Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe being congratulated at the end of
the successful donor conference by Japanese Special Envoy, Yasushi
Akashi while US Deputy Secretary of State, Richard Armitage looks on. In
the background are Attorney General K.C. Kamalasabayson and Treasury
Secretary, Charitha Ratwatte Photo by Sudath Silva
vessel sunk off Mullaitivu
LTTE ship named Shioshin sunk off the coast of Mullaitvu
yesterday following a mid sea confrontation with the Sri Lankan Navy.
least twelve LTTE cadres reportedly on the vessel were missing after the
ship exploded following an exchange of fire.
Sri Lankan Navy said yesterday, the LTTE exploded the ship on being
asked to stop for inspection while the LTTE claimed the Navy fired and
sunk the vessel. There were no officials of the SLMM on board the Navy
vessel when the drama unfolded at 4 a.m. Saturday morning.
both the government and the LTTE were quick to point out that the latest
incident will not lead to a resumption of war on the ground but that
effective mechanisms would have to be put in place to ensure
confrontations in the seas are averted.
vessel with no flag was spotted by a Sri Lanka Naval gunboat 175
nautical miles to the East off Mullaitivu at around 3.30 a.m. yesterday.
The SLN had first spied the ship on radar screens and noted that the
ship was towing another boat laden with cargo and heading towards Point
the vessel the SLN gunboat demanded to know the ships registration
number and other official details. Having been given some details from
the suspect ship, the gunboat informed the Naval base in Trincomalee who
in turn sought clarification from SLN headquarters in Colombo.
with Lloyds shipping register the SLN had found the details to be bogus.
gunboat thereafter received instructions to apprehend and check the
vessel and its cargo. Once more challenging the ship, the naval patrol
boat demanded it to stop. Refusing to obey, the navy patrol boat had
then witnessed the boat that was being towed full of cargo being
released from the ship. Despite giving chase to this boat, the SLN
gunboat could not apprehend its travellers and cargo as it disappeared
beyond Sri Lanka’s territorial waters.
ship meantime had continued to sail towards Point Pedro. Giving chase,
the SLN gunboat fired some warning shots in the direction of the ship
attempting to force it to stop. According to a senior naval officer, the
LTTE ship had returned fired.
Navy maintains that suddenly the tiger ship exploded in a ball of fire
and slowly began to sink. The time was around 5 a.m.
reports from the SLN gunboat stated they had seen some of the human
cargo on board the ship jumping overboard seconds before the explosion.
after the incident there was some confusion as it was believed the navy
had taken 12 LTTE cadres from the ship into custody. Spokesman for the
Navy, Captain Jayantha Perera however stated that this was not so. “We
do not have any LTTE cadre in our custody from this vessel,” he said,
explaining that the tigers had exploded themselves and the ship ‘Shioshin,’
before they could be apprehended.
officers confided that they suspect the cargo on this ship, contained
weapons and explosives but yet do not have any evidence to prove the
tiger ship was gun smuggling.
Fernando, Defence Secretary in Jaffna at the time of the incident said,
there are two versions of what took place last morning. “The LTTE are
claiming that the ship was shot at by the Navy and as a result sank. The
Navy are saying they only fired warning shots for the ship to stop, but
that the vessel suddenly exploded in a ball of fire.”
if he believed this incident would preempt another war between the two
sides, Fernando replied, “I don’t know. I cannot make any
mere twenty four hours before this incident, Thamilselvan, leader of the
political wing of the LTTE told head of the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission
(SLMM) General Tryggve Tellefsen that increasing interference with LTTE
ships in tiger controlled areas, and harassment of sea tigers will
finally lead to a serious confrontation between the two sides if not
checked. Tellefsen was in Killinochchi on Friday June 13, together with
a delegation from the SLMM.
when contacted by The Sunday Leader yesterday said, the SLMM are still
in the process of gathering all information from both parties concerned
and will only be in a position to make a clarifying statement
thereafter. No SLMM monitors were present at the time of the
Defence Minister Tilak Marapone was informed immediately of the
confrontation and said he had telephoned Prime Minister Ranil
Wickremesinghe and has briefed him on available details of the incident.
MP and member for the Tamil National Alliance, Joseph Pararajasingham,
reiterated saying, “I don’t think this incident will precipitate
another war. Whatever the provocation the LTTE will not go back to
added that the government should as soon as possible formulate a
framework for a North-East interim administrative structure and submit
it to the LTTE. “This is the only way this situation can be
defused,” he said.
awaiting LTTE green light
Japanese government is awaiting the
green light from the LTTE to confirm dates for high powered meetings
both in Sri Lanka and the UK to brief the Tigers on the recently
concluded aid donor conference with a view to luring them back to
Secretary, Japanese Embassy in Colombo, Hideaki Matsuo said Ambassador
Seiichiro Otsuka has requested a formal appointment with the LTTE in
Kilinochchi in order that he may brief them on the results of the donor
conference held in Tokyo last week. Matsuo confirmed that Japanese
Special Envoy to Sri Lanka, Yasushi Akashi has also requested a closed
door meeting with LTTE Chief Negotiator, Anton Balasingham in London.
diplomats are awaiting a reply in this context from the LTTE. Akashi
last week said Otsuka would leave for Kilinochchi to brief the LTTE on
the outcome of the donor conference with a copy of the Tokyo Declaration
within 24 hours of the donor conference ending on Tuesday, June 10.
furious lobbying by the international community before the aid donor
meeting in Japan, the LTTE remained steadfast in its decision to avoid
Japanese and Norwegian governments, however, are determined that the
Tigers must not be isolated from details surrounding a massive US$ 4.5
billion pledged as aid to Sri Lanka over a four year period from 2003 to
2006. In addition, some countries and international organisations have
offered technical support.
of the chief objectives of the conference was to provide the
international community with an opportunity to demonstrate its strong
and unified commitment to the reconstruction and development of Sri
Lanka and to encourage the parties to redouble their efforts to make
further progress in the peace process.
donor meeting had noted the importance of urgent humanitarian assistance
as well as medium to long-term assistance to rebuild the conflict
affected areas in the north and east and to assist in the development of
the entire country. International donors have in fact taken into account
the delicate ethnic and geographical balance in the country when
have reminded the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE of the importance
of both parties making the utmost effort to further promote the peace
process founded upon the principles reflected in the Oslo Declaration.
have pointed out that commitment by both the government and the LTTE to
further the peace process will be necessary for the provision of
international assistance to the reconstruction and development of the
conflict affected areas of the north and east.
view of the linkage between donor support and progress in the peace
process, the international community will monitor and review the
progress in the peace process. In implementing its own assistance
programmes, the donor community intends to take into careful
consideration the results of these periodic reviews.
to the conference getting underway, the preparatory work was done by
Economic Reforms Minister, Milinda Moragoda who visited Japan a week in
advance to ensure the Premier’s visit to Tokyo was successful.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe is scheduled to leave for
the UK early next week to meet with British Premier Tony Blair for a
briefing on the latest developments.
poised to take off
Lanka is poised for
economic revival if the present consolidation process continues,
financial analysts predicted last week.
Central Bank predicted a GDP growth rate of 5.5% for 2003 last week. HNB
Stockbrokers released a report titled The Lion Emerges and
stated, “We project a 4.8% GDP growth rate in 2003, following the
economic recovery witnessed in the second half of 2002.”
economy could chalk up annual growth rates of around 7% later in the
decade, ranking it among the fastest-growing economies,” international
research house JP Morgan said just prior to the aid group meeting. HNB
upped its forecast for 2004 to 5.8%.
The US$ 4.5 billion pledged at the Tokyo meeting was taken as a
sign of confidence in the government and the economy.
the reports noted that consolidation needed to continue for the country
to reap the full benefits.
the peace process will be extremely positive for
the development of the country, we believe that the government
still has to create a sustainable business environment for growth.
economic recovery witnessed in 2002, although encouraging, is inadequate
to create sustainable long term growth,” HNB said. The report
advocated a radical change in attitudes in the southern political
parties, the LTTE and the general public to allow the peace process to
Central Bank said that industrial production had picked up during the
first three months of 2003. However, agriculture output would take a hit
due to the recent floods.
the Colombo Consumer Price Index and the Colombo District Consumer Price
Index had recorded decreases in annual rates.
Central Bank observed that the aid pledged at the donor meeting would
allow the government to go ahead with fiscal reforms.
to resume union action
doctors who suspended their union action Friday night in view of Poson,
have vowed to recommence the strike action tomorrow (16).
Government Medical Officers Association (GMOA) spokesman told The
Sunday Leader the strike would be continued until the government
makes a firm statement regarding their salary anomalies.
Sunday Leader learns while
all the doctors attached to the GMOA would be working during the
weekend, doctors from Anuradhapura would be still on strike as both
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and Health Minister P.Dayaratne were
expected to visit this area. There are more than 8000 members attached
to the GMOA.
Spokesman Dr.Susitha Perera said that they raised the issue regarding
their salary anomalies last April and added to date nothing has been
doctors are demanding that their salaries be increased. The other demand
put forward by them are that doctors serving in the north and east must
be paid special risk allowances as they are the only doctors who are
sent from the south to those areas to serve.
says the cabinet sub committee dealing with their issues had three
months to come up with a solution however nothing has been done.
trade union action is our last weapon we had to use this for our demand
to be met,” he said.
speaking to The Sunday Leader Health Minister P. Dayaratne stated
that when the GMOA’s demands were made known to the cabinet they were
sent to the cabinet sub committee for further studies and approval.
said when the sub committee studied the GMOA’s demands they decided
that the salary anomalies and payment of arrears the doctors were
demanding for was something that should be looked into by the Finance
in Japan commended
Lanka’s mission in Japan, and Ambassador K. Amunugama were commended
by the government delegation and the media group that participated at
the donor conference for effectively organising the logistical support
in Tokyo to ensure the smooth discharge of their duties.
of the delegation said they were impressed with the manner in which the
ambassador and his team had organised the logistics during their stay in
ambassador has taken a lot of trouble to make the Tokyo conference a
success,” members said.
to meet opposition members
Minster Ranil Wickremesinghe will this
week brief opposition parties on the outcome of the Tokyo donor
will discuss ways and means of disbursing the funds that were pledged at
Prime Minister told The Sunday Leader that funds were pledged for
the whole country and as such the views of all political parties should
be considered before actual disbursement takes place.
is due to take up the Special Election Provisions Bill this week. The
Bill refers to the calling of fresh nominations for the postponed north
east local government elections. Speaker Joseph Michael Perera is
expected to convey the Supreme Court’s determination on the Bill
before the debate commences.
Housekeeper of Parliament suspended
new Secretary General of Parliament, Priyani Wijesekera has suspended
the executive housekeeper of parliament for abusing her position and two
former housekeeping assistants for engaging in outside work during
one and a half months ago, the two assistants have been reportedly sent
to the housekeeper’s Madiwela
residence to clean up the house.
messenger who was formerly employed in the housekeeping department had
brought the matter to the Speaker’s notice. Speaker Joseph Michael
Perera had quickly dispatched two of his security personnel to check the
house and ordered parliament police to immediately take the two workers
has transpired that the excuse provided by the executive housekeeper to
the Speaker was that the two employees were sent home to fetch some
medicine to be sent to her mother and that they had duly obtained short
the Secretary General instructed director administration to hold an
inquiry, according to sources. When summoned for the inquiry, the
executive housekeeper allegedly contradicted her earlier statement and
stated that the practice was common as most senior officials obtained
the services of her department staff in a similar manner, and furnished
names of such officials. The two men were subsequently interdicted on
is reliably learnt that the Secretary General has rejected the original
findings for being biased and called for a fresh inquiry by another
the new trade union in parliament, the Parliamentary Workers
Association, mostly consisting of minor staff has submitted a petition
calling for the immediate stopping of continuing ‘slavery.’ The
union has also criticised the decision to suspend the two messengers,
and demanded justice by seeking the suspension of the executive
housekeeper as well.
sources said that thy have made representations to the Speaker and
informed the secretary general that they would picket in front of
parliament dung the next sessions, commencing Tuesday 17th.
sources added that the Secretary General moved swiftly to quell the
discontent and issued interdiction orders on all three on June 10.
a fresh inquiry into this incident is to be initiated at the instance of
the Speaker who is to get the services of a senior judicial officer for
to 10 digits delays directory
the telephone directory after Sri Lanka
Telecom decided to introduce a change in the existing number of digits
is likely to cause subscribers inconvenience.
telephone directory that should have been out by January 2003 has now
been postponed to August/September 2003.
The Sunday Leader contacted Sri Lanka Telecom Directory Section,
L.P.M.P Balapitiya said the directory was supposed to be released in
May. However due to a change that was introduced to the existing number
of digits making all telephone numbers 10 digits, a decision was taken
by SLT officials to print the directory in August/September 2003.
to Balapitiya if the directory was printed before the 10 digit change,
residents and businessmen would have thrown the book away.
said that the September 2003 directory like other directories will be
valid for a year.
on the new subscribers to the directory after September 2003, Balapitiya
said a decision is yet to be taken regarding the printing of a
supplement. “I cannot comment now since the decision will depend on
the number of customers and the decision that will taken by the Telecom
despite the delay in the telecom directory, subscribers are finding it
difficult to cope with the last directory as many numbers have changed
or are out of order,” he explained.
months of toil bears fruit - Hakeem
Minister and Leader, Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC), Rauf Hakeem said
the successful conclusion of the Tokyo aid group meeting was an effort
of more than nine months of toil which has finally borne fruits.
must congratulate the entire government team, which resulted in an
unprecedented sum of development assistance being pledged by the
multilateral and bilateral donors,” he told The Sunday Leader shortly
after he returned from Toyko.
said the absence of the LTTE was disappointing. “In that regard, the
LTTE disappointed many among the donor community. Whatever their reasons
maybe, the people of this country belonging to all the communities
should not be made to suffer for their intransigence,” he said,
adding, “from their point of view, this may be a nasty comment. I am
mindful of the fact that we have to understand their difficulties in
this transitional phase, yet cannot sound complementary all the time.”
said he is personally pleased that he was able to get the government and
many influential players in the international scene both among the
multilateral and bilateral donors to understand the imperative need to
address the Muslim dimension properly, both with regard to the need for
equity in the flow of development assistance and on the issue of a
proper level of stakeholder recognition in the future sessions of peace
must thank the Prime Minister for his understanding of these issues and
in supporting me by including some of those concerns in his speech and
then finally persuading the donors to reflect the idea in their final
declaration,” he pointed out.
on the remarks made by the main opposition party with regard to the
Tokyo conference, Hakeem said the opposition, as expected, has come up
with sour grape stories of this massive development assistance
increasing the debt of the country. He said though the exact percentages
are yet to be calculated, the major portion may consist of long-term
soft loans on concessionary rates of interest.
substantial amounts have been pledged by various donors as outright
grants. For instance, the European Union’s US$ 250 million and
Japan’s grant component of a further US$ 200 million.”
the PA regime too, a major portion of the development assistance came in
this fashion. But the fact is that both in terms of concessionary loans
and outright grants, there was a quantum leap this time. This goes to
show the international community’s confidence in the macroeconomic
policies of this government and their faith in the sustainability of the
peace process,” he observed.
said what is unique is that from the very outset nine months ago,
starting from September 16, the government delegation has had its focus
on this donor conference and added all of them worked as a team towards
perception was that the LTTE too understood the clear conviction of the
government in this regard. We all knew very well that on every side
there would be difficult situations to surmount. Constitutional
impediments posed the major problem.
novel features of this donor conference were that for the first time,
there was direct involvement of civil society to some extent including
the NGOs. The fact that business and industry leaders were present in
large numbers was also very encouraging. We also commend Japan, which
took the onerous responsibility of organising this meeting. This was an
experiment in a new role model to development assistance to promote
peace. Their usual practice has always been to step in after the
event,” he said.
said what is now important is for Sri Lanka to find a way to put the
peace process back on track, adding it is necessary to address the
concerns of the President on the one side and the Muslims on the other.
said he is eagerly looking forward to an opportunity to meet with the
LTTE along with a Muslim delegation representing all shades of opinion
in the north east and to continue to be involved in the peace process
along with this delegation.
for the President’s concern, we have to have a new approach to
cohabitation and let us look at the strengths rather than the weaknesses
here. We should now forget about issues such as lack of consultation on
the MoU and the DLB issue and the inner conviction of both national
leaders, which certainly is very progressive though at times we find
them to be somewhat opportunistic.”
I must commend the Prime Minister for his extreme patience. I am sure
that he understands that the President at least is a necessary evil. I
am sure saner counsel will prevail on both of them so that we can
capitalise on this enormous goodwill shown by the international
community,” the Minister said.
Pradesh CM pledges IT support for IT development
Andra Pradesh Chief Minister, Chandrababu Naidu has pledged his support
to develop Sri Lanka’s emerging IT sector.
as the CEO of Andra Pradesh Inc., Naidu met Commerce and Consumer
Affairs Minister, Ravi Karunanayake in Hyderabad recently and said that
the expertise and experience of his province could be used as a role
model for rest of the Asian countries to position themselves in the
global IT development market.
ministers discussed the possible impact of shifting the paradigm of the
global economy to a knowledge based one emphasising the widening
opportunities for the South Asian countries in the global software
briefed Naidu about the government’s initiative to strengthen
intellectual property rights through the draft IP bill which is
scheduled to be debated soon in parliament and also briefed about the
success of the Sri Lanka Institute of Information Technology (SLIIT)
which is under his preview as a centre of excellence in IT education.
ministers further discussed the impact of the Indo Sri Lanka Free Trade
Agreement in bilateral trade where Karunanayake pointed out that
exporters and manufacturers in Andra Pradesh could use Sri Lanka as a
logistics hub to channel their products globally as well as to other
parts of India. Karunanayake invited Naidu to visit Sri Lanka at his
is chilling,” says Colombo Mayor
Mayor Prasanna Gunewardena has appealed to residents not to encourage
stray dogs in the city of Colombo.
to Gunewardena, residents of Colombo are in the habit of throwing
leftover food packets onto the side of the roads for the strays. “The
residents put this food for the strays out of the goodness of their
hearts. However, this results in the strays remaining in these places.
Eventually the strays start breeding and the numbers increase within a
short period of time,” Gunewardena said.
to him, his main concern is the spread of rabies. However, he believes
killing of dogs by gassing is not the solution to the problem.
“Killing is chilling,” says Gunewardena, and the present staff at
the Colombo Municipal Council (CMC) is not sufficient to conduct
sterilisation programmes. “However, we have many NGOs coming forward
to extend their support,” he said.
to the Mayor, they have conducted a number of sterilisation programmes
together with private sector support and hope to conduct many more in
can say there is a positive response towards these programmes. On the
fifth day of Vesak, the CMC extended their kindness towards animals by
conducting a sterilisation programme with private sector participation
at a temple in Mattakkuliya. There were 200 dogs brought that day and I
consider this a positive sign,” Gunawardena said.
of Rathna Bhoomi deeds
of Rathna Bhoomi deeds for the first time will take place at the
Cooperative hall in Matara at on June 19.
Rathna Bhoomi concept was introduced by the UNF government to ease the
burden of the landless poor, a Lands Ministry release stated.
estimated 225 families who occupied state lands by squatting illegally
would benefit firstly when the new scheme is launched by Lands Minister,
Dr. Rajitha Senaratne. The Land Reform Commission is instrumental in
legalising this unauthorised land ownership by introducing the Rathna
Bhoomi deed presentation.
in Kamburupitiya, Matara, Devinuwara, Dickwella, Mulatiyana, Thihagoda,
Kotapola, Pitabeddara, Akuressa in Matara District and also Tangalle,
Beliatta and Walasmulla in the Hambantota District have been chosen.
Residents who occupy state lands for housing and agriculture purposes
will be granted the deeds for the first time, the release stated.
to the current land policy, a person who does not own an inch of land
could get a maximum of 20 perches for housing purposes and two acres for
an agricultural project, the release stated.
20,000 people missing - ICRC
International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has revealed that around
20,000 people have disappeared since the beginning of the Eelam war.
Representative, Batticaloa District, ICRC, Filipa Nato Marques has told
the press both protagonists are responsible for these disappearances
ICRC came forward to provide assistance in investigating into the
disappearances of people after the conflict between the government and
the LTTE began after an appeal was made at the fifth round of talks
between the government and the LTTE at the Norwegian Embassy in Berlin
on February 7 and 8.
had also said that both the government and the LTTE have not contacted
the ICRC after the initial request that was made in Berlin. She says the
ICRC would be able to expedite the whole process if both parties
extended their cooperation.
national measles immunisation programme was scheduled to be inaugurated
in the North East Province last week. Phase one of the programme is
expected to target all children in the 10-14 years age group and it
would be conducted for a period of six to eight weeks from July to
August according to Provincial Health Ministry officials.
two of the national measles programme would be conducted in the country
in 2004 targeting the age group between 16 and 20, sources said. The
specific objectives of the immunisation are to provide an opportunity
for vaccination against measles for those who have never received a
single dose of the vaccine, to prevent measles outbreaks and interrupt
the transmission of the measles virus by vaccinating the most
susceptible children, and to provide a second opportunity for
immunisation for those who have already received a dose of measles
vaccine, provincial health officials said.
low incidents of measles during the past decade, an outbreak of the
disease occurred in Sri Lanka in September 1999. Over 15,000 suspected
cases of measles were notified to the Epidemiological Unit of the
Department of Health Services from September 1999 to the end of June
2001, according to health reports.
dies of dengue in Trinco
six-year-old girl last week died of dengue fever in the Trincomalee
District. According to Health Department sources, this is the first such
death that has been reported in this area. The girl had died in the
Trincomalee hospital. The health authorities in Trincomalee have already
taken preventive measures against the spread of dengue.
a five-year-old boy in Kantalai town suffering from dengue fever has
also been admitted at the area government hospital, medical sources
said. Dengue is spread through the bite of an infected Aedes aegypti
mosquito. The mosquito gets the virus by biting an infected person. The
first symptom of the disease occurs about five to seven days after the
to army deserters an “utter failure”
Minister John Amaratunga says repeated amnesties granted to army
deserters have been an “utter” failure. He added that new plans have
been drawn to apprehend them, especially to obtain their weapons. He
said the crime rate in the country is on the increase because such army
deserters were in possession of weapons and the government is not in a
position to confiscate the weapons.
said the army deserters have virtually ignored all amnesties granted to
them and added the only option available for the government is to
conduct surprise raids. “Now that they have ignored our amnesty, if
they are caught by the special police unit that is set up to apprehend
them, we will punish them severely,” he said.
to speak at Kensington Temple
Vijaya Corea, who has many times in the past travelled to Australia,
USA, Canada, UAE, India, Pakistan, Singapore and Malaysia with the
message of the love and compassion of the Lord Jesus Christ, has been
invited to speak and minister at Kensington Temple (London City Church)
in England next Saturday, June 21 at 7 p.m. Reports indicate that the
Asian community in London is eagerly awaiting the arrival of Sri
Lanka’s apostle and evangelist who will minister the healing love of
the Lord Jesus Christ and bring to them a spiritual message anointed of
light for SL-India ferry service
Indian Cabinet has finally sanctioned the proposed ferry service between
South India’s port of Tuticorin and Colombo, ending months of
indecision on the matter.
service, originally scheduled to start in November last year
strengthening trade links and offering a cheaper mode of travel to those
wishing to commute between the two countries was put on hold until the
Indian government gave the green light.
will create a great window of opportunity for bilateral trade,” said
Ports Minister Rauf Hakeem who initiated the move.
two countries, separated only by 26 km would greatly benefit from the
reintroduction of the ferry service. Both governments signed a
Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) last year and are now eager to
finalise operational strategy, he said.
ferry service will provide an ideal opportunity for tourists, pilgrims,
and others to travel to Sri Lanka without the usual constraints
associated with air travel.
Port according to officials here is strategically placed and is close to
many international sea routes. It is also well connected to other trade
centers scattered around the state of Tamil Nadu and the neighbouring
states of Kerala, Andra Pradesh and Karnataka.
also said the ferry service would ensure more sea traffic from India,
and this would be a welcome step in forging more links with the
island’s giant neighbour. “We will explore possibilities of
expanding the ferry service and look at other Indian ports
afterwards,” they said.
ferry, to be operated by the private sector, could accommodate 300
passengers on board.
service was abandoned 20 years ago when civil war broke out in Sri Lanka
as it caused much security concerns. With the signing of the truce on
February 24 last year, Minister Rauf Hakeem met Indian authorities and
pursued the prospect of resuming the service.
Port Trust Chairman, N. K. Ragupathy and Director Operations, Merchant
Shipping of India, N.K. Java have already visited Sri Lanka to finalise
Colombo Port was recently upgraded with special amenities being provided
at the passenger terminal and new features being introduced to expedite
clearance and immigration of passengers.
thrice a week, six hour sea journey will cost only one third of the
regular airfare from Chennai to Colombo, and includes a baggage
allowance of 75 kgs.
Sri Lanka is keen to expand the ferry service to reach other ports of
India as well. Both countries are to shortly set up a joint committee
for efficient implementation of the agreement, which will remain in
force for five years.
true face of courage
Lalith Ambanwela’s life there is a
ritual. Every three days his wife takes out his eye and washes it. And
every time she does that, she cries.
plastic eye needs to be washed every three days for medical reasons. He
cannot do it himself and that is why his wife has to help him. But each
time the eye rests on her palm, amidst tears she asks, “Why did this
have to happen to you?”
and his family have to undergo the ordeal because of his own actions,
because he was courageous enough to lead a battle against corruption and
risk his life.
victim of a vicious acid attack after he tried to expose the fraudulent
acts that were taking place in the sub office of the Education
Department in Kandy, Lalith is now a man who cannot even see clearly,
who breaks down when he tells you his story.
that does not mean he is a broken man. His courage and his strength
shine through the scars when you look beyond the surface and see the man
inside — a humbling experience.
amounts of Central Provincial Council funds, central government funds
and foreign-funded project funds were being embezzled at the sub office
in Kandy — about Rs. 250 million in total. Having been assigned to
investigate into the matter, Lalith saw no reason to hush it up.
the type of man to back down and turn a blind eye where corruption and
malpractice were rampant, Lalith went out of his way to ensure those
responsible were exposed. “It was my responsibility not just as an
auditor but also as a civilian. I feel that as civilians, we have a
responsibility towards society,” said Lalith.
auditor in the Auditor General’s Department, Lalith was transferred
from Matale to Kandy and assigned by the Auditor General to investigate
the case along with his subordinates.
had randomly checked some vouchers and says he understood at a glance
that “malpractice and corrupt acts were taking place.” He then
informed the Auditor General, who sent a special investigation officer
to help in the investigation as well.
the course of Lalith’s investigations, he found that about Rs. 8.5
million had been allocated for seminars alone but these seminars had
never been held and large amounts had been allocated for computer
purchases. Huge commissions had also been paid when purchasing.
called for the quotations for the computer purchases, Lalith had then
checked if the places that were listed on the three tenders existed.
However, only one of them, College of Computer Studies, existed.
worth millions of rupees had been made violating standard procedure,
says Lalith, who then stopped the payments.
reported his findings to parliament, after which the public accounts
committee had made some recommendations. However, the Central Provincial
Council public officer had not implemented these recommendations and
though there was a transfer order issued, a court order had been
obtained against it.
chief accountant, another accountant and the deputy director of the
commerce division were found to be responsible for the fraud and were
interdicted in this regard, said Lalith.
chief accountant had then called Lalith one day asking him to do
something to help him and attempted to bribe him, says Lalith. “I said
no and that I would not do it even if it was for my own brother.”
been in service for over 18 years, Lalith says he has never done such
things because he always did his duty and lived according to his
three people were handling public money, they were accountable to the
public. Unfortunately, these public officers neglected their
is sad that corruption is rampant. He says he felt he should do his best
to “stop these corrupt acts,” which is why he relentlessly tried to
bring the culprits to book. “It’s very easy to commit a crime,
that’s a sad thing,” he says, shaking his head, the regret in his
a man to shirk his duty, Lalith says that what happened to him, happened
for a reason, because he did his duty. “I wanted to stop what I saw as
a national waste.”
May 20, 2002, Lalith followed his usual routine, not knowing that on
that fateful day, his life would take a drastic turn.
office at five, Lalith took his daily route home. He was driving alone
in his car, with the shutters down, when near the Asgiriya cricket
stadium a three-wheeler had tried to overtake him. Lalith had then moved
to allow it to pass.
this three-wheeler did not pass and overtake him as Lalith presumed it
would. Someone in the three-wheeler threw acid at Lalith, burning him,
scarring him for life.
was threatened over the phone previously that acid would be thrown on me
so I knew it was acid as soon as it happened,” said Lalith.
threatening phone call had been made on June 21, 2001, just one day
before the public accounts committee meeting that was to be held in
parliament. The acid attack took place on May 20, 2002.
a result of the attack, his face is burnt and scarred beyond
recognition. His right eye has been replaced with a plastic eye, while
he cannot open his left eye wide enough for one to be able to see it. He
can barely see.
to face with the auditor is a numbing experience. Expressionless, except
for the scars, the words echo as if in an empty, deep, dark well.
burns,” he says, “it burns when you swallow acid, but I had to. I
had to do it so that I could breathe.” Lalith’s lungs were seared as
well as a result, but he says that they healed soon.
goes for treatment to Apollo Hospital in Colombo regularly, while his
doctor in Kandy treats his left eye. So far he has had four surgeries
done and another is scheduled for July 3.
to him, it was his mental strength that kept him alive after the attack.
“That is why I was able to stop the car and get out and even swallow
acid,” he said.
acid attack on him was a big shock to his two daughters, aged 13 and 8.
His wife was abroad at the time of the attack and his children were at
home when it happened. They found out about the attack through
television coverage and a phone call. Neighbours had rushed to their
house to comfort them.
daughters suffered a lot because of this... They ask why this happened
to their father.”
family was “very supportive all throughout,” he says. “My family,
the President, the Prime Minister and the public all stood by me.”
acid attack was not the first time that attempts had been made to get
rid of Lalith’s threatening presence. There had been several attempts
to kill him previously, which he found out later.
office was broken into in June 2002, highlighting the danger that Lalith
was in. The intruders had taken all the documents that were in the
office but did not get the most important ones. “As a habit, I had
left most of the important documents with another officer.”
was a clear element of danger when he probed further into the case, says
Lalith, but he never thought of backing down. “Even though I knew I
was in danger, I did my best and I would do it again,” he says with
pride and absolute confidence, while his ravaged face tells the tale of
what this man goes through today as a result of his commitment to expose
told me that I was in danger when my office was broken into but I have
to do my job. I did not do this expecting praise. I just did my duty,”
is not everything”
is now on medical leave. He still gets his salary and the President’s
Fund pays for his medical expenses. However, “money is not
everything,” he says, adding, “there are values too.”
what keeps him going, he says, is the knowledge that “my job and
duties as a man I have done.” He has no regrets either, not this man.
“We are happy because we are not materialistic,” so life goes on...
is beautiful and what is ugly?” he asks, with a shrug. “These things
are just in people’s minds.” But why then, the plastic surgery?
Simply because facial hair gets stuck between skin and his wounds start
to bleed again when that happens, he said.
hopes to go back to work, even in an advisory capacity as soon as he
can. That is the hope that keeps him going and the goal he has set for
himself. He wants to help even in a small way and is determined to use
his skills for the benefit of the people.
is my main ambition, to go back to work. What is the point in
stagnating? It is pointless. If I am unable to work, I will resign but
at least I have to try, so I will try. I think positive...”
is satisfied with his life because he did everything that he could
against corruption. “I have done my best against corruption all my
life, so I am happy,” he says.
very rare that someone in society would do something like this now. As a
habit, if I see a fault, I say so. In Western countries the public is
very powerful. People should be the same here as well. It’s easy to
talk but hard to do something.”
is a deeply religious man. A firm Buddhist, he believes that if someone
does something wrong, either the law or nature will punish him or her.
Because of this, Lalith says that he does not drink alcohol or smoke and
lives according to certain principles. “Everyone dies someday,” he
says, but, “as long as you live, you have to do your duty.”
sacrifice is worth it, says Lalith, adding that he is not sorry about
what happened. “There were good results because of my sacrifice.
Changes have been made throughout the island in the education field as a
result, so it is worth it,” he says firmly.
is worth it because I also gained something for society as a part of
that sacrifice,” he adds, not with obvious pride, but with the
confidence that he did what he thought was right and therefore, has no
time for regret.
Ambanwela’s face is the face of courage in Sri Lanka. His scars and
his pain are symbols of courage, of standing up to bloodhounds who would
go to any extent for a cheap extra buck.
God that there is at least one such face in this country.
rivalries within Tamil political parties in the north east have further
compounded the controversy of missing members of certain Tamil political
parties who have been allegedly abducted and murdered by the LTTE.
Varadarajah Perumal faction based in Batticaloa, claims that LTTE
killings of rival political party members of the north east have
increased since the signing of the ceasefire agreement.
to The Sunday Leader, Rasiah Thurairatnam who is in charge of the
EPRLF in Batticaloa and Ampara, said 12 people from Tamil political
parties are reported as missing, while 14 others have been abducted and
murdered by the LTTE.
LTTE’s violence against rival party members still continues.
Regardless of the ceasefire, they even come to government controlled
areas and kidnap these people,” he said.
He accuses the LTTE of increased levels of violence against other
party members in view of the forthcoming local government elections in
the north east to be held on July 26.
LTTE does not seem to have any respect for democracy or human rights.
Its leadership is showing clear signs of a dictatorship,” said
the second splinter group of EPRLF, known as the Premachandra group, is
led by Secretary General, Suresh Premachandran, who told The Sunday
Leader that he is not aware of any abductions or killings of their
party members after the signing of the ceasefire agreement. He was
puzzled as to why the rival faction of the EPRLF was claiming there had
been abductions and killings by the LTTE.
TELO and Wanni District MP, Selvam Adaikalanadan has a similar view of
the criminal activities the LTTE is accused of. “Nobody from our party
has been killed. I don’t believe these accusations against the LTTE,”
however, said the pro-LTTE stand taken by the EPRLF’s Premachandra
group is the prime reason for their ‘ignorance’ of LTTE atrocities.
“Basically, their pro-LTTE stand has got them covered. The LTTE’s
policy is to destroy their opponents,” said Thurairatnam, adding that
Party Leader Varadarajah Perumal’s life as well as his own are also
under great threat.
could be killed any time just like our other members who have already
suffered at the hands of the Tigers,” he said.
army sources indicate that the LTTE might be having a hand in these
reported abductions and killings. They confirmed that the individuals
listed in EPRLF’s missing person’s list — copies of which have
been sent to the President, Prime Minister, a number of foreign missions
and the media — as correct.
have been informed that these persons are currently missing and their
whereabouts are not known,” said the source. However, army sources
could not confirm the allegation that they have actually been killed by
contacted, LTTE sources denied all allegations levelled against them
concerning political killings in the north and east. “The LTTE is not
involved in any of these violent incidents. Our Political Wing Chief,
Tamilselvan has already issued a statement
in support of this,” said the LTTE source.
LTTE is of the view that the killings are a result of internal problems
within certain Tamil political parties. “These happen due to political
rivalries amongst their own. When something violent happens, what they
try to do is put the blame on us,” said the LTTE source.
of children increasing
Measures to curb
exploitation of children
Increasing exploitation of children under
18 years has prompted the government to take stringent action against
those involved in ill-treating children.
The Sunday Leader learns that Labour
Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe is to introduce new legislation with
adequate powers to curb or prevent any form of child labour in Sri
According to senior ministers of the
United National Front (UNF), the government is concerned about the
growing number of children under the age of 18 being forced into labour.
Speaking to The Sunday Leader, Police Sub
Inspector, Women and Children Bureau, Manoj Kumara said that there are
many cases reported to this division in regard to child labour but exact
figures could not be given as there are cases also reported to the
"However, we have only the reported
figures. There are a number of cases that go unreported," added
Interior Minister John Amaratunga says
the special police unit is "ever ready" to take action on any
resident or employer who he says has violated the rights of children.
Sarath W. Amarasinghe, author of The
Commercial Sexual Exploitation Of Children says that according to the
child activity survey (1999-2000) conducted by the Department of Census
and Statistics, the child population under 18 years was estimated at
This, he states in his survey, reveals
that 2.9% of the children in the age group from five to 14 years and
29.3% in the age group of 15 to 17 years are not engaged in education.
His survey further states that among
children below 18 years of age, 5.3% were involved in economic
activities and another 7.1% were involved in housekeeping and were not
attending school. "Child population in Sri Lanka is estimated to be
27% of the total population," he states.
Meanwhile, the National Programme
Manager, ILO, Shyama Salgado pointed out that there is an increasing
number of students dropping out of school.
She told The Sunday Leader that upon
receiving information regarding child exploitation, immediate
intervention is made in order to arrest the guardian, parents or even
According to the Department of Census and
Statistics survey carried out in 1998/1999, of a total child population
of 926,039, some 69,064 are involved in economic activities only. A
total of 165,554 are involved in economic activity and housekeeping;
69,715 are involved in economic activity and also going to schools and
621,704 involved in economic activity, along with housekeeping and are
The United Nations Committee on the
Rights of the Child (CRC) said it is concerned that under Sri
Lanka’s legal system, societal discrimination persists against
vulnerable groups of children, including children with
disabilities, adopted children, children displaced by conflict,
children infected with and affected by HIV/AIDS, and children of
ethnic groups and religions.
In its second report on Sri Lanka
released on June 6, the CRC reiterated serious concern that the
minimum age of criminal responsibility, set at eight years, is too
low and that children between the age of 16 and 18 are considered
by penal law as adults. Human rights lawyers say the draconian
Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) under which hundreds of Tamil
children were arrested and detained remains a serious threat to
child rights in the north east.
Showboat in stormy
waters- court battle on
A ROW involving the popular karaoke bar
and restaurant, Showboat, at Reid Avenue, Colombo 4, has ended up in
courts as the owners of the property are seeking legal redress, claiming
to have suffered a multi million rupee loss.
The tenants are also seeking damages
through court asserting the legal tussle will incur a multi million
rupee business loss for them as well.
A BOI approved project, the building for
Showboat was leased from Preethi Ilva to Owner and Managing Director,
Showboat, Carol Swee in September 1995 until end August 1999.
Showboat had thereafter requested an
extension, which Ilva had refused. She says she refused an extension of
the lease because the lessee had destroyed the entire garden by
constructing an unauthorised building, without written consent from
either her or that of the Colombo Municipal Council (CMC).
Swee refuted this charge asserting,
"We had full approval from the CMC for this building. Preethi Ilva
too gave her consent." Swee explained that Ilva used to regularly
visit the construction site. "This is not something that came up
overnight — how can she say it did not have her consent?" Swee
According to Ilva, this unauthorised
building caused an increase in municipality rates in June 1999 from Rs.
12,565 to 19,250.
Although there is a clause in the lease
agreement that the enhanced rates will be paid by the occupant, such
payments ceased from the second quarter of the year 2000, she told The
Ilva charges that the rates for the year
2003 has been further increased to Rs. 38,500 per quarter and nothing
has been paid up to date. The last payment received as damages, Ilva
said was in May 2000.
This payment she explained was issued by
cheque in court. The monies, however, were never received as the drawer
stopped payment and thus, the money never realised. Thereafter, Ilva
filed a contempt of court action in March 2002.
Showboat, Ilva says, continued to occupy
the premises and business went on as usual and as a result of this
"forced occupation" Showboat will conclude four years by
August this year.
In November 1999, Ilva filed action in
the District Court of Colombo. In February 2002, the court had delivered
judgement in the owner’s favour granting damages and ordering
eviction. Showboat was required to pay Rs. 10,000 per day from the date
of expiry of the original lease. They were also ordered by court to
handover the premises to Preethi Ilva.
Showboat had appealed against this
judgement in April 2002. Ilva says she went back to court asking for
eviction pending this appeal case. At this point, Showboat had requested
a settlement to which Ilva had agreed. A document to this effect was
signed in court, but Ilva says Showboat hid the fact that the Ceylon
Electricity Board had already disconnected the electricity supply in
October 2002, owing to arrears amounting to Rs. 4 million.
Apart from this, additional arrears
Preethi Ilva said to date amounts to Rs. 3.8 million as unpaid rent and
municipal rates of Rs. 214, 200. The first default in respect of the
settlement in court was made on May 22 this year, when Showboat failed
to pay the monthly rental of Rs. 185,625. Ilva bitterly related how
these so called BOI projects leave locals "high and dry" in
many instances as after approval is granted, the BOI "has no
control of what happens thereafter."
Swee vehemently denied these allegations.
"This is all completely wrong" she said, adding that Preethi
Ilva is making this up "because she lost the court case." Swee
maintains that she won a counter case she filed in the Appeal Court.
"I have also claimed damages,"
she said, adding, "I have spent US$ 8 million for interior
construction and renovations and another Rs. 10 million for karaoke
equipment, etc." Altogether, Swee says she has invested Rs. 20
million on the premises at Reid Avenue.
Swee is now demanding Rs. 40 million as
compensation from Ilva and denied that she has forcefully occupied the
premises, maintaining that she paid her rental to courts for the first
two years but that Ilva refused to accept the payments as rent and
instead claimed damages.
Swee claimed that the High Court has
given her three years to find another location for Showboat and to
continue paying her lease to Ilva until the year 2005.
"Preethi Ilva is not happy with this
decision, which is why she is now engaging in a mudslinging campaign
against me," Swee said.
Shortage of vets
The Wildlife Department presently has
only three veterinary surgeons to overlook the entire wildlife
population in the country. Dr. Taraka Prasad is in charge of
Anuradhapura and the Department, Dr. Suhada Jayawardena is in charge of
the Uda Walawe National Park, Ath Athu Sevana and the southern and
eastern region, and Dr. Wijitha Perera is in charge of the Wilgamuwa,
Polonnaruwa, Trinco and central region areas.
However, attempts by the Wildlife
Department to upgrade the ranks of the veterinary cadres has been
blocked by the Public Service Commission (PSC). Based on cabinet
approval, a decision was taken by the Wildlife Department to recruit
seven veterinary surgeons.
However, due to a shortage of funds, only
three appointments were approved. But even these letters of appointment
are yet to be released by the PSC while the Department undergoes severe
hardship. While the need to increase the number of vets has become
necessary due to the rising human-elephant conflict in the country, the
PSC is yet to give reasons for their delay.
Speaking to The Sunday Leader,
Environment Minister Rukman Senanayake said the Treasury had approved
the recruitment of vets around a year ago. However, Department officials
are awaiting clearance from the PSC to go ahead with their approval.
Meanwhile, Wildlife Director H.S.B.C.
Herath said that even though the Department has chosen three veterinary
surgeons, this is not a sufficient number.
Having selected the three vets out of a
number of applications six or seven months ago, the Department had
forwarded the applications to the Environment Ministry which in turn
submitted the letters to the PSC for approval.
According to senior wildlife officials, a
vet is paid an average of Rs 10,000 per month. However, the Treasury has
informed the Department officials of a shortage of funds. According to
Herath, even though the three most qualified applicants were chosen,
these vets need to be specially trained in handling elephants.
Meanwhile, Trustee, Bio Diversity and
Elephant Conservation, Jayantha Jayawardena has organised a training
programme for the Department vets in medical care of elephants.
This programme is to be conducted by Vice
Director, Zoologist, Vienna Zoo, Dr. Harald Schwammer.
This programme, aimed at upgrading the
present standard of the Department vets, will be in the form of a two
day workshop and is scheduled to be held at the Dehiwala zoo in July.
According to Jayawardena, vets from the Wildlife Department, the zoo and
the Department of Animal Protection and Health will participate.
"Dr. Schwammer will cover aspects
and methods of elephant management and care in zoos and elephant
orphanages," he said. In the case of captive breeding Dr. Schwammer
will demonstrate how elephants could be trained for reproductive
assessment procedures, basic body and health care for the animals,
aspects for veterinary supervision and the advanced requirements for
sedation and medication.
Dr. Schwammer will also address the vets
on how to treat special diseases like herpes and TB in an emergency.
in station commotion
The station master of the Maradana
Railway Station has been accused of assaulting a journalist of the Daily
Susitha Fernando was allegedly assaulted
by the railway station master when he had inquired why the Chilaw train
was getting delayed.
The incident happened last Monday at
around 8:20 p.m.
According to fellow travellers, Fernando
had patiently waited for the train till 9:00 p.m. There had not been any
announcement regarding the delay, they said.
On inquiring from the station master as
to why the train was getting late, he had snapped at Fernando saying,
"I don’t know."
This, according to Fernando, resulted in
both of them getting involved in an argument.
He said that while the argument was going
on between the two of them, the other passengers were also agitated and
tried to argue with the station master.
"At this time the acting station
master who was clad in a sarong and a banyan arrived at the spot and
started to hit me and other passengers.
"Another person who was waiting for
the train was also taken into the station master’s room and was beaten
up. His ID card was also taken away," Fernando claimed.
Fernando and 50 other males were injured
in the assault and some of them were bleeding profusely, while some
chairs and windows were also damaged.
By this time the police was called and
Fernando had wanted to make a verbal complaint. However, the cops had
told him that they had come to arrest him.
"After this threat they arrested me
and the others, and we were kept in police custody."
At the time of being assaulted Fernando
had produced his media accreditation card to the police and the railway
staff but they had disregarded it.
Meanwhile, Operations Superintendent, Sri
Lanka Railway, Chandratilleke denied these charges and said the railway
staff did not assault passengers.
reintroduction of death penalty
The Colombo Municipal Council (CMC) last
week voted in favour of Interior Minister John Amaratunga’s plan to
reintroduce the death penalty in Sri Lanka in view of the escalating
Only two members from the Janatha
Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) voted against while all other members in the
council, including the main opposition People’s Alliance (PA) voted
for the motion.
Two motions were tabled during last week’s
general council meeting. The first motion was about the reintroduction
of the death penalty while the second was regarding the increasing cost
The second motion was tabled by the JVP.
Deputy Mayor Azath Sally stated that the
death penalty is the ultimate answer to the growing crimes in the
country and further added the entire country should extend the fullest
support with one aim to reduce crimes in Sri Lanka.
Hakeem wants separate arrangement for
Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) Leader
and Ports Minister Rauf Hakeem says that if the LTTE is insisting on an
interim council based on a politico-administrative structure, then there
should be a separate arrangement for the Muslims in the north and east
While agreeing to Prime Minister Ranil
Wickremesinghe’s suggestion of appointing a committee rather than a
council in the north led by the LTTE, Hakeem says as the Prime Minister
has suggested that with some innovative thinking, a devise can be
formulated for a method to make the whole exercise workable.
"But it appears the LTTE is now
talking about a politico administrative structure," he said.
"In that case there should be a separate arrangement for the Muslim
areas since the LTTE obviously does not have any mandate from the Muslim
people to be put in charge of that sort of a structure," he added.