2016 – The Year in Your Ear
December 31, 2016 6:01 AM
* President Maithripala Sirisena pardoned former LTTE cadre Sivaraja Jenivan alias Mohommadu Sulthan Cader Mohideen who attempted to assassinate him in 2006.
* Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in January tabled in Parliament a resolution for the appointment of the Constitutional Assembly in order to formulate a new Constitution. President Maithripala Sirisena on the same day stressed the country’s Constitution needs to be amended in order to suit the present day keeping in mind the country’s development.
* The amendment of the 1979 Code of Criminal Procedure Act was approved by the Cabinet of Ministers so that the right of suspects arrested by the Police for legal counsel is recognised.
* The World Health Organization officially announced the outbreak of the Zika virus.
*The 2016 Australian Open that took place at Melbourne Park between 18–31 January 2016 saw Novak Djokovic successfully defend the men’s singles title while Serena Williams the defending champion in the women’s singles failed to defend her title, losing to Angelique Kerber.
* Leader of the Democratic Party Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka was sworn in as a member of Parliament from the United National Party national list. Field Marshal Fonseka was nominated to Parliament after a collective agreement signed between the UNP and the Democratic Party at Temple Trees last week.
* UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, who engaged in an official visit of Sri Lanka, said he will everything in his power to help and will continue to offer services of his Office to accompany Sri Lanka through the transition process ensuring reconciliation.
* The mandate of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry Into Complaints of Abductions and Disappearances led by former High Court Judge Maxwell Paranagama was extended by three more months.
* Former LTTE prisoners detained under the Prevention of Terrorism Act launched a hunger strike demanding their release and called for legal proceedings to be fast tracked.
*North Korea launched a long-range rocket into space, violating multiple UN treaties and prompting condemnation from around the world.
* The 137th Battle of the Blues, between Royal College Colombo and S. Thomas Mt. Lavinia concluded on the 13th of March with Royal claiming an unlikely 4 wicket win at the SSC grounds. Chasing a 150 run, Royal chased down the victory target in a matter of 31 overs losing 6 wickets.
The oldest Big Match of the hill capital, the 110th “Battle of the Maroons”, between Dharmaraja College and Kingswood College concluded with no result in Kandy.
99th Kandy “Battle of the Blues”, was worked off between Trinity College, Kandy and St. Anthony’s College, Katugasthota. That game was also ended in stalemate. A superb batting performance followed by a splendid bowling spell by Taneesha Weerakoon completing a match-bag of 10 wickets including a six-for 33 in the first-innings almost took St. Peter’s home in the 82nd battle of the Saints between St. Joseph’s and St. Peter’s that concluded with Peter’s falling just seven runs short of an outright win.
* Sri Lanka became the 163rd State Party to the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention or Ottawa Convention at the First International Pledging Conference for the Implementation of the Convention held at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.
* UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein presenting his annual report to the 31st session of UNHRC in Geneva said that Sri Lanka must promptly investigate and adequately address past human rights violations to prevent any recurrence of conflicts.
* Police recovered a haul of explosives and suicide kit from a residence within the Chavakachcheri Police area of Jaffna District. The recovery include suicide jacket, four claymore mines, three parcels containing around 12kg of TNT, 2 packets of 9mm ammo (100 bullets) and 2 battery packs used to detonate the claymore mines. The explosives are believed to have been hidden by the LTTE during the war period.
* Police recovered another stocks of explosives and weapons at a location in Mannar District. Small bombs and a RPG launcher were discovered from an abandoned well. The explosives are believed to have been hidden by the LTTE during the war period.
* Three coordinated bombings in Brussels, Belgium killed at least 32 and injured 250. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant claims responsibility for the attacks.
* The 2016 Australian Grand Prix took place in Melbourne with Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton claiming victory.
* Public Representations Committee on Constitutional Reform chaired by Lal Wijenayake proposed to set up 10 Sub-Committees consisting of Members of Parliament to deliberate specific areas relating to the formation of the new Constitution.
* The Chief Minister of the Northern Provincial Council CV Wigneswaran presented a Resolution on the Constitutional Reforms proposed to set up two States in the country, one by merging the Northern and Eastern Provinces and the other by merging seven other Provinces. The Council passed the Bill with a majority vote to establish the Northern and Eastern Provinces into one federal ruling system.
* The 2015 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices published by the U.S. Department of State said widespread impunity continued in 2015 for the crimes committed during the armed conflict and other crimes committed following the end of the conflict.
* Malaysian authorities deported a Sri Lankan national for alleged links to the Islamic State. The Lankan was arrested for levelling death threats against the President and Prime Minister via Facebook.
* The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung published a set of 11.5 million confidential documents from the Panamanian corporate Mossack Fonseca that provided detailed information on more than 214,000 offshore companies, including the identities of shareholders and directors including noted personalities and heads of state.
*West Indies clinched their second World T20 title after beating England in the final by 4 wickets. Needing 19 off the last over, Carlos Brathwaite hit four consecutive sixes to guide his team to victory. The 2016 ICC World Twenty20 was held in India from 8 March to 3 April 2016. Indian batsman Virat Kohli was named the player of the tournament. The 2016 ICC Women’s World Twenty20 saw the West Indies defeat defending champions Australia by eight wickets, claiming their first title.
* UN HR Expert Juan E. Mendez said that torture still continues in Sri Lanka. He heard between 16,000 and 22,000 people had gone missing during the conflict and its immediate aftermath.
* Consultations Task Force on Reconciliation Mechanisms appointed by the Prime Minister extended its deadline for the public to make submissions to June 24.
* An EgyptAir flight crashed in Cairo with 66 people on board soon after leaving Greek airspace crashed into the Mediterranean Sea on 19 May 2016.
* Real Madrid was crowned European champions for an unprecedented 11th time when Cristiano Ronaldo scored the winning penalty in a 5-3 shootout victory over Atletico Madrid on the 28th of May in Milan. The 2015/16 Champions League final had finished 1-1 after extra time before heading towards a penalty shootout. Real’s Milan triumph was the third time Ronaldo has got his hands on the European Cup.
* The 2016 French Open took place at the Roland Garros from 22 May to 5 June with Novak Djokovic winning the men’s singles title. Serena Williams who was the defending champion in the women’s singles, lost to Garbiñe Muguruza in the final.
* Minister of Regional Development Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka received membership of the United National Party while he was also appointed the chief organiser of the Kelaniya seat. Minister Fonseka said his party now is the United National Party adding he is no longer the leader of the Democratic Party.
* The 2016 Global Peace Index release said Sri Lanka has become more peaceful and is ranked higher as the country saw strong gains in both internal and external peace.
* UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein in his annual report said Sri Lanka must rein in its military forces, prosecute alleged war crimes committed during the conflict with the LTTE.
* Minister of Foreign Affairs Mangala Samaraweera delivering his statement at the 32nd Session of the UNHRC in Geneva said Sri Lanka since January 2015 has taken ‘giant leaps’ to achieve reconciliation although they may seem like ‘baby steps’ for some.
* The United Kingdom withdrew from the European Union, widely known as Brexit, following a referendum in June in which 52% of votes were cast in favour of leaving the EU.
* Boxing legend Muhammad Ali – one of the world’s greatest sporting figures – died at the age of 74 on the 4th of June 2016. The former world heavyweight champion died at a hospital in the US city of Phoenix, Arizona, having been admitted with a respiratory illness, a condition that was complicated by Parkinson’s disease.
* The 2016 Wimbledon Championship saw Briton Andy Murray winning the Gentlemen’s Singles title while Serena Williams successfully defended her Ladies’ Singles title and equaled Steffi Graf’s Open Era record of 22 major singles titles. Two-time defending champion Novak Djokovic lost in the third round to Sam Querrey.
* The so-called joint opposition appointed a shadow cabinet, following the traditions carried out by several western countries including in the United Kingdom. A shadow cabinet is a group of politicians who hold a political post within their party, but whose party are not in the government. Former President Kurunegala District MP Mahinda Rajapaksa was appointed the Prime Minister of the shadow Cabinet nominated by the Joint Opposition. MP Bandula Gunawardene was appointed the shadow Cabinet Finance Minister.
* The United Nations asked Sri Lanka to follow its agreements with the international community to ensure accountability for the human rights abuses during the decades-long armed conflict.
* Six undergraduates of the Jaffna University were hospitalized following a clash between students of the Arts and Science faculties. A dispute arose between the two groups pertaining to a welcome ceremony. Riot Police were also deployed while security was beefed up at the university following the clash. The university was closed untill the situation was addressed and brought under control.
* The Solar Impulse 2 completed the first round-the-world flight by a solar-powered aeroplane, after touching down in Abu Dhabi.
* The 2016 UEFA European Championship, or Euro 2016, was claimed by Portugal for the very first time. Euro 2016 was held in France where Spain, the two-time defending champions, having won the 2008 and 2012 tournaments, were eliminated in the round of 16 by Italy. Portugal won the tournament for the first time, following a 1–0 victory after extra time over the host team, France.
* The Cabinet of Ministers approved the establishment of an office on missing persons. The Cabinet paper states there have been strong requests for providing accurate information on disappeared or missing persons to relatives in order to learn their fate. The office will enable families to reunite, gain closure or be granted with reparations and other relief and support. The proposal tabled by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in his capacity as the Minister of National Policies and Economic Affairs to establish an independent institution as Office on Missing Persons was approved.
* The Presidential Commission Investigating Cases of Missing Persons handed over its report to the Presidential Secretariat in August. Since its establishment on the 15th of August 2013, the Commission has received 16,213 complaints from the public and another 5,000 complaints from relatives of missing security forces personnel. During its term in office, the Commission toured eight Districts in the North and South and investigated statements, of which, 6400 were chosen to be reviewed.
*The Brazilian Senate voted to impeach the country’s President Dilma Rousseff. The Vice President of Brazil, Michel Temer, who assumed presidential powers and duties as Acting President of Brazil during Rousseff’s suspension, took office for the remainder of her term.
* The 2016 Olympics was held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, from the 5th to the 21st of August. More than 11,000 athletes from 205 National Olympic Committees, including first time entrants Kosovo, South Sudan, and the Refugee Olympic Team, took part. The lead-up to these Games was marked by controversies, including the instability of the country’s federal government; health and safety concerns surrounding the Zika virus and significant pollution in the Guanabara Bay; and a doping scandal involving Russia, which affected the participation of its athletes in the Games. The United States topped the medal table for the fifth time in the past six Summer Olympics, winning the most number of gold with 46 and recording the most medals overall with 121, as well as its 1,000th Olympic gold medal overall. Great Britain finished second while China finished third. Host country Brazil won seven gold medals, finishing in thirteenth place. Fiji, Jordan, Kosovo, Puerto Rico, Singapore, Tajikistan, Ivory Coast and Vietnam each won their first gold medals, as did the group of Independent Olympic Athletes.
* United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon says government reform and institutional change is needed to ensure more inclusive and peaceful societies. The UN Chief addressing an event organised in Colombo during his visit to Sri Lanka stressed on the importance of the government working in transparency while moving forward with development goals. Ban Ki-moon said he sees a very different picture of Sri Lanka today from what he saw during his earlier visit to the island.
* Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner to Malaysia, Ibrahim Ansar, was assaulted by a group of people at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport on the 4th of September. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the Government condemned in the ‘strongest terms’, the act of violence on the High Commissioner. Five suspects, arrested over the assault, have been remanded.
* The United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances making opening remarks at the 33rd session of the UNHRC in Geneva commended Sri Lanka’s increasing openness to international engagement as positive and encouraging step.
*The US and China – together responsible for 40% of the world’s carbon emissions – both formally joined the Paris global climate agreement. The G20 nations determined that CO2 emissions are the driving force behind climate change.
* North Korea conducted its fifth and biggest nuclear test and said it had mastered the ability to mount a warhead on a ballistic missile, ratcheting up a threat that rivals and the United Nations have been powerless to contain.
* The 2016 Italian Grand Prix held on the 4th of September saw Mercedes driver and winner of last years race, Lewis Hamilton, claiming victory ahead of team mate Nico Rosberg. The 2016 Singapore Grand Prix held on the 18th of September was claimed by Nico Rosberg. Red Bull was placed second and Ferrari third.
* On the 20th of October, two students of the Jaffna University were found shot dead in the area. Police initially said the two died after meeting with an accident while later the Police Headquarters announced that the two students succumbed to injuries after meeting with an accident.
* Police arrested suspected members of the ‘Aava’ group in Jaffna in October. The Jaffna Police was on alert after two policemen were attacked in Chunnakam. The ‘Aava’ gang claimed responsibility for the assault .
* UN Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues Rita Izsak Ndiaye said the minority should be enlisted to the security forces on the basis of population. UN Special Rapporteur on Minority issues, Rita Izsák-Ndiaye, who concluded a 10-day mission to Sri Lanka recommended the Government to establish an Independent Commission on Minorities under the Constitution with a clear mandate, powers, resources and autonomy.
* The Maldives announced in October its withdrawal from the Commonwealth of Nations after receiving warning of lack of progress of the country in the rule of law and democracy. In response, the Maldives accused the Commonwealth of meddling in the internal Affairs of the country.
* At the age of 38, veteran spinner Rangana Herath became the oldest player to lead a Sri Lanka Test side for the first time during the tour of Zimbabwe. Herath made his test debut in 1999 and had played 73 Test matches before being appointed to lead the side in place of injured Angelo Mathews. Herath went on to lead Sri Lanka to a 2-0 series victory.
* Pandit WD Amaradeva passed away at the age of 88 at the Sri Jayawardenapura Hospital on the 3rd of November. Pandit Amaradeva passed away after suffering from an illness. Wannakuwatta Waduge Don Albert Perera, better known by his adopted name Amaradeva, was born on the 5th of December 1927, primarily using traditional instruments like sitars, tablas and harmoniums, Amaradeva incorporates Sinhala folk music with Indian ragas in his work.
* The 2017 Budget proposal was tabled in Parliament by Minister of Finance Ravi Karunanayake on the 10th of November. The Appropriation Bill for the year 2017 was tabled in Parliament on the 20th of October. Total expenditure for the year 2017 was set at 1,824 billion rupees of which 284.04 billion rupees has been allocated for the Ministry of Defence, 16.34 billion rupees for the Ministry of Highways and 76.94 billion rupees for the Ministry of Education. 160.97 billion rupees has been set aside for health, 6.45 billion rupees for the Presidential Secretariat and 1.25 billion rupees for the Office of the Prime Minister.
* President Maithripala Sirisena said he requested United States President-Elect Donald Trump to continue to assist Sri Lanka in its development initiatives. President Sirisena said he will bring the resolutions on Sri Lanka at the UN Human Rights Council to the attention of the President-Election and request his cooperation in Sri Lanka’s attempt to clear its name. He said Sri Lankan envoys would advocate Sri Lanka’s case with the new US President and the new UN General Secretary. The Head of State also expressed his confidence for strong ties between the US and Sri Lanka during the next regime.
* The United States presidential election of 2016 held on the 8th of November saw Republican Donald Trump defeat Democratic candidate former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Trump is expected to take office as the 45th President, and Mike Pence as the 48th Vice President, on the 20th of January 2017. Trump will be the fifth person in U.S. history to become president despite losing the nationwide popular vote.
* Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg became the 2016 Formula 1 world champion, beating his fellow team mate Lewis Hamilton following a tense Abu Dhabi Grand Prix finish on the 27th November. However the 31-year-old shocked the world of sport when he announced his retirement just five days after sealing a sensational maiden title triumph.
* The third reading of the budget was passed in Parliament on the 10th of December with 165 MPs voting in favour and 55 against. 4 Parliamentarians abstained from voting. Making the final speech in the house for the year Minister of Finance Ravi Karunanayake said the government as it showed in 2001 would succeed in stabilising the economy.
* The United States said it will continue to work with Sri Lanka and has assured the support of the new US government. US Vice President-elect Mike Pence, in a phone conversation with President Maithripala Sirisena discussed bilateral relations, while Pence assured support of the United States to Sri Lanka. The two parties held discussions on democracy and increasing corporation based on Sri Lanka’s geographical location. President Sirisena also highlighted issues concerning maritime security and disaster management. US Vice President-elect Mike Pence assured he will arrange a meeting between President Maithripala Sirisena and US President elect Donald Trump.
* Former Prime Minister and Presidential Advisor Rathnasiri Wickremanayake passed away this week at the age of 83 following a brief illness. Rathnasiri Wickremanayake first served as the Prime Minister from August 2000 to December 2001. Wickremanayake was sworn in for a second time on the 21st of November 2005. DM Jayaratne succeeded him as the Prime Minister following the conclusion of the 2010 General election.
* Minister of Finance Ravi Karunanayake said the World Bank approved a soft loan of US$ 1.34 billion to Sri Lanka at a low interest rate. The Minister speaking to media said the World Bank informed the government of its decision to grant the concessionary loan to aid development activities in the country.
* UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon telephoned President Maithripala Sirisena and commended the progress achieved in social, economic, political and all sectors in Sri Lanka, under the leadership of President Sirisena and said that Sri Lanka’s commitment for the reconciliation is praiseworthy.
* A group of employees attached to the Hambantota Port called off trade union action after 9 consecutive days in the month of December. The strike was called off following discussions with the management. The employees were engaged in the protest demanding the government ensure them job security as the government prepares to lease the Port on shared basis to a Chinese firm.
* Russia’s ambassador to Turkey was shot dead in front of a crowd at an art gallery in the capital Ankara as the angry gunman screamed: “Don’t forget Aleppo”. Police later killed the assailant. Andrey Karlov was several minutes into a speech at an embassy-sponsored photo exhibition when a man who stood directly behind him in a dark suit shot the diplomat in the back from close range multiple times.
* A Russian military plane carrying 91 people including a military band and media personnel has crashed into the Black Sea. The plane was en route to a Russian air base Latakya, in Syria.
* Sri Lanka left for South Africa to play a 3 match Test series on the 16th of December. The Angelo Mathews led team looked one of the formidable Sri Lanka sides to tour the African nation in their pursuit for a second Test win.