Mahinda might hear! That appears to be what PA Galle District MP
Richard Pathirana who is supporting government moves to introduce
an amendment to clip President Chandrika Kumaratunga’s power of
dissolving parliament, is saying to Power and Energy Minister Karu
Jayasuriya at the funeral of IGP Lucky Kodituwakku, while the
opposition leader seems to be keeping his distance
Photo by Asoka Fernando
opening for Govt-LTTE talks
forthcoming peace talks between
Ranil Wickremesinghe’s United National Front government
and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) led by Velupillai
Prabhakaran will be inaugurated on a grand note in Sattahip
with government representatives
of both Norway and Thailand expected to participate in the
The preliminary round
lasting three days will be held from September 16 to 18 at the
Thailand first fleet naval base premises in Sattahip, a small
coastal town east of the Thai capital Bangkok.
The talks would get off the
ground with a grand inauguration ceremony that will be open to the media
after which the press will be barred from witnessing further
deliberations. Norwegian officials functioning as facilitators will be
present at the negotiations in an observer capacity.
The spacious naval facility has
been the venue for similiar opening ceremonies like that of the annual
joint US - Thai “ Cobra Gold” military
It is about 74 miles south of
Pattaya, a popular sea side resort well entrenched on the tourist map.
The leaders of the respective
delegations Prof. G.L. Peiris and Anton Balasingham will deliver
The key note speech will be given
by Thai Deputy Foreign Minister Sukhumband Paribatra.
Norwegian Foreign Minister Jan
Petersen and his Deputy Vidar Helgessen will also address the meeting.
Over 350 persons representing the
print, audio, visual and electronic media of Sri Lanka, Thailand, Norway
and other countries and agencies are expected to cover the event.
In addition, diplomatic personnel
from concerned nations will also attend.
The preliminary round of talks
will hinge around problems affecting civilians in the north-east and
also factors impeding the speedy return of normalcy in those areas.
The main issues to be discussed
are those like refugee resettlement, rehabilitation and reconstruction;
the problem of militarised
high security zones; the implementation of ceasefire agreement
provisions like the removal of fishing ban etc., and the release of
detainees under the Prevention of Terrorism Act.
Contentious issues like the
setting up of an interim administrative council for the north-east along
with core issues like constitutional reform etc., will not be taken up
in the initial
session of talks will formulate the agenda for the next round of talks.
Decisions arrived at will be implemented within a suitable timeframe and
progress reviewed regularly.
composition of the respective delegations are expected to change as the
talks progress depending upon the agenda. Apart from government and LTTE
representatives, outside experts will also be inducted when the
from Switzerland, Canada, USA, Britain and India is available it is
from the Muslim and plantation Tamil communities will also participate
in the talks at the appropriate juncture when relevant issues are
LTTE has announced its delegation led by its political adviser and chief
negotiator Anton Balasingham. The others are Adele Balasingham,
Viswanathan Rudrakumaran and Jay Maheswaran.
a New york based lawyer will be the team's legal advisor. Australia
based Agricultural scientist Maheswaran will provide expertise on
resettlement, rehabilitation and reconstruction matters. Adele
Balasingham will function as the delegation's secretary.
government is yet to announce its delegation formally but it is known
that Prof. G.L. Peiris will be the head and is likely to include
Milinda Moragoda, Rauf Hakeem and Bernard Goonetilleke.
reluctant to release four Tigers
scheduled exchange of prisoners between the government and LTTE
has hit a snag because of a reluctance to release four Tiger members involved in serious
acts of crime.
The swap was to be in Omanthai on
Saturday, August 31, when 23 Tamil detainees were to be released by
government authorities to the Tigers who in turn were to hand over seven
prisoners in their custody.
The seven comprised six soldiers
and one naval Captain Ajith Boyagoda who has been in LTTE hands since
The LTTE had provided the
government with a list of 23 men being detained in the south who were
admittedly LTTE operatives.
The Attorney General’s
Department has objected to four of these persons being released as they
are said to be hard core Tigers involved in serious acts of crime.
Although the LTTE insists that
all 23 men should be released for the swap to take place government sources
said that they were confident of the LTTE agreeing to the 19 at this
senior commanders Theepan and Bhanu were expected to hand over
the seven prisoners.
The exchange of acknowledged
LTTE’ers was expected to facilitate the smooth release of other non-LTTE
Tamil detainees languishing in jails for years without trial.
silent on assets
Alliance Matara District MP, Mangala Samaraweera has not declared his
assets and liabilities to parliament despite the fact that he is
compelled to do so by law. Samaraweera
has blatantly flouted the law, which clearly stipulates that all
parliamentarians must furnish complete details of their assets and
liabilities to parliament by end June this year.
declaration is particularly suspect given that when he lost his cheque
book recently together with a secret document outlining details of a
constitutional coup, there were cheques written for upto Rs. 200,000 and
All the said cheques had been
personally signed by Samaraweera.
general secretary challenges Amunugama
members of the People’s Alliance (PA) holding press conferences
without proper approval from the leadership is to be taken up at the
next PA group meeting, PA members said.
They pointed out that members
like Sarath Amunugama, Mangala Samaraweera and Nimal Siripala de Silva
were arbitrarily holding press conferences and airing their own views to
the press without proper authority.
During the last group meeting PA
MP Bharatha Lakshman Premachandra raised this issue and wanted
The Sunday Leader learns
Sarath Amunugama’s claim that he is the PA media Spokesman is also to
be questioned at this group meeting. They pointed out that he is not the
PA General Secretary D. M.
Jayaratne told The Sunday Leader that Amunugama is not the media
He also said the party general
secretary becomes the official media spokesman according to the party
He also said though they hold
press conferences, they were not expressing the views of the PA.
“Therefore, nobody could hold the PA responsible for the statements
they have made so far,” he told The Sunday Leader.
He also said that he being the
party’s general secretary is not called for the party leaders’
meeting. Referring to the
confidence motion to be presented in parliament, Jayaratne said one day
of debate in parliament is sufficient to pass the motion, as against the
wishes of others who demanded two days.
The former minister said when too
much of time is allocated for the members to speak, they end up
repeating the same thing. “It does not make sense. This is why I say
one day is enough, but of course if 20 members who have asked for
permission to talk request for two days, I think the party leadership
should honour their views,” he added.
650,000 for derailment probe
staggering sum of Rs. 650,000 has been claimed by three individuals who
were appointed by Transport, Highways and Civil Aviation Minister Tilak
Marapone, to investigate into the train derailment that took place on
January 13, at Kiruwalapitiya.
Marapone appointed a three member committee immediately after the
incident took place and The Sunday Leader learns the committee had requested this huge sum of money.
The inquiry over the incident was carried out by the committee for a
period of 23 days.
committee appointed by the minister was chaired by Oliver B.Weerasena.
The other members were Professor W.M. Karunadasa and Dr. T.A. Piyasiri.
The appointment was made on January 15. The Sunday Leader learns that
the final report of the committee was handed over to the minister on
Transport, Highways and Civil Aviation Ministry Secretary, Cecil
Amarasinghe in a letter addressed to the Treasury
Secretary, Charitha Ratwatte has requested approval for the
payment of this amount.
letter dated June 4, states as follows; "Hon. Minister of
Transport, Highways and Civil Aviation appointed a committee comprising
Oliver B. Weerasena (chairman), Prof. W.M. Karunadasa (member) and Dr.
T.A. Piyasiri (member) on 15-10-2002 to investigate the intercity train
derailment on 13-01-2002 at Kiruwalapitiya."
committee had 23 days of sittings for the inquiry and preparation of the
report. The final report of the inquiry was handed over the Hon.
Minister on 10-04-2002."
chairman and members of the committee have requested payment of Rs.
250,000 and Rs. 200,000 each respectively for this assignment. The Hon.
Minister has approved this payment considering the urgency and
importance of this inquiry."
shall be thankful if approval is granted for this payment and a
financial allocation of Rs. 650,000 made to the railway, as the
departmental budget carries no provision for this unforeseen
The Sunday Leader contacted the General Manager, Sri Lanka Railway,
Priyal de Silva, he admitted the committee was claiming this amount and
added he could not comment further regarding this transaction. Asked
whether the money has already been paid to them, he said he did not
am only carrying out orders. You have to speak to the secretary for any
further information," he told The Sunday Leader.
ministry secretary could not be contacted for comments. The Sunday
Leader also made attempts to contact the Treasury secretary but was told
he was abroad.
permanent employees asked to sit for fresh examinations
decision taken by Sri Lanka Telecom (SLT), inviting its permanent
employees to sit for fresh examinations to fill the A-5 engineers posts,
has been severely condemned by 14 qualified assistant engineers.
chief executive officer of SLT in a circular (no. 53/2002) dated August
6, issued to all staff under the title 'Recruitment of Engineers (Grade
A-5),' has invited permanent staff to sit for fresh examinations, which
qualified assistant engineers and technical officers have termed
'unfair' and 'unreasonable.'
to a circular (no.41/96) signed by former Managing Director, Telecom,
R.D. Somasiri, "The terms and conditions of employment applicable
under Sri Lanka Telecom Limited will be not less favourable than those
terms and conditions that were applicable under Sri Lanka Telecom."
to another circular which describes the nature of recruitment, there are
three different ways of filling vacancies for the posts of engineers.
One is promotion through experience. Secondly, to recruit graduates from
universities, and thirdly to promote qualified technical officers.
Sunday Leader learns that the former CEO, Telecom, H. Kamitsuma has
accepted the promotion of engineers through experience and
qualifications without fresh examinations by a circular (no.66/99) dated
October 1, 1999.
is learnt there are nearly 40 vacancies for the posts of A-5 engineers,
and that there are 14 qualified engineers who are awaiting promotion.
Sources from the Telecommunication Diploma Association say that these
engineers are from recognised institutions, either from the Institute of
Engineers of Sri Lanka or Institute of Electrical Engineers, UK.
the management should consider promoting them without calling them for
fresh exams," the union sources said. Meanwhile, the union
officials also say that the five year management agreement reached
between the government of Sri Lanka and the NTT expired on August 5,
adding there have been no moves taken by the present government to renew
a time like this, how could the chief executive officer send a circular
to this effect, on August 6?" they questioned.
Sunday Leader also learns, with evidence, that the management has made
two new recruitments after the August 6 circular was issued to all
staff. They are W.A.L. Wasantha, bearing the employee number of 10284
and working as an engineer - PABX, and B.S.B.W. Tennakoone, bearing
employee number 10282 working as engineer - ISC & QSM. Both were
recruited on August 14 and August 12 respectively.
of disenchantment over WSSD
Dilrukshi Handunnetti reporting from Johannesburg
South Asian disenchantment - or the home politics of dependency became
quite obvious as the South Asian nations failed to have their government
delegations led by either heads of state or government at the World
Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) currently in progress in
Johannesburg, South Africa. Only Nepal is likely to have its prime
minister leading the government delegation tomorrow at the final
Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee not attending the summit in
what was prematurely called a "disenchantment with the process of
pre-negotiations with the summit," the entire region, it seemed, is
covered by an appalling gloom of obvious disenchantment and disinterest
in the WSSD process.
senior Sri Lankan government negotiator on the basis of anonymity told
The Sunday Leader that the lessons from Rio were quite bitter and
admitted that in the process of negotiations, it was unlikely that the
South Asian voices would be heard. He also added that the strength of
some of the Asian teams did prompt the question about the seriousness of
governments. "With weak teams, how do you expect to
negotiate?" he asked.
on the issue of global warming, he said that South Asia was being vastly
affected by this phenomenon which was "directly and strongly linked
to the non-implementation of the Kyoto Protocol," which called for
urgent emission control measures.
was agreement on common but differentiated responsibility, which meant
that the biggest polluters would set an example by controlling
emissions. It was also a call for 'global and ecological space' for the
developing world to grow in terms of economy. But I find a lack of
commitment in the entire process - by the developed world to honour
commitments and the developing countries to pressurise them to honour
them," he noted.
said that it was hoped that Johannesburg would not be a repeat of the
Rio de Janeiro disaster, which had very little to show in terms of
US approach infuriated the developing world for the stoic refusal to
honour the pledges. President Bush backed out of the consensus by
claiming that the Kyoto commitments were detrimental to their economy.
That was the worst case of back biting we saw in the process," he
senior official said that it was hoped that there would be a possibility
of exerting regional pressure to attain the objectives.
this backdrop, Forestry and Natural Resources Minister, Rukman
Senanayake who is currently in Johannesburg leading the Sri Lankan
delegation was of the view that often South Asia had been marginalised
and hoped that the lessons from Rio would lead to a reversal in the
the high expectations, the closed door sessions have infuriated the NGO
community that is largely present at the WSSD, which had led to the
sending of a letter of protest to Summit Secretary, Nitin Desai on being
excluded from the negotiating process.
WSSD originally allowed participation by NGOs in the Vienna process,
which is the stage prior to finalisation.
emphasis falling on the need for implementation and a determined effort
to "make things work," South African President, Thabo Mbeki
has called for the political will to make things happen.
to UN officials, over 100 presidents and prime ministers will attend the
crucial discussions next week, and over 3500 media personnel have
already sought UN registration for WSSD coverage.
procedures violated at TRI - Committee
committee appointed to inquire into the construction of buildings at the
Tea Research Institute (TRI) at Ratnapura has condemned the awarding of
Secretary, Plantation Industries Ministry, K.A.S. Gunesekara in a letter
addressed to chairman, TRI and co-ordinator, Tea Development Project has
said that the committee appointed to look into the constructions has
observed 'serious violations of tender procedures' with regard to the
awarding of contracts to the laboratory and library, hostel and the
has been noted that Rs. 103.16 million has been allocated by Tea
Development Project (TDP) for development activities in TRI, out of
which Rs. 50.62 million worth of contracts were awarded to construction
for the laboratory and library, hostel and administration block."
the earlier allocated amount for these three buildings was Rs. 22.145
since the tenders were awarded for these buildings and construction was
underway, I approved to pay the contracted amount for the buildings as
recommended by the committee," the secretary has said in his
okay with wage increase
Workers Congress (CWC) Leader and Housing Minister, Arumugam Thondaman
yesterday expressed satisfaction over the wage increase the Employers'
Federation has pledged to grant the plantation workers.
minister told The Sunday Leader that though the increase announced by
the federation was four rupees less than the amount demanded by his
congress initially, he was to a great extent satisfied with it, as this
amount seemed to be reasonable to meet present demands of the plantation
Employers' Federation last Thursday night agreed to grant Rs. 147 for
workers in tea plantations and Rs. 131 for workers in rubber plantations
for the next two years.
workers vowed to commence strong union actions if their wages were not
increased in keeping with the escalating cost of living.
Thondaman said that he was also concerned about the plantation industry
and added it was also his desire to demand for something, that would not
lead to the industry facing natural death.
federation, Thondaman said, has also agreed to grant the increase with
retrospective effect from July 1.
think this is reasonable and we have no major complaints at the moment.
All the workers are now reporting to work and there is no unrest in the
plantations," he told The Sunday Leader.
houses for minister's stooges
Authority employees are up in arms against a decision taken by Ports and
Shipping Minister and Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) Leader, Rauf
Hakeem for permitting the use of Ports Authority houses by his kith and
to well informed sources, four such houses are being used by SLMC
members under the authorisation of the minister.
is understood, two of these members are members of parliament from
Digamadulla. They are B.M.M. Harees and M. Thaufeek. According to
information received from the SLPA, Harees occupies a house at No.
380/84 Bullers Lane, Colombo 7, while Thaufeek occupies a house at No.
380/76, also at Bullers Lane in Colombo 7.
The Sunday Leader learns that Ports and Shipping Minister Rauf Hakeem's
brother Dr. A.R.M. Hafis, who has been appointed as the minister's media
advisor, is also permitted to occupy a house at Bullers Lane. The Sunday
Leader learns that the coordinating secretary to the minister, who is
not eligible to occupy a SLPA house, is permitted to use a house within
the Ports Authority, which SLPA employees say is illegal.
told The Sunday Leader that all these members have been in occupation of
these houses since January this year.
Harees in a letter addressed to the Ports Authority chairman has
requested his house at Bullers Lane be renovated.
letter is as follows: "My dear chairman, I shall be pleased to
inform you that the following renovation works have to be effected to
the house No. 380/84, Colombo 7, which has been provided to me.
Expansion of the main parapet
Fixing tiles for downstair hall
Fixing tiles to both bedroom and bathroom upstairs
A full repair of the front garage
Providing A/C and fan for upstair bedroom.
would be much obliged to you if you could kindly issue instructions to
the respective of the above attended to early."
Sunday Leader learns that Harees also occupies a flat at the housing
complex for parliamentarians situated at Kotte. He, according to
informed sources, occupies flat No. D-4.
Authority employees pointed out that there were several employees who
are still on the waiting list to obtain these houses, adding such people
are being deprived while henchmen of the minister were enjoying all the
facilities that they do not deserve.
said two engineers who have been on the waiting list for well over six
years, have still not found a place at the SLPA. "These houses are
given to employees attached to the operational side of the SLPA and also
those who work late," the irate and frustrated employees told The
trade fair a flop
companies that participated in a trade fair organised by the
Rehabilitation and Resettlement Ministry in collaboration with
Connaissance de Ceylan, (CDC) in Jaffna, have condemned the manner in
which the fair was organised.
businessmen who took part in the fair told The Sunday Leader they had to
face difficulties during the fair as the organising company was not
prepared to meet their demands.
Sunday Leader learns only 53 companies participated while several other
companies withdrew their participation at the last moment. It is also
shocking to know that around six to seven companies travelled up to
Omanthai and returned to Colombo with disgust.
fair took place from August 3 to 5, at the Central College Jaffna.
participants told The Sunday Leader that the company that took the
responsibility to organise the travel arrangements had not communicated
with the LTTE, resulting in the companies and the LTTE misunderstanding
to company officials, the LTTE which was not aware of the travel
arrangements of the private companies from Colombo had refused to permit
entry into its territory. As a result almost all the companies that went
in several vehicles with valuable goods had to return to either
Anuradhapura or Vavuniya to spend the night on August 1.
participants said they had to wait in queues for LTTE clearance prior to
entering their territory for more than 12 hours. "We did not even
have water to drink," they complained.
in Jaffna, 40 to 50 percent of those who came to witness our goods were
school children. The exhibition may have been a unique thing for the
people of Jaffna, but we don't think this would have met their
aspirations. But on the whole it was a good opening for business,"
participants who wished to remain anonymous said. The Sunday Leader
learns CDC charged each stall holder a sum of Rs.65,000.
by musical group stopped
The Sunday Leader learns, has made a blunder trying to organise a
musical show at a cost of Rs.450,000.
musical group called "Harmony" was invited by Rehabilitation
Minister Dr.Jayalath Jayawardena to perform in Jaffna during the time
the exhibition was taking place. CDC it is learnt has not been able to
properly coordinate with the LTTE, which led to this group being
prevented from performing in Jaffna properly.
to the available information, wide publicity had been given in a Jaffna
based newspaper that this group would be accompanied by a troupe of
LTTE subsequently warned the group that it cannot permit cabaret dancing
in the north. Several attempts made to convince the LTTE, according to
informed sources, had fallen on deaf ears.
group though not prepared for a cultural show, had been told by CDC to
tell the LTTE and the public, that they were going to perform a cultural
show. "If the CDC did not know what we are capable of performing,
why did they take us to Jaffna," some participants asked.
first day all eight artistes who went from Colombo were able to partly
perform with LTTE members also getting on the platform and performing.
second day, the LTTE had completely stopped the group from performing.
The reason cited for this by the LTTE was that they were not properly
informed as to what was going to happen and also because of the
newspaper article that said that we were going to have a cabaret dance.
This shows CDC and Minister Jayawardena have not properly coordinated
with the Tigers, the trade fair participants complained. They also said
the minister was helpless when questioned as to why CDC and his ministry
could not organise this fair properly.
dearth of 15,000 qualified and trained nurses in the country is
seemingly posing a major threat to the entire health sector,
Administrative Secretary, Nurses Trade Union, Hector Francis has
that there are only 14,900 nurses in the country, Francis says in the
next 10 years if remedial measures are not taken there will be a
shortage of 42,000 nurses around the country.
further blamed successive governments for not implementing proper
planning. He said when new hospitals are built the government does not
carry out a proper estimate of the number of nurses that will be needed.
He said the country lacks trained maternity nurses and specialist
said due to the present shortage of staff, general nurses are compelled
to work even in the psychiatric wards without adequate training.
to him the nurses union has contacted the Health Ministry regarding the
lack of facilities and further requested for tutors to teach new nurses,
but he says there has been no positive response from them yet.
are 12 nursing institutes around the country, but there should be two
more built to meet the current demand. There is only a plan to build two
such institutes in Peradeniya and Matara but nothing has been started
yet," he said.
to the number of students who graduate as nurses on an annual basis,
Francis says it must be improved. "Every year only around 1000
students graduate as nurses but the figures should be 5000 nurses a year
to meet the demands of the country," he said..
the 94,000 who apply for nursing, only 12,000 are taken into
universities. Even the number of tutors are in short supply. 200
teachers are needed to train these nurses but there are only 75 in the
country. This is another inadequacy which affects the numbers of
qualified nurses in the country," Francis told The Sunday Leader.
Abeysinghe's English Workbook I will be launched at the National Library
and Documentation Services Board at 5.30 p.m on Wednesday, September 4.
It is the first of a series of workbooks for children planned by the
author for children in the 8-10 age group. Arundathie who is a Sunday
Observer staffer is a graduate of Kelaniya University.
chairman denies report
Lanka Ltd. Chairman Milinda Goonewardene says he did not mention that
Minister Lakshman Kiriella interfered into "internal transfers and
internal matters" as stated in The Sunday Leader of August 18.
said he only referred to COPE Chairman Jeyaraj Fernandopulle as
interfering into "internal matters" not coming within the
purview of the Committee On Public Enterprises to probe into internal
administrative matters of the company.
won't be coming
chief negotiator Anton Balasingham will not be coming to Sri Lanka
before or after the preliminary round of talks in Thailand as planned
will be travelling directly from Britain to Thailand and return to
London instead of visiting the northern mainland of the Wanni for
consultations with LTTE Leader Velupillai Prabhakaran.
Sri Lanka Muslim Congress Leader and Minister Rauf Hakeem has sought a
meeting in London during early September with Liberation Tigers of Tamil
Eelam (LTTE) political adviser Anton Balasingham to clarify certain
issues connected to the forthcoming peace talks in Thailand.
Hakeem was expected to meet with Prabhakaran in Kilinochchi during the
first week of September. Balasingham and Batticaloa - Amparai LTTE
special commander Col. Karuna were to be associated in the meeting where
a number of matters affecting Muslims were to be discussed.
Balasingham's change of plan the proposed Wanni meeting too has been put
on hold. Informed sources told The Sunday Leader that Hakeem's presence
in Thailand for the preliminary round of talks was highly unlikely. The
first round of talks will be of a bilateral nature between the
government and the LTTE alone and not tripartite including Muslim
and plantation Tamil representatives will participate in the Thai talks
at the appropriate time when relevant issues affecting those communities
are discussed The Sunday Leader learns. As such Hakeem participating at
the talks on September 16 was ruled out unless the LTTE agreed,
informed sources said.
April 13 LTTE - SLMC agreement envisaged Hakeem attending the talks as a
Muslim leader and not as a cabinet minister. It is learnt that the
Tigers are not in favour of Hakeem being included as part of the
government delegation this time.
Batticaloa District MP, M. L. M. Hizbullah told The Sunday Leader they
have now accepted Hakeem as the leader representing the Mulsim community
and would arrive at a common Muslim agenda for the talks under Hakeem's
leadership. He said both NUA Leader Ferial Ashraff and MP Segu Isadeen
were also in discussion with Hakeem for joint action.
community appeals for lasting peace
of the business community have unanimously decided to appeal to
President Kumaratunga, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, all
political parties and all political leaders to work towards bringing a
lasting permanent peace to the country.
Kotelawala, the convenor of 'Peace for People' has said that the
business community believes that peace can be achieved only if it is
based on love and ethnic harmony of all races, religious and peoples of
this country. " This peace should be based on freedom and the
unitary state of Sri Lanka.
appeal to our political leaders not to lose this opportunity to bring us
lasting peace after 18 years of conflict. It is we the citizens who have
suffered and will suffer in war. It is our children who are orphaned,
our mothers widowed and our youth crippled in mind and body and our
nation destroyed and devastated," he has said in a statement.
commander’s big lie
the fact that Navy Commander Daya Sandagiri had an almost brand new
Mercedes Benz at his disposal, he lied to the then Defence Ministry
Secretary and ordered another brand new Mercedes Benz, spending over Rs.
8 million for its purchase.
On February 12, 2001, Sandagiri
who had just taken over as naval chief wrote to former Defence
Secretary, Chandrananda de Silva and stated, quote, “The commander of
the navy’s car was transferred to former commander of the navy with
the approval of Secretary/Defence.
In view of the above there is no suitable car available at
present for the present commander of the navy’s use.
Therefore, to keep uniformity among service commanders, it is
requested that approval be given to invite quotations from reputed car
suppliers to purchase a diesel car with an engine capacity of 2200
When stating that the commander
of the navy’s car was transferred to the former commander, Sandagiri
is referring to former Naval Chief, Cecil Tissera.
He has however stated a complete
falsehood when he says the car used by Tissera had been transferred to
Tissera’s name for him to take home.
When The Sunday Leader contacted
Vice Admiral Tissera, he said that since he had served only three and a
half years as navy commander he had not been entitled to take the said
Mercedes Benz car home.
According to a government
stipulation, service commanders are allowed to take home an almost brand
new luxury vehicle upon retirement provided they have served a full term
in office as forces commander. A complete term of office for a security
forces chief is four years.
Tissera fell short of this
stipulation by six months when he was abruptly asked to retire by
President Chandrika Kumaratunga on January 1, 2001. Daya Sandagiri was thereafter appointed as navy commander by
the president in January last year.
Tissera subsequently appealed to
the Defence Ministry to be allowed to take home the luxury Mercedes Benz
car which had been purchased for his use but was refused permission to
Hence, the car in question, which
had run under 1,000 km at the time, was handed over to Tissera’s
successor, Vice Admiral Daya Sandagiri. Yet, Sandagiri kept mum and insisted the Defence Ministry
invite quotations for the purchase of another brand new diesel car with
an engine capacity of 2200 cc.
As a result, Rs. 8.9 million was
spent to buy another Mercedes Benz car for Sandagiri.
That is not all.
In June this year, Sandagiri ordered that 20, brand new
Mitsubishi Lancer GLX cars be rented from United Motors at a cost of Rs.
39,500.00 each, per month.
The cars were leased for the use
of senior officers in the navy. Out
of this fleet of cars as well, Sandagiri ordered that one car bearing
number NAHA 5199 (GP 8145) be allocated to his pool of vehicles.
Sandagiri already has at his
disposal a fleet of 24 vehicles — solely for his use. The vehicles
include six cars, six double cabs and a large fleet of jeeps.
Disgruntled naval officers point
out that if Sandagiri had not used Rs. 8.9 million to purchase one
Mercedes Benz car for him alone, this money could have been utilised to
purchase vehicles for other senior naval officers. Instead, a colossal sum of money is now being spent by the
navy to rent 20 cars from United Motors, they said.
on this side and destruction on the other. This is the story of
the Beira where the flow of clean blue water can be seen on one side of
the lake and dull green on the other.
While the Urban Development
Authority (UDA) spends millions of rupees on clean up operations in the
Beira Lake, others through ignorance and lack of sufficient space use
the lake as their rubbish dump.
While environment pollution has
always been a never ending problem in Sri Lanka, the fight to save the
last of the beautiful lakes and birds in the country still goes on.
The UDA has plans for a road from
Pettah to Kollupitiya over the lake but to others the lake still remains
a dumping ground. Take a walk along the pavement on Nawam Mawatha at any
time of the day and all you see are plastic bottles and polythene bags,
old papers, scraps of food and lumps of mud by the side of the lake.
The Beira Lake popular for its
Buddhist Temple island is home to both humans and birds. While shanties
cover one side of the lake, the opposite side is a highly commercialised
area. This strange situation though beneficial in some aspects, also
plays a major role in the lake’s destruction.
The story of the lake is
interesting as it is used by many, depending on their requirements. To
the 850 shanty dwellers, the Beira Lake is their sole sustenance. Water
to wash and cook, fishing for their food and the dumping of garbage is
all part of their daily lives. If not for the Beira Lake beside their
houses they probably would have shifted elsewhere a long time ago.
A few feet away, two men stand by
the lake. Their concentration is intense as they wait eagerly until the
signs of a struggling fish is felt. Their only income is the fish they
catch from the polluted lake. Despite the dangerous health hazard of
eating fish from an unclean lake, the fishing goes on.
According to a fisherman, most
often the morning catch is a good one. A few small nets spread on the
ground with a handful of fish in the afternoon, was proof enough that
this catch would not serve a family meal. “We sell a kilo of fish at
Rs 60.00 but if you need a large quantity, you’ll have to come back in
the morning,” the fisherman said. To the fisherman, all that mattered
was selling his fish polluted or otherwise to a willing buyer.
However, unknown to the fishermen
a plan to redo the area around the Beira Lake by the UDA will soon
prevent them from earning those few rupees that keep their families
When The Sunday Leader spoke to Deputy Director, Project
Management Division, UDA, H. A. Dayananda, he said that many plans are
underway to make the Beira Lake and its surroundings a major tourist
attraction in the future.
sea water pumping project by the UDA, an ongoing one is done as and when
the water gets polluted in the lake. A phase that commenced at
the end of 2000 was completed in August 2001.
However, due to the constant
pollution, a second phase at a cost of Rs. 12 million funded by a
private sector company is presently in operation.
“The Beira has more than 1,500
waste and sewage outlets diverted to the lake. This is the reason for
the constant pollution,” Dayananda said.
A Rs. 800 million project funded
by the World Bank to divert sewage disposal in 1999 was completed in
June 2001. “What we did was connect the other outlets to a main sewage
line and diverted the waste materials to the sea. But due to many small
sewage holes being connected to the Beira, the lake continues to get
polluted. We have now commenced another project estimated at Rs. 30
million and funded by the UDA to divert these holes as well,”
According to Dayananda, all these
projects will be of no use if public awareness is not created. “We are
planning on working closely with the Colombo Municipal Council to solve
this problem,” he said. The lake is divided into four parts, namely,
the East Lake, South West Lake, West Lake and the Galle Face Lake. While
75% of the work is completed on the South West Lake, the UDA has plans
to give out this area for private investment next month, while the rest
of the area and lake will be given out later.
“The best way to protect the
lake and its surroundings is to make
it a commercialised area where the private sector can develop it as a
tourist attraction,” Dayananda said. While the UDA plans to relocate
the shanty dwellers at Dematagoda, Dayananda says there were no
protests from the people as they will be getting better houses.
All warehouses, industries,
stores and buildings of inappropriate uses will be shifted to Peliyagoda
by the UDA as 125 acres need to be cleared for the proposed
entertainment plan. As for future plans, around the lake bank, a 6 X 12
metre wide linear park for the public and a bigger park together with
other forms of entertainment will be constructed. According to the UDA
this project will be completed by 2003.
on the decline?
the last six months, there has been a notable decrease in the
number of “major crimes” around the island when compared with last
year or even the year 2000. Statistics given by the Interior Ministry
show that abductions, hurt by knife, homicide and rape have decreased.
The number of rape cases in
particular has come down by five percent from last year. Also, when
compared with the last two years, there has been a decline in the number
of such cases. In year 2000 for the first six months shows a decrease of
44% and year 2001 another decline of 10%. This year, for the first six
months there is a decrease of 5% in rape cases.
The figures show that from
January to June in 2001 there were 574 cases reported and this year for
the first six months 545 cases had been reported.
When The Sunday Leader contacted
the Senior Superintendent of Police, Crimes Division, Police
Headquarters, Mahinda Hettiarachchi as to how there is a decrease in
rape cases, he said recent detections made by the police on these
criminals has brought about fear in the others that there is always a
possibility of them getting caught. He added that there has been no
special police action that has resulted in this decrease. “Most of the
rape cases are solved. So, offenders know that there is a possibility of
This decrease in certain crimes
has been noted throughout the island. Assistant Superintendent of
Police, Anton Dassanayake points out that the police is now more
vigilant. When a crime is reported, a special team is appointed to probe
into the case. There are patrols conducted by constables and inspectors
in certain vulnerable areas in Colombo and other major towns which has
helped reduce the crime rate, he observed.
The department has recently
started a programme to keep a close watch on re-convicted criminals. A
log is maintained and when these reconvicted criminals are spotted, it
is noted and passed on to the relevant authority. Even underworld
figures are identified and being closely watched, Dassanayake said.
Dassanayake stressed that even
the judiciary is now very keen on rape crimes and these criminals,
adding that the media to some extent has helped reduce the number
of these crimes, as people are aware that if a criminal is caught he is
Executive Director, Women In Need
(WIN) — an organisation that counsels the victims of such crimes —
Savithri Wijesekere when contacted by The Sunday Leader said that
they still get the same number of rape cases as earlier, and went on to
say that she cannot really comment on the 5% decrease in rape cases as
they don’t get the national figures. Most of the cases that WIN deals
with are the ones referred to them by the police. Wijesekere said the
number of rape cases have shown no significant change while pointing out
that there has been an increase in the number of domestic violence cases
reported to WIN where counselling and support is given to these victims.
first time I met him, he had travelled all the way from Galle in
a private bus — with a poisonous snake inside his bag.
Amal Wijesekera pulled out a
small plastic box and non-chalantly put the snake in a cage at a lab at
the Colombo University’s Medical Faculty.
“Now we can talk,” he said,
paying no attention to the sweat that was streaking down my face.
For Amal, snakes are a lifestyle.
He’s the kind of guy who carries a bag around so that he can put a
snake into it if he comes across one.
His aim is to help develop
anti-venom for snakebites in Sri Lanka, thereby helping save snakes and
people. And he has never been bitten — “I’ve been lucky that
Amal says that snake venom is 400
times more valuable than gold and that it is only now that Sri Lankan
snake venom is being analysed.
The anti-venom being used for
snakebite victims in Sri Lanka right now is from India. Amal says that
because there are genetic differences between the snakes in India and
Sri Lanka, a large number of vials have to be used when a man is bitten
which has severe side effects. “If made from snakes in Sri Lanka, the
anti-venom would be perfect.”
He has been working at the
Colombo University for the past few years on a project named OX COL
where he feeds and cares for the snakes and milks them amongst other
duties. “I do it for my personal interest, not for the money. When
I’m broke, I go fishing, I’m a good fisherman.”
Amal has been interested in
snakes and their conservation for a long time and says, “people kill
so many snakes everyday, about 800 to 1000. If we were to collect these
snakes and put them in a snake farm, the venom could be collected and
Amal has never followed any
formal course — all his knowledge is through experience. “My idea is
to do something for my country without taking my expertise abroad even
though I could earn so much money there.”
There are 94 types of snakes in
Sri Lanka, six of which are deadly and venomous according to scientific
classifications. However, Amal thinks there may be more. “There are
about 110 types of snakes with the new species,” he says.
“Handling snakes is always a
different experience,” he says. “I concentrate totally on handling
the snake, extreme concentration, it changes me totally because I know
the risks. Taking such a big risk, I milk the snakes so that someday
this large problem in Sri Lanka can be solved.”
Amal is always on call: he says
that sometimes when he goes home, people have come there and left snakes
there for him to release into a suitable place.
“When people find snakes, they
bring them to me and I release them according to what type of snake it
is. If people have a place to take snakes that they find, it would be
great because they wouldn’t kill the snakes instead.”
Amal also lectures on snake
conservation and says people need to be educated about snakes because
there are a lot of myths many still believe in, which are not true.
According to him, the law against
people being allowed to rear snakes should be relaxed. “It should be
changed to protect the snakes, it is too strict. The government or some
society must do something about this situation. For example, they could
have snake farms like in other countries and they would generate a lot
of money which could help towards developing anti-venom.”
According to him, so far, 32
kinds of medicine have been developed from snakes in Sri Lanka. Amal
says a lot of money is needed for the anti-venom development projects
and it is very important. “I would dedicate and risk my life to do
whatever I can for this cause.”
Amal also plans to prepare
lectures with a set of slides on snakes and go around Sri Lanka
educating people on how to survive a snake bite, snake conservation and
“A snake won’t do anything
unless you do something to it. Snakes are innocent. There is so much
that can be done by analysing snakes, scorpions and spiders in Sri
Lanka,” he said.
order suspending the gazette notification on the capital requirement of
finance companies has been extended till October 7. The new act
specifies that finance companies fulfil a capital requirement of Rs. 75
million. Five unregistered finance companies — Isuru Finance, Kaido
Finance, Yasunaga Investment, Laksavi Finance and Indra Finance have
petitioned courts against the new gazette.
Central Bank meanwhile informed The Sunday Leader that the new
act will not have any effect on the 25 registered finance companies.
Some of these companies’ capital is below Rs. 75 million.
there are hundreds of unregistered companies which will face closure if
the new law comes into effect. According to papers submitted to courts
there are only three registered finance companies above the new capital
requirement as of mid July