Thursday, November 12, 2009

Sri Lanka's top general resigns

Sri Lanka's armed forces chief Gen Sarath Fonseka has resigned from his post just months after helping secure the defeat of the Tamil Tiger rebels.

Gen Fonseka is reportedly considering challenging President Mahinda Rajapaksa in an election to be held before April. He is due to make a speech shortly.

The resignation was swiftly accepted by the president, a political source told the BBC on condition of anonymity.

Speculation of a rift between the two men has been rife in recent months.

The BBC's Charles Haviland in Colombo says the general has been in talks with Sri Lanka's opposition coalition about the possibility of his running for president against Mr Rajapaksa.

Opposition politicians say that resigning from his post as army chief would clear the way for him to stand as a presidential candidate.

But in an interview with BBC Tamil, Gen Fonseka would not be drawn on reports he might enter the presidential race.

"I am retiring. That's all I can say at the moment," he said.

Sinhalese nationalist

Two months after leading the army to victory in the civil war, Gen Fonseka was promoted from army chief to armed forces chief, a new position viewed as largely ceremonial.

He was widely reported to be unhappy at this.

He told BBC Tamil that "wiping out the LTTE [Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam]" was the crowning achievement of his 40-year military career.

Correspondents say the general has a reputation as a strong Sinhalese nationalist.

In a Canadian newspaper interview last year he was quoted as saying that "this country belongs to the [majority] Sinhalese" although minorities must also be treated "like our people".

Both the government and Gen Fonseka have denied rumours of differences between him and the civilian leadership.

© BBC News

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Government confirms Fonseka handed over letter - Daily Mirror

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Myanmar dissidents condemn S.Lanka over junta visit

Dissident Myanmar monks living in Colombo on Wednesday criticised the Sri Lankan government for inviting junta leader General Than Shwe for a state visit.

The monks said Sri Lanka's increasingly close relations with Myanmar's military regime would further raise international concern over the island's human rights record.

They said President Mahinda Rajapakse was "foolish" to become associated with Than Shwe, set to arrive on Thursday.

"The Sri Lankan government has been criticised for their human rights violations and restrictions on media freedoms," the monks said in statement referring to the conflict against Tamil separatists that ended in May.

"We dare say the situation in Sri Lanka is several times better than in Myanmar," they added.

Than Shwe is to fly to the central district of Kandy on Thursday for a two-day tour of Buddhist temples and meetings with senior Sri Lankan officials, including talks with Rajapakse.

The junta leader, who has not been to Sri Lanka before, is due to leave on Sunday after receiving blessings from Buddhist monks at a temple outside the capital Colombo.

Rajapakse visited Myanmar in June and thanked the junta for providing relief supplies for Sri Lankan civilians displaced during the final stages of fighting between troops and the Tamil rebels.

© Lanka Business Online

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Recruitment to armed forces to continue

By Olindhi Jayasundere -The armed forces will continue to recruit officers and personnel in order to meet their targets for this year and the coming years, said a spokesman for the military yesterday.

Military Spokesman Brig Udaya Nanayakkara told Daily Mirror yesterday that recruitment to the Army would continue till December 31. “Our target is 10,000 recruits for the new batch,” he said. He said that the monthly wage would be increased by Rs 1000 for all officers and soldiers and that an allowance of Rs.3000 would also be paid to each member of the Army.

“Previously this allowance was made available to those in operational areas such as the North and East. But now it will be extended to everyone in the Army,” he said.

Brig. Nanayakkara said that, although the war was over, new Army officers were much needed for defensive and offensive purposes, for humanitarian de-mining and for development work in the country.

“Some members of the Army have retired, others are sick; there are absentees and deserters. We need more recruits to replace the officers who have left the Army,” he said.

He said the Army was looking for people between 18 and 24 years of age, unmarried and physically fit. He said these were the basic requirements.

Meanwhile, Air Force spokesman Wing Commander Janaka Nanayakkara said that there was no closing date of any nature in the recruitment process of the Air Force: “We are recruiting new officers as often as we can,” he said.

Wing Commander Nanayakkara said that he could not divulge the number of officers in the Air Force as it was confidential. “However, we are in the process of achieving our target right now. It is a continuing process,” he said.

Acting Navy Spokesman Captain A. Senaratne told Daily Mirror that nearly 8000 new members had been recruited to the Navy from January this year to now. “We are looking to recruit another 1000 or so sailors and officers,” he said.

© Daily Mirror

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Workers force military to retreat

Sailors of the Sri Lankan navy sent to take over work in the Colombo port have been forced to go back by workers on trade union action.

Spokesman for the Suhada Port Workers Union Lal Bangamuwage told BBC Sandeshaya that the navy was sent to the harbour in order to stop workers from working to rule.

"The navy came to the tug boat section and forced workers to work," he said.

Spokesman Bangamuwage said, when notified by the membership, trade union officials had to intervene to stop the navy disrupting the work to rule.

He added that the trade unions have made a complaint to the police against the western region naval commander for threatening those on trade union action.

Workers in the public sector launched a three day work to rule campaign for higher pay due to them.

State power, water, oil and port workers stopped working outside assigned duties and set working hours from Wednesday after negotiations broke down as the government refused to meet their demands.

© BBC Sinhala

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