11th November 2001, Volume 8, Issue 17














newspic1.jpg (28087 bytes) Bribery probe on Mangala stalled

By Suranimala 

The Permanent Commission Investigating Allegations of Bribery and Corruption are stalling the institution of corruption proceedings against Urban Development Minister Mangala Samaraweera

fdespite the inding of a prima facie case of corruption against the minister in a written report submitted by outgoing Acting Director General, President's Counsel Rienzie Arsecularatne.

The report submitted to the commission by Arsecularatne on the credit card complaint against Samaraweera states there is an offence made out under the Bribery Act and calls for the recording of the minister's statement and institution of proceedings subject to any explanation he may have for the use of Sri Lanka Telecom-sponsored credit cards.

The complaint against Samaraweera was made in May 1998 by former UNP MP, Rajitha Senaratne, alleging the minister had unlawfully benefited from the use of the SLT-sponsored credit cards. It was alleged that Samaraweera used the credit cards both locally and internationally for hotel accommodation, entertainment, purchase of clothes, liquor and other gifts.

The investigation was conducted into the complaint by the Bribery Commission under the direction of Director, Investigations, SSP, Peter Gunatileke. Investigations into this complaint revealed that a credit card was also issued to former Deputy Minister M. L. M. Hisbullah and Arsecularatne had directed that an investigation be launched into his use of the credit card as well. However, with the removal of Arsecularatne from the post of Director General, the commission has decided not to record Samaraweera's statement or institute proceedings till the general election is over, it is learnt.

The Sunday Leader learns, the commission has instead directed the investigation officers to proceed speedily with former Minister S. B. Dissanayake's case.

The complaint against Dissanayake over the purchase of Pan Asia Bank shares by the Samurdhi Authority was lodged only on August 8, 2001. Dissanayake's statement was recorded by the commission on Friday, November 9, despite a written report submitted by Arsecularatne there was no case of corruption made out against the former minister on the strength of the evidence before the commission.

Meanwhile, controversy surrounds a visit by Inspector Nandesena and Commissioner Kingsley Wickramasooriya to President's House last week armed with files relating to the Dissanayake case. Inspector Nandasena is the officer handling the investigation into Dissanayake. Commissioner Wickramasooriya's wife, Sunila Mendis, is employed at the Presidential Secretariat.

Attempted murder charge to be framed against Mangala

Following evidence emerging on the shooting incident at Akuressa last week where at least four UNP supporters of Sagala Ratnayake suffered gun shot injuries, a private prosecution for attempted murder is to be filed against Urban Development minister Mangala Samara- weera.

A senior President's Counsel specialising in criminal law is in the process of drafting the charge sheet following details of the incident as recorded by the police coming into the possession of the United National Front (UNF).

The incident occurred in the early hours of November 5 when a convoy carrying minister Mangala Samaraweera gave chase to a van carrying supporters of Sagala Ratnayake and opened fire. One of the victims of the shooting lost an eye in the incident. Minister Samaraw- eera has claimed that he and his security personnel acted in self defence after shots were fired at his convoy.

However it is learnt according to notes made by the police in the information book, only 90 posters of Sagala Ratnayake, one 4 inch bucket, one 8 inch bucket, one Panasonic cassette radio, one Pioneer speaker, one jack, one wheel brace and four pairs of slippers were recovered from the van that was shot at by Minister Samaraweera's security personnel. No weapons were found in that vehicle. There were no gun shot marks in any of Sama- raweera's vehicles.

However the police have noted that there were five bullet marks in the van carrying the UNP supporters with the rear window shattered due to the gun shots.

It is learnt that Minister Samaraweera in his own statement to the police made at 1.35 AM on November 5, had said that he was travelling from Akuressa to Matara, when he heard the gun shots.

Samaraweera whose statement was recorded by IP Koralage, states that hearing the gun shot, he instructed his security to go after that vehicle, stop it and hand it over to the police. He had said all those in the convoy were asked to stop and go after the van which was heading in the opposite direction towards Akuressa.

He further states that his security vehicle which was behind him went after the attacker's vehicle and shot at it.

Samaraweera also stated that after the vehicle carrying his attackers came to a halt after hitting a lamp post he walked up to them and inquired who they were and was told they were supporters of Sagala Ratnayake.

Minister Samaraweera has also alleged in his statement that Thilanga Sumathipala and other businessmen were waiting to harm him.

However Kasun Maduranga Kaluarachchi an 18 year old student injured in the attack by Samaraweera's security personnel had said in his statement, recorded at the Karapitiya hospital on November 6, by police constable 22385 Silva, that Samaraweera's convoy which was heading towards Matara had turned around and given chase to their vehicle which was heading towards Akuressa and opened fire.

Kaluarachchi had said there were eight of them plus the driver who were on a mission to paste posters of Sagala Ratnayake when they came under attack.

He had further said in his statement that after the van crashed, Minister Samaraweera's security personnel had pulled out those in his van and proceeded to assault them. He had further said with the police arriving at the scene Samaraweera too had walked up them and asked whether they were "Chandis" and added that "Sagala Balla" should not try knocking against him.

Meanwhile chief magistrate Matara A.M.Mohamed Mackey had on November 7, reprimanded the police for submitting a B report based only on Minister Samaraweera's statement. The magistrate had said that the B report does not reveal whether the statements or complaint had been recorded from those injured in the attack.

The magistrate had further said that there is no evidence to show that any weapons were taken into custody from the injured persons or the vehicle they were travelling in.

Significantly, the magistrate has also noted that the B report does not reveal what the minister's convoy was doing chasing after a vehicle going in the opposite direction.

The magistrate has also noted that all parties connected to this incident should be produced in court, including those who had admitted to firing as well as those who had made a complaint regarding the shooting.

The magistrate directed that this case be called again on November 13.

A senior criminal lawyer told The Sunday Leader yesterday that while there were no weapons found in the possession of the injured persons or their vehicles to establish that the minister's convoy was fired at, the right of self defence in any event does not extend to a situation where the danger has lapsed given the minister's own statement that instructions were given to chase after a vehicle carrying the injured party travelling in the opposite direction.

He said if the police does not move to arrest the minister and his security personnel involved in this incident and frame charges, a private prosecution in the magistrate's court of Matara against them for attempted murder would be filed within the next ten days.

PA claim of pact with LTTE refuted

UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe on Friday wrote to the mahanayakes denying there was any secret pact with the LTTE but said the party believes in entering into negotiations with the LTTE to settle the ethnic crisis.

Wickremesinghe was responding to queries made by the Mahanayakes of the Asgiriya and Malwatta chapters and the Ramanya Nikaya, on whether there was a secret pact between the UNP and the LTTE.

Wickremesinghe said, "There is no pact or secret agreement between myself and the LTTE, or agreement between our party or the UNF (United National Front) and the LTTE."

However the letter emphasises that the party believed it was its abundant duty to protect the rights of every person belonging to different ethnic groups and religions, while safeguarding the rights of the Sinhala majority.

The People's Alliance (PA) has made the existence of a 'secret pact' between the UNP and the LTTE the main plank of its campaign for the forthcoming general elections.

His letter goes on to say, "There is no agreement with the parties that represent the people of the North and East and our party. Nevertheless, I have built some trust and faith in them, which is necessary to come to some understanding."

He continues, "I believe this Front has built a strong channel to carry the message of peace and trust to the people of the North and the LTTE leadership."

"I intend to begin negotiations under your guidance. I will seek the participation of political parties, religious leaders and civic organisations as well at these negotiations."

Stating that the UNP was founded by Rt. Hon. D. S. Senanayake who was able to unite all nationalities and religions under one flag, Wickremesinghe said that it gave him great pleasure to know he had the strength and ability to make the dream of Senanayake a reality.

Threat to Ranil's life

By militant group

The UNP will this week write to Army Commander General Lionel Balagalla warning him of a possible threat to party leader Ranil Wickremesinghe's life at the hands of northern militants armed by the state with Thermobaric weapons.

The decision to write to the commander was taken after Wickremesinghe received intelligence reports that four Tamil youth with links to the EPDP were sent to Colombo from Vavuniya with an assignment to assassinate Wickremesinghe.

The reports received by Wickremesinghe state that the four youth are to be trained at a location close to an operational area. Wickremesinghe told The Sunday Leader he had information military intelligence was involved in training the four youth.

The UNP will ask the Army Commander to ensure a proper inventory is maintained on the release of the sensitive weapon to ensure it does not fall into the hands of killer squads.

Govt. and union lock horns on drivers

The ongoing feud between the railway union and the management over the new appointments of intern shunting drivers to operate trains, entered the eighth consecutive day, putting commuters into hardship.

Transport Minister Dinesh Gunewardene said he could not meet the demands put forward by the Railway Operating Engineers Union as they were "unreasonable."

The minister said the union opposed the recruitment of 30 percent of the interns to the post of engine drivers. He said this was done after holding an impartial examination. The minister was of the opinion that the union may be protesting against this decision because new recruits might be causing a threat to the survival of the old hands in the department.

According to Gunewardene, there are 140 vacancies, which had to be filled if the fleet's running had to be made smooth. He also pointed out that 800,000 people travel on a daily basis and the railway had to be geared to provide adequate services. "We recruited the interns with this in view. The union filed a case against the railway in March this year, but the Supreme Court dismissed the case," he said.

Meanwhile Sri Lanka Railway department's general manager, Piyal Silva, said the number of trains in operation will continue to increase despite these strikes, and added he was willing to take action to bring the situation under control in order to provide a better service to commuters.

Silva said that the action taken by him regarding this matter was approved by the Attorney General and that he stood by it, until discussions prove otherwise. Silva said that he is unable to amend the scheme because only two department unions are involved in this matter and that unless there was a consensus, he was helpless to make any amendments.

However, trade union leaders insist that the management gives them written proof as to why the 61 personnel were promoted and demanded the management announce the criteria by which they did so.

The union also mentioned that the management had included retired drivers who are above the age limit stipulated for their cadre, and by doing so they were putting the commuters at great risk.

Meanwhile Silva expressed his regret to the public regarding the inconvenience caused.

Airline employees miffed

An estimated 700 employees attached to Sri Lankan Airlines, who were terminated after the LTTE attacked on the Katunayake international airport and the Air Force base, say the voluntary severance scheme offered to them is premature.

They have pointed out that their termination should have been carried out with effect from December 31, but they were compelled to leave the airline following the attack that took place on July 24.

They said though they agreed to step down from their posts voluntarily, in accordance with the Voluntary Severance Scheme 2001, they never anticipated the management to serve them with letters of termination after the Katunayake attack took place.

Employees pointed out that the termination should have been voluntary instead of the management compelling them to leave.

A clause in the agreement reached between the employers and the employees states that, "Payments will be made with the December 2001 payroll. However earlier release dates may be determined by the management at its discretion on an individual basis."

The employees say though the agreement said this, they expected to leave on their own by December, and not after the July attack.

Some of the retired employees also complained that though the management has not been given permission by the labour ministry to release of Employment Provident Fund (EPF), the management pledged to grant them the EPF money.

When The Sunday Leader questioned the officials of the labour ministry they said Sri Lankan Airlines employees were not entitled to this facility because it was a public company.

"There are legal barriers. If it was a corporation and later converted to a public company, then this facility could have been extended. But not now," senior labour ministry officials said.

The employees point out that they have been misled by the management, which promised to pay them EPF, when in fact they have no permission from the labour ministry for the release of the fund.

No party men can accompany ballot boxes

THE elections department will not allow members of political parties to accompany department officials while transporting ballot papers, Deputy Elections Commissioner M. C. Arundadhachelvam said on Friday.

The deputy commissioner said political party members accompanying department officials during transportation of ballot papers was "unpractical."

Last week, UNP General Secretary Senarath Kapukotuwa made an appeal to the elections commissioner to grant his party permission to travel to Jaffna along with elections department officials while transporting ballot papers.

Arundadhacelvam told The Sunday Leader, this was unethical and added it would set a 'bad trend.' "In that case we must take representatives of all political parties. This is something we cannot do," he said.

The United National Front last week also made representations to the election commissioner Dayananda Diss- anayake to issue a directive against the state media for the abuse of state property in terms of the 17th Amendment to the Constitution.

Airlines withdraws injunction applications

THE Sri Lankan Airlines that obtained two ex parte enjoining orders from the Commercial High Court of Colombo, restraining Air Lanka Travels Ltd., and Air Lanka Cargo Ltd., from using the name 'AirLanka,' withdrew its application for an interim injunction, on October 30, 2001.

The plaintiff, Sri Lankan Airlines stated the two travel organisations, Air Lanka Travels Ltd., and Air Lanka Cargo Ltd., were indulging in unfair trade practices, and unfairly competing with the Sri Lankan Airlines, violating Section 142 of the Code of Intellectual Property Act.

The plaintiff also stated the airline was formerly known as 'AirLanka' and is still known as 'AirLanka' and that most of the public and trade continues to identify the name 'AirLanka' with Sri Lankan Airlines.

The Air Lanka Travels Ltd., in a statement has said that the Sri Lankan Airlines was well aware of the existence of AirLanka Travels before January 1, 2001 and that a bank guarantee to the value of Rs.3, 000, 000 was even furnished to Sri Lankan Airlines in September 2000, in order to obtain credit facilities for the purpose of trading directly with Sri Lankan Airlines. After hearing to the reasons given by the travel organisa- tions senior counsel for Sri Lankan Airlines Romesh De Silva PC, informed court that after perusing Air Lanka Travels objections, Sri Lankan Airlines was withdrawing both interim injunction applications.




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