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Mahinda Amaraweera to make a decision! 

United People’s Freedom Alliance, General Secretary Mahinda Amaraweera says he will announce a new political decision in the coming week.

The Former Minister has made this statement in an interview with Sinhala weekly, the Sunday Lankadeepa. 

According to the report, Amaraweera is said to have stated that the public has a deep mistrust of politicians and are disgusted by them. 

Therefore Amaraweera is set to embark on a different political journey, the report claimed.

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Cop beating UNP MP hands himself over! 

Badulla District United National Party (UNP) parliamentarian Chaminda Wijesiri who is alleged to have assaulted a police constable has surrendered to the Bandarawela Court through his lawyer today (13).
 
The Bandarawela Police had launched an operation to arrest MP Wijesiri in suspicion of assaulting a police constable attached to the Police Narcotic Bureau (PNB) in front of the Bandarawela Post Office.
 
According to local media reports, the victim, who was driving the vehicle of the DIG of PNB, had been assaulted when he overtook the MP's vehicle in the Bandarawela Town. The DIG had come to Bandarawela on an official assignment.
 
The injured constable had been admitted to the Bandarawela hospital for treatment.
 
The MP, however, has failed to present himself to the law enforcement authorities after the assault and the police were looking for him. (Colombo Page)

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World Bank VP lauds Mangala on economic reforms

The World Bank Vice President for the South Asia Region, Hartwig Schafer said that he congratulated Finance and Media Minister Mangala Samaraweera on the many reforms he has "championed" in the last year, including the Inland Revenue Act and the National Audit Act.

WB tweet
Schafer met with Samaraweera yesterday to discuss the many challenges that still remain
 such as increasing foreign direct investments as well as improving the country’s competitiveness and increasing its private sector participation. 

Finance Minister Samaraweera had briefed the visiting World Bank VP on Sri Lanka’s strong progress in Doing Business and Human Capital Indicators and pointed out that Sri Lanka leads the region in the Human Capital Index. Furthermore, he had stressed that a lot more investment is planned for education, health, and social service sectors in the future.

During his three-day visit, Schafer will meet President Maithripala Sirisena, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, the Mayor of Colombo Rosy Senanayake and other senior government officials.

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PM responds to President : Asks not to make baseless statements in Parliament

Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe has said attacking Independent Commissions and Courts system will hamper efforts against drug eradication in the country.  

The Prime Minister also said the Courts cannot be treated like a football and if baseless statements are made in parliament its negative effects will be borne by the people. 

He made these comments at the opening of the ‘Lakhiru Sevana’ public housing complex in Maligawatta yesterday (12). 

Further commenting on the issue the Prime Minister said drugs only have been controlled and not been eradicated yet. “Do we continue or hamper the efforts?” he questioned. According to the Prime Minister when the drug issues became severe during 2015 and 2016 he had recommended more funds for the Police to heighten their efforts. “However they said what was needed is an independent judiciary” he recalled. The Prime Minister said the Police believed that drug busting efforts can be successful through this and independent commissions.

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Navy abductions case suspect CDS Wijegunaratne awarded military medal 

A key suspect in the case of 11 abducted youth by a Navy ransom gang, Sri Lanka’s highest ranking military official, Chief of Defence Staff Ravindra Wijegunaratne has been awarded the Nishan-e-Imtiaz (Military) Medal by the President of Pakistan at a Special investiture Ceremony held at Islamabad, Pakistan on Wednesday (13).
 
Wijegunaratne was the first Sri Lankan Military officer to earn BSc (Honours) (War Studies) degree from Karachi University in 1995. He is considered as an expert in “Asymmetric Naval Warfare” and “Small Boat Operations” and founder of Naval Commando Unit of Sri Lanka Navy, Special Boats Squadron (SBS).
 
Wijegunaratne is He is a regular visiting lecturer to Pakistan Navy War College, Lahore to lecture on his battle experiences and asymmetric Naval Warfare. His efforts to improve Military to Military relationship between two countries as Commander of the Navy and later as the Chief of Defence Staff have been highly recognized by Pakistan. In 2018, with his initiative, Military to Military Staff talks between two countries was elevated to a Defence Dialogue.
 
The Nishan-i-Imtiaz (Order of Excellence) is the highest honour given to any civilian in Pakistan based on their achievements towards world recognition for Pakistan or an outstanding service for the Country. The award is not limited to citizens of Pakistan and while it is a civilian award, it can also be awarded to military personnel and worn on the uniform.
 
It is regarded as the highest award one can achieve in Pakistan since higher award Nishan-e-Pakistan is awarded only to foreign Heads of States. For those in the Military, it is given after distinguished service and is also the highest award that can be awarded to those at the rank of Generals (Army) Air Chief marshals (Air Force) and Admiral of Navy, Coast Guard, and Marines.
 
WIjegunaratne is, however, a suspect in the high profile abduction case of 11 youth between the years of 2008 - 2009. He is accused of harbouring the main suspect in the case Chandana Prasad Hettiarachchi alias Navy Sampath and helping him to flee Sri Lanka during Wijegunaratne’s tenure as Navy commander.

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Media Minister appoints committee to make state media a genuine public service

Finance and Media Minister Mangala Samaraweera has appointed a committee to study the activities of state media institutions. The committee was appointed with the objective to convert the current state media institutions into genuine public service media.
 
At a time when social dialogue on media use and independence has been launched media experts believe that the state media must become truly independent public service institutions before dealing with private media.
 
For this purpose, this seven-member committee was appointed by the Minister of Mass Media and Information, Mangala Samaraweera today. The committee is responsible for studying the functioning of State media outlets and for the submission of necessary recommendations.
 
The seven-member committee is chaired by the former Director of UNESCO’s International Programme for Communication Development, Wijayananda Jayaweera.
 
Other members include Professor Jayadeva Uyangoda, Senior Lecturer in Mass Media Dr. Pradeep Weerasinghe, Nalaka Gunawardena, Kaushalaya Fernando, Anoma Rajakaruna and Attorney-at-Law Sudarshana Gunawardena. (Colombo Page)

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Gotabaya acknowledges use of white vans to “take in” suspects

Gotabhaya Rajapaksa made the rare admission of the government's controversial counterinsurgency tactics in a recent interview with a Colombo based English daily.

The shocking claim comes a week after his sibling, former president Mahinda Rajapaksa, acknowledged for the first time that the troops committed mass crimes during the war.

In Sri Lanka, with tens of thousands of unresolved enforced disappearances, “white vanning” is a euphemism for abduction and torture - based on the vehicle commonly used.

The former defence secretary had said that Intelligence agencies used white vans claiming that such methods have been used in Sri Lanka for a long time.

When there was a suspect, he was taken in for questioning through such means,” Gotabhaya Rajapaksa told Daily Mirror.

“It was not something introduced by me. These methods have been adopted all over the world.  Maybe our intelligence agencies used Hi-Ace vans which are white. I did not introduce it. It happened under all the previous Governments. If you take the violence during the JVP era, everybody, barring the very young people, knows how youth were whisked away by unknown people all over the country.”

His reference to the “JVP era” was the late 80s when a Sinhala youth uprising led by the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) was militarily crushed with extrajudicial killings and abductions.

Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, a senior military officer during the time, functioned as the military coordinator in Matale district in Central Sri Lanka where the second biggest mass grave containing 154 human skeletons was found in November 2012.

'Normal procedure'

He claimed that the feared practice of White Vanning was used exclusively against Tamil Tigers waging a war for self-rule. Rajapaksa lamented that he is being ‘pinpointed’ for the continuation of an age-old practice, which wasn’t “normal procedure”.

“I do not know why I am being pinpointed today. During our time this had never been done to abduct any political opponent, which was not the case in the 88/89 period.

Most people above 30 years of age remember what happened during that time.  What happened during our time was only to counter the activities of deadly terrorists. 

By 2005, there was a huge network of the LTTE in the south. They had infiltrated the south in a big way.

They were able to kill so many people like politicians and military personnel as a result.

They were fighting all over the country.  They had an intelligence network and armed caches in most places in Colombo and the suburbs. 

We had to trace them including suicide cadres, spies etc.  When you fight terrorism, you cannot stick to the normal procedure.

They were fighting in a different way using clandestine guerrilla methods. We had to counter that in a similar manner. That is the way that the intelligence agencies work.” (JDS Lanka)

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Some Ministers use Cocaine says Ranjan

Making a startling statement State Minister Ranjan Ramanayake has claimed that some Ministers who are currently serving are known users of Cocaine. The State Minister made these comments during a visit to check on the progress of the Kandy - Kurunegala highway yesterday(11). 

The State Minister also said the honour of Makandure Madhush’s arrest must go to Commandant of the STF, M.R Latiff and President Maithripala Sirisena. 

He claimed that the investigation to arrest him was conducted for over a year. Ramanayake also said he will not support any artiste helping drug dealers in reference to Artistes Amal Perera and Ryan Van Rooyen who was arrested in Dubai along with Madhush.

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Dayasiri cannot hold disciplinary inquiries for us : Piyasena Gamage 

MP Piyasena Gamage says Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) General Secretary Dayasiri Gamage cannot hold disciplinary inquiries on his conduct.

“There are many others the party should take action against if so” he said adding that while Dayasiri constantly crossed over, it was SLFP members such as himself who ensured the win of the party. 

The MP made these comments while meeting journalists at his home in Neluwa, Medagama.

“If he is conducting disciplinary inquiries he should first hold one against the President” Gamage said. According to him the SLFP does not have a history of precedence to hold disciplinary inquiries in such a manner. 

He also said he would express his support for a National government if the need arises in the future. “It doesn't matter if I receive a Ministerial portfolio or not, I am always dedicated to which ever party I belong to” he said.

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Relief for Rice Mill Owners: President presents Cabinet Paper 

President Sirisena is set to present a cabinet paper to the Cabinet of Ministers to resolve the issues being faced by Small and Medium Scale Rice Mill Owners today (12).

The President made this announcement at a meeting held with Small and Medium Scale Rice Mill Owners at the Ape Gama premises in Battaramulla yesterday. He had assured the mill owners that the government would provide relief according to government policies sources said.

Minister of Agriculture P. Harrison, Non-Cabinet Minister of Economic Reform and Public Distribution Dr. Harsha De Silva, Secretaries of Districts, Secretaries of Divisional Secretariats and public officers were also in attendance.

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Pentagon seeks sustained engagement with Sri Lanka

Amid the increasing Chinese influence over the strategically important Indo-Pacific region, a top Pentagon commander has advocated sustained US engagement with Sri Lanka, despite the political and ethnic turmoil in the island nation, posing a challenge to their ties. 

“Sri Lanka remains a significant strategic opportunity in the Indian Ocean, and our military-to-military relationship continues to strengthen," US Indo-Pacific Command chief Adm Philips Davidson told the Senate's Armed Services Committee during a Congressional hearing. 

"The political turmoil and ethnic tension between the Tamil and Sinhalese populations, however, remain drivers of instability and potential obstacles to continued growth in our partnership,” he deposed. 

Moreover, Sri Lanka has handed over the deep water port of Hambantota to China on a 99-year lease due to its mounting debts to China, which has caused international concern, he said. 

Despite the political upheaval, it is in America's interests to continue military collaboration and cooperation with Sri Lankan Forces, he added. 

The United States Indo-Pacific Command (USINDOPACOM) cooperation with the Sri Lankan military centers on building capacity in maritime security and maritime domain awareness, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief as well as humanitarian de-mining, medical assistance, and peacekeeping operations, he said. 

Increasing navy-to-navy engagement with Sri Lanka will be a USINDOPACOM focus in 2019, he added. 

Davidson said the Sri Lankan Navy is a well-trained and professional force with the potential to contribute to multi-lateral maritime interoperability in the Indian Ocean. 

The recent transfer of an excess US Coast Guard cutter to Sri Lanka in August 2018, along with additional platforms from Japan and India, provide the Sri Lankan Navy greater capabilities to contribute to regional maritime domain awareness initiatives, he said. 

“Going forward, it is necessary to sustain engagement with Sri Lanka, particularly the navy, and construct a multi-lateral approach to capacity building with like-minded partners to rapidly enhance the Sri Lankan Navy's capabilities,” Davidson said. 

According to the top Pentagon Commander, Beijing is exploiting growing debt burdens to access strategic infrastructure in the region. 

In December 2017, Sri Lanka handed over control of the newly-built Hambantota seaport to Beijing with a 99-year lease because Sri Lanka could no longer afford its debt payments to China, he added.

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Rajitha blames GMOA for medicines shortage

Minister of Health Dr. Rajitha Senaratne has blamed the Government Medical Officers’ Association (GMOA) should share the blame for the shortage of medicine. According to Senaratne the shortage was caused due to the political coup which lasted for 53 days. 
 
The Minister made this statement while addressing a gathering held during the foundation-stone laying ceremony for a three-storey building at the Pottuvil Base Hospital.
 
The minister further said the Health Ministry functioned in accordance with the instructions of the GMOA during the 53-day political crisis, hence the association is responsible for the medicine shortage.
 
Minister Senaratne assured that steps have already been taken to overcome the existing medicine shortage at the hospitals across the country. Stating that overcoming the drug shortage and restoring the situation takes a long period of time, he said the prices of 73 essential drugs have already been reduced and prices of 27 more essential drugs would be slashed in the future.

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