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November 20, 2017 [GMT]
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President battles to keep coalition, ultimatum backfires
[Sunday 2017-07-16 18:00]

President Maithripala Sirisena returned from a state visit to Bangladesh yesterday to grapple with a new threat of defections  that could lead to a break-up of his shaky coalition government.
A week after issuing an ultimatum to two ministers to deliver or depart,  the President himself has been put on notice by his own Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) which wants him to dissolve the coalition or face a mass exodus.

President Maithripala Sirisena returned from a state visit to Bangladesh yesterday to grapple with a new threat of defections that could lead to a break-up of his shaky coalition government. A week after issuing an ultimatum to two ministers to deliver or depart, the President himself has been put on notice by his own Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) which wants him to dissolve the coalition or face a mass exodus.

  

At a meeting just before leaving for Bangladesh on his three-day state visit, several seniors of the SLFP said they wanted to leave the coalition ahead of local elections later this year unless the President formed an SLFP government before that. "It was a very heated meeting, and the president said he will discuss this issue on his return from Bangladesh," a ministerial source at the discussion said. "He does not appear to have many options."

The SLFP and its allies won 94 seats at the August 2015 elections and the group is deeply split between those loyal to Sirisena and former president Mahinda Rajapaksa. Even if there is a complete rapprochement between Sirisena and Rajapaksa, they need 19 more MPs to cross the half-way mark in the 225-member parliament and enjoy a majority. With no other likely candidates to bank on, the unlikely Sirisena-Rajapaksa combine will have to engineer defections from the UNP, a difficult ask despite there being dissatisfied elements within the green party.

An SLFP ministerial source said the President’s July 4 warning to two UNP ministers – Sagala Ratnayake and Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe – to clean up their act within three months had emboldened some SLFP senior to call for action to dismiss the entire UNP government. They want Sirisena to do to the UNP what president Chandrika Kumaratunga did to Ranil Wickremesinghe’s UNP-led cohabitation government in 2004. Kumaratunga sacked Wickremesinghe’s government just two years into its six-year term and called fresh elections which she won with the support of the JVP.

However, under the 19th amendment to the constitution, President Sirisena cannot dismiss the current parliament until early 2020. Kumaratunga had come to power with her own mandate unlike Sirisena who was propelled largely through UNP votes. More than a dozen SLFP ministers and deputies have already said they will leave when the two-year national unity government memorandum of understanding ends in September. However, should they carry out their threat, there is no immediate danger to the administration.

The coalition could break up, but the UNP-led government could end up in a stronger position as it will no longer have to balance its economic agenda to appease the ideologically different SLFP. However, the downside would be the lack of two-thirds majority to push constitutional reforms.

Unlike the SLFP, Prime Minister Wickremesinghe’s UNP, which commands 107 seats in parliament, requires only six more MP’s to ensure an absolute majority. They may be able to tap into the JVP which has six seats and the Tamil National Alliance which has 16. SLFP sources said their MPs in government were preparing to field their candidates at upcoming local elections, including three provincial councils which must go to the polls by the end of this year.

Not all those who want to defect from the government want to hitch their wagon to the Rajapaksa-led joint opposition either. An SLFP stalwart from Sabaragamuwa said he preferred to remain neutral rather than be seen as supporting the Joint Opposition whose leaders are being hauled up for major corruption.

  
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Jaffna violent incidents: 41 arrested
[Sunday 2017-11-19 18:00]

At least 41 suspects had been arrested during raids carried out in Jaffna following the recent sword attack incidents in the peninsula region, Police Spokesman SP Ruwan Gunasekera said. He said that special search operations had been conducted in the Kopay, Manipay, Jaffna and the Chunnakam Police areas during the last two days.



Gintota incident: PM says stern action against miscreants
[Sunday 2017-11-19 18:00]

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe who visited the Gintota in Galle today after the tense situation said that stern legal action would be taken against those who were responsible for the violence. The Prime Minister said a few people could start an unrest or violence situation. “A major disaster erupted because of people spreading rumours. We can’t station Police and military here forever. So everyone should live peacefully,” he said.



Sri Lanka to bring back asylum seekers detained in Australian offshore detention centers
[Sunday 2017-11-19 18:00]

Sri Lanka Minister of Foreign Affairs, Tilak Marapana says that, arrangements will be made to bring back the Sri Lankans who are not eligible for citizenship in Australia and detained in Australia's offshore detention centers in South Pacific islands of Christmas Island, Papua New Guinea, and Nauru.



Gotabaya Rajapaksa politicized the Army during his term as defence secretary – Fonseka
[Sunday 2017-11-19 18:00]

Regional Development Minister Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka accused former Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa of politicized the Army during his tenure in office. Participating in the Committee Stage debate on the Expenditure Head of the Defence Ministry, Minister Fonseka said the Army had been split into two factions due to the political influence the former Defence Secretary exerted on the Army. This was one of the key reasons which paved the way for former President Mahinda Rajapaksa to lose his presidency.



PM going to India
[Sunday 2017-11-19 18:00]

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe will leave for a two-day official visit to India on November 22.



More inter-monsoonal rains from next week
[Sunday 2017-11-19 18:00]

The second phase of inter monsoonal rains is expected to begin from next week, according to the Meteorology Department. The duty meteorologist of the Department told the Sunday Times that evening thunder showers which were expected for a period of two months were disrupted due to the low pressure in the Bay of Bengal. “During the inter monsoon the winds should be slow or variable; if the wind speed increases it disrupts the rains,” he said explaining the prevailing weather pattern in some parts of the country. Accordingly the Met Dept. predicts a rainfall of about 100 mm during the course of next week.



‘A prisoner in Indian jail on Eelam soil’
[Saturday 2017-11-18 19:00]

Veteran Journalist, S.M. Gopalaratnam, popularly known as Gopu and known by his initials as SMG, is no more. Gopalaratnam passed away at the age of 87 on Wednesday (15) at his residence in Batticaloa. Beginning his career in journalism in the early fifties in Virakesari he later joined Jaffna's regional daily Eelanadu as its News Editor under the iconic Editorship of late



Geological changes in Jaffna – Academics
[Saturday 2017-11-18 19:00]

Several persons have noted a geological difference within the Jaffna Peninsula following the recent heavy thunderstorms that were experienced in the Northern Province. A few lecturers of the Department of Geology of the University of Jaffna said, there were significant changes in the coastal areas of the Peninsula, both before and after the recent thunderstorms. They were of the view that the seawater levels had increased in certain areas while certain other areas, had been submerged in water.



More Aava group members arrested
[Saturday 2017-11-18 19:00]

Attacks from the Aava group in Jaffna has resulted in the death of eight persons in the last two days. Two deaths were reported from Jaffna, four from Kopai and two from Manipai. Twelve more have sustained injuries, Police Media Spokesperson, SP Ruwan Gunasekara said. Thus far, the Police have arrested 45 individuals in connection to the Aava group, 39 of them were arrested on previous occasions and 25 of that number have been released on bail. Fourteen still remain in custody.



Aava group will be defeated - Sagala
[Saturday 2017-11-18 19:00]

Law and Order and Southern Development Minister Sagala Ratnayaka yesterday assured that the government would not allow the so-called Aava group, or any other criminal gang, to raise its head in the North. The Minister in a statement yesterday stressed the Police had unleashed its full strength to curb the activities of the criminal gang and bring its members to book.



Venomous snake in parliament
[Saturday 2017-11-18 19:00]

Parliament workers found a cat snake – (mapila in Sinhala and poonai pambu in Tamil) in a committee room of the Parliament complex yesterday morning. The snake was first detected by some cleaning workers in a corner of the Committee Room Number One located on the ground floor; it is mostly used for meetings between ministers and government officials. The workers immediately alerted the House Keeping Department employees who took action to remove the snake. Venomous snakes have previously been found in various parts of Parliament.



Key Army camps in the North will not be closed
[Saturday 2017-11-18 19:00]

The Government today insisted that key Army camps in the North will not be closed and troops will remain in the area. Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka said that the joint opposition was spreading false claims that the Army will be withdrawn from the North. Speaking during the budget debate in Parliament today, the former Army Commander turned Minister said that the need to maintain a military presence in the North and East is similar to the need to maintain a military presence in the South of the country.



Jaffna HC issues notice on Army Chief Case involving disappearance of youths
[Friday 2017-11-17 18:00]

Jaffna High Court Judge M. Illancheliyan on 15 November ordered Army Commander Lieutenant General Mahesh Senanayake to appear in Court on 18 January 2018. The Jaffna High Court Judge made this order having perused a petition filed by a group of relatives, who have alleged that 24 youths had gone missing after they were taken into custody by the Army on 19 July 1996 from the Nawakkuliya area in the Jaffna District.



No one is held in secret custody, Sri Lanka President tells family members of missing persons
[Friday 2017-11-17 18:00]

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena Thursday held a discussion with the family members of the missing persons at the Presidential Secretariat. During this meeting, they presented their issues and demands to the President in detail. President Sirisena said that he has a clear understanding regarding the issues faced by each community in this country, and said that the government including himself is committed to provide solutions to those issues in a very open and fair manner.



MR should have opposed resolution when it was brought to Parliament - Sampanthan
[Friday 2017-11-17 18:00]

If Mahinda Rajapaksa was opposed to the creation of a new Constitution, he should have expressed his opposition at the time it was suggested without trying to stir communal tensions now by interpreting it as an effort to divide the country, Opposition Leader R.Sampanthan said in Parliament yesterday.



Announcement on nominations for LG polls on November 27
[Friday 2017-11-17 18:00]

The announcement on calling for nominations for the Local Government (LG) elections will be made on November 27, the Elections Commission Chairman said today. Speaker Karu Jayasuriya has already signed the Local Government (LG) Elections (Amended) Draft Bill.



Court refuses to clear Gotabaya in Avant Garde case
[Friday 2017-11-17 18:00]

The Colombo Chief Magistrate’s Court today rejected a request to clear former Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa from all the charges in the Avant Garde case.



Arrest warrant issued against former Sri Lankan envoy
[Friday 2017-11-17 18:00]

An arrest warrant has been issued against the former Sri Lankan Ambassador to the USA, Jaliya Wickremesuriya. Wickremesuriya was arrested last year over allegations he misused state funds when he was the Ambassador to the US. He was later released on bail and had to appear in court on the dates given to him. The arrest warrant was issued for Wickremesuriya as he had failed to appear in court.



SL should adopt timeline for action: HRW
[Thursday 2017-11-16 19:00]

Countries at the UN Human Rights Council should press Sri Lanka for a time-bound action plan on reforms during its third Universal Periodic Review, which began yesterday, the Human Rights Watch (HRW) said. In a statement, it said successive Sri Lankan governments, including under President Maithripala Sirisena, have failed to ensure accountability for serious rights violations and other important commitments.



Increasing incidents of sword attacks in Jaffna
[Thursday 2017-11-16 19:00]

I will bring to the attention of the Inspector General of Police the escalating sword attacks taking place in Jaffna, NPC Governor Reginald Cooray said. He made the above comments at the media conference held at the NPC Governor’s Office yesterday. The NPC Governor said that the sword attacks in Jaffna had increased and hence the issue will be brought to the attention of the IGP. "I have also sent a letter to the President to relocate the security forces occupying the private lands to the Jaffna Fort," the NPC Governor said.


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