Archive | October, 2013


CHOGM Sri Lanka: 37 countries have confirmed attendance

Posted on 31 October 2013 by admin

COLOMBO, Oct. 31 (Xinhua) — Thirty- seven countries have confirmed attendance for the main Commonwealth summit to take place in Sri Lanka next month despite ongoing protest over human rights violations, a top official said here on Thursday. Cabinet spokesman and Media Minister Keheliya Rambukwella told reporters that the bulk of the 53 Commonwealth members have already confirmed participation. "At this point 37 countries have confirmed their attendance. With that affirmation it is safe to say that participation for CHOGM (in Sri Lanka) is higher than what was seen in Perth Australia during the previous summit," he noted. The latest tally comes amidst uncertainty over Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's attendance. Singh has been placed under severe pressure from India's southern state Tamil Nadu to boycott the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Sri Lanka over allegations of human rights violations. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has already pulled out of the summit and announced a cut on funding made by his country to the Commonwealth Secretariat citing Sri Lanka's poor human rights track record. British Prime Minister David Cameron and New Zealand's Foreign Minister Murray McCully have also announced they will visit the former war-torn northern parts of Sri Lanka during the summit to ascertain first-hand the situation faced by tens of thousands of the Tamil population. "New Zealand has a strong interest in the progress being made on reconciliation and devolution in the north and I will report back to the Prime Minister (John Key) on the situation there ahead of the CHOGM Leader's Retreat," McCully said in a statement. Countries outside of the Commonwealth will also be attending events on the sidelines of CHOGM with a crucial business forum and trade exhibition set to be key highlights. A large business delegation from China is expected for the Commonwealth Business Forum (CBF), which hopes to drum up 2 billion U.S. dollars' worth of Investment for Sri Lanka. Eighty one companies, 42 of them from China, have also signed up for a major trade, investment and tourism exhibition.

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A tribute to Sri Lanka’s Music Legend – ERIN DE SELFA

Posted on 28 October 2013 by admin



A few days ago, we heard the sad news of the death of Erin Fernandes (nee De Selfa), in London. 

She was born in Ceylon, on March 19, 1926 and was domiciled in London for the last 50 years, where she died in September, 2013. As a teenager in Colombo, she drew crowds of music lovers to her performances at the Silver Fawn night Club in Union Place, which was owned by Mr. Cyril Gardiner.  Her stage name was Dinah & the Red Tails Minstrels. In a short while, she graduated to the Mascarilla Night Club at the Galle Face Hotel, where she sang with leading names in our musical scene – Luis Moreno, Luis Pedroso, Mario Manricks, Sacha Borsteinas, the Italiares, etc.  She had two shows a night and every show was sold out.  According to a leading music critic, this “fabulous legend of yester-year, has yet to be paralleled in our show biz scene”.  In 1960, with Lyle Godridge and the Italiares, she appeared free at a concert in aid of the ‘Missions to Seamen’.  The Governor General and the Bishop of Colombo attended.

She first married Donovan Andree, the show biz promoter who was many years her senior.

From Ceylon (as it then was), she was invited to sing at the Taj Mahal in Bombay and toured India – the highlight of her tour being a command performance for the Maharajah of Baroda.

At 18, she set her sights on the UK entering the International music scene.  She was engaged by Jack Hylton with whom she performed for over 2 years, including a performance at Windsor Castle.  She also sang with Edmondo Ros at the Copacabana, the Café Royal, the Blue Angel, the Hirondelle and the Casanova Club.  She worked with Tony Burrello who was Frank Sinatra’s pianist, through the William Morris Agency in New York and performed at the Mocambo in Hollywood following after the famous Lena Horne.  She also performed at the Theatre Lirico in Milan for the Italian producer, Giganto.

Erin was featured on BBC Radio and on BBC TV.  In 1946, she made her debut in films in the movie “Caravan”, starring Stewart Granger, Denis Price, etc.

Almost 50 years ago, she married Neri Fernandes who was one of three Goanese brothers who were fine pianists in the UK.

Lord Louis Mountbatten, one of her fans, wished everyone to express in healthy fashion, their appreciation of excellent entertainment. 

In later life, she was plagued by bronchial problems which brought the curtain down on her singing career.


My last memory of her singing was in Colombo in the 1970’s with Neri Fernandes her husband, accompanying her.

She was a regular visitor to Sri Lanka and often stayed at the Galle Face Hotel.  Neri Fernandes played at the “1864” Restaurant during the season and Erin was always at his side, greeting her old friends and keeping everyone entertained with her anecdotes.

A few years ago, Malcolm Andree organized a show in memory of his late father Donovan at the BMICH and Erin made a brief appearance. This show was also televised.

Her son with Donovan Andree, had to undergo a tricky lung transplant a few years ago, and unfortunately, did not survive.  This was a great blow to Erin.

Erin is survived by her husband, Neri Fernandes and their children and grand-children, who live in London.


Lalith Rodrigo

Colombo, October 4, 2013


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Exclusive: Canada will continue to fund Sri Lanka

Posted on 28 October 2013 by admin

October 28, 2013

EXCLUSIVE: Canada says its financial assistance to Sri Lanka remains unaffected despite human rights concerns as Canada does not directly fund the Sri Lankan government.

Media relations officer at the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Charleen Bortot told the Colombo Gazette that Canada’s development programs in Sri Lanka are delivered through trusted international, multilateral and local non-governmental organizations.

“Canada does not directly fund the Government of Sri Lanka,” Bortot said.

Canada has consistently accused the Sri Lankan government of failing to address human rights concerns on the war and has, as a result, decided to partially boycott the Commonwealth summit in Colombo next month.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper had said he will not attend CHOGM 2013 because of Sri Lanka’s human rights record and also announced a possible review of Ottawa’s Commonwealth funding package as he attacked the decision to let Colombo stage the event.

The Canadian government feels the Sri Lankan government continues to fail victims and survivors of the war and is also deeply troubled by reports of intimidation of judges in Sri Lanka.

The Government however said that Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper is isolated in his decision to boycott the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Sri Lanka.

External Affairs Minister Professor G.L Peiris had said that the Canadian Prime Ministers absence will not have a negative impact on the summit. (Courtesy: Colombo Gazette)

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Toronto’s Pearson Airport opens restaurants

Posted on 28 October 2013 by admin

(Courtesy: The Toronto Star – October 28, 2013)

Four restaurants have opened at Pearson Airport. Vinifera is now open in Terminal 1, Nobel Burger Bar in Terminal 3. Two more openings follow later this month in Terminal 3: Corso and a second Heirloom Bakery & Café location.

Serving Terminal 3, Nobel Burger Bar, features so-called “gourmet” burgers. The restaurant has been created by Toronto chef Mark McEwan. Passengers can build their own burger or choose from a menu. There’s an open kitchen in the centre of the restaurant.

Also located in Terminal 3, Corso is a trattoria featuring traditional Italian cuisine with a modern twist. The menu, developed by Chef Rocco Agostino, highlights rustic Italian flavours and features fresh-made pastas, pizzas, salads and antipasti. Chef Agostino’s Pizzeria Libretto and Enoteca Sociale restaurants are a feature of the Toronto dining scene.

At Terminal 1 is Vinifera, a wine bar. Sommelier John Szabo has worked on the wine list. The menu features small plates, salads and paninis with fresh ingredients. A second location will open in Terminal 3 later this year.

Heirloom Bakery Café, which operates at Terminal 1, will open a second location in Terminal 3 this month. The restaurant serves entrées including soups, salads, sandwiches and baked goods.

The restaurants join Mark McEwan’s Fetta Panini Bar and Toronto brewer Brock Shepherd’s Apropos, which opened earlier this year in Terminal 1.

The new restaurants offer travellers access to Apple iPads. Menus are available in 20 languages. Food orders can be made on the iPads. Dishes are then prepared and delivered to the customer’s seat in 15 minutes or less. The iPads are also available to all passengers to browse the web and stay updated on real-time flight information.


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CHOGM News: Hi-tech safety measures in place for flights bringing foreign leaders

Posted on 27 October 2013 by admin

State-of-the-art satellite navigation systems will closely monitor aircraft bringing foreign leaders to Colombo for the Commonwealth Summit, a senior official said.

Civil Aviation Authority Director General H.M.C. Nimalasiri said Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B), a surveillance technology for tracking aircraft and Performance-Based Navigation (PBN) using satellite navigation systems were among the new features to enhance surveillance.

ADS-B is a system for air traffic surveillance and replaces conventional radar. Aircraft with Global Positioning System (GPS) receivers can transmit their location to nearby aircraft and to air traffic control.  Performance Based Navigation (PBN) using satellite navigation system isalso essential when there is an increase in air traffic and demands on airspace capacity.

Mr. Nimalasiri said the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) had conducted safety and security surveys. “There will be expert teams and security teams from a number of countries conducting safety checks prior to their leader’s arrivals. We are ready to provide all necessary support,” he said.

Most of the Commonwealth heads of government will use the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) while several private jets are also expected at the Ratmalana Airport. Passengers using the BIA between November 12 and19 are also requested to be prepared for unexpected delays of flights due to the arrival or departures of heads of governments and their delegations.

“All attempts are being made to avoid such delays and inconveniences. However, priority will be given to VVIP aircraft carrying leaders and delegates. All local agents of international commercial airlines have been informed,” he said. The Director General said the Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport also would be available for delegates to arrive as several events including the Youth Forum and opening of the Mirijjawila Botanical Garden would be held in Hambantota.

Within the country, he said all 14 domestic landing sites would be developed and Sri Lanka Air Force helicopters and sea planes would also be available at the request of delegates.

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Young days of LOUIS ARMSTRONG?

Posted on 27 October 2013 by admin


Grandson of slaves, a boy was born in a poor neighborhood of New Orleans, known as the "Back of Town".

His father abandoned the family when the child was an infant. His mother became a prostitute and the boy and his sister had to live with their grandmother. Early in life, he proved to be gifted for music and, with three other kids, he sang in the streets of New Orleans and his first gains were the coins that were thrown to them.

 A Jewish family, Karnovsky, who had immigrated from Lithuania to the USA, had pity for the 7-year-old boy and brought him into their home. Initially given 'work' in the House, to feed this hungry child. Then he remained and slept in this Jewish family  where, for the first time in his life, he was treated with kindness and tenderness. When he went to bed, Mrs. Karnovsky sang him a Russian Lullaby that he would sing with her.

 Later, he learned to sing and play several Russian and Jewish songs. Over time, this boy became the adopted son of this family. The Karnovskys gave him money to buy his first trumpet; as was the custom in the Jewish families, they sincerely admired his musical talent. Later, when he became a professional musician and composer, he used these Jewish melodies in compositions, such as St. James Infirmary and Go down, Moses.

 The little black boy grew up and wrote a book about this Jewish family who had adopted him in 1907. In memory of this family and until the end of his life, he wore a star of David and he said that it is in this family that he had learned "how to live real life and determination. ''

 This little boy was called Louis Armstrong.


 What a wonderful world!!!

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IDB Chairman claims “CHOGM expenses’ will translate into long term investments

Posted on 26 October 2013 by admin

CHOGM will definitely bring huge economic benefits to the country and, therefore, the expenses for this international event are long-term investments, said Industrial Development Board (IDB), Chairman, Navaz Rajabdeen.

This is the biggest international event to be hosted by Sri Lanka after the 1976 Non-Aligned Summit in Colombo. This will be the best opportunity for Sri Lanka to showcase what it has achieved in the past few years after defeating terrorism, he said. It is a good opportunity to showcase the economic potential of the country to attract foreign investments and for tourism and export promotion. The three events, the meeting of Heads of Government, the business forum and international trade exhibition should be used to reap economic benefits, Rajabdeen said.

He said that Perth and Western Australia received unprecedented international attention and support to promote the tourism industry in the region when CHOGAM 2011 was held in Australia.

More than 1,000 international and Australian media personnel attended the Perth CHOGM and it was a rare and unique opportunity to promote Western Australia. “Today we too have got the same opportunity and since Commonwealth countries are spread in Africa, the Caribbean, North America, Europe and Asia, the value of this exposure is huge. Even today there is an international debate on Sri Lanka over CHOGM. Although there is a campaign against the country it has been adequately countered,” Rajabdeen said.

Heads of the governments of around 50 countries and representatives from all 53 countries will participate. Meanwhile the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce (CCC) said that it had registered 160 participants for the Commonwealth Business Forum (CBF) from diverse business sectors.

The Chamber was also instrumental in procuring several business proposals from private sector member companies to be discussed at the B2B meetings at the CBF. This would enable business partners to meet potential knowledge partners to discuss projects. The forum is an ideal avenue for potential investors to set up partnerships with Sri Lankan counterparts to strengthen business ties for the future. Key sectors that have been registered through the Chamber include agriculture, manufacturing, tourism, education, IT, BPO, renewable energy and infrastructure. The positive response in the number of registrations is evident of the enthusiasm of Sri Lankan business in the Commonwealth Business Forum and its outcome. The Secretary General CEO of the Chamber, Harin Malwatte said, “We started contacting our members early and we are appreciative of our members who registered for this important forum.”

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Canada’s Sri Lanka Case and The Trouble With “Whitelists”

Posted on 25 October 2013 by admin

Courtesy: Dana Wagner – The Huffington Post

Sri Lanka is a difficult place for citizens to live with their human rights intact, and it has been for a long time. Canada's aversion is less consistent.

The Prime Minister announced last week he would not attend the November leaders' summit because of the host's cruel treatment of its citizens. During the 26-year civil war between the Sri Lankan Government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (Tamil Tigers), both sides were accused of atrocities like forced disappearances, extortion and torture. The conflict ended in 2009 but the brutality continued.

Tamils fled after the war in fear of punishment from the government and security forces, which are dominated by ethnic Sinhalese. Fighting history is effectively irrelevant in the decision to flee. During the conflict, Tamil civilians were suspected of collaboration and tortured for information they didn't have, about acts they didn't commit. And when the war ended, the indiscriminate reprisals continued. In a report on the post-conflict situation in 2012, Human Rights Watch found "state security forces committed arbitrary arrests and torture against ethnic minority Tamils."

One group of escaped Sri Lankan Tamils arrived in Canadian waters in August 2010, on a vessel called the MV Sun Sea. There were 492 people on board and they claimed asylum in Canada after three months on the water.

The Canadian Government responded, "Canada is deeply concerned about the situation in Sri Lanka. The absence of accountability for the serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian standards during and after the civil war is unacceptable."

Just kidding.

That was three years later in a statement released Oct. 7, 2013, and how Prime Minister Harper explained his decision not to attend the Commonwealth summit.

Here's how the Government actually responded in 2010: "What I am concerned about is that the generosity of Canada's immigration and refugee laws are not taken advantage of," said then-Minister of Public Safety Vic Toews, speaking days after the boat arrived. "There seems to be a deliberate attempt to thwart Canadian laws."

Government lawyers have since tried to disprove the asylum claims of the nearly 500 Tamils. The cases are ongoing, and CTV reports there were 117 rejected MV Sun Sea cases at the end of September.

At least two of the failed claimants who were subsequently deported have been detained. One, known as B005, was detained upon arrival in September 2012 and is now disappeared. Another, Sathyapavan "Sathi" Aseervatham, returned in July 2011. His one year in jail featured beating and forced starvation until his family bribed the army for his release. He died in a car accident in September 2013 and his family thinks it was a murder. The Canadian Government now faces allegations that it withheld the fate of the returned Tamils from other MV Sun Sea cases before the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB). Immigration lawyers say the government knew what was happening but disclosed nothing to the IRB.

So Canada has not been an advocate for protecting Sri Lankans. And yet, the Prime Minister's decision to boycott the Commonwealth is a public critique of state complicity in the abusive treatment of citizens.

What changed? Some have argued there's a large Tamil community in key Toronto ridings wanted by the Conservative Party. The community is not happy with the Sri Lankan Government and many have family facing discrimination back home. A Commonwealth snub may have appeal.

The trouble with white lists

The conflicting Canadian message is more than a confusing case of doublespeak that leaves the good-bad Sri Lankan Government one Commonwealth guest short. It's a flashing question mark on the legitimacy of a safe country list.

Sri Lanka, in fact, was not added to the controversial new list of places not likely to produce refugees, called designated countries of origin or DCOs. These are places where the Canadian Government deems its foreign counterparts able and willing to protect their citizens. Czechs, Hungarians, Israelis and others, then, are probably "bogus" claimants if they make it to Canada and ask for asylum — in the phraseology of Canadian ministers like Vic Toews and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney. The DCO label is misleading because possession of democratic institutions does not mean a government treats all its citizens, notably its minorities, the same. Over the past decade, Canada has accepted refugees from the Czech Republic, Hungary and Israel. Canada has also accepted Sri Lankans during this time, and though Sri Lanka is not a DCO, the same rhetoric is used to describe its nationals who seek asylum. They're all "abusing the system."

A misleading white list harms at least three groups. The judges who decide refugee cases, who are human and note the DCOs; the Canadian public that appears less compassionate alongside flawed messaging about where and why people fear for their lives; and in the most profound way, refugees, who have a harder time getting here and face worse conditions if they do.

The Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers calls the DCO list "arbitrary, unfair and unconstitutional." And more, it is basely political.

The Sri Lanka case shows that the declared safety of a foreign country depends on Canadian politics instead of evidence like returned Sri Lankans experiencing torture and possibly worse. Politicians are not an authority on persecution. When they act like one, friends are called safe. Then domestic demands shift and suddenly they balk, tugging along lives with whims.







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Health Ministry in Sri Lanka blacklists pharma company for cancer drug racket

Posted on 25 October 2013 by admin



by Don Asoka Wijewardena – Courtesy: The Island

The Health Ministry has blacklisted Omaxs Healthcare (Pvt) Ltd. and interdicted five pharmacists attached to the Maharagama Cancer Institute (MCI) following the discovery of a major cancer drug racket. Health Secretary Dr. Nihal Jayathilaka said that the Investigation, ordered by Health Minister Maithripala Sirisena, had revealed that the local agents of Omaxs Healthcare (Pvt) Ltd., with the assistance of the five pharmacists, had, after selling the cancer drug, known as ‘Oncasper’, which came in phials, pilfered and resold it to the Cancer Institute.

‘Oncasper’, is a drug injected into children suffering from cancer, especially leukemia, and a phial costs around Rs. 237,000.

Dr. Jayathilaka added that due to the fraud the government had incurred a loss of around Rs. 948,000, but action had been taken to recover that amount from the five pharmacists.

He said that "pegylated Asparagines" (Oncasper) was a highly expensive drug. The said company had been supplying the drug for a long time. The probe, conducted by the Health Ministry Investigation Unit, had found that the company, along with its local agents had been involved in wrong doings. Dr. Jayathilaka said: "On the instructions of Minister Sirisena I have already instructed the Drug Technical Consultative Committee to blacklist the particular company and the case will be handed over to the CID for further investigations. At the same time the injection phials will be sent to the Government Analyst for testing."

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SRI LANKA: Budget 2014 – debt ceiling lowered

Posted on 23 October 2013 by admin


  • President’s allocation increased
  • Economic Affairs gets Rs. 106 bn
  • PM’s budget reduced
  • Defence, Urban Dev. get lion’s share

By Saman Indrajith – Courtesy: The Island

The processing of Budget 2014 commenced with Leader of the House and Irrigation Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva presenting the Appropriation Bill, to Parliament yesterday, with total government expenditure increasing by 30 percent from last year’s Rs. 1,335 to Rs. 1,542 billion for 2014 with the biggest allocation being made to the Ministry of Defence and Urban Development – Rs 253 billion. The current year’s defence budget is Rs. 289 billion.

The President’s expenditure for 2014 has been increased to Rs. 85 billion from Rs. 74 billion.

Rs. 164 billion has been allocated for the Finance Ministry..

Among key financial outlays for ministries for the next year include Ports and Highways – Rs. 144 billion (Rs. 131.4 billion for the current year), Health – Rs. 117.6 billion (Rs. 93.5 billion for 2013), Mass Media and Information – Rs 26.8 billion (Rs. 27.1 billion for 2013, Education Rs 38.8 billion (Rs. 37.9 billion for 2013) and Higher Education – Rs. 29.5 billion (Rs. 27.9 billion for 2013).

The other notable allocations are: the Ministry of Public Relations – Rs 2.4 billion, Economic Development Ministry – Rs. 106 billion and the Ministry of Law and Order – Rs. 52.3 billion.

The appropriation Bill has set a borrowing limit of 1,100 billion rupees for 2014, down 15 percent from Rs 1,295 billion set in the appropriation bill for 2013.

Rs. 300 million has been allocated to the Prime Minister for the next year––a decrease from Rs. 320 million in the current year.

Yesterday’s presentation is considered the first reading of the Budget Appropriation Bill.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa, in his capacity as Finance Minister, is scheduled to present the 2014 Budget to Parliament on Nov. 21 and the debate on the second reading of the Budget will commence the following day and continue till Nov. 29.

The Committee Stage debate of the Appropriation Bill will continue till Dec. 20, with the final vote scheduled for that day.

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