October 22, 2019
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    The Attorney General yesterday submitted to the Supreme Court that the President’s decision to bring the Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation (SLRC) under the purview of the Defence Ministry is constitutional.Additional Solicitor General Indika Demuni de Silva appearing on behalf of the Attorney General made this submission when two Fundamental Rights petitions filed against the bringing of the SLRC under the Defence Ministry were taken up for support.

    President Maithripala Sirisena says that the National Policy on Preschool Education compiled by the National Education Commission will be presented to the Cabinet next week.A national policy on preschool education has not been formulated and for the first time the national policy was formulated under the guidance of President Sirisena to promote the formalization of pre-school education This was disclosed at a meeting held between President Sirisena and the Governors and the Chief Secretaries of Provincial Councils at the Presidential Secretariat this morning.

    A boy receives medical treatment after a blast at a mosque in Nangarhar province,At least 62 people have been killed and dozens injured by a bomb during Friday prayers at a mosque in Afghanistan, according to a provincial spokesman.The force of the blast, in eastern Nangarhar province, destroyed the building's roof, eyewitnesses said.No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.The blast came just hours after the UN said the number of civilian deaths in the war-torn country had reached unprecedented levels over the summer.
    According to the UN, 1,174 civilians were killed between July and September, with July being the deadliest month for a decade.A study which attempted to document every killing during the month of August found a fifth of all those who lost their lives were civilians.
    A month of killing in Afghanistan Attaullah Khogyani, the provincial governor's spokesman, told that the 62 people killed and 36 more injured in Friday's attack were worshippers.The mosque sits in the district of Haska Mina, about 50km (30 miles) from the provincial capital Jalalabad.
    Men carry an injured person to a hospital after a bomb blast at a mosque in JalalabadEyewitnesses reported hearing a loud explosion, before the roof of the mosque caved in."The number of casualties may rise as the rescue team and people are working to bring out the bodies from the rubble," Sohrab Qaderi, a member of the provincial council in Nangarhar, told the Reuters news agency.
    Afghanistan war: Tracking the killings
    An average of 74 men, women and children were killed every day in Afghanistan throughout the month of August, the BBC has found.The findings show unrelenting violence affects almost the entire country as US negotiations to withdraw after 18 years of war are in disarray.We confirmed 611 security incidents in which 2,307 people died.Both the Taliban and Afghan government have questioned the validity of the casualty figures identified by the BBC.Most people killed were combatants - including more Taliban fighters than expected - but a fifth were civilians.
    A further 1,948 people were injured.The casualty toll is just a snapshot of the situation on the ground in Afghanistan. However, it paints a bleak image as US President Donald Trump looks to fulfil a key foreign policy aim and withdraw American troops.
    Just more than a week ago, President Trump cancelled year-long peace negotiations between the Taliban and United States, although a return to talks is not ruled out.A ceasefire, however, was never on the table, and hundreds of Afghans are still dying each week. There are fears that violence will worsen ahead of presidential elections due at the end of the month.To learn how the BBC collected its data in August, scroll to the end.
    Following a violent first week in August, both Taliban and government forces observed an unofficial ceasefire during the three days of the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha.Nonetheless, the BBC confirmed 90 people died in violence during the holiday period, from the evening of 10 August to sunset on 13 August.The highest number of casualties occurred on 27 August, with 162 confirmed dead and 47 injured, primarily Taliban fighters in air strikes.But the deadliest day for civilians was 18 August, when 112 people lost their lives. Most died in a single incident when a suicide bomber killed 92 people and injured 142 at a wedding in Kabul.
    The groom Mirwais, a tailor from a working-class district, had struggled to save for the event that should have been the happiest day of his life.Instead, several of his closest friends were killed. His new bride lost several cousins and a brother. Mirwais says that she now wants to burn her wedding dress and photo album.He told the BBC, "all my hopes and all my joy was destroyed in one second".The Islamic State group said it carried out the attack.
    92 people were killed and 142 injured when IS bombed a wedding in Kabul
    Who is most affected?The Taliban have never been more powerful since 2001, but their fighters account for nearly half of all deaths confirmed by the BBC for August - a huge number, which comes as a surprise.There may be a number of factors for this, including the fact the Taliban have been on the offensive during peace talks, and US-led forces have increased air strikes and night raids in response, killing many Taliban as well as civilians.How many fighters the Taliban has lost in recent years is not known. It's thought they may have about 60,000 men under arms.In a statement the Taliban said it strongly rejected "the baseless allegations" of the killing of 1,000 fighters in the past month, adding that there was no document that could prove "casualties to that scale".It described the BBC's report as "based on the daily propaganda of interior and defence ministries of Kabul administration".
    Afghan security force casualties are top secret - so our own confirmed counts for August may still be lower than reality. In January Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said 45,000 members of the security forces had been killed since late 2014.The Afghan Ministry of Defence said the research needed "a serious review and a more serious research based on ground realities must be conducted".The BBC confirmed that 473 civilians had been killed and 786 injured in August.
    "The conflict has a devastating impact on civilians," says Fiona Frazer, human rights chief for the UN mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA)."United Nations data strongly indicates that more civilians are killed or injured in Afghanistan due to armed conflict than anywhere else on Earth."Although the number of recorded civilian casualties are disturbingly high, due to rigorous methods of verification, the published figures almost certainly do not reflect the true scale of harm."The US and Afghan militaries routinely deny or fail to report civilian casualty figures.
    Large events, like the battle for the northern city of Kunduz or the Kabul wedding bombing, are the ones that make international headlines.Yet most of Afghanistan's deadly conflict is persistent, small-scale violence, typically between Afghan security forces and the Taliban.In only three of Afghanistan's 34 provinces was the BBC unable to confirm fatalities in August.One in 10 deaths occurred in the province of Ghazni, a restive area and a centre of Taliban control, and therefore a key target of Afghan military operations.One-third of the 66 attacks in Ghazni were airstrikes on suspected Taliban locations.Afghan civilians describe living in an environment of extreme uncertainty.Mohibullah from Uruzgan province spoke to the BBC in Kandahar's main hospital after doctors extracted a bullet from his brother's shoulder."Whenever there's an operation in our area, ordinary people can't move anywhere, if they do, American or Afghan forces shoot them," he said angrily."They drop bombs wherever they want, all the houses around us have been destroyed."The deadliest conflict in the world?The war in Afghanistan has gone on for four decades, and has been at a stalemate for a number of years.Late last year, the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED) pronounced Afghanistan the most lethal conflict in the world for battle-related deaths.
    Most fighting in Afghanistan is close-range conflict between government forces and TalibanTheir casualty data for 2019 shows Afghanistan maintaining that position. Fatalities in August in Afghanistan are three times higher than either Syria or Yemen, according to ACLED data.And in June 2019, Afghanistan was named the least peaceful place in the world by the Global Peace Index report.The BBC collected more than 1,200 reports of violent incidents in Afghanistan between 1-31 August 2019.BBC Afghan journalists traced every reported incident, from those that often wouldn't make it to news headlines to major attacks. To verify reports and chase up tip-offs, the BBC used its extensive on-the-ground team to contact multiple sources across Afghanistan including government officials, health workers, tribal elders, local residents, eye witnesses, hospital records and Taliban sources. A minimum of two reliable sources was required to confirm an event. Confirmed casualties from hospital reports were considered reliable even without secondary sourcing.
    Only the lowest-confirmed casualty counts were recorded. If a range of casualties was given (eg 10-12), the minimum figure was considered the most reliable. If multiple sources provided conflicting figures for an incident, the minimum reliable number was included and the rest dropped. As a result, hundreds of reports were excluded and the true number of attacks and casualties co

    Limits beyond the sky

    October 18, 2019

    Five decades ago, students and pilgrims to India could travel either by ferry from Thalaimannar to Rameswaram or by economy flights from Jaffna to Tiruchirappalli. While the ferry charge (Upper Class) was Rs 45 (US$ 9.5 at the then rate US$1= Rs 4.76), the economy fare to Tiruchirappalli was Rs 120.

    This correspondent, as a student in India, travelled from Tiruchirappalli to Jaffna by Air Ceylon’s Dakota Aircraft in December 1974 and had the opportunity to have a brief conversation with a fellow traveller, Jaffna Mayor Alfred Duraiappah, very pleasant handsome man with shining black wavy hair. A few years later the shocking news of the assassination of this popular Sri Lanka Freedom Party Mayor Alfred Duraiappah by a militant Tamil group called Tamil New Tigers (TNT) headed by a Velvatithurai youth, Velupillai Prabhakaran. It was followed by another sad news about the closure of Thalaimannara-Rameswaram ferry service as well as commercial flights from Tiruchirappalli to Jaffna.

    Jaffna International Airport in Palali

    Much water flowed in the narrow Palk Strait between North Sri Lanka and South India since then and on October 17 we witnessed with jubilation the opening of Jaffna International Airport in Palali by President Maithripala Sirisena. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and Minister Arjuna Ranatunga were also present on this occasion.

    Jaffna Airport in Palali is now Sri Lanka’s third international airport –after Katunayake and Mattala – and it will have connections to four Indian cities. Smaller commercial planes will operate flights from Palali to Bengaluru, Kochi, Mumbai and Hyderabad.

    However, there will not be flights to Chennai in the first phase. As the ferry service not in operation, Sri Lankans visiting South India have to travel by road to Katunayake and take a flight from Bandaranaike international airport to Chennai. Once the runway in Palali is expanded to accommodate wide-bodied aircraft, flights to Chennai could be commenced. Alliance Air, a subsidiary of Air India, will operate three flights a week and then add services depending on demand.

    After upgrading Palali Airport, Sri Lanka plans to upgrade Ratmalana, the country’s first international airport which operated all the flights until the Katunayake International Airport was built, and the Batticaloa Airport in the East, taking the number of international airports in the country to five.

    Development of the Northern Province was underscored as a top priority for the Government’s development agenda and the Government believes an international airport in the peninsula would boost the region’s economy significantly.

    The airport will be developed in two stages: expansions of the runway and related facilities will be completed during the first phase, while permanent terminal buildings will be constructed during the second phase, once the airport attracts a significant amount of air traffic.

    The extent of the Palaly runway will be expanded to 3,500 metres, and it will have the capability to handle large passenger aircraft such as the Airbus A320 and A321.

    Once completed, the strategically-located Jaffna International Airport will have the capacity to handle direct commercial flights to countries like India, Australia, China, Japan, Middle East nations, and several European countries.

    The Jaffna International Airport is located in Palali, 16 km away from the Northern capital city, Jaffna. The airport was originally built by the Royal Air Force during World War II and later served as the country’s second international airport before being taken over by the Sri Lanka Air Force. During World War II the British Royal Air Force stationed several RAF squadrons and air-sea rescue units at Palali airfield. The airfield was abandoned after the war and taken over by the Department of Civil Aviation. Subsequently, Air Ceylon was set up and the inaugural flight by Air Ceylon was on December 10, 1947 from Ratmalana Airport to Madras via Jaffna.

    After independence, the airport provided domestic flights to Colombo and international flights to south India. The growth of Tamil militancy put an end to civilian flights at the Jaffna airport in Palali.

    Main lifeline in the North

    Jaffna Commander Major General Ruwan Wanigasuriya said that during the conflict, the Palali Airport served as the main lifeline in the North. A large number of soldiers travel to this airbase. When the area south of Jaffna was under the control of LTTE, the Palali was used for all the supplies from military material to food and medicines. A Sri Lanka Air Force detachment moved onto the site in 1976. The site became an Air Field Unit in January 1982. The airport served as a major facility for the Sri Lankan military during the conflict. During the early 1990s, the airport and surrounding areas were declared a High-Security Zone and all the residents were evicted to an alternative residence in the Peninsula. After the Valikamam was recaptured by the Sri Lankan military in 1995 the airport served as a vital link to the rest of the country as the land route was controlled by the LTTE.

    In 1996 Lion Air started operating flights for civilians between Jaffna and Colombo. Monara Airlines started flights on the same route in March 1998. Monara suspended its services on September 16, 1998 after receiving threats from the LTTE for carrying military personnel.

    In June 2002 ExpoAir started operating flights for civilians between Jaffna and Colombo, which was later suspended.

    After the end of the conflict in 2009, the Palali Airport was opened for domestic civilian flights and a decade later the Palali Airport, renamed as Jaffna International Airport, the Northern Province gets reconnection to South India and, eventually to the world at large.

    Furthermore, Gen Wanigasuriya said that Jaffna International Airport would have international and domestic terminals for civilian flights. Sri Lanka Air Force will continue to operate its flights. Gen Wanigasuriya added that the new international airport would be a tremendous boost to reconciliation efforts as well as for the tourism industry in Sri Lanka.

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