13th October  2002, Volume 9, Issue 13

Home

News

Politics

Issues

Editorial

Spotlight

Sports

Business

Review

Nutshell

Interviews

Fashion

Archives

A notable absentee at last week’s joint opposition protest against the government’s privatisation programme was Anura Bandaranaike. All the opposition big guns were present including Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapakse, JVP Group Leader Wimal Weeravansha,  MEP Leader Dinesh Gunawardena and Sihala Urumaya Leader Thilak Karunaratne, among others                             

Photo by Asoka Fernando

 

CBK threatens MSD director  with death

President Chandrika Kumaratunga last week threatened Director Ministerial Security Division, SSP Jayantha Jayasinghe with death after the CID commenced investigations on a complaint made by Jayasinghe into a missing T-56 weapon taken possession of by her former PSD chief Nihal Karunaratne.

The T-56 weapon with 100 rounds of ammunition were according to MSD records taken possession of by Nihal Karunaratne in 1994 when he was heading the security team of Kumaratunga who was chief minister of the Western Province at the time.

Notorious underworld criminal Baddegana Sanjeewa too was in Kumaratunga’s security contingent in 1994.

It is learnt that last week, ASP Amaradasa of the MSD who was formerly a security officer attached to Anura Bandaranaike had forwarded a report to Director Jayasinghe that there was no inventory in the MSD of the weapon and ammunition handed over to Karunaratne in 1994.

Following this report, the MSD had called for an inventory report from the PSD which too had communicated to the MSD, there was no such weapon in their inventory.

Informed sources said MSD Director Jayasinghe had in a report to IGP A. Anandarajah subsequently brought to his notice the missing weapon and requested the CID be directed to investigate the matter.

On Thursday, October 10, the CID summoned Nihal Karunaratne to record his statement with regard to the missing weapon and ammunition leading to the president’s ire.

Karunaratne in his statement to the CID stated he does not know the whereabouts of the weapon or ammunition in question, since he had handed it over to a police constable.

The CID was expected to record the PC’s statement yesterday. It is learnt that Karunaratne can be charged under the offences against the Public Property Act if the police constable denies receiving the weapon or is unable to account for it.

Following this development the president telephoned Jayasinghe on the IGP’s official telephone while he was attending a meeting at Police Headquarters and threatened him with death for reporting the missing weapon to the CID.

Jayasinghe who was earlier director of the Prime Ministerial Security Division of Sirimavo Bandaranaike was told by an angry president he was a low down “scum” who was “licking the ba..side of the UNP.”

“I know what you have done. I am the president of the country. Mama paligannawa, paligannawa, paligannawamai (I will take revenge, take revenge, will definitely take revenge),” the president had charged.

A nonpulssed MSD director had simply said, “Thank you Madam,” and cut the line but later brought to the notice of the CID the president’s threatening telephone call.

Jayasinghe is now expected to seek special protection from the IGP, following the president’s threat.

Jayasinghe is the father of three young daughters, the eldest of whom has just qualified for medical college with straight As. President Kumaratunga’s daughter, Yasodhara too recently passed out as a doctor.


Compromise with SLMC 

In a bid to reach a compromise with the nine dissident MPs of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC), Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on Friday, October 11, issued a statement asserting the government would address the issue of a separate council for the Muslims in the north and east during the course of negotiations with the LTTE.

Wickremesinghe has maintained that there can be no immediate resolution at this moment in time and that the matter can be dealt with only as the peace talks progress. 

As the crisis snowballed over a period of two days with violent incidents breaking out in the eastern province, the Premier, after consulting with Muslim religious leaders from the East, and Minister Rauf Hakeem, issued a statement that is seen to be an attempt to meet the 9 MP’s at a halfway point.

The PM’s statement was jointly signed by the Muslim religious leaders as well, who had agreed with Wickramasinghe and reiterated they would persuade the 9 SLMC MP’s to return to Parliament next week.

On Friday, one MP, Noordeen Mashoor, did show up in Parliament for the vote on the Petroleum Corporations Reform Bill. 

The other eight MP’s however could not be contacted on Friday October 11.  The Sunday Leader was told they were all out of Colombo.

A source close to SLMC Chief Rauf Hakeem, said Friday that the matter still remained unresolved, and that the SLMC leadership too were trying to meet with the 9 dissidents and persuade them to return to Parliament this week.


TNA suspects JVP hand in Trinco attacks

A fall out from Wednesday’s (9) attack on the STF camp at Kanchirankudah in Tirukovil, Ampara resulted in the deaths of three more Tamils on Friday, October 11, in Trincomalee.

With emotions running high after eight Tamils were shot dead by the STF on Wednesday at Ampara, the Tamil community in Trincomalee decided to observe a one day hartal on Friday in protest of Wednesday’s confrontation.

According to the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), shortly after 8 a.m. on Friday, a group of Sinhalese home guards from Srimapura in Trincomalee had thrown some grenades and opened fire on a Tamil village called Thiruthataloor.  One, Tamil civilian was killed in this incident and 2 others injured. 

Two hours later, more grenades were flung at a place called Abepura.  Once more, the TNA alleges, Sinhalese home guards were involved.  Tamil politicians charge that there is a suspicion some of these attackers are members of the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna. The allegation however has not been proved.

The two attacks resulted in the death of 3 Tamil civilians while at least 20 other Tamil civilians were injured at a Tamil dominated village called Ambuvalliburam. 

The incidents forced the government to declare an immediate curfew in the Trincomalee district beginning Friday 12 noon which is to continue until tomorrow, the 14th.

Defence Secretary Austin Fernando, had a different version of what happened.  According to Fernando, the LTTE had allegedly by force taken 11 boats belonging to Muslim fishermen at Kiran.

The Defence Secretary says thereafter around 7.30 a.m. tyres were set on fire at four different junctions at Trincomalee. The police were called and an incident occurred at Marathadai junction when a grenade was thrown and one Tamil civilian killed The army were thereafter called in as tensions ran high and angry mobs began to converge.

At the Anuradhapura junction at Trincomalee at around 10.10 a.m. another grenade was blasted. This was followed with two Tamil civilians being killed at Abepura.  Fernando said even ambulances that were called to take away the injured at Ambepura had been prevented from doing so by the angry mob.

Asked if the attacks were led by Sinhalese home guards as claimed by Sambandan, Fernando replied, “I don’t think so.  However all these incidents are being investigated.”

Fernando admitted that Friday’s incidents were a fall-out of what happened at Ampara on Wednesday. 

Fernando reiterated that the government could not draw any conclusions from the incidents until investigations are concluded. He added that depending on any further developments over the weekend the government would take a decision on whether to further extend the three-day curfew in Trincomalee.

Meanwhile, the government rushed Major General Anton Wijendra, Deputy Chief of Staff for the Army to Trincomalee to supervise and coordinate a strategy that would ensure calm prevailed in the troubled areas.

R. Sambandan, MP for Trincomalee, Secretary General for the TULF and Parliamentary Group Leader for the Tamil National Alliance said, “In the context of events taken place it is perfectly clear the victims have been Tamils.”

“I only pray that Tamils will not retaliate against the Sinhalese which given the LTTE capacity and capability is not beyond Tamil reach,” he said.

Referring to Wednesday’s attack on the STF camp at Kanjikudah, Sambandan asserted the killing of eight Tamil civilians by the STF “was totally disproportionate to whatever the provocation may have been by the Tamil civilians.  He said the attack was a result of “a totally unprovoked and unwarranted attack on a tractor driver and 2 LTTE cadre by the STF.”


PM invites Muslims to air their views

By Dilrukshi Handunnetti

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has pacified growing discontent amongst his own Muslim legislators about not being consulted on the ongoing peace process, and has invited them to come up with a common proposal regarding their concerns on the north and east, authoritative UNP sources said.

When a group of UNP Muslim legislators met the Premier on Thursday afternoon, just before the PM met the SLMC delegation who are on a Parliament boycott, the UNP delegation has impressed upon Wickremesinghe that they felt excluded from the process despite the eastern province being a vital component of the problem.

Unhappy about lending an ear only to the SLMC demands and grievances, they have reportedly explained that there was a growing school of thought that if one needed to win their demands on behalf of Muslim, they had to belong to the SLMC.

A Muslim legislator who did not wish to be named told The Sunday Leader that despite belonging to the UNP, as representatives of the north and the east they also had their share of concerns which needed to be addressed. He said that sometimes UNP Muslim legislators felt that it the SLMC often managed to take the cake as they were eternally bargaining with the center, leaving the members within the UNP fold but representing the same areas with no bargaining clout.

The Prime minister has assured them that there was no intention to leave out anybody, and that he valued everybody’s contribution to the peace process and invited more candid discussions in the future. 

He has promised that there would be a process of consultation and the MPs, particularly those representing the east would be kept well informed and their views sought.

He has also said that for any proposal to be accepted and from a basis for a broad discussion it should have unanimity and for all Muslim legislators to work on one proposal. The UNP has the largest number of Muslim legislators besides the SLMC.

Ministers M.H. Mohomed, A.R.M. Abdul Cader, Imtiaz Bakeer Marker, A.H.M.Azwer, Kabir Hashim, Mohomed Maharoof, legislators A.M. Maharoof, M. Y. Mustapha and M.H. A. Haleem, attended the meeting. This was the first time the Premier met his Muslim legislators, as a group to discuss their viewpoints on the peace process and science and technology minister Milinda Moragoda was also associated with the discussions.


Bala likely to arrive

  LTTE Theoretician Anton Balasingham is to arrive in Sri Lanka today to meet LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran in the Wanni to discuss the next move on the peace talks scheduled for late this month, highly placed government sources said.

In addition to the meeting scheduled with the LTTE supremo, Balasingham is also tipped to meet members of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) and Economic Reforms Minister Milinda Moragoda who is also a member of the peace team representing the United National Front (UNF) government.

When contacted, TNA members denied any knowledge of Balasingham’s arrival but said that they have continuously had a dialogue with the LTTE, and sometimes met Balasingham also to “discuss common concerns.”

Meanwhile, All Ceylon Tamil Congress (ACTC) Parliamentarian Gajen Ponnambalam said he was personally unaware of any such visit by the controversial LTTE theoretician, but said that his party has continued to have a dialogue with the LTTE on matters of common interest.


Illegal land distribution comes to a halt

By Dilrukshi Handunnetti

 

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on Tuesday (8) intervened to halt the illegal distribution of land in the Hantane area, part of which is forest reserve.

The distribution of land has continued for a month with the blessings of a powerful ruling party politician from Senkadagala, and Kandy District Secretary Sumanab-andara Beddewela, who did not wish to comply with the politico’s orders has been transferred out of Kandy a fortnight ago.

Kandy District PA legislator Thilina Bandara Tennakoon told The Sunday Leader that upon making a written complaint to Prime Minister Wickremesinghe on Tuesday at his office in parliament, immediate instructions were issued to halt the ongoing land distribution. He said that the premier promised to find out whether the alleged transfer had any victimisation involved.

It is learned that the said local politician has attempted to move the families from the area who have been occupying part of the land for years. At present, 87 families dwell in the particular area and attempts have been made to evacuate them without any form of compensation, a move reportedly resisted by the senior government official who was transferred out recently.

The reserve area is recognised as a unique area with fragile bio-diversity. Tennakoon said that there have been many powerful politicians in the area in the past, yet nobody attempted to touch the Hantane range, as people were aware of its significance in terms of ecology and aesthetic appeal.

He added that there were areas marked for land distribution and what irked people was that a sensitive area at the foothills of Hantane was chosen, in flagrant violation of the country’s environmental law.

The PM has immediately ordered the halting of the land distribution initiative and has promised the transfer would be cancelled forthwith.


Decision to reduce prices of drugs causes confusion

By Shezna Shums

 

A decision to reduce the prices of all drugs by five per cent has caused confusion among retail and wholesale sellers.

While retail sellers abide by the new regulation, wholesale sellers, The Sunday Leader learns, have failed to do so. As a result, retail sellers are not certain as to whether the prices should be changed in accordance with the new regulations.

The price reduction was introduced by the Finance Ministry through the State Pharmaceutical Corporation (SPC) with effect from October 1.

Accordingly, a five per cent reduction was imposed on every drug that is imported to the country. According to the new regulation, the defence levy would also not be imposed on imported drugs with effect from October 1.

“Going by this regulation, all pharmacies are supposed to reduce the prices of drugs,” says State Pharmaceutical Corporation Promotions and Research Manager, Surangani Perera.

Informed pharmaceutical sources said that wholesale businessmen failed to abide by the regulations, thereby putting retail sellers in to inconvenience. “If retailers or dealers don’t reduce their drug prices by five per cent the Fair Trading Commission will carryout inquiries and the sellers will be prosecuted,” sources said.

However, retailers say that they have a problem when they buy from wholesalers.

They say that at most times, wholesalers do not indicate the retail price on the drugs. “We sometimes see only the wholesale prices on the drugs. And we are not certain whether the five per cent is added or reduced. This causes confusion,” they said.

“This misunderstanding is mainly between retailers and wholesalers, as wholesalers do not tell retailers if their prices are reduced or not.”

Sources said at times this five per cent also comes under a series of changes as the dollar rate is subjected to change every week.

“However, if there is a change in the dollar again, and retailers have the old prices, they are likely to be prosecuted by the Fair Trading Commission,” they said.

There are about 6,000 types of drugs and this price reduction is applicable to all drugs. The changes should also be in accordance with the change in the dollar rate and with the Fair Trading Commission’s prices, sources said.


No more speeches with defamatory remarks

The Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation and ITN will not air President Chandrika Kumaratunga’s speeches in full in future if they contain any defamatory remarks.

President Kumaratunga recently wrote to both stations inquiring why they were telecasting her speeches repeatedly if they contained defamatory remarks.

Rupavahini Chairman Dammika Ganganath Dissanayake and his ITN counterpart Gyrika Perusinghe told The Sunday Leader that the station will not air speeches with defamatory content.

Both stations have been slapped with charges of carrying speeches with defamatory remarks. Government politicians including Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, Ministers S. B. Dissanayake and Prof. G. L. Peiris have written to the stations alleging defamatory remarks.


Protest against fertiliser subsidy

 

Farmers are up in arms against a decision taken by the government to reduce the subsidy on urea fertiliser from Rs. 10,647 to Rs. 6,000 per metric ton with effect from Thursday (10).

Farmers are now contemplating protest action against the government over this issue, sources from National Farmers’ Alliance (NFA) said.

They said under the previous government, former Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickramanayake promised to purchase paddy at the rate of Rs. 13 per kilo. They said this is how the former premier convinced them to withdraw a hunger strike they launched.

They said the UNF government also made similar promises but has not kept to its word.

“In fact, the UNF government pledged to consider purchasing paddy at the dollar rate and accordingly the government had to purchase paddy from the farmers at the rate of Rs. 17 or 18. But, this is not happening even under this government,” sources said.


Wedding bells for Dilan

Wedding bells will ring again for a young legislator from the opposition PA - Dilan Perera.

The man is said to be getting ready to tie the knot again, this time to a lady with a lot of diplomacy.

The one time Badulla representative who shifted from one electorate to another and ended up coming to parliament on the national list, will say ‘I do’ for the second time this December to a pretty lady with a Parisian touch. It will be long distance love however until she ends her term at the mission which is French.


Detainees’ cases to be transferred to the north

The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) has welcomed the decision taken by the Attorney General’s Department to transfer pending cases of detainees held in prisons under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) to the Jaffna High Court.

The Attorney General’s Department has decided to allow the transfer of pending cases of LTTE suspects taken into custody from Jaffna to the high court in Jaffna. This decision has been viewed as “good and reasonable” by Tamil politicians.

Accordingly, the detainees who were arrested in Jaffna would be allowed to make requests through their lawyers and would be able to get their cases transferred to Jaffna, sources said. A total of 222 detainees held under the PTA at present are serving sentences in prisons in the south of the country and of them, 139 are languishing in the Kalutara prison.

The department has said that such a move to transfer pending cases would ease congestion in the prisons in the south. Besides, it would also give the prisoners a sense of relief since they would be transferred to places of their birth, the department said.

Detainees held in prisons under the PTA have on many occasions held protests including hunger strikes because they were facing trials in Colombo and other places in the south.

Detainees who have been holding a hunger strike in the Kalutara prison recently have also said that they were detached from the families as their family members did not have the money to come to Kalutara every time to see them.

All Ceylon Tamil Congress (ACTC) Parliamentarian Gajen Ponnambalam told The Sunday Leader that it is proper for cases to be heard from the place where the suspects were taken into custody on both humanitarian ground and legal grounds.

“This will ease the congestion in prisons and also unite the suspects with their family members in Jaffna,” he said.

He said most of the protests held by inmates are due to this problem. “You see, their family members do not have money to travel to Kalutara all the way from Jaffna. It is highly cumbersome for relatives to travel to the south from the north. It is also a costly affair. Therefore, this decision is justifiable,” he added.

Meanwhile, The Sunday Leader also learns some lawyers are not in favour of the new decision taken by the AG’s department. Informed sources said those lawyers who have tied up with foreign non-governmental organisations for monetary help to appear on behalf of the suspects are not willing to travel to the north to appear for them.

“If this happens, lawyers may lose out on earning out of these cases,” sources pointed out.


Phone connections for Jaffna under HOPE

An estimated 3,600 telephone connections are to be supplied to Jaffna town shortly by Sri Lanka Telecom (SLT).

According to a newsletter issued by SLT, an additional 1,700 more connections are also to be provided to Point Pedro under phase one of project HOPE.

The newsletter says though there were more than 2,000 ordinary telephones and about 1,000 wireless telephones in the area, most of them were out of service.

Phase two of project HOPE is expected to cover Jaffna, Chunnakam, Chittankerni and Chavakacheheri. Sierra is the company that is functioning as the contractor supplying a part of new connections while the balance will be supplied by the SLT, the newsletter said.

Recently, a new telephone exchange capable of supplying 2,800 telephone connections to Jaffna was also commissioned recently by Mass Communication Minister Imtiaz Bakeer Markar.

According to the newsletter, there are nearly 8,000 applicants for telephone connections in the waiting list in Jaffna town. More than 10 per cent of them are traders, the newsletter added.


Pressure on government for information

  By Dilrukshi Handunnetti

The newly formed Sinhala interest group led by Dinesh Gunawardena claims that the need for such a group was felt largely due to the government’s failure to keep the opposition political parties not represented in parliament and interest groups informed about the ongoing peace process.

“We are not saboteurs of peace. The opposition and other parties all have a legitimate right to be kept informed, and not to gather information from here and there,” Gunawardena said.

He said that the majority had many questions about the ongoing peace process - so many identified lapses and flagrant violations of the understanding reached between the two parties, all of which merited a process of candid discussions.

“All citizens have a right to know how this government intends resolving the country’s most crucial issue. We don’t want minute and technical details to be shared with us, but to be kept informed on the peace talks and especially, the fast emerging issue of prisoner swapping.”

Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapakse, himself a member of the new grouping said that he was shocked at the LTTE’s scant disregard for the Norwegian brokered truce and its contemptuous manner of seeking to swap prisoners. “I think the government was humiliated with the final swapping, and the entire structure of this sovereign state. These are issues on which we demand open discussions on, because peace is needed by all, and even the mechanisms should be acceptable to the majority, or else how to accept the outcome,” he said.

The newly formed group seeks to bring together all Sinhala Buddhist political and activist elements together to collectively put pressure on the government to keep all sections of society informed of the peace process and to protect the interests of the majority community.


Soldiers stranded

A dearth of internal flights has put many armed soldiers into inconvenience as they say they are stranded at Palaly without being able to fly to Colombo and proceed to their homes during the short vacations they get.

A number of soldiers who wished to remain anonymous told The Sunday Leader that they are unable to utilise the full holiday they receive as they are compelled to waste their time at the airforce base at Palaly due to the shortage of flights.

The Sunday Leader learns that around 200 soldiers are stranded on a daily base. These soldiers are thereafter sent to Colombo by ship but according to the affected soldiers, they are forced to spend nearly eight to nine hours of their time in the ship which they say is ‘a waste of time.’ 

 

 

 

©Leader Publication (Pvt) Ltd.
1st Floor, Colombo Commercial Building., 121, Sir James Peiris Mawatha., Colombo 2
Tel : +94-75-365891,2 Fax : +94-75-365891
email : leader@sri.lanka.net