25th July, 2004  Volume 11, Issue 2


















Decline in black tea production

The Sri Lanka Tea Board (SLTB) announced that the total production of black tea in Sri Lanka during June this year has shown a decline of 7.1% as against the previous year.

Last year the amount of tea produced was 24,713,278 kg, while this year the amount produced was only 22,960,652 kg.

However, Chairman, SLTB,  Niraj De Mel noted that the earning capacity had increased compared with the previous years despite a fall in production.

He also explained that it is during April, May and June that a significant amount of tea is produced and that this production reflects on the annual tea production figures.

He said that the southwest monsoon that is present during April, May and June play an important role in the tea production in Nuwara Eliya and other areas because of the heavy rain fall.

New president for Rotary

Rotary Colombo East held its 19th presidential installation ceremony at the Colombo Plaza Hotel for the appointment of Rotarian, S. Shanmuganathan as the new president on July 10..

Miss Chennai and Miss Beautiful Smile at the Miss India Pageant, Trisha Krishnan was the chief guest at this event. Rotary Colombo East has spearheaded many community service projects by using funds raised through the visits of celebrities in the past and present. Amongst the previous celebrity chief guests who have visited this pageant include former Miss World Aishwarya Rai and millionaire Fund Manager, Raj Rajaratnam.

These fund raisers have enabled Rotary International to carry out many flagship projects which include establishing an entire village with 30 houses.  This year Rotary Colombo East proposes to support the Handy Trust to set up an ultra modern coronary care unit in Jaffna, and continuing with another phase of constructing a further 250 toilets and drinking water wells  in dry zone areas.

Commission to curtail circulation of arms

By Shehan Moses 

The Public Security and Law and Order Ministry is to establish a National Commission for Arms (NCA) to curtail the increasing circulation of arms in the country.

Secretary, Public Security Ministry, Thilak Ranaviraja said that this commission would monitor people carrying arms.

He further stated that due to the imports of illegal arms in the country and army deserters selling arms in Colombo, the circulation of arms in Sri Lanka has increased many fold.

Director, Colombo Crimes Division (CCD), SSP Sarath Lugoda said that within the last six months the circulation of arms have increased to a great extent which has also led to the increase in crimes in the city. "During the last six-months there has been 17 homicides, in which 10 have been committed using fire arms," he said.

According to Lugoda, most of these cases have been reported from Maligawatte, Pettah and Keselwatte. He also added that the reduction of security checkpoints has facilitated the increase in circulation of arms.

However, Police Chief, Indra De Silva told The Sunday Leader that there has not been an increase in the  circulation of arms. "We are continuing to maintain road blocks in the country, which have prevented the circulation of arms,"  Silva said.

New discovery at Yala National Park

By Risidra Mendis 

The Yala National Park has once again caught the interest of wildlife enthusiasts and nature lovers with the recent discovery of a white elephant.

The albino elephant discovered a week ago, was observed and identified by Field Researcher, Centre for Conservation and Research (CCR), H.K.  Janaka, who is at present keeping a track of the herd's movements in the wilderness.

The Sunday Leader learns that the same elephant was coincidently spotted by CCR Chairman, Dr. Prithiviraj Fernando as a new born baby in 1993 in Heenwewa during a previous mission. Another sighting of the albino elephant was made by a group of visitors in 1996 when the animal was photographed in the water with the rest of her herd.  The female elephant is believed to be 11 years old and was spotted last week with a distinct lack of pigmentation, and sporting a  different colour from the rest of her herd. "The albino elephant lives in a herd of around 17 animals consisting of females and young ones" said a CCR official.

The CCR has been conducting research on elephant ecology and behaviour for the past 12 years. According to Dr. Fernando the female is now at a reproductive age.

Meanwhile, Director, Wildlife Department,  Dayananda Kariyawasam said a committee has been appointed to take care and monitor the movements of the white elephant and its herd.

According to Kariyawasam the discovery of an albino elephant is a rare and excellent opportunity for research as Albinism is rare in the wild.

Director, National Zoological Gardens,  Brigadier H.A.N.T Perera said that this white elephant should be left in her natural habitat as it is of much more value to see a white elephant in the wild than in captivity. "No attempt should be made to tranquilise or capture her, since any such attempt could endanger her life" explained Brigadier Perera.

Sea erosion eating into coastline

By Shezna Shums 

Sri Lanka loses an average point three (.3) metres of land annually due to sea erosion.

Environmentalists have stated that adequate steps must be taken to prevent sea erosion in order to preserve the coastal areas from being submerged.

It is also noted that in the heavily sand mined areas, as much as 8-10 metres of coastal lands are being washed away annually.

Director, Coast Conservation Department (CCD),  R.A.D.B. Samaranayake told The Sunday Leader that usually the coastal areas require sediments, which flow from the inland river to the coastal areas. However as sand mining takes place in the inland rivers there is less sand moving towards the shore. "Owing to this reason the sea water uses more sea shore sand as well as washes sand from the naturally formed sand dunes.

The Coast Conservation Department's mandate is to preserve the coasts of Sri Lanka and to reduce the effects of sea erosion.

Samaranayake explained that most of the mined sand is required by the construction industry. Annually eight million cubic meters of sand is needed by the construction industry and of this figure, 50 percent of the sand is used in the Western Province alone for various construction purposes.

He also pointed out that the government has taken stringent measures to stop river mining and added that permits and licences are now only granted under strict rules and regulations. Licences and permits are issued by the CCD, the Geological Survey and Mines Bureau as well as the respective district secretariats.

He also noted that the worst affected areas are Mundal and Kalpitiya in the Northwestern Province.

Citing an example, he said instead of river mining there are alternatives such as offshore mining. He added that this option costs more but suggested that the government engage private companies so that individual miners would not be burdened.

According to environmentalists, continuous sand mining in the coastal areas could also disturb the ecosystem along Sri Lanka's coastal belts.

Rekawa, Ussangoda and Kalametiya are areas that constitute an important section of Sri Lanka's coastline with a multitude of complex ecosystems, such as marine turtle nesting beaches of regional significance, lagoons, mangroves and bird habitats.

Poverty is considered one of the core problems in these areas, which results in people turning to sand or coral mining to eke out a livelihood.

Elephant-only corridors again

In a bid to resolve the ongoing human-elephant conflict, the Environment Ministry has decided to seek cabinet approval to relocate residents occupying the elephant corridors that are the main battlegrounds for human-elephant conflict.

A cabinet paper is to be submitted shortly for approval to relocate residents.

Residents occupying corridors in areas such as Udawalawe, Lunugamvehera, Yala, Wasgamuwa, Minneriya and Kawdulla will be  evicted from their present location and settled elsewhere.

Some elephants, especially bulls, raid fields at night. According to reports, elephants have destroyed entire annual harvests in one night resulting in immense personal tragedy for farmers and their dependants.

The government, according to Environment Minister A.H.M.Fowzie has decided to resolve the conflict by moving people out of areas that have been identifed as natuaral elephant habitats.

The Minister says such a conflict is inevitable as humans encroach on land in which elephants have roamed freely for centuries, adding that therefore it was upto the people to move.

"What can the animals do when man goes into their territory? Especially during the drought season the elephants tend to come out from the jungles in search of water and when they see vegetation and water in the corridors occupied by human beings they attack. They also attack in retaliation," the Minister pointed out.

The Minister said he was planning to seek donor assistance to fund the entire exercise of evicting the residents and erecting electric fences to prevent elephants crossing the borders into inhabited areas.

Water levels improve at Menik Ganga

The water flow at Menik Ganga which had reduced to a trickle due to illgal pumping by  private entrepreneurs, has improved due to rainfall during the past two weeks, residents said.

They said private companies pumping water illegally has become a menace and that there is a serious threat of this river going dry as a result of this.

Challenge to meet demand for water

By Risidra Mendis

An increase in the population, especially in the Colombo District, has compelled the National Water Supply and Drainage Board (NWSDB) to look into ways and means of increasing water supply as well.

With a view to meeting the growing demands of ever increasing consumers, the Water Board has decided to pump additional quantity of water from the Kalu Ganga and Kelaniya water plants.

The Sunday Leader learns that at present the government spends an estimated Rs 10 billion per year on the development of water infrastructure in the country. However, water pumped from the Kalatuwawa, Labugama and Ambatale plants are at present insufficient to meet the growing demands in Colombo, forcing the Water Board to impose daily water cuts in certain areas.

Speaking to The Sunday Leader Chairman, NWSDB, S.L Seneviratne said even though there was a steady population growth in the country  proper water management infrastructure was not in place to meet the growing demand.

"As part of the development process many companies and new projects are rapidly coming up in Colombo. It is also a known fact that people from all parts of the country come to Colombo in search of jobs," explained Seneviratne.

According to Seneviratne, the increase in population in the Colombo District has compelled the Water Board to look into the possibility of introducing a new system so that water cuts can be prevented. 

"If we get the necessary assistance from the government and foreign countries we should be able to complete this programme in five years" says Seneviratne.

Seneviratne went on to say that the NWSDB is not concentrating on the outstation areas as 30% of the public in these areas use wells, rivers and streams for their needs.

According to another official from the Water Board, areas affected by water shortage are the Southern Province- Ambalangoda and Balapitiya, Kandy - Ampitiya and Kundasale, dry zone areas, Dehiwela Mount Lavinia, Ratmalana, Moratuwa Panadura, Peliyagoda, Wattala, Kelaniya, Kotahena and Colombo 12, 13 and 15 among others.

"Wet zone areas such as Kegalle, Ratnapura, Kalutara and Gampaha also face water shortages from time to time" says the Water Board official.

Waste handling handed over to foreign company 

The cabinet has approved handing over the management of hazard waste to a Malaysian company.

The approval was given last week by cabinet following a paper submitted by Environment Minister, A.H.M.Fowzie.

The company will commence operations once the fomalities are completed, according to Minister Fowzie.

Fowzie said the government plans to invite more foreign companies to handle garbage in Sri Lanka as local authorities and other relevant bodies entrusted with the task of collecting disposing garbage have failed 'miserably'.

The Minister said the private company would function as a Built Operate and Transfer (BOT) company under the Board of Investment (BOI) regulations.

In Colombo alone nearly 750 tonnes of garbage is disposed per day. The Colombo Municipal Council (CMC) privatised the garbage collection but yet the Minister says it is not effective.

According to the Minister all industrial waste would be collected by the new company to be established in Sri Lanka and recycled subsequently. He said even the waste from service garages that according to him  cause serious damage to the environment would be collected by the proposed company.

He said the waste, especially oil sent to paddy fields have destroyed the harvests to a great extent in some areas.

He also said such waste is thrown into rivers and canals and have poisoned human beings on many occassions. "Therefore it is  high time we put a full stop to this," he told The Sunday Leader.

Anti-conversion bill discussion

There will be a special Catholic half hour programme broadcast on the English service of the SLBC on the proposed anti-conversion bill at 8 p.m. July 25.

The programme will feature retired Supreme Court Judge Priyantha Perera, former President, International and Sri Lanka Bar Associations, Desmond Fernando PC, criminal lawyer Neville Abeyratne and commercial lawyer Shamil Perera.

They will be interviewed by Priyanthi Seneviratne on various aspects of the proposed anti- conversion bill tabled in parliament.

  •  Half complete housing scheme almost abandoned

NHDA leaves residents in the lurch

By Jamila Najmuddin

The aspirant house owners of the 'Sea Breeze' housing scheme in Mattakkuliya are currently being pushed from pillar to post with the responsible authorities unable to give the residents a clear picture of the scheme.

Having invested large sums of money in this scheme, residents have protested that they have received no results up to date as the facilities that had been promised have not yet materialised.

The residents had paid their initial payment early last year but to date the houses are not ready for occupation.

When The Sunday Leader contacted General Manager, National Housing Development Authority (NHDA), Piyal Ganepola, he said the houses under this scheme had already been built and the delay in completing these houses was due to the lack of funds.

"There was a delay in constructing these houses due to the restricted of cash flow. We have charged a down payment of only 20% from the residents whereas the NHDA has to pay large amounts to the contractors. A down payment of 20% is insufficient but we could not increase this amount because of a policy the previous regime introduced to charge only 20% from the residents," Ganepola said adding that currently the NHDA had to use public funds, as the Treasury had failed to allocate any funds to the NHDA.

He also said that the NHDA had informed the residents of the delay in handing over the houses to them, a claim that was totally denied by the residents when contacted by The Sunday Leader.

Ganepola added that the residents of this scheme were a "privileged" lot as this scheme was a "good" one while residents who have already made initial payments condemned the NHDA and the other responsible authorities for not taking adequate steps to provide even the basic facilities.

When The Sunday Leader visited the housing complex in Mattakkuliya, it seemed to be more of an abandoned scheme with no proper roads leading to the houses. Residents living in those houses complained that basic facilities were lacking for a long time, even after an initial payment of Rs. 800,000 had been paid.

"We do not have a proper drainage system and we have no proper roads leading up to our houses. This entire scheme is like a jungle with wild grass and trees growing everywhere. We continue to live here as we have already made the payment and we do not have anywhere else to go. Although the authorities say that they do not have funds to give us the facilities that is of no concern to us as we have paid the initial payment and we continue to pay the installments on time," a resident said.

Residents said that due to the lack of a sewage system, they were getting a sewage system fixed at their own expense. "How can we live in these houses without sewage facilities? We have prepared a formal letter to be sent to the NHDA requesting them to offer us these facilities soon," residents said.

They added that the security services, which the NHDA had promised were also not provided.

Meanwhile, Manager, Co-ordinating Services, NHDA, Indrani Fernando said that the NHDA was taking the necessary steps to provide the facilities as soon as possible.

"The water and drainage department has been contacted to install a sewage system and this is not the fault of the NHDA, as during the time of the People's Alliance regime (PA), the matter was handed over to the Urban Development Authority (UDA) for planning approval. However, after the UNF government came into power the matter was handed over to the CMC and the matter is now pending," Fernando said.

When The Sunday Leader contacted Deputy Mayor, CMC, Azath Sally, he said that the CMC had "no involvement" and that they were unaware of any such scheme.

Call to revive peace talks

Western Provincial Councillor, C. Y. P. Ram who polled the highest number of votes from Colombo North says the government under whatever circumstances must make efforts to resume the stalled peace talks with the LTTE.

Ram contested the just concluded provincial council elections on the UNP ticket and obtained 20,281 preferential votes.

He earlier contested the Colombo Municipal Council (CMC) elections in 2002 and obtained 11,950 preferential votes and secured fourth place in the Colombo list.

He says the government as promised to the nation during the April 2 general election should find ways and means to re start negotiations with the LTTE in order to find a lasting solution to the ethnic problem.

Midnight madness

By Mandana Ismail Abeywickrema and Jamila Najmuddin 

Following on the tracks of the blockbuster Fast And The Furious, drag racing has established a new cult in the city. Although illegal not only in Sri Lanka, but all over the world as well, racers have voiced their opinion that this fun filled activity has dragged them away from partying on a Saturday night as well as stopped them from spending huge amounts of money on alcohol, which are the usual weekend activities indulged in by youngsters in this country.

With many people not aware of such races taking place in the early hours of a Sunday morning in various parts of the city, drag racing has caused a stir amongst youngsters today as they say that the main reason for them to participate in this activity was the fact that it is highly illegal.

A few racers, speaking to The Sunday Leader on conditions of anonymity for fear of being identified, said that although drag racing was illegal, it was not dangerous as all safety measures were taken "before the commencement of the races."

"The main 'thrill' that we get in such races in the early hours of a Sunday morning is the fact that it is illegal. It is mostly the working crowd who participate in these races and it is done to have some fun over the weekend," said a racer.

"Although we know that it is illegal, we feel that drag racing is good for the youngsters as it is this very crowd that used to go to discos and pubs on Saturday nights. By wasting large amounts of money on alcohol, drag racing prevents all this and it is not an expensive activity as there is no money involved," he said.

According to these racers a strict code of conduct is followed as no racers under the influence of alcohol or drugs are allowed to get behind the wheel.

They said that before the commencement of the races, two patrol cars are sent to 'study' the lanes in order to give 'a signal' that the lanes are clear.

"We have a safety committee and safety cars amongst the racers. Just before a race, these cars are sent to 'study' the entire stretch in order to give a signal that the road is safe and clear from other vehicles and pedestrians. Once these cars reach the other end of the road, they give the racers a clear signal so that the race could begin," another racer said.

He said that although there were many youngsters today who had the talent for racing, they could not pursue this talent due to the lack of facilities and the proper 'backing.' "We have approached the police several times requesting them to give us a stretch of land for our races. But the only answer we get is to hand over our licence numbers in order to make a formal appeal. The only reason that they want our licence numbers is to register these numbers so that it would be easy for them to track us down," the racers said.

They added that they wanted the public to be aware that drag racing was a safe and friendly sport where races were conducted amongst friends. "We line up the cars and not more than two cars are allowed to race at a time. Races are usually conducted between friends and the reason that we do not continue having the races in one particular location is the fear of the police," the racers said.

They added there were many instances when the police had showed up and abused some of the racers and also caused damage to some cars. "Some of the damage caused by the police has been estimated at over Rs. 5,000," they said.

"Even when new drivers sign up for the races we ask them to drive the lanes first so that they could get used to the turns. The only time we have had an accident was when a newcomer, not studying the lane first, had crashed on to a wall because he had not been familiar with the turns," they said.

According to them, drag racing started last year with only several cars participating in the races. However, today there are more than 70 cars that participate with over 250 people watching the races in the early hours of Sunday.

Apart from taking part in racing, witnessing one also has its thrills.

July 18 morning at around 1 a.m. the Marine Drive opposite the Kinross Club was a hub of activity. Youngsters from all walks of life gathered there and not to mention the different types of vehicles that lined up.

While the vehicles lined up on either sides of the road, people started walking towards a white line drawn with chalk, which was the starting point. Latest techno sounds were blaring out of a music system installed in a car boot.

The organisers of the event were busy calling cars to the starting line and the modified cars revving their engines made their way to the front.

Everyone then had to wait patiently for the green light from the patrol cars, which were sent to monitor the road situation. Once they received the all-clear sign off sped two vehicles and the noise that emanated from each vehicle more or less determined the winner.

Once one race comes to an end the whole rigmarole starts all over again.

However, a few minutes into the races, more cars seemed to appear as mobiles carried by everyone were working overtime informing others of the races and the whereabouts.

Be that as it may, occasionally the races came to a stop when an unsuspecting vehicle drove down the road. These vehicles are either asked to move aside or depending on the situation are allowed to pass through. If a difficult vehicle owner turns up, who refuses to move aside and insists on passing through, they are given way after a lot of grumbling and a few choice words.

It was at this time that some of the spectators realised the danger of these races as they said that not having a clear road without any by lanes could someday lead to an accident.

This veritable statement was endorsed by quite a few as they realised that in case the speeding vehicles collide with a vehicle turning into the road, the result would be catastrophic. Also, in case the road happens to be uneven with potholes or an animal crossing over would definitely be equally disastrous.

The atmosphere however was one that kept everyone's adrenaline levels high as by about 1.30 a.m. there were about two vehicles adding to the music force at the venue.

"Drag racing is illegal"

Admitting that drag racing does happen in the city, DIG Colombo, Sirisena Herath said that it is illegal.

Herath said that the breaking of the speed limit, the noise, and compromising the safety of other road users have made this phenomenon illegal.

Asserting that the police is trying its level best to stop drag races in Colombo, he said that the young ones however engage in the activity on the sly.

"We try our level best to stop it," he said.

When asked what action he plans to take with regard to the problem, Herath said that traffic wardens have been informed to prevent such races when they come across any.

Herath said that when the police is informed of drag races, they take immediate action adding that the matter comes under the traffic police.

SSP Lafir of the Traffic Police Division said that drag races started only about three to six months ago, adding that it has now stopped for some time.

He went on to say that these races used to take place down Bullers Road, Green Path, and Marine Drive.

Explaining further, Lafir said that it is organised by a bunch of youngsters, adding that the time and venue are finalised through mobile phones. This, he said has made it difficult to track down the culprits.

"They get together suddenly and then vanish," he said.

Lafir went on to say that the races were once taken to Talangama and the police there had somehow prevented them from racing in that area. He reiterated that these races had not taken place for the past two months.

When informed by The Sunday Leader, that the races are a very much happening thing and did happen down Marine Drive last weekend, Lafir said that he was not aware of it as there is a patrol vehicle that goes down the Drive.

He observed that although the young ones organise it for the fun of it, they do not realise the danger involved and how it endangers the lives of others.

Anti-rabies vaccines cost Rs. 315 million a year

By Risidra Mendis

The total bill borne by the public for anti-rabies vaccines for humans and canines is estimated at Rs. 315 million annually. These are the latest figures issued by the Medical Research Institute (MRI).

However, the administering of a large number of rabies vaccines could be avoided and unnecessary costs could be brought down if doctors follow the correct procedure with regard to a dog bite victim.

Speaking to The Sunday Leader, Consultant Virologist, Vaccinalogist and Head, Rabies and Vaccines Department, Medical Research Institute (MRI), Dr. Omala Wimalaratne said it is the doctor's responsibility to screen the patient and animal before deciding on whether the patient requires anti-rabies post exposure treatment. "The doctor should check if the dog is healthy and if the animal attacked due to provocation. Even if a dog is regularly inoculated with the rabies vaccine and the animal is allowed to roam on the road and mix with stray dogs, this animal cannot be considered to be a safe animal," explained Dr. Wimalaratne.

Despite the heavy burden on the government to supply the rabies vaccines, some doctors still continue to advice patients to take the rabies vaccine as a precautionary measure without proper examination of the patient or proper details of the dog.

"If the animal is well cared for and given the rabies vaccine within one year and also one or more vaccinations the previous year, that animal could be considered safe," explained Dr. Wimalaratne.

According to Dr. Wimalaratne, there are cases where the dog is kept under observation for 10 to 14 days. "During the observation period from the date of the bite, the patient is given the rabies treatment. By this method the patient's life is not at risk.

"If the dog does not develop rabies within the stipulated time period the patient's medication is stopped. If the victim is sure that he/she was bitten by an inoculated dog, we advice them to come back with the card that proves the rabies vaccination was given," added Dr. Wimalaratne.

However, according to him, no doctor should recommend treatment without first screening the patient and animal. "Even though these vaccines are quite safe no person should be given vaccines unnecessarily as they could cause reactions. The unnecessary use of the rabies vaccines is a definite loss to the country," Dr. Wimalaratne said.

"I have conducted several programmes all over the country including Mannar, Jaffna and Trincomalee. The Health Department has held many workshops conducted by me and has even sent out a circular to government and private doctors on how a dog bite victim should be treated. However, some doctors don't attend these workshops and therefore may not know what the correct procedure is. A doctor cannot say they are not sure how to treat a dog bite patient."

Dr. Wimalaratne said any doctor who has a query with regard to anti-rabies treatment could contact the MRI for specialised advice 24 hours a day.

According to the latest figures released by the Health Department, bites by household pets - 51.8%, bites by stray dogs - 32.1%, bites by neighbours' dogs - 7.2% and unknown bites - 8.9%.

Commenting on the figures, Animal Rights Activist, Sargarica Rajakarunanayake said it is obvious that a high percentage of dog bites are by household dogs. However, nobody is willing to take responsibility to screen the victims and give the rabies vaccine only if necessary. This is a colossal waste for the country," she said.

Meanwhile, Veterinary Surgeon, Dr. Nandana Atapattu said if there is proof that a domestic dog has been inoculated with the rabies vaccine there is no need for a human to take the rabies inoculation.

Dr. Atapattu went on to say that the rabies vaccine has to be stored under cool conditions and those bitten by dogs should check if the injection was stored in such conditions before receiving it.

However, the doctor said the anti tetanus injection should be taken irrespective of whether the dog is a suspected rabies case or not. "This injection is necessary due to the dog saliva containing germs," added Dr. Atapattu.

Different prices in different shops...

By Shezna Shums 

To own the hottest phone in Colombo does not necessarily have to cost you an arm and a leg because these new models are available for a relatively low price at any of the dingy phone shops in the Fort area.

However, these phone shops may only be a short distance apart, but the differences in prices are good enough for the tiny phone stalls to make good sales.

The range of phones available at the shops in Fort is as good as the variety of phones available in the reputed shops in Colombo. There are also instances where the shops in Colombo have run out of the particular model whereas the Fort shops have them in stock.

When The Sunday Leader visited a couple of phone shops in Fort, we found that some shops have most of the new models and accessories while other smaller shops dealt with the fast moving cheaper phones.

Nevertheless, the prices are such that a phone with a built-in camera costs a little more than Rs. 22,000 whereas in the reputed shops in Colombo such a phone would cost somewhere around Rs. 30,000.

In the case of mobile phone batteries, the registered stores sell a battery for more than Rs. 3,500. However, the same battery can be bought in a Fort shop for Rs. 550 and may go up to a maximum around Rs. 1,000.

As in the prices of phone accessories, the Fort shops sell the plastic transparent phone covers for Rs. 100 while the hard covers are sold for Rs. 250. However, in the posh phone stores in Colombo, the same hard cover may cost anything from Rs. 1,000 to Rs. 1,500.

When asked about the guarantee, the sellers in Fort confirmed that "these phones are as good as the ones sold in the bigger shops."

Some shops in Fort offer a guarantee on the phone battery for a couple of months, but this will cost a few extra rupees. However, most shops do not offer any guarantee.

Meanwhile speaking to The Sunday Leader was Airport Police OIC, Kamal Perera who said "Some mobile phones are illegally brought into the country," adding that the job of seizing such cargo comes under the airport customs. A source at the airport customs explained that an individual may bring up to about 100 mobile phones and some may bring about 75 or 50 phones with them. "Depending on their economic capacity as well as financial capability the number of phones smuggled will vary."

However, he stressed that there has been no significant increase in the number of phones brought into the country since this trend started less than five years ago."

People sick of lawless Sri Lanka

Considering the way in which the political parties and politicians work today, the people are certainly grinding their teeth in impatience.

The crime rate is consistently increasing; most of the time parliamentary sittings are dominated by fisticuffs and the people are clearly left in the lurch.

The Sunday Leader spoke to a cross section of society and asked their views given a hypothetical yet possible situation. The people were asked, "If Pirapaharan or his party were to enter mainstream politics would you consider voting for him/his party."

And surprisingly there was a variety of answers ranging from a straight outright "no" to "most probably, yes," and even "why not."

Tammy, a housewife, told The Sunday Leader that if Pirapaharan or his party were to enter mainstream politics "Sometimes I may vote for them, most probably yes."

When asked why she said that, "because with them, there will be some law in the country and that, there will be some meaning and law present. He may be a tough ruler, but there will be law and order because at the moment there is no law and order. So I will vote for him or his party for the sake of law and order."

However not thinking like her was Gayathri who charged that she will never vote for Pirapaharan or his party. She cannot pinpoint exactly why she will not do so, but said that she has a kind of personal grudge against the rebel leader and his organisation.

When L. Daya was asked if she will consider voting for Pirapaharan or his party she questioned as to why she would want to do such a thing. "If there are other parties contesting then I will not vote for Pirapaharan," adding "For all the killings and unfair things that Pirapaharan has done to humanity, I will not vote for him or his party."

"I cannot accept him as a straight person," she said.

Meanwhile, also speaking to The Sunday Leader was play director Indu Dharmasena who pointed out "The JVP, were they not at one time in the same boat?" So I suppose that if I could vote for the JVP, I would have no problem in voting for Pirapaharan."

He went on to say that the LTTE is more organised and committed towards their goal than most of the politicians today.

However, he pointed out that if the organisation can kill once, then they can kill again. But also brought up the question as to why the organisation shouldn't be in parliament.

Aruni, an IT specialist told The Sunday Leader that "other parties, with no long term vision or organised system, who have also been involved in brutal killings are allowed into parliament, and I am not talking only about the JVP here."

"Then there is no reason whatsoever for the LTTE to not be in parliament," she said.

And added that "if the LTTE actually wants to maintain their reputation for discipline and commitment they should not enter the doghouse that passes for parliament in Sri Lanka."

Meanwhile, also speaking to The Sunday Leader was a chairman of a freight company who spoke under anonymity. He said "Yes, I will definitely vote for them because they have discipline and order."

While he also pointed out that they have a good administrative system he said that it will also put a stop to them fighting for a piece of land.

He believed that a large percentage of people might vote for the organisation while he also thought that the people in the outstations might not vote for them because they will still have in mind the atrocities committed by the organisation. Nevertheless, "Since the organisation has tough laws and rules they will definitely be able to curb the violence in the country that we see today and bring about some law."

- Shezna Shums


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