20th January 2002, Volume 8, Issue 27

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issuespic1.jpg (22552 bytes) Ratwatte boys: The chase has begun

By Frederica Jansz

Five army personnel from the Vijayaba Regiment attached to the Boigane Army Camp at Kurunegala have confessed to having assassinated ten Muslim youth at Udathalawinna, Kandy on December 5, last year. Police sleuths said that 28 soldiers from this regiment had reported to General Anuruddha Ratwatte's residence at Mahaiyawa, Kandy on the eve of the general election

last December and were ordered to ensure the general's return to government - at any cost.

Following their confession top cops say they are on the trail of Lohan and Chanuka Ratwatte wanted in connection for the murder of the Muslim youth.

Senior sleuths confided to The Sunday Leader that the two Ratwatte boys "will soon be arrested." More than a month after the horrifying murders were committed, the police say they are close to concluding their investigation into the killings.

Army Commander Lt. Gen. Lionel Balagalle in his statement to police last week has admitted that he ordered the release of a 28 strong army platoon from the Boigane army camp at Kurunegala 'for election duty in Kandy.' The army chief has reiterated that he had been unaware the soldiers had reported to Gen. Anuruddha Ratwatte and taken orders from the PA strongman.

Police say that there is no direct evidence yet to link Gen. Anuruddha Ratwatte to the killings. His two sons however, Lohan and Chanuka, according to an eyewitness account, were both present, at the scene of the crime.

The twenty-eight army personnel have been placed under arrest in connection with this crime and will be produced at an identification parade on January 22, this month. Fazlin Wahid, Attorney-at-Law appearing for the prosecution said that police had finally established a clue as to where the Ratwatte boy's maybe hiding.

Meanwhile, the police investigation has found that among the eight army personnel who were directly involved in the killings, at least four civilians, identified as Muslims but supporters of Gen. Anuruddha Ratwatte were also allegedly travelling in the army vehicles that pursued and massacred the ten Muslim youth from Udathalawinna.


Tackling the fundamentals

By J. S. Tissainayagam

The food convoys that began moving into the LTTE-controlled areas of the Wanni through the checkpoint at Piramanalankulam have been hailed as a symbol of a new phase in the co-existence between the Sinhalese and Tamils in Sri Lanka.

Similarly, the LTTE and indeed all the Tamil parties have said that any meaningful negotiations with the Tamils and their representatives would have to be preceded by the lifting of the embargo on food, fuel and medicine going into the areas controlled by the Tigers.

Thirdly, the peace lobby in both local and international hail such gestures as confidence building measures that are a vital prerequisite for negotiations to commence. They lead to the ironing out of problems that are usually of a less important nature than the substantive issues, thereby testing the waters to see whether the conflicting parties are ready to proceed with talks.

In an entirely unconnected move High Court Judge J. Visuvanathan made an order in court that a Tamil translation of a confession that was originally recorded in Sinhala be made available to the suspect in a PTA case. Though the order is by no means is associated with the change in the political climate experienced today and is a requirement under the law, it comes at a time when accommodation of minority grievances is uppermost in the agenda of the government.

While these are salutary moves that signal the repression Tamils suffered under the PA government is changing, the political climate in which these changes are occurring needs to be examined. Only this will give the correct perspective to these changes and put them in context.

It is well-known tactic in counter-terrorism that suspects are tortured and coerced mercilessly. When they are sufficiently demoralised, in comes someone who acts less harshly than the torturers. To the victim who is almost at the end of tether, this 'someone' is a ministering angel. This leads to the victim reposing his confidence in the deliverer. With such confidences the victim lets slip vital information which the other party wants. What the victim does not know is that the ministering angel is someone who was set up for the express purpose of inspiring confidence and teasing out the information.

A similar logic operates among communities waging insurgencies and rebellions against the state. After coercing a population over a period of time till it is driven to desperation, in comes the ministering angel who lends a sympathetic ear to the grievances of the oppressed and acts as an ally of the victimised.

To the victimised community the space opened up by a sympathetic government is like manna from heaven. The manna is received with gratitude. And as the torture victim who unwittingly co-operates with the oppressor, communities too co-operate with the government blindly.

The objective here is for the government to appear like a saviour to the beleaguered population and thereby inspire its confidence. The confidence building begins with basics -- food, fuel and medicine. It goes on to build up the economy through infrastructure development and finally encourage investments.

The present government has begun taking these steps one by one. It has lifted the economic ban on most goods, except those that are construed as lethal, while restricted supplies are permitted in others. Meanwhile, proposals have been put forward to rebuild infrastructure such as opening the A9 highway (if that is possible), while air transport too is to be expanded. Finally, the Yalpanam Chamber of Commerce and Industry is to have integral ties with chambers elsewhere to promote investment and trade.

These economic ties that begin by sending relief supplies such as food and medicine from the south, will go on to promote investment too from the south as well as increase trade and commerce. All this go to creating an illusion that peace has dawned with goodies, investments and commerce thriving in an area that had once faced bombardment, shelling and death.

The illusion will play an important part in making the population dependent on the south. It will go a long way to determine whether basic economic relief and promotion of investment can be a substitute for long term political goals.

We should not forget that all governments from 1988 have come to power and begun by agreeing to make concessions to the Tamils. The operative word here is 'concessions.' Governments proclaim a cessation of hostilities and relief from past repression as part of these concessions. But invariably times change and peace peters out as war returns.

Sri Lanka can get out of this cycle of war and peace only if the concept of 'concessions' and 'relief ' changes to addressing the fundamentals that have affected the Tamil people in this country. It is because these fundamentals have not been addressed that war has recurred. What is more, it is also because these fundamentals have remained that the south can act as oppressor and saviour alternately to carry forward its own programme.

What are these fundamentals? They concern the structure of the Sri Lankan state upon which successive governments play the game of war and peace. There are different types of fundamentals, but those related to the examples mentioned above will be relevant

First the PTA. While it is important that confessions of Tamils indicted under the PTA should be made available to them in their own language, this alone is not going to resolve the problems connected with the PTA. Nor will expediting the disposal of cases of those who have been charged under the PTA do so, though the order made by Chief Justice Sarath N. Silva in this regard to the attorney general in November last year is a welcome move.

The fundamental issue here is the PTA itself. It has allowed the executive to trample over the rights and liberties of citizens. And Sri Lanka's political environment is such that nearly all of the affected citizens happen to be Tamil. What is more, under the PTA there is very limited relief that is possible through the judiciary. This has led to 600-2000 ( there is no official figure one has access to ) Tamil political detainees languishing in jail without trial or release.

If the government is sincere towards its commitment to peace it should proceed forthwith to revoke the PTA, or at the very least modify it substantially, so that the more obnoxious aspects of the legislation are no longer on the statute books. Expediting the trial of PTA detainees deals with the past. What Tamils want is for repressive laws that have served to coerce that community in the past not being used in the future.

In an allied issue, with the signing of the Indo-Lanka Accord in 1987 Tamil was also made an official language. If that is so, it should be freely used as the language of the courts, which was highlighted in Justice Visvanathan's order. Despite a functioning Official Languages Commission, Tamil in hardly used in official documents, signboards at public places, or in courts.

The second example relates to humanitarian relief that has begun to flow into the Wanni. From reports there is a suggestion that despite all political will, bottlenecks are occurring through officials like the Commissioner General of Essential Services being tied down by red tape rather than being liberated by the spirit generosity.

The question however is not that. The fundamental fact here is that food and medicine have been used as weapons of war against civilians. They have been used before and unless drastic changes are introduced will be used in the future too.

One way this could be prevented is for the Sri Lankan government to sign Protocol II of the Geneva Convention governing internal conflict. Protocol II provides the guiding principles to combatants on how to behave in armed conflict of a non-international character.

Only if the Sri Lanka government signs and ratifies the agreement will it be obliged to adhere to the tenets of international humanitarian law under which food and medicine are not used to coerce the civilian population. It is a commitment which is not ad hoc and which the parties cannot revoke in a hurry.

The LTTE being a non-state party cannot sign this international instrument, it can only write to the United Nations stating its willingness to comply with the international standards governing internal conflict. This, the LTTE has done.

It is reported that both the government and the LTTE are interested in transforming their respective declarations of a cessation of hostilities into a unified agreement, which will be monitored by a third party. That is well and good. But in the event the ceasefire fails it will be a return to uninhibited conflict once again.

If however Protocol II is signed and ratified, even if war were to resume there will be a firm foundation to see that the atrocities that were committed on civilians before are not repeated. It will go a long way in ensuring that both sides fight in a more controlled environment governed by international law.

The present government has rooted for a peace that is more than merely cosmetic. But if it is not going to address issues like rescinding the PTA, implementing the use of the Tamil language and ratifying instruments governing internal conflict, it cannot ensure a lasting peace.

Looking into these matters will be a far sight better than what the government is doing now -- sending food to the Wanni on the one hand, while beginning military recruitment on the other.


Why gender matters

Gender equality is not only a matter of social justice, but also of good economics. It is good for the society and the economy. Although the gender gap is narrowing, more women than men are still illiterate. Women tend to be less educated than men, to work more hours, and to be paid less. This disparity creates inefficiencies, hampers growth, and lowers the potential well-being of society. Studies have shown the benefits of investing in women, but the case must now be made convincingly to those who control the allocation of public resources.

Failure to invest in women is costly. Eliminating gender inequalities leads to significant productivity gains, provides large societal benefits and enhances poverty reduction efforts. The social and economic losses are greatest when women are denied access to basic education and health care. Data from around the world show that the private returns to investments in education are not only equal but actually slightly higher for girls (12.4%) than for boys (11.1%). Three studies in Kenya show that under-investment in women's education limits agricultural productivity. It is suggested that there may be significant gains from increasing women's levels of physical and human capital.

If women and men shared the same educational characteristics and input levels, yields could increase as much as 22% for food crop farmers; and that giving women primary schooling alone would raise yields by 24% for maize farmers. This has particular important implications for low income countries where agriculture is the mainstay of the economy, and where women are responsible for roughly 75 % of food crop production.

Gender inequalities create inefficiencies that hamper growth. As recent studies demonstrate, high inequality, especially in the accumulation of human capital, is a constraint on growth. In addition, there is strong evidence that investing in women will generate important benefits for society in the form of lower child mortality, higher educational attainment, better nutrition, and slower population growth. Investing in women ensures the quality and sustainability of economic growth.

These benefits to society are substantial. Returns to investments in women's education and health are significantly greater than for similar investments in men; largely because of the strong interaction of women's education, health, nutritional status and fertility levels and their effects on the education, health and productivity of future generations. These correlations are even stronger when women can control how resources are allocated within the household.

While investing in girls' education results in the higher social gains, lack of access to financial services, to land, and to information and technology compounds the unequal treatment of women. Requirements for collateral, high transaction costs, and limited mobility and education contribute to women's inability to obtain credit. When women do have access to credit, the effect on household and individual well-being is striking. Borrowing by women is linked to increased holdings of non-land assets, to improvements in the health of children, and to an increased probability that girls will enrol in school. Independent access to land is associated with higher productivity and, in some cases, with greater investments by women in land conservation.

The causes of the persistent inequality between women and men are complex. In recent years attention has focused on how resources are allocated within the household and on the higher share of education, health and food expenditures boys receive in comparison with girls. The decision making process within households is complex and is influenced by social and cultural norms, market opportunities, and institutional factors.

Inequalities in the allocation of household resources matter because education, health, and nutrition are strongly linked to well-being, economic efficiency, and growth. Low levels of educational attainment and poor health and nutrition aggravate poor living conditions and reduce an individual's capacity to work productively. Such economic inefficiencies impose significant losses on society and hamper future economic growth.

Wage differentials between women and men are closely linked to educational levels and work experience. Since, on average, women earn 30 - 40 % less than men, it is not surprising that fewer women then men participate in the labour force. This wage disparity combines with other discriminatory aspects of society to decrease women's influence on decisions within the household. A vicious circle ensues as households invest less in daughters than in sons in the belief that investment in girls yields fewer benefits. As a result, many women do not work outside the household because they lack the education or experience that men have.

The decision not to participate in the labour force does not necessarily reflect a woman's own choice; nor does it always correspond to the optimum use of household resources. Furthermore, the market wage does not take into account the social benefits of educating and hiring women. Discrimination in households and in the market carries not only private costs for individuals and households but social costs for society as well.

Typically, women have the responsibility for non-wage household work, such as childcare, food preparation, and in low income countries especially, subsistence farming and the collection of fuelwood and water. The decision to allocate women's time to these activities has less to do with economics than with social conventions and norms. Even in industrial economies, where women's average levels of human capital are equal to - and sometimes higher than - those of men, women perform the bulk of household work.

Whether this division of labour is appropriate is, essentially, for society to decide. However, there is no doubt that women's entry into the labour market and other spheres of the economy is affected directly by the extensive amounts of time they traditionally devote to household maintenance and family care. Most men do not allocate similar amounts of time to the home. Such inequality in time allocation of household division of labour constrains women's employment choices and can limit girls+ enrolment in schools. The economy pays for this inequality in reduced labour productivity today and diminished national output tomorrow.

Common practices in the labour market compound the constrains on women's employment opportunities. Overt wage discrimination is illegal in many countries, but employers often segregate jobs or offer less training to women workers. Employers may perceive the returns to investing in women workers as lower than those for men, mainly because of women's primary role in child rearing.

If the benefits from investing in girls and women are so great, why do households and employers continue to under-invest in women? The main reason is that markets fail to capture the full benefit to society of investing in women and girls. Where the market fails or is absent, government must take the lead. Public policy can contribute, directly and indirectly, to reducing gender inequalities by - for example, modifying the legal and regulatory framework to ensure equal opportunities; ensuring macroeconomic stability and improving microeconomic incentives; redirecting public expenditures to the investments that offer the highest social returns; adopting targeted interventions that correct for gender inequalities.

Modifying the law to eliminate gender discrimination and equalise opportunities for women and men is an important first step. However, legal reform by itself does not ensure equal treatment. Further public action is required to make sure that gender neutral laws are enforced at the national and local levels.

Sound economic policies and well-functioning markets are essential for growth, employment generation, and the creation of an environment in which the returns to investing in women and girls can be fully realised. Economic distortions can have particularly adverse effects on women. High inflation, for example, hits poor and low-paid wage earners hardest and taxes women's ability to manage scarce time and resources. Artificially cheap imports associated with over-valued exchange rates can crowd out female-produced goods. Consequently, sound macroeconomic management is critical. In general, two sets of policies are necessary: one emphasising macroeconomic stability and the elimination of price distortions, the other focusing on labour-demanding growth and a reorientation in public spending towards basic services with high social returns. This includes investments in education, health care, and water supply.

Gender inequalities in the distribution of the benefits of public spending frequently arise because of a bias within households that limits women's access to publicly provided services. In addition, the services currently provided by public spending are often of less benefit to women than to men. Public policy can help remedy this problem by re-orienting expenditure priorities among sectors and within the social sectors to those services and types of infrastructure that offer the highest social returns to public spending and are most heavily used by women and children, such as the provision of water supply, sanitation services, and rural electrification.

Finally, general policy interventions may not be enough, and programmes that target women and girls specifically may be required. Targeting is justifiable for two reasons. First, because women are disproportionately represented among the poor, targeting women can be an effective strategy for reducing poverty. Second, where gender differences are wide, targeting may be needed to capture social gains and increase internal efficiency.

Governments can no longer afford not to invest in women. By directing public resources toward policies and projects that reduce gender inequality, policy makers not only promote equality but also lay the groundwork for slower population growth, greater labour productivity, a higher rate of human capital formation, and stronger economic growth. None of these developments, however, can be sustained without the participation of women themselves. Governments and collaborating institutions must listen more carefully to the voices of individual women, including policy makers, and to women's groups. By working with other players in the development process to identify and implement policies that promote gender equality, governments can make a real difference to the future well-being and prosperity of their people. Ultimately, gender equality will strengthen the family and the capacity of its members to make decisions that benefit themselves, and the broader society.

(Ms. acknowledges World Bank's overview on the Role of Public Policy Toward Gender Equality.)


No ball : The illegal cricket deal

By Frederica Jansz

The Board of Control for Cricket in Sri Lanka (BCCSL) may be called upon to pay US $ 20 million (Rs. 1,880 million) as compensation over the awarding of exclusive exhibition rights to a foreign television broadcast company. WSG Nimbus is seeking legal redress against the BCCSL for the Interim Committee having signed a MoU with another rival company despite a court order restraining the BCCSL from entering into any such arrangement.

Despite the BCCSL being dissolved on March 28, 2001, by former Minister of Sports Lakshman Kiriella, an interim committee appointed by Kiriella entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with Taj Television, violating a restraining order issued by the High Court of Singapore three days earlier. The restraining order of October 29, 2001, barred the BCCSL from entering into a contract or arrangement with any third party to deal with television and radio rights to sponsor and cover Sri Lanka's home and international cricket matches. The arbitration was initiated on October 19, 2001, to enforce the commercial rights of WSG Nimbus under their agreement with BCCSL.

The court order

The court order of October 29, 2001, secured in the High Court of Singapore (No. 601627 of 2001) states inter alia, "the defendant (the Board of Control for Cricket in Sri Lanka), whether by its officers, servants, agents or any of them or otherwise howsoever, be restrained forthwith from entering into any contract, arrangement or commitment with any third party to deal with any of the commercial rights which form the subject matter of the Master Rights Agreement dated December 3, 2000, made between the plaintiff (WSG Nimbus) and the defendant as amended by the terms of settlement dated February 5, 2001, made between the plaintiff and the defendant, pending further order by this court."

Those being held directly accountable for this serious violation of the law are Vijaya Malalasekera, Chairman Interim Committee, BCCSL, Sidath Wettimuny, Kushil Gunasekera, Ashantha de Mel and Michael Tissera.

This highly questionable deal was surreptitiously clinched during the short and brief tenure of Mangala Samaraweera as Minister of Sports during the probationary government just before the general election of December 5, 2001. M. S. Wickremaarachchi served as Secretary to the Ministry of Sports at the time.

To begin this tale we shall now place the issue in sequence. On December 3, 2000, the BCCSL awarded a sponsorship contract to WSG Nimbus for 14 cricket tours during the three-year period beginning January 1, 2001, and ending on December 31, 2003.

The award was made for a minimum total guaranteed payment of US $ 27,100,000/- (Rs. 2.547 billion) by WSG Nimbus to the BCCSL. Production costs to be met by WSG were estimated by WSG to cost US $ 10 million. An added incentive WSG Nimbus offered the BCCSL was 85% of sales commissions on foreign sponsorship deals received by WSG Nimbus over and above US $ 37,100,000/- to be paid to the BCCSL.

Furthermore, WSG Nimbus had agreed to invest US $ 255,000/- for the promotion and development of cricket in Sri Lanka.

Equal opportunity

The award by the BCCSL to WSG Nimbus was made after the publication of advertisements in the local and international media calling for pre-qualification of bids. 52 parties were sent pre-qualification documents. Nine applications were received and WSG Nimbus and Trans World International were selected after professional evaluation for further negotiations.

This procedure was carried out by the BCCSL executive committee, together with BCCSL auditors, M/s S J Associates, Chartered Accountants, Desmond Fernando, President's Counsel and BCCSL's ICC representative and the director of the ministry of sports.

The process was entirely transparent. So much so, Andrew Wildblood, Senior International Vice President for Trans World International Inc,. the unsuccessful bidder, expressed satisfaction that the bid process had been conducted in a transparent manner and that they had been given a fair and equal opportunity.

In a letter to Mohan de Silva, Secretary to the BCCSL, on November 7, 2000, Wildblood wrote, "We confirm that in our view the bid process has been conducted in a transparent manner and that IMG/TWI Group has been given a fair and equal opportunity to bid for the rights, and that we are satisfied with the way the bid process has been conducted."

Ten days later on November 17, 2000, Uditha Egalahewa, State Counsel for the Attorney General wrote that he had examined the observations of Dhamikka Ranatunge, Chief Executive BCCSL, and Mohan de Silva, Hony. Secretary BCCSL, and found the procedure calling for bids for TV and broadcasting rights of Sri Lanka cricket, issuing press releases and the composition of the bid evaluation committee totally and completely satisfactory.

The agreement with WSG Nimbus was thereafter duly signed and sealed on December 3, 2000. On behalf of the BCCSL, Thilanga Sumathipala and Mohan de Silva signed the agreement while Harish Thawani, co-Chairman and Director WSG Nimbus, signed on behalf of the foreign firm.

Be that as it may, the payments from WSG Nimbus had to be made with each cricket tour. Hence, a revolving bank guarantee was required to cover the total minimum guaranteed payment of US $ 27,100,000/- over the three year period.

WSG Nimbus initially paid the required US $ 200,000/- on signing of the agreement and a further US $ 80,000/- towards the cricket development fund.

A snag

The first installment of US $ 2,650,000/- was payable in January 2001. However, a snag occurred. Raising immaterial technicalities, WSG Nimbus had delayed to make such payment and to provide the requisite bank guarantee. Under such circumstances the BCCSL has sought legal advice and were instructed by K. Kanagiswaran, P.C., and Desmond Fernando, P.C., to institute court action.

Consequent to this advice, WSG Nimbus entered into terms of settlement in court on February 6, 2001, and made the required payment of US $ 2,650,000/- to the BCCSL providing also for requisite bank guarantees for the respective cricket tours.

In March last year the BCCSL was dealt a sudden and stunning blow. The then Minister of Sports, Lakshman Kiriella on March 28, 2001, dissolved the BCCSL. President of the board at the time, Thilanga Sumathipala, furiously maintained that the minister's action was wrong and unlawful. It was reliably understood at the time that Kiriella acted on the insistence of President Chandrika Kumaratunga.

In fact Kiriella's actions have been put in issue by the then secretary and treasurer of the BCCSL in the Court of Appeal Colombo, in a written application settled by Gamini Marapana, P.C.

Kiriella's drastic decision resulted in the BCCSL having to windup its affairs as stipulated under the sports law. Consequently, an interim committee was appointed by Kiriella. The latter of which was also regarded as being wrong and illegal.

While all these shindigs were going on, WSG Nimbus according to the court settlement, had duly performed the sponsorship contract and had made payments to the BCCSL totaling US $ 10.2 million up to October 2001, as per their agreement.

However, a faux pas of the highest order was committed when the interim committee terminated the agreement with WSG Nimbus and soon after signed a Memorandum of Understanding, (wrongfully and illegally on behalf of the dissolved BCCSL) with Taj Television. The MoU covers 12 tours for an approximate period of 3 years from November 2001 to September 2004, for a total monetary consideration of US $ 13,900,000/-

Six million dollar loss

The payment to the BCCSL for the first 10 cricket tours of the above 12 tours by WSG Nimbus would have amounted to US$ 16.9 million. In contrast the offer by Taj Television for the corresponding 10 tours was for only US$ 10.7 million. The loss to the BCCSL was a difference of over US$ 6 million.

This MoU was signed on November 2, 2001, in Dubai by Vijaya Malalasekera, Michael Tissera and Ashantha de Mel on behalf of the BCCSL which by this time had been legally dissolved under the sports law.

It is pertinent to note here that the BCCSL once dissolved according to the sports law has to cease all functions as would a company. Hence, any interim committee cannot sign any MoU or agreement on behalf of an organization that has been dissolved. The MoU with Taj Television therefore is contrary to the statutory law. (See box for applicable provisions in the sports law.)

Our investigation has found that the notice of arbitration initiated by WSG Nimbus was faxed to the Chairman of the interim committee, Vijaya Malalasekera on October 19, 2001. A copy of the restraining order as had been ordered by the High Court of Singapore was subsequently faxed to the interim committee on October 29, 2001.

Yet, Malalasekera together with Michael Tissera and Ashantha De Mel ignored this court order and collectively signed an MoU with Taj Television three days later on November 2, 2001, giving the latter television and radio sponsorship rights for international matches for Sri Lanka cricket for a period of three years. The hastily prepared three-page document is very broad and vague in its contents. In comparison the agreement with WSG Nimbus runs into 25 pages with an index of 21 subjects and six schedules specifying in detail the radio and television rights the company will offer Sri Lankans and world cricket fans.

Now for the clich‚. Of the above 12 tours, the first ten tours had been covered under the previous agreement with WSG Nimbus for a minimum guaranteed consideration of US $ 16,900,000/-. The MoU with Taj television in respect of these 10 tours had provided for a consideration of only US $ 10,740,000/-. As we have already pointed out a loss of US $ 6,160,000/-(Rs. 579,040,000/-) has been incurred, dealing a blow to the BCCSL and loss of valuable foreign exchange to the country. In addition, WSG Nimbus had agreed to invest US$ 255,000/- for the development of cricket, of which US $ 80,000/- had already been paid as referred to above.

The two other tours with Taj Television for a consideration of US $ 3,160,000/- are during the year 2004, which year was not covered by the agreement with WSG Nimbus. The WSG Nimbus agreement was for a 3 year period from January 2001 to December 2003, and hence could not be taken into reckoning for comparison.

In addition to the above monetary considerations, the WSG Nimbus agreement had several beneficial commitments for the development of Sri Lankan cricket and had excluded the sale of internet and web casting rights, whereas Taj Television had been granted the internet and webcasting rights resulting in a further loss to the BCCSL of about US$ 500,000/-. Also, the satellite access feed fees of approximately US $ 6000/- to US $ 7000/- per match day has not been included to be paid by Taj Television. The agreement with WSG Nimbus in contrast clearly states they will pay this fee.

Documentary evidence proves that Taj Television had not been previously pre-qualified and the interim committee had entered into the MoU with Taj Television hastily and surreptitiously on the eve of the general election.

What is even more confounding is that Taj Television is majority owned by R. Buhkatir, Chairman of CBFS Sharjah, which owns Sharjah international cricket stadium and conducts international cricket tournaments in direct competition with other Asian venues. As a result, in this instance, Sri Lanka would stand to lose.

If WSG Nimbus succeeds in the above arbitration, it would result in colossal damages that the BCCSL would have to pay in the region of about US $ 20 million (Rs. 1,880 million). The end result would doubtless cause complete jeopardy to the BCCSL and damage to the goodwill and standing of Sri Lanka in the international cricket world.

Glory to the country

The extent of the worldwide television coverage to the international cricket loving public is not specified or committed in the Taj Television MoU. For example, it is not known to what extent live coverage was given worldwide to the recent Zimbabwe test Tour where Muttiah Muralitharan achieved 400 test wickets bringing immense glory to the country.

Also the quality and clarity of the broadcasting standards and parameters are not defined in the Taj Television MoU, whereas the same is specifically spelt out in the WSG Nimbus agreement. Schedule 1 of the agreement with WSG Nimbus states that, "WSG Nimbus shall insert a post card illustrating the beauty and attractions of Sri Lanka in each match of up to 2 minutes duration. WSG Nimbus warrants and undertakes to produce an international quality signal of all the matches utilizing not less than 11 cameras for each match and not less than 18 cameras on each match between Sri Lanka and either India or England. Highlights of each day's play will be provided at the end of the day to BCCSL with transmission quality."

The former executive committee of the BCCSL on Thursday January 17, 2002, met with the new Sports Minister Johnston Fernando to appeal for a full professional inquiry to be held immediately into this arrangement with Taj Television and hold those responsible accountable. It is reliably understood that the former executive committee members of the BCCSL will shortly lodge a formal complaint at the Commission to Investigation Allegations of Bribery and Corruption and the CID against members of the interim committee, BCCSL and the MoU signed with Taj TV.

The Sunday Leader was unable to speak with Vijaya Malalasekera, Chairman, Interim Committee, BCCSL who had unfortunately been taken ill. Jayantha Kudahetty, Marketing Director for the BCCSL, said that while he had been aware there was going to be an MoU signed with Taj Television, "I did not know at the time of any court order restraining the BCCSL or its interim committee from sealing such agreements with any other third party," he said.

Asked if such action by the interim committee was not strange or irregular given that in his capacity as marketing director he had not been consulted or informed, Kudahetty replied in the negative. "They (the interim committee) can go ahead and sign such deals. They had the power to take such policy decisions and it was not necessary to consult me," he stated.

He refused to comment on whether such action by the interim committee, despite a court order restraining them from doing so is wrong, unlawful and irregular.

Michael Tissera, member of the interim committee for the BCCSL explaining why the decision was taken to sign an arrangement with Taj Television said that WSG Nimbus has continuously delayed to make payments at the stipulated time frame.

The constant delays, Tissera said, caused immense pain of mind to the members of the interim committee which resulted in their decision to cancel the agreement the BCCSL had with WSG Nimbus and hurriedly secure another arrangement. "If not, we stood to lose a huge amount of money," he said.

Tissera pointed out that WSG Nimbus delayed even to pay the first installment of US$ 2,650,000/- forcing the then BCCSL under Thilanga Sumathipala to seek legal redress.

Commenting on the restraining order WSG Nimbus secured on October 29, 2001, against the BCCSL, Tissera said lawyers appearing on behalf of the interim committee of the BCCSL were preparing applications to overturn the restraining order.

Asked how the interim committee signed such an arrangement with Taj TV on behalf of the BCCSL, which had by then been dissolved, Tissera would only say they were acting on the instructions of the sports minister, (who was at that time Mangala Samaraweera) and thus continuing the functions of the BCCSL.

Why the interim committee did not resort to arbitration under the provisions of the WSG Nimbus agreement and claim interest for delay is puzzling as, if the only complaint was the delay in payments this would have been the most obvious measure to adopt instead of incurring a huge financial loss.

Section 34 of the Sports Law No. 25 of 1973

"31 (I) The minister may, by order published in the Gazette, order the dissolution of any national association of sports which has failed to apply for registration under section 29 or whose registration has been refused or cancelled under section 32 and the office-bearers of such association shall carry out such order by dissolving and winding up the affairs of such association within such time as shall be specified in such order."

"34. (2) The office-bearers of a national association of sports who fail or neglect to carry out an order of dissolution under subsection (1) of this section, shall each be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction, after summary trial before a magistrate, to a fine not exceeding one thousand rupees or to imprisonment of either description for a term not exceeding one year or to both such fine imprisonment."

"34. (3) Where an order of dissolution of a national association of sports has been made under sub section (1) of the section and where the time specified to carry out such order has expired, any person who thereafter becomes or continued to be a member of such association shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction, after summary trial before a magistrate to a fine not exceeding one thousand rupees or to imprisonment of either description for a term not exceeding one year or to both such fine and imprisonment and to an additional fine not exceeding fifty rupees for each day he continues to be a member of such association after such conviction."

A not so tender 'issue' at immigration

By The Insider

Walk in or out through Katunayake airport and the chances are that you will find the immigration officials pretty brisk and efficient. They may not greet you with a 'Welcome to Sri Lanka' as in the Maldives. They may not offer you complementary candy as in Singapore. But they are a whole lot better than the sullen, insolent, embalmed mummies who man the desks at Indian airports. Now, in a quest for even greater efficiency, the Department of Immigration and Emigration is about to be computerised.

Already, the issue of passports is fully computerised. Monitoring people entering and exiting the country however, is not. All that is about to change, for the department has invested almost Rs. 200 million on a spanking new IBM computer system that will assure the public an even better service. The tender for the computer system and its associated software has broken all records for inefficiency in the government sector.

It was first called in 1994, during the D. B. Wijetunga administration. It languished in the Immigration Department for seven whole years without a decision being taken. Finally, the Ministry of Defence made the award mid last year, and the equipment has now finally been installed. All well and good. Or is it?

Together with the computer hardware, the department ordered also the database software it needed for its immigration and emigration control and monitoring procedures. The software component was contracted to Informatics (Pvt) Ltd., a company owned by Gamini Wickremesinghe, younger brother of the well-known architect Surath Wickremesinghe.

Long before the award of the software tender to Informatics was made however, Nandasena Bambarawanage, the Controller of Immigration and Emigration, realised that his department did not have the manpower skills to manage the new computer system. At least four months prior to the award, on November 10, 2000, he requested Informatics to submit a bid for providing the necessary staff on a round the clock basis. This Informatics did, quoting a staggering Rs. 1,184,625 per month for the provision of 12 staff variously described as 'specialists.' What is more, working on holidays would be charged at a premium of Rs. 2,750 per day per person.

The provision of management services for the computer system has nothing to do with the software, which is maintained by Informatics at a hefty 10% per year (the industry norm is 7-8%). Therefore, there was nothing to prevent Bambarawanage calling for open competitive tenders. Restricting quotations only to IBM (who declined to quote, anyway) and Informatics is completely without foundation. It is rather like someone buying a Mercedes Benz and after taking delivery of the car, asking DIMO Ltd., the local distributor for Mercedes, to quote for the services of a driver.

When awarding the main software tender to Informatics however, Bambarawanage had been silent in the matter of management services. He made no attempt to apprise the Cabinet Appointed Tender Board of the problem and draw their attention to the fact that he had no management staff. Had he done so, the tender board could have entered into negotiations with Informatics and, with the lure of the Rs. 50 million software deal pending, got the best terms from the company. Bambarawanage was silent.

On January 10, 2002, Bambarawanage addressed a letter bearing reference Q/746/(III) to the Secretary of the Ministry of Interior requesting the appointment of a tender board to ratify Informatics' offer, which amounts (after negotiation) to Rs. 14,410,833 per annum with a mandatory increase of 10 per cent for the next year. This is for the provision of 12 persons, which works out to over a million rupees per person per year. Not bad. In this letter (in Sinhala) Bambarawanage wrote: "According to the discussion with Secretary/Defence on 09.08.2001 the management services for the computerisation project, quotations were called from IBM World Trade Corporation and Informatics (Private) Limited." However, IBM had nine months previously, by its letter dated November 10, 2000, declined to provide the required services.

It does not appear to have occurred to Bambarawanage to train existing staff in his department to undertake these duties, or to call for open competitive tenders, as the financial regulations of the government require him to do. According to Bambarawanage, he requested offers only from IBM and Informatics on the direction of Chandrananda de Silva, then Secretary to the Ministry of Defence, under which the Immigration Department came. Whether or not this was the case, it is noteworthy that Bambarawanage too, belongs to that elite club that usurped many of the top jobs in the PA administration, including Secretary to the president (Kusumsiri Balapatabendi) and Secretary to the Ministry of Defence (Chandrananda de Silva). Like Balapatabendi and de Silva, Bambarawanage was educated at Rahula College, Matara; not only that, he is even Treasurer of the Old Boys' Association of Rahula College.

If Bambarawanage needed to out-source the management of the computer system, that is something he or his technical advisors should have made known at the time. Having not done so, it is astonishing that he should have bypassed the National Institute of Business Management's Dr. Jayasiri, a government servant of great distinction.

This is all the more relevant given that Jayasiri was on the original Technical Committee for the main equipment and software tender. On this occasion however, Bambarawanage, for reasons best known to himself, turned to one Dr. Dileepa de Silva, a self-styled 'IT management consultant' doing business from 18/1401/1 Centre Road, Evergreen Park, Colombo 5. This Dr. de Silva's letterhead contains no telephone number, no fax number and no e-mail address: so much for IT. What is also not stated on Dileepa de Silva's letterhead is that he was formerly an employee of Informatics, resulting in a direct conflict of interest in his being called upon to advise the Department of Immigration and Emigration on a sole offer submitted by Informatics. Immigration Controller Bambarawanage has been paying de Silva enormous consultancy fees, which in itself is irregular given that no Cabinet approval has been obtained for his services.

The Sunday Leader has also taken the unusual step of bringing these payments to the attention of the Commissioner General of Inland Revenue.

Over the years, the Department of Immigration and Emigration has greatly improved its image as a government department that really does work efficiently. The same day issue of passports is testimony of this, as is the efficiency of the immigration officers at Katunayake Airport. Computerisation can only improve what is already a good service. It is a pity indeed that questionable deals involving public funds should jeopardise so impressive a track record. Interior Minister John Amaratunga has striven to give the public a squeaky clean image. He has a good track record and won't like a scandal of this nature sullying his image. Now is the time for him to emit a little squeak.

 

 

 

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