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                   A golden 'new world'

Who has custody of the keys to this Golden Gate? Deshamanya
H. K. Dharmadasa popularly known as ‘Nawaloka Mudalali’ and
a depositor of Golden Key (GK) last week forcibly took control
of this land by parking a hospital ambulance and container inside
 the premises. The land belongs to the Ceylinco Group. Dharmadasa
had a total of Rs. 92.5 million deposited with GK. A young boy
 claiming to be from ‘Asiri Hospital security’ said he has been
asked to stand watch over Dharmadasa’s belongings.

Question Keheliya , demands wife of slain editor

By Nirmala Kannangara

The wife of slain Editor-in-Chief of The Sunday Leader, Sonali Samarasinghe Wickrematunge in a letter to Inspector General of Police (IGP), Jayantha Wickremaratna last week, has asked that he record a statement from Defence Spokesman Minister Keheliya Rambukwella to ascertain the identity of her husband Lasantha Wickrematunge's assassins.

Ms. Wickrematunge in a letter dated March 15, has requested the IGP to record a statement from Rambukwella for a breakthrough into the murder of her husband as the Minister at a press briefing held on January 28 had stated that he and President Rajapakse "were aware of the identity of the murderers and that the President would make the facts known on February 15."

Ms. Wickrematunge states, "However, despite over six weeks having passed since Mr. Rambukwella's statement, no announcement has been made; neither have any suspects been named or apprehended."

She has further stated that although it has been over two months since her husband was killed there has been no credible breakthrough up to date; no announcement has been made; no murder weapon, neither have suspects been named or apprehended and no post mortem report has still been made public.

The police on Friday (20) told The Sunday Leader that there is no necessity to record a statement or to question Minister Keheliya Rambukwella over a statement made by him in connection with the assassination of the Editor-in-Chief of The Sunday Leader Lasantha Wickrematunge.

Police Spokesperson SSP Ranjith Gunasekera when asked as to what action the police would take based on Ms. Wickrematunge's request to the IGP, told The Sunday Leader that the police do not have a right to question a minister over a public statement made by him.

"This is just a statement made by a minister at a press briefing. Although Wickrematunge's wife has made a request to the IGP to record a statement from Minister Rambukwella there is no necessity to do so as it was a simple statement made by him. It was the responsibility of the journalists to question the Minister over that issue but not the duty of the police to do so," he said.

M.I.M. Ameen PC appearing for the late Editor's wife Sonali Wickrematunge has made an application to the Mt. Lavinia Magistrate's Court to hand over the investigations either to the Colombo Crimes Division (CCD) or to the Criminal Investigations Department (CID).

"It was disheartening to note as to how a police constable from the Mirihana Police informed the court that they are capable of conducting special investigations and to retain them to carry out the investigation into Wickrematunge's assassination," Attorney-at-law Mizbath Sathar told The Sunday Leader.

The Mirihana Police have been ordered by courts to produce a progress report into the investigation at the next hearing date.

The case last called on Thursday, March 19, was further postponed to April 2.

The Sunday Leader short-listed for prestigious int'l award

The Sunday Leader newspaper has been short-listed for the Freedom of Expression Awards by the Index on Censorship. The Sunday Leader has been chosen on the basis of being a platform for some of Sri Lanka's most outspoken journalism despite its editor's assassination.

The Index on Censorship announced the shortlist for the awards last week.

The prizes are awarded to honour those who have furthered the cause of freedom of expression and battled censorship around the world. The prizes are awarded in five categories: books, film, journalism, law and campaigning.

This year's shortlist includes Sri Lanka's The Sunday Leader newspaper, Ma Jian's novel Beijing Coma, and Steve McQueen's film, Hunger.

The awards will be presented on April 21, at Kings Place, London. The ceremony will be hosted by Index on Censorship Chair Jonathan Dimbleby, with a keynote speech by Sir David Hare.

"The Freedom of Expression Awards focus attention on activists, writers and film makers around the world who actively promote free expression, often in the most difficult circumstances. Index on Censorship is delighted to recognise their efforts at this increasingly high-profile annual event," Chief Executive, Index on Censorship, John Kampfner has said.

The awards are presented in association with The Economist, The Guardian, Bindmans and The Robert Gavron Trust.

Piti  Makuna  wreaking havoc on trees and plants in the country

By Risidra Mendis

A small fly believed to have entered the country through imported plants has caused the destruction of hundreds of fruit, vegetable and flowering plants.

This fly is believed to have entered the country in mid 2007. While the fly continues to rapidly multiply and destroy the remaining fruit, vegetable and flower trees, the Agriculture Department is yet to come up with a solution to the problem.

The fly identified by the Department of Agriculture as the Piti Makuna is known to produce a large number of eggs at a time. Agriculture Department officials are now looking at the option of bringing in another insect to control the rapid spread of the Piti Makuna.

Speaking to The Sunday Leader Agriculture Instructor, Agriculture Department, Rasika Kumarasiri said according to research carried out by the Agriculture Department the fly is known to mainly attack plants and trees that contain milk.

"Breadfruit, jack, papaw, manioc, mango, vegetable plants such as chillies, brinjals and varieties of citrus such as lime have been badly affected by the Piti Makuna. However the worst affected out of the lot are the papaw trees," Kumarasiri said.

Kumarasiri added that the Agriculture Department has reason to believe that the fly has come from either Russia or an Asian country as plants and trees in these countries have been identified with the same disease.

"The Piti Makuna lays around 500 to 600 eggs at a time. The female fly stays on the underside of the leaf with the cocoon that contains the eggs. The cocoon is like a bundle of cotton wool. The male fly flies away and infects other trees while the female injects these trees and plants and extracts the milk or juices. The infected trees gradually grow weak and die within two to three months. This disease can also be spread by the wind," Agriculture Instructress, Dehiwela-Ratmalana Agriculture Department Chithrani Menikge said.  

According to Kumarasiri Galle, Matara, Polonnaruwa and Anuradhapura are some of the badly affected areas in the country.

However according to some residents Araliya trees and a large number of big trees have been affected in Colombo.

"All my vegetable plants and banana trees were destroyed due to the Piti Makuna. The Piti Makuna  destroys mainly vegetable and flower plants. But I have managed to save most of my plants and trees by cutting down affected trees or by spraying them with a mixture of soap and kerosene," says former President, Dehiwela- Mount Lavinia Horticultural Society Sunila Rajawasan.    

"If the trees are badly affected we advice people to cut them down and burn them. Don't leave infected leaves on the ground as these can spread to other trees. All infected leaves should be burned. The other option is to hold a strong flow of water under the leaves of the big trees. If there is a heavy shower the spreading of this fly can be reduced. The other option is to mix two teaspoons of soap powder with two teaspoons of kerosene into one litre of water and spray the flowering plants. However for the fruit and vegetable plants only the soap solution with water should be used," Kumarasiri said.

He added that people should refrain from taking infected plants to other areas.     

Other options as suggested by the Agriculture Department is to spray Thayomethocksam, Kohinor 200 SL (imidacloprid 200gm), Asitamfrid, Mackdhoate or a solution of dog shampoo mixed with water.  

"The Agriculture Department, Ratmalana, has conducted many awareness programmes on the disease for school children and the public. Agriculture Department offices in different parts of the country are conducting awareness programmes for the public," Menikge said.

NSB recruiting staff circumventing court injunction

By Nirmala Kannangara

In order to strengthen the party vote base in the backdrop of the ongoing provincial council elections and a possible general election, the government has initiated a recruitment drive to the National Savings Bank (NSB) alleged the All Ceylon Bank Employees' Union (ACBEU).

Bypassing the bank recruitment procedures, more than 150 Savings Promotion Officers (SPO) have been recruited to the NSB and plans are afoot to increase this number gradually according to the ACEBU sources.

"In order to offer jobs to party supporters, the UPFA government has started giving job opportunities to their supporters and up to now more than 150 SPOs have been recruited to the NSB," the sources claimed.

According to the ACBEU source, since there is an injunction order on the NSB  preventing the recruitment of  employees to the clerical grade for the past two years, the government has introduced a new post - SPO allowing the bank to recruit employees to the new post circumventing the injunction order.

"A list of names have been sent on the recommendation of the President, Ministers Dulles Alahapperuma and Ranjith Siyambalapitiya and also former Chairman NSB, Upali Gunaratne. We understand that all those to be  recruited were either close associates of the governing politicians or their family members," alleged the sources.

However refuting the allegations, Acting Chairman NSB, S.R. Attygalle told The Sunday Leader that the bank has followed recruitment procedures when recruiting the SPOs.

"The interviews were held and only qualified applicants were selected for the posts of SPOs. So how could anyone claim that the bank has bypassed the recruitment procedure?" asked Attygalle.

Constitutional Council: Deadlocked

The persons nominated to form the Constitutional Council has once again reached a dead end following a petition received by Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake against the nomination of Dr. Jayadeva Uyangoda.

The petition has said that Dr. Uyangoda was not a fit and proper person to be appointed to the Constitutional Council, as he had undergone a prison sentence for 12 years during the JVP uprising in the 1970s.

Dr. Uyangoda was nominated to the Constitutional Council by the minority parties and the nomination was also accepted by the Supreme Court. The petition against Dr. Uyangoda's nomination has now been handed over to President Mahinda Rajapakse.

Dr. Uyangoda who is the Head of the Department of Political Science and Public Policy at the University of Colombo and Founder-Director of the Centre for Policy Research and Analysis, was arrested and imprisoned for his involvement  in the JVP uprising. He was later released in November 1977 following a presidential pardon granted by the late President J. R. Jayewardene.

Dr. Uyangoda was released along with JVP members following the abolishment of the Criminal Justice Commission (CJC) on November 2, 1977.  Dr. Uyangoda together with a large number of other JVPers including Rohana Wijeyweera received a presidential pardon.

However the argument that he is not fit to be appointed to the council seems absurd given the fact that several leaders in the past have gone on to rule the country following imprisonment.

The country's first Prime Minister, D.S. Senanayake was imprisoned in 1915 following the Sinhala-Muslim riots. He was imprisoned along with his brother F.R. Senanayake.

Former TMVP leader and National Integration and Reconciliation Minister, Vinayagamurthi Muralitharan was appointed a member of parliament and is now a Minister, having been accused and pleading guilty to having travelled to Britain on false documents.

There are many more examples where those who were imprisoned have been appointed to high positions. The names have now been given to the President and it is up to him to take the decision.

UNP Deputy Leader Karu Jayasuriya has also expressed his concerns over the delay in the appointment of the Constitutional Council.

"The whole country is awaiting the appointment of the Constitutional Council. The names have been given to the President and it is now up to him to decide as to who should be appointed," Jayasuriya told The Sunday Leader.

Jayasuriya has been continuously advocating the implementation of the 17th Amendment  by the forming of the  council. He said that the delay in constituting the Constitutional Council has resulted in the  independent bodies being unable to make new appointments.

"There are issues such as the arbitrary transfers and appointments of OICs on the recommendation of local political organisers. This is due to the delay in implementing the 17th Amendment," he said.

A couple of years ago, the names of Uyangoda and Rohan Edrisinha were nominated by the minority parties. Confusion arose when the JVP objected to the appointments, saying that it too was a minority party.

The issue was later cleared when it was decided that the JVP was not a minority party and that it was part of the UPFA.

The TNA, JHU and SLMC met to name a nominee. The TNA and SLMC decided on Dr. Uyangoda. The JHU however opposed the nomination. With the backing of 23 MPs from the SLMC and the TNA, the Supreme Court was informed of the nomination by the Speaker.

Hoteliers express concern over increased water rates

The city hotels have expressed concern over the increase in water tariffs by the government since last month.

The government recently decided to increase water tariff by 300%.

President, City Hotels Association, M. Shanthikumar told The Sunday Leader that the increase in water tariffs would definitely affect the city hotels that are already facing problems due to high cost of operation and lack of business and said it was the wrong time for such an increase.

“The increase in water tariff will definitely have an impact the city hotels. The hotels are already facing problems due to high cost of operation and lack of business,” he said.

Shanthikumar added that the concerns will be made known to the government during the course of this week.

“We are making arrangements to convey our concerns to the government and it will be done so during the course of this week,” Shanthikumar added. 

Meanwhile, President, Tourist Hotels Association of Sri Lanka (THASL), Srilal Miththapala said that the increase in water tariffs would not have a huge impact on the resorts as most of them are equipped with tube wells.

“I don’t think that the increase of water tariff would make a huge impact on the resorts. Most of these resorts have tube wells and are not dependant on the water supply by the National Water Supply and Drainage Board (NWSDB). The expenditure will definitely increase, but I think that it will not be a huge impact,” Miththapala said.

According to the new tariff system, a service charge ranging from Rs.50 to Rs.1,600 had replaced the fixed charge earlier levied on consumers.

JVP parliamentarian Anura Dissanayake has said according to the new rates, a household that earlier paid Rs.131 for 20 units of water per month would now have to pay Rs. 379.60 - almost a 300% increase.

He said the water bill of a household that used 15 units would soar from Rs.84 to Rs.218.40 while most households, which use about 40 units a month, would now have to pay a staggering monthly charge of Rs. 2,464.

Citing an example, he said that an ordinary tea boutique uses at least 50 units of water a month and will have to pay a service charge of Rs.1,000 instead of Rs.70 they would have had to pay if based on the fixed charge.

The issue was also raised in Parliament last week by JVP parliamentarian Lakshman Nipunarachchi who said that 118,000 persons in the country do not have a 24-hour water supply and added that they too are forced to pay the new tariff.

Water Supply Minister Mahinda Amaraweera responding to Nipunarachchi said a single family could consume less than 20 units of water during a month.

The Minister had pointed out that 52 per cent of people in a particular district consumed less than 15 units of water a month. The Minister said that a unit of water consists of 1,000 litres. He said that the Water Supply and Drainage Board spends around Rs. 35 per litre.

The Minister further said that there were 398,384 water supply connections in Colombo by August 31, last year out of which 280,366 were provided with a supply 24 hours a day. He also said that there were 33,576 connections that provided water less than 16 hours a day while 18,326 less than eight hours. Trade unions attached to the NWSDB however say that extensive bribery and corruption within the Water Board has brought the NWSDB into a situation where the tariff had to be increased urgently to overcome the situation.

  More News....


The Sunday Leader short-listed
for prestigious int'l award

Piti  Makuna  wreaking havoc
on trees and plants in the country



NSB recruiting staff circumventing
court injunction

  Hoteliers express concern
over increased water rates


Constitutional Council: Deadlocked



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