October after a thorough study has been done," he said.

Grenades flung at Udayan office

Two grenades were hurled at the Udayan newspaper office in Jaffna last night at 8.30pm, in which a security guard was injured.

Sources said that the grenades were hurled from the rear, and as a result a car and some bicycles of those working was damaged.

Fowzie takes bus fares to cabinet

The Cabinet will take a decision next week on the sensitive issue of giving permission to private bus operators to increase bus fares to end a month long issue, Transport Minister A.H.M. Fowzie said.

The Minister assured the Federation of Private Omnibus Operators Associations at a meeting that he would give them a word after it was discussed at the Cabinet meeting.

Meanwhile the National Transport Commission has made recommendations on the issue to the Ministry. 

Mr. Fowzie said the recommendations would be taken up at the Cabinet discussion.

Last month, a private bus owners' co-operative union threatened to go on strike if it was not allowed to increase bus fares. The Minister warned he would cancel route licences and put more state buses on the roads if fares were increased arbitrarily.

Ranil's e-mail hack under investigation

By Shelani de Silva
The internet service provider of the Opposition Leader, Ranil Wickremesinghe has launched inquiries to ascertain how an e-mail addressed to the Opposition Leader had ended up with the Science and Technology Minister Batty Weerakoon.

Spokesperson for Lanka Internet told The Sunday Times that it is the first time such an incident had occurred. "The incident is being investigated by us. We are looking into all possibilities," he said.

Meanwhile MP Vasudeva Nanayakara still under a suspension from the LSSP for airing his views on Minister Batty Weerakoon's action of reading an e mail of Mr. Ranil Wickremasinghe said he should undo the damage caused to the Opposition Leader.

Mr. Nanayakara said that since he is the party leader he will not comment on the issue but added that he does not condone the action.

"I feel it is not proper to pin point the action but at the same time I do not approve it. As a LSSP member I cannot comment," he said.

He added the issue should be settled by Minister Weerakoon as soon as possible and not be raised at party level.

"The issue concerns only the minister, it is an individual problem rather than to be taken up by party members. "It can be settled by the minister,' he said.

Mr. Weerakoon when contacted by 'The Sunday Times' on Friday declined to comment saying the newspaper had not reproduced some of the significant paragraphs of the e-mail message last week.

Meanwhile Krishan Fernando, Web Developer ex- executive of Global on-line said that one does not need sophisticated equipment to hack e-mail.

"The one thing needed is the password. But if the server is fully secured it is somewhat difficult. In other countries e mail hacking is done professionally but in Sri Lanka it is very rare. But most of the Sri Lankans do not safeguard the password, they give it to anyone," he said.

Sanjaya Mendis Marketing Manager of Ureka On Line said that it is very easy to have access to an e-mail with the password.

"Basically it is a very normal thing, you could go to the Internet and get the address but if the IPS is well secured it is not an easy task. Unlike in other on-line services in SLT there is a multiple logging system. Many people can log in under the same password," he said. He added that in the corporate sector keeping the password a secret will pose a problem.

Library plans diamond jubilee service

By Kumaradasa Wagista
The Colombo Public Library is planning to mark its diamond jubilee celebrations beginning next year, with programmes aimed at meeting the needs of the new millennium, officials said. These programmes will take the shape of training and other study programmes and upgrading of present services with state-of-the-art technology, officials said.

The Library was opened amalgamating two libraries the Colombo Library and the Pettah library which were subscription libraries at this time on July 17, 1925 with the first librarian being Solomon Cecil Block who worked with a staff of seven under the Colombo Municipal Council administration. Located at a building donated by Sri Chandrasekera Trust Fund at Edinburgh Crescent, this library comprised a reading room, a lending and a reference library. The library had a book stock of around 16,000 English books.

Chaos in city as thousands get stranded without buses

Chaos prevailed in Colombo yesterday as thousands were left stranded without public transport as most buses were deployed to transport persons for the fifth year anniversary celebrations of the PA.

Thousands of people, mostly working in private companies and those getting back home for the weekend, were seen stranded in Pettah and Fort yesterday evening while many of the roads were congested and vehicles were unable to leave the city for several hours.

The few buses carrying passengers out of the city were seen caught in massive traffic blocks around Bloemendhal Road, Armour Street and Mutuwal. The lack of transport also seriously affected students in various parts of the country who were sitting the Advanced Level examination political science paper as most state run buses had been released to transport party people to the rally. 'I have been trying to get to Kegalle waiting for a bus for more than three hours', R. Sumanaweera, a peon attached to a private company in Colombo said.

Meanwhile buses from outstations entering the Colombo city were also badly affected.

City Traffic Police as an ultimate alternative to get the stranded passengers home directed private buses to divert routes. Accordingly buses normally operating along the Kadawatha route were seen being diverted towards Pannipitiya.

Coal power project not yet called off

The Government is yet to instruct the Power and Energy Ministry to call off the controversial coal power plant project at Noracholai, a Ministry official told The Sunday Times.

Despite President Chandrika Kumaratunga giving an assurance to the Catholic Church last week that the project will be called off, the Ministry is yet to be informed officially.

Additional Secretary, Ministry of Power and Energy Ananda Gunesekera told The Sunday Times that studies are being conducted with the existing funds, and the work has not stopped.

"We have not been officially informed of any cancellation. Feasibility studies have been conducted, designing has also begun. We have not got any new funds but the studies are done with the existing funds," he said.

He added that several consultants are also expected to help out in the project.

Meanwhile The Sunday Times learns that the project has already cost around four million rupees which has been in the form of grants. The feasibility studies which have been completed have also passed the environment impact assessment test.

The five year project has already got approval from thirty experts in various fields.

It is learnt that the first phase of the project is expected to cost around Rs. 460 million and the final phase one million rupees.

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