27th January 2002, Volume 8, Issue 28

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A TASTE OF FREEDOM: Three of the 10 'prisoners of war' released by the LTTE last week as a goodwill gesture following the ceasefire, are seen at the press conference in Colombo organised by Ceylinco Chairman Lalith Kotelawala.
Photo by Gamini Wickramasinghe

PSD chief faces indictment

By Frederica Jansz

Chief of the Presidential Security Division (PSD) Nihal Karunaratne is expected to be indicted for having threatened the Officer-in-Charge of the Hanguranketa police station with death.

On November 20, 2001, at a meeting at Horamadulla in the Hanguranketa area where President Chandrika Kumaratunga was speaking, Karunaratne had

threatened OIC Gunaratne Bandara with death saying he would kill him and hide his body. Karunaratne unleashed his wrath against the OIC accusing Bandara of working in support of S. B. Dissanayake.

The OIC had immediately reported the incident to his superior, the ASP of the area, and made a police entry recording the exact words Karunaratne had used which included slang.

Police investigating the case will soon record a statement from the PSD chief with regard to the incident. It is expected that Karunaratne will thereafter be arrested, indicted and charged. When a police officer is indicted he is automatically interdicted.

Section 486 of the Penal Code states that "whoever commits the offence of criminal intimidation by threatening death shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to seven years or with a fine or both."

Meanwhile, in a separate incident also involving personnel from the PSD, another police investigation has found that a party of low ranking officers attached to the PSD had arrived at Maturata on November 30, last year and that a claim by this party that they were on a recce before an official visit by the president does not carry weight as Kumaratunga had by this time already concluded her election campaign to this area .

The police party was led by Police Sergeant Kamal from the PSD and had left Colombo as an advanced party to secure the areas of Kandy and Nuwara Eliya from possible terrorist attack. The police party had claimed that their reconnaissance was necessary as President Kumaratunga was scheduled to visit these areas and address public election rallies.

The president had by this time already completed her public addresses in these areas having concluded her meeting at Hanguranketa too on November 20, 2001.

Police Sergeant Kamal meanwhile was accompanied by PC Sumedha, soldiers Silva, Perera and Tissera. They travelled in vehicle No. 253-6272.

Their 'out entry' in Colombo was logged by SI Jayantha at 7.15 p.m. on November 30, 2001. Jayantha however did not accompany this police party.

A police investigation into this matter has found that this police party leaving in the manner that it did is highly irregular. For instance, when the president was scheduled to leave for Hanguranketa for her meeting ten days earlier on November 20, the advanced police party that left Colombo consisted of high ranking police officers, namely, DIG Illangakoon and PSD Chief Nihal Karunaratne who travelled by helicopter to Kandy and picked up DIG Balasuriya and SSP Ratnaweera before continuing to Hanguranketa.

It was on this occasion that Karunaratne had threatened the OIC for Hanguranketa with death.

The police party that left Colombo surreptitiously on November 30, 2001 were all issued with pistols, a grenade launcher and a T56. PC Sumedha and the soldiers were given T56 assault rifles in addition to the weapons they are normally granted.

The police investigation has found that the weapons were all issued on the orders of PSD Chief Nihal Karunaratne.

Evidence that has now surfaced has raised the question as to whether the issuing of such weapons to a low-ranking police party attached to the PSD is legal. Investigations are also being made as to what personnel from the PSD were doing in the Maturata area ten days after the president had concluded her election campaign and had no further official visit scheduled. This police party was arrested by the OIC of Maturata after they were found committing an act of mischief by firing at a vehicle parked on the side of the road at Maturata.


BCCSL elections before March 31

Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe has informed Sports Minister Johnston Fernando that fresh elections be held before March 31 this year at the Board of Control for Cricket in Sri Lanka.

Since April last year, the BCCSL has functioned under the directions of an Interim Committee headed by Vijaya Malalasekera who was asked to take over after the then Minister of Sports, Lakshman Kiriella, in March 2001 abruptly dissolved the Executive Committee of the BCCSL of which Thilanga Sumathipala was president.

Sumathipala continues to assert that the minister's decision was illegal and that once dissolved, the administrative functions of the BCCSL would cease.

The issue is now before the Court of Appeal in a Writ Application by Gamini Marapona P. C. Sumathipala will not contest the BCCSL election this year. 


Somasiri defies Charitha's order

Despite a circular issued by the Secretary to the Treasury and Finance Ministry Charitha Ratwatte to the public service, provincial public services, public corporations and statutory boards suspending all recruitment, the Director General of Telecommnication, R. D. Somasiri has flouted this order by recruiting four persons to the Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (TRC).

The government directed that all such recruitment, whether on permanent, temporary, casual , substitute or any other basis should cease forthwith until further notice, by a circular No. 14 on January 3, 2002.

However, Somasiri, The Sunday Leader learns, has gone ahead to appoint four persons to the TRC barely four days after the treasury secretary issued the directive.

Those appointed by Somasiri to the TRC are Chandima Asiri Wellala of Colombo 09, Aruna Niroshan Lokuge of Galle, Malka Kellsi Ranasinghe of Dehiwala and Karunapala Viyanwattage Sriyani Perera of Nugegoda. These appointments were made on a contract basis by Somasiri.

Somasiri in addition recommended a monthly income of Rs.9,000 to each employee. The duration of the contracts of these employees, according the Contract of Employment, is one year, commencing from January 7. The employees are also entitled to EPF and ETF.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe last week instructed Mass Communications Minister Imthiyaz Bakeer Markar to remove Somasiri and replace him with someone suitable for the post.


Norway moots time-bound ceasefire
for govt and LTTE

By D. B. S. Jeyaraj

Norway in its capacity as mutually accepted facilitator is mooting a propsal to bring about a time-bound ceasefire between the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE as a prelude to commencing direct negotiations aimed at a peaceful settlement to the ethnic conflict, it is learnt.

Although not finalised yet, it is envisaged that the ceasefire when coming into force would extend for a period of at least one year initially, informed sources said.

Oslo has already formulated a preliminary draft that seeks to harmonise the parallel ceasefires declared and adhered to separately by the government and the LTTE.

It would incorporate provisions relating to a permanent ceasefire, a framework governing the ceasefire, codes of adhering conduct for both parties, mechanisms to monitor the ceasefire and an outline regarding the modalities for preliminary negotiations, said the sources.

The Norwegians are currently engaged in obtaining the views and suggestions of both parties and making suitable amendmennts to the draft document.

Norwegian Deputy Foreign Minister Vidar Hegelson led a delegation to meet LTTE chief negotiator Anton Balasingham on Jan 4 and then followed it up with a two-day visit to Colombo on Jan 10.

Thereafter Norwegian foreign ministry special adviser Erik Solheim and ministry official Kjirste Tromsdal undertook two trips to London to meet Balasingham on Jan 15 and 22.

Balasingham submitted a set of suggestions on behalf of the LTTE that would help formulate a framework to govern the ceasefire.

Given past experiences where ceasefires collapsed, the Tiger purpose was to devise procedures that would prevent immediate collapse of the ceasefire if an unfortunate mishap occurred and streamline procedures that would minimise opportunities for such mishaps to occur.

In that respect the LTTE made concrete proposals like segregated areas of control for both sides in a post-ceasefire scenario and the setting up of 'neutral' zones separating both sides physically. Clear rules of passage were to be drafted to govern movement of personnel by either side to the other.

In a related development rules of conduct for both sides to follow during ceasefire were also mooted.

It was suggested that precise rules should be formulated to clearly define what constitutes a 'ceasefire' violation. This entailed a set of 'do' s and 'dont's' for both sides. A monitoring committee to oversee the ceasefire was also necessary. This could comprise international and local representatives.

It is learnt that Hegelson will lead a delegation to London next week and meet Balasingham again.

Oslo's ambassador in Colombo Jon Westborg will also be in this team. Oslo is focusing at present in forging a "structured and durable ceasefire as its first priority."


TRC's white elephants

Four 'mobile vehicles' (MV) purchased by the Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (TRC) at a cost of nearly 60 million rupees have come under heavy criticism. TRC uses MVs to monitor radio frequency interference.

The Auditor General in a report has revealed that four MVs had been purchased in May 2000 at a cost of Rs. 60,441,383. The report adds that only one driver and a technical officer had been assigned to all four vehicles raising queries as to why these vehicles were imported if personnel could not be found to use them.

The Sunday Leader reliably learns that these vehicles that are not suitable for Sri Lankan roads are simply left to rot in the premises of TRC.

When complaints are made to the TRC, it is learned the officials are unable to despatch these vehicles because of the road conditions.

For seven months beginning from May to December these four vehicles have performed only 4,069 kilo meters, said the auditor general's report.

The TRC receives complaints from licensed broadcasters, telecasters and telecommunication operators who use radio frequencies for data transmission and from private companies.

Please see the breakdown of the performance of these vehicles in the attached box.


LTTE request conveyed to Delhi

The Norwegians have informed the LTTE that two requests made by the organisation have been forwarded through appropriate channels to the Government of India for due consideration by New Delhi.

It is learned that details of the requests had been conveyed to the Indian government through the Indian High Commissioner in Colombo, Gopalakrishna Gandhi and also formally communicated by letter from Oslo to New Delhi.

The LTTE had earlier informed Norwegian Minister Helgeson, who is part of the team facilitating talks, that it desired Indian good offices to help resolve the Sri Lankan ethnic conflict by acceding to its two requests.

Firstly, it wanted India to allow the LTTE chief negotiator and political advisor Anton Balasingham and wife Adele Anne to relocate to Chennai temporarily and secondly for talks to be hosted by India in a South Indian city like Chennai, Thiruvananthapuram or Bangalore.

When particulars of the LTTE requests were revealed in the media on January 8, New Delhi maintained a studied silence on the matter on the grounds that no such requests had been officially communicated to the government of India.

Reports in the Indian media however stated that "informed discussions between the ministries of external affairs and home affairs on the subject were held and that the dominant view was to keep the LTTE at bay from the southern states."


Missing car found in carpark

By Risidra Mendis

A state owned vehicle, removed before the December 5 general elections and not returned by a minister of the former Peoples' Alliance (PA) regime was recently found parked in a car-park of a luxury apartment complex in the suburbs of Colombo.

The Sunday Leader in its January 13 issue highlighted the missing vehicles that were forcibly taken away by former Lands and Samurdhi Minister Salinda Dissanayake. It also stated that the former minister returned only the keys of ten of the 17 vehicles he had taken for election purposes.

In the January 13 edition of The Sunday Leader it was reported that of the vehicles that had been taken away by Dissanayake, one bore the registration number 64 - 1592.

Last week an avid reader of The Sunday Leader informed the newspaper that one of the vehicles mentioned in the newspaper was found at the Royal Park condominium basement.

The paper learns this particular vehicle was not given permission to be parked in the car-park, but regulations has been overruled.

It is also reliably learned that the owner of this vehicle resides in one of the apartments in the condominium. The public had seen Salinda Dissanayake twice travelling in this vehicle.


Talks on Palk Strait bridge

A joint meeting between India and Sri Lanka is to be held in February this year to initiate the process of building the proposed bridge between the two countries spanning the Palk Straits, a government minister said on Friday.

According to Science and Technology Minister Milinda Moragoda, a joint feasibility study on the bridge will be undertaken by the two governments.

Moragoda said both governments have taken this issue, which was mooted by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, seriously, and are determined to go ahead with the implementation of it as soon as possible. He admitted however a special team from Sri Lanka was yet to be appointed by the Prime Minister to study this matter, but added it would be done soon.

The minister said in today's world of globalisation large trading blocs were emerging, adding that when such bloc formations take place small countries like Sri Lanka could not avoid belonging to them. He also emphasised that countries should tie up with each other for enhancement of trade and other related activities.

"You have to tie yourself to something larger than you are. If Sri Lanka has a vision, it must create a gateway into India," he pointed out.

He said much foreign investment comes to India through Dubai, because both countries have links of this nature. "It may be because of the geographical pattern of the country. But we in Sri Lanka too have to explore the possibilities of establishing such links for further development, " he pointed out.

He also said there is a decision in principle to issue visas on arrival within the SAARC countries and the implementation of the bridge would make matters easy for trade, tourism and other links between SAARC countries.


Colombo seven residents complain
of high rates

By Marianne David

Residents of Cinnamon Gardens, Colombo are distraught over the recent hike in municipal rates, which is done regularly at five yearly intervals by the Colombo Municipal Council (CMC).

The municipal assessor calculates the yearly amount based on 15% of the market rent. This is estimated according to the floor area, usage, age, condition and facilities of the building.

Estimated annual value is the annual rent plus the rate. The rate is 25% of the annual value.

Many of the residents are upset because their yearly rental has increased by over 100% and in some cases upto 300% and questioned as to why they should pay such high rates when they do not get a satisfactory service from the CMC.

"If we call the municipal workers to clean out the manholes, they charge Rs. 500 for each. To cut branches of trees hanging over our property they charge Rs. 1500.

"They do not collect the garbage on time and do not even wear their uniforms. It is upsetting when they hang around near our houses and expect money for collecting the garbage too," complained a lady resident of Horton Place.

She demanded to know what facilities residents are provided to have to pay so much as rates. She said their houses were depreciating in value when taking the cost of repairs into consideration.

"These are old houses and we have no way of coming up with so much money given the economic situation today," she continued.

When contacted by The Sunday Leader, Municipal Assessor, P. P. T. Mohideen said, "Every year we issue notices and every five years we give an estimated rent of the building. If the house or building owners feel this amount is too high, they can appeal within one month. We will have an inquiry and give them a fair reply."

He admitted that if the estimate was unrealistically high, it could be because of a mistake. If the residents were unsatisfied after appealing to the CMC they could go to courts, he said.


Rev. Nesakumar is new Jaffna Archdeacon

Rev. Selliah Phillip Nesakumar of the Anglican Diocese of Colombo succeeds Ven. Joseph Sarvananthan as the new Archdeacon of Jaffna. He was appointed by Rt. Rev. Duleep de Chickera, Bishop of Colombo. Rev. Nesakumar is a product of Jaffna Central college.

Rev. Nesakumar had his theological training at the Theological College Lanka, Pilimatalawa where he obtained his B.th (Serempore). He was made a deacon in 1987 and a priest in 1988. Since his ordination, he has worked in various parts of he diocese.

His early years in the ordained ministry were spent in the Archdeaconry of Nuwara Eliya. Since 1991, he has worked in Jaffna offering a pastoral responsibility to the parishes and schools in most difficult times. He also served as area dean of Jaffna.

Rev. Nesakumar will be installed in his new office at a service at the Cathedral of Christ the Living Saviour on Monday, January 28, a release from the Diocese of Colombo said.


Dearth of campuses cause havoc
among young

Of the 80,411 students who completed their advanced level examination and qualified for higher studies last year, Sri Lanka's twelve universities could absorb only about 12,760, a statement from the Rotary Club, Colombo said

The statement also said an estimated 400,000 youngsters enter schools every year but only an average of 129,242 qualify to be eligible to pursue the advanced level .

Meanwhile, the Sri Lanka Anti Narcotics Association (SLANA) says many of the students who do not make the grade at A/Ls, move out from pursuing higher studies and add to the large numbers of delinquents and drug addicts.

SLANA said that during the year 2000 there were 15,600 arrests for drug abuse, of which more than 8,000 youngsters were in the age group of 15 to 29.

During the last year more than 80 kg of heroin valued at an estimated 100 million rupees was detected, the SLANA statement revealed.

 

 

 

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