JVP is helping form Eelam
By Vimukthi Yapa
Given the government's preoccupation
with the abolition of the executive presidency and the peace
process being pushed to the back......
goes soft on fast unto death threat
toasts for new liquor law
of the jungle
trying to score brownie points
JVP is helping form Eelam
General Secretary, Tilvin Silva
and Norwegian Ambassador, Hans Brattskar
Silva's letter to the Norwegian Ambassador
By Vimukthi Yapa
Given the government's preoccupation
with the abolition of the executive presidency and the peace process
being pushed to the back burner, the LTTE is expected to give the
government a deadline for the resumption of the talks early January.
This thinking of the LTTE is
expected to be conveyed to Norwegian Special Envoy, Erik Solheim
given the government's refusal to commence talks on the interim
administration proposal despite an assurance by Velupillai
Pirapaharan, the Tigers were prepared to consider the government's
proposals on the issue at the table.
The JVP on the other hand has not
only threatened to withdraw from the government if talks commence on
the ISGA proposals but has also called for the annulment of the
Simply put, the JVP wants to return
to war since that would be the effect of annulling the ceasefire
This thinking of the JVP was made
known to Norwegian Ambassador, Hans Brattskar in writing by JVP
General Secretary, Tilvin Silva on November 12, with the
facilitators told the government has no confidence in them.
The irony was, the JVP on the one
hand accusing Norway of facilitating Eelam and on the other
accepting cheques to the value of Rs. 11.1 million from Norway for
Furthermore, if the JVP truly
believes Norway is facilitating Eelam through its role as
facilitator, then the Marxists by keeping in office a government
that wants the Vikings to continue as facilitators are also aiding
and abetting the Norwegians to establish Eelam on behalf of the LTTE.
But such ironies are lost on the JVP
with the public taken for fools as the parties in alliance continue
to play politics at the expense of the future of Sri Lanka.
For the benefit of our readers, we
reproduce today in full Tilvin Silva's letter to the Norwegian
Ambassador, Hans Brattskar.
The Ambassador of Norway in Sri
Royal Norwegian Embassy,
Thank you very much for your letter
dated October 15, 2004. We are very sorry about the delay in
We do not mean to belittle Norway, by
pointing out that it is a relatively insignificant country in
Europe, which shot up into sudden prominence after the United States
decided to entrust it with monitoring the Israeli-Palestinian peace
After the usual initial euphoria, which
in effect was an image booster to the then US President and to
Norway, the conflict still continues unabated to this day.
You are, no doubt, aware of Norway's
close association with the LTTE, which resulted from the substantial
expatriate Tamil community, sympathetic to the Eelam cause, resident
in your country. It was, therefore, understandable that the LTTE
insisted on Norway becoming the 'facilitator' in Sri Lankan peace
Further, it is noted that both the
United States and the European Union too, actively backed you. In
the circumstance, the Sri Lankan government had little or no choice
in the actual selection of a facilitator for the peace process.
You are equally aware that although
originally Norway was to function merely as facilitator of talks
between the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE, your country, in
fact assumed the role of arbitrator once the talks got underway.
It soon became evident to us that you
had taken upon yourself the responsibility of directing the talks in
accordance with a pre-determined agenda between the LTTE and your
The procedure adopted in regard to the
signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) relating to the
Cease Fire Agreement (CFA) in itself proved this beyond any
The MoU had first been signed by
Velupillai Pirapaharan, totally ignoring the executive president of
the sovereign state of Sri Lanka without whose concurrence the MoU
ceases to be valid in law. Although Prime Minister Wickremesinghe
signed it afterward, he had no authority to do so. The JVP has
challenged the MoU before the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka. The
Supreme Court is yet to hear the submissions by the
The Norwegian government thus blatantly
violated all norms of international practice and our weak-kneed
Prime Minister, Wickremesinghe, hadn't the courage to resist this
betrayal of trust. His well known policy of unlimited appeasement of
both the LTTE and Western powers might have encouraged your
government to act irresponsibly and even arbitrarily.
Yet, the people are aware of the actual
circumstances under which the MoU came into being, and that
regardless of its terms and conditions, the Norwegian led SLMM will
see to it that, whether formal peace talks are on or off, the LTTE
will utilise the MoU to achieve the following objectives:
1. Further strengthen its overall
dictatorial hold on the civilian population of the Northern and
2. Stifle its rivals and critics.
3. Widen and further consolidate its
illegal administrative structure, which includes, taxation, already
in place, in the Northern and Eastern Provinces.
4. Regroup its military cadres and
equip them with the most modern weapons.
5. Take all steps necessary to
formalise and further strengthen its relations with foreign
countries and multilateral organisations.
Despite the fact that the LTTE
unilaterally stalled the peace talks, nearly two years ago, it has
accomplished all or most of these objectives during the last two
years. And consequently, it is in a far more stronger position right
now than at the commencement of the CFA, to take on the government
of Sri Lanka military, if and when the need arises.
Yet another conspicuous achievement
during this period in the LTTE's unprecedented headway made in
gaining international recognition. These are no mean achievements
for a terrorist outfit, especially at the present time when powerful
Western democracies are united against terrorism.
It is our view as well as that of the
vast majority of our people that these spectacular achievements were
made possible directly by the Royal Norwegian government.
You cannot be unaware of the total loss
of confidence by our people in your so-called 'facilitation' and
that you have miserably failed to conceal the fact that all of your
efforts in this country are directed totally and consistently
towards the one objective of aiding and abetting the LTTE to realise
its cherished dream of carving out a separate state of Eelam from
the territory of the sovereign state of Sri Lanka.
The following unfriendly acts on the
part of the Norwegian government as accredited agents have further
exposed your country's duplicity and treachery:
1. The Norwegian military establishment
had trained the LTTE's Sea Tiger Wing.
2. The Norwegian government officials
often take part in Tamil Tiger propaganda fund raising meetings in
3. When the Tamil Sangam, a well known
LTTE front organisation, had a propaganda meeting recently in Oslo,
very high ranking officials such as the Prime Minister Mr. Bondevik,
Local Government Minister Solberg, Lisa Golden of the Foreign
Ministry and Erik Solheim had been present there. It is well know
that this meeting was funded by the Norwegian central and local
4. The Norwegian government had thus
openly contravened the United Nations Resolution 1373 of 2001
relating to the suppression of terrorism.
5. Aiding and abetting Tiger terrorism
in devious ways in the name of facilitating peace and thus white
washing crimes against humanity including forced conscription of
We wish to conclude this letter with a
quotation from Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake in his capacity as
acting defence minister of Sri Lanka as reported in the Daily Mirror
of August 24. It speaks eloquently and authoritatively of your role
as facilitator in our country: "Acting Defence Minister,
Ratnasiri Wickremanayake said yesterday that due to the ceasefire
agreement the country had been divided into two states within one
country hinting at the possibility of opting for a new facilitator
to the peace process."
Addressing the security force personnel
in the Wanni Army Complex, Mr. Wickremanayake said that though two
parties had signed the agreement, one party has taken undue
advantage and was involved in various violent acts in the recent
past. The ceasefire has now become a one sided 'agreement' he
charged. Accusing the SLMM of failing to act when one party
committed a breach, Mr. Wickremanayake said if it continued, 'the
government would consider another party to monitor the cease fire.'
It is needless to add that this
statement amply demonstrates the total lack of our government's
confidence in you. In these circumstances, a meeting with you at
this stage will serve no useful purpose.
M. Tilvin Silva
Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna
November 12, 2004
By Kapila Punchimannage
In this modern age, urban society is
confronted by fast paced technological trends on every side
and the emphasis on superstition and the supernatural have
begun to fade even in a country as conservative as Sri Lanka.
But the series of incidents involving
an Indian soothsayer hit home the point that even among the
techno-savvy affluent class, there remains a degree of blind
faith in the evidence of things not seen.
Kishore Shasthri, a self-proclaimed
astrologer/miracle worker, was arrested by the Slave Island police
on Friday, December 3 on charges of sexual abuse of women following
a dramatic undercover operation conducted by two female police
Over the last fortnight or so, large
advertisements appeared in several local newspapers, notifying the
public of the advent of a famous Indian astrologer to Sri Lanka.
'Devotee of Goddess Durga' the headline of the advertisements read,
followed by the name of Swamiji Kishore Shasthri.
Wonders of Swamiji
The advertisement went on to say that
the Swamiji had come to Sri Lanka on the great demand by Sri Lankans
and that he could look at a person or a photograph and predict the
future. He could resolve health, marital and other issues
miraculously, the advert said, also giving the address of a luxury
residential complex where the Swamiji could be reached.
After the newspaper advertisement
appeared, foreign and local visitors flocked to the apartment
complex in the heart of Colombo, eager to have their fortunes read
and futures secured. Among his team, which included the Swamiji and
his wife, were two Sri Lankans as well.
The two locals have been identified as
U. A. D. Amaratunga and Mohammed Abdul Rahim and their task was
specifically to translate for the Indian astrologer. Apart from
predicting futures, Kishore Shasthri was also professing to have
expertise in miraculous poojas, which could also be performed at the
Village kapuwas maintain that the
results of such poojas can be observed in patients and those who
have been possessed within seven days of the ceremony being
performed. The Indian Swamiji's poojas also showed results in seven
days - but the odd thing was that the results showed not on the
patient or possessed person, but on the person who had made the
offering for the pooja in the first place.
The police who received the first tip
off first found out about these 'poojas' and 'offerings' from an
Australian lady who had made a visit to the Swamiji. A complaint
faxed to OIC, Slave Island Police Station, Champika Siriwardane said
that in the guise of performing the poojas, the astrologer had
touched the lady in inappropriate places of her body.
The astrologer had also performed
various unnatural and vulgar acts during her visits. Having received
this complaint, the Slave Island Police went about their operation
to catch the fake soothsayer out in the manner of a detective drama
The expose was to take place on
Saturday, November 27. IP Susila Ranasinghe and WPC Dulanjali
Rathnayake were assigned the roles of mother and daughter
respectively in the undercover operation by OIC J. M. P. Jayalath.
To assist them, IPs Jaufer and Sugathapala, also from Slave Island
police were to visit the Swamiji before the two female officers went
in. At the time of their appointment, Susila and Dulanjali walked in
to the apartment and placed Rs. 1100 on the table as an offering to
The astrologer had then asked them
whose future they would like him to predict. Susila, playing the
mother, responded that she wanted to find out about her other
daughter. The Swamiji informed Susila that her daughter had recently
lost her job and that she was currently engaged in a garment
business of her own. He also said that the young girl was carrying
on a love affair with a man whose name had three Sinhala letters,
the first one being 'L'. When the Swamiji asked the mother-daughter
duo to tell him the boy's name, Susila responded that it was 'Lalith.'
Kishore Shasthri then informed the concerned mother that 'Lalith'
was a terribly poor young man.
Turning to Dulanjali, the Swami said
that she had a very bad apala and to remove it, she would require a
pooja that would cost Rs. 35,000. Six days later, the two female
police officers, undercover again, went to the Swamiji's apartment
with Rs. 30,000 accompanied once again by the two male officers who
were to give them some protection.
The two male officers stayed in the
lobby while Susila and Dulanjali made their way to the apartment the
Swami was staying in. When they entered Shasthri's apartment, there
was another lady inside at a consultation and they were made to
When their turn came, Susila and
Dulanjali walked in and laid the Rs. 30,000 before the astrologer.
Susila told Shasthri that she would pay him the remaining Rs. 5000
at a later date and send the money through her other daughter.
At the beginning of the pooja, Shasthri
put Dulanjani's hand on the ground and began to slowly stroke it
with his own hand. He is then reported to have handed Dulanjali two
limes and asked her to write her own name and that of her lover on
the two fruits and lay them down on the altar. He then handed her a
piece of paper and asked her to write down her mother's name and her
own, their dates of birth and places of birth as well as each of
their birth times. Shasthri then tied red threads on the both the
mother and daughter. He then instructed Susila to leave the room
while he performed the pooja on her daughter and commenced his
What was to follow would have been the
climax if this had been a drama instead of an undercover police
operation. Susila left the room and took a seat outside the door to
the pooja room. As soon as she left, the Swamiji's two local
associates also left the room.
Immediately after this, Susila heard
Dulanjali scream and ran inside the room in time to remove her
'daughter' from the grasp of the fake astrologer. As planned, the
two male officers who were downstairs ran up to the apartment and
promptly arrested the Swamiji's associates. And that's how Goddess
Durga's devotee from Karnataka, miraculous powers and all, ended up
many people came to see him - Manager of apartment complex
"We didn't know anything about
this person when he first arrived here. In any case, we don't
concern ourselves with the personal lives of our customers. A
few days after he arrived, we saw the advertisement about his
services being on offer. We don't give our rooms and
apartments out on rent for people to conduct businesses. So we
asked him to move out immediately.
"Anyway, he had a lot of foreign
and local visitors. It was only later that we found out that
the police were trying to catch him as well."
needed to catch him red-handed - IP Susila Ranasinghe
IP Susila Ranasinghe who was one of the
undercover agents in the operation to arrest the fake
astrologer says that they first found out about their
assignment after they received the fax from the Australian
lady. "According to the complaint, the astrologer was
taking females into his room and abusing them sexually. We
needed to catch him red handed, that is why WPC Rathnayake and
I went undercover. We were ready to face anything when we went
"Shasthri and the others had been
in Sri Lanka for about one month and a few days. They had
stayed at a different hotel before moving into the one we
caught them in. They paid about Rs. 300,000 per month for
"Local and foreign clients who had
come to obtain his services had paid anything between Rs.
50,000 and Rs. 15,000 for his poojas. One Maldivian client
complained to us that he had got Rs. 600,000 from him to
perform his pooja. There are many others who have also been
cheated by him. We would like to ask all of them to come
forward with their complaints," IP Ranasinghe said.
trying to score brownie points
news that the opposition was preparing an all out war in parliament
regarding the sentence on S.B Dissanayake reached the government
ranks early on. It was Mahindananda Aluthgamage that first received
the news about the opposition's planned uproar and he promptly
informed Ports Minister Mangala Samaraweera about it.
A group of government MPs gathered
together to discuss the issue. It was decided that the course of
action to be taken would be discussed with Prime Minister Mahinda
Rajapakse and even President Kumaratunga over the telephone.
When Aluthgamage called the President
she said "If you make a stir as well, you will enable them to
achieve their objectives. Just be quiet and let them do anything
they want. Accordingly, Samaraweera and Aluthgamage instructed
government MPs to remain calm and not react to the opposition
As soon as sessions commenced on the
morning of Wednesday, December 8, UNP MP Mahinda Wijesekera
addressed the house and launched a scathing attack on the judiciary.
During his statement Wijesekera also requested the government to
request the President to grant Dissanayake a pardon. To this
request, Wijesekera got no response.
Springing to action, UNP MP T.
Maheswaran descended into the well along with Indika Bandaranaike
and lifted the mace. At the same time, Wijesekera too approached the
chair and quoting sections and paragraphs of the constitution,
requested the speaker to issue an order instructing that Dissanayake
to be brought to parliament.
Since the uproar in the house had
become uncontrollable, Speaker W.J.M. Lokubandara adjourned sittings
and called a party leaders' meeting. Participating from government
ranks were Premier Rajapakse, Chief Government Whip Jeyaraj
Fernandopulle and UPFA Leader Ratnasiri Wickremanayake. For the
opposition, UNP Deputy Leader Karu Jayasuriya and Chief Opposition
Whip Mahinda Samarasinghe took part.
During the course of the meeting,
opposition MPs took great pains to highlight that according to law,
Dissanayake could be brought to parliament to attend sittings. They
were insisting that the Speaker deliver an order to this effect.
Opposition to this proposal from government ranks too was not
forthcoming. They were insisting instead that since the budgets for
various ministries had to be passed, the opposition should cease
trying to hamper that process and let parliamentary proceedings go
on as usual.
At this point, Samarasinghe said that
if that were to happen, Dissanayake had to be brought back to
parliament. Responding to this, Wickremanayake said "This is
not a problem. We have no issues with Dissanayake being brought
back. But now he is in prison, so let us do this in an organised way
through an agreement."
Agreeing to this proposal, Samarasinghe
and Jayasuriya immediately informed UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe
that a letter should be submitted by Dissanayake asking to be
allowed back to parliament. Between this time, they would allow the
government to pass the budget votes, Samarasinghe and Jayasuriya
An opposition representative was then
immediately dispatched to collect a letter to this effect from
Dissanayake. As soon as this representative left, a journalist
working from the Opposition Leader's office in parliament conveyed
this news to the government. Immediately calls were placed to
President's House and through them to the Secretary to the Justice
Ministry in the hope of disrupting this plan. But by the time the
Secretary called the Prisons Commissioner and issued instructions,
everything had already happened. By the time the letter was on its
way back to parliament, things in the house had gone from bad to
worse and the topic had turned to an even more heated one.
Going up to the chair, JVP MP Wimal
Weerawansa and Aluthgamage began to shout that a no-confidence
motion should be brought against Speaker Lokubandara and that
signatures for this motion had to be collected immediately. Picking
up a blank sheet then and there, Weerawansa proceeded to walk around
collecting MPs' signatures. He first went up to Tourism Minister
Anura Bandaranaike who signed the paper. Next he went up to the
Prime Minister who said to him, "I can't sign this the way I
want. I will have to consult with the President first."
At this point, Lasantha Alagiyawanna
who is a close confidant of President Kumaratunga called the
President and informed her of what Weerawansa was doing inside
parliament. The Deputy Minister informed the President that this
would look like another of the JVP's cheap publicity stunts to the
people. He also informed Kumaratunga that Aluthgamage was going
around collecting signatures saying it was being done on the
Losing her cool at Alagiyawanna's
statements, Kumaratunga asked the Deputy Minister to put the Prime
Minister on the phone immediately. By this time, Rajapakse was
engaged in a discussion with the Speaker, trying to figure out a way
in which to resolve the issue. Alagiyawanna handed his mobile phone
to Rajapakse and asked him to speak to the President who was on the
other end of the line.
"What is happening there,"
the President asked Rajapakse. "I don't know anything about
this. Weerawansa is going around collecting signatures saying these
are your orders. Did you ask him to do this?" the Premier
Even more incensed, Kumaratunga shot
back " That Wimal is a crook. Our rogues are also joining in
his little games to score brownie points. I will talk to them and
tell them that the no-confidence motion will be brought at a time I
stipulate and not at the time they want it."
Rajapakse at this point informed the
President that he was near the Speaker and asked her to speak to him
as well and handed Lokubandara the mobile phone.
Lokubandara is adept at calming stormy
seas with his manner. "Ayubowan, Madam President. May you live
long, Honourable President. Are you well?" the Speaker asked
In response, Kumaratunga inquired of
the Speaker what was taking place inside parliament. "You don't
worry about these things and trouble yourself. You go on with your
own work, I will look after parliament," Lokubandara replied.
He advised her not to spend her valuable time worrying about what
people tell her and assured her that as long as he sat on the
Speaker's chair he would not put a toe out of line with tradition
and the rule of law. "You have given us a calm and collected
Prime Minister, Madam. Just like you, he also is very intelligent.
So don't worry about any of these things, I will go on with my
work," Lokubandara said, hanging up.
Calling a meeting of government
parliamentarians soon afterwards, Rajapakse informed them that the
no-confidence motion would be brought at a time specified by the
President and added that she had instructed that everyone be kept
informed about this.
the end of S.B. but the end of CBK - Ranil
While Dissanayake was busy being
crowned the King of Welikada, UNP MPs who were shocked by the news
flocked to the office of UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe and started
to create a stir. Some parliamentarians suggested that the party
take to the streets while others wanted to kill and be killed for
"If they have already got
Dissanayake, the next to go will be you! So let's get millions of
people out into the streets of Colombo," the MPs urged
After hearing all these options out
over the period of about a hour, Wickremesinghe in his usual
unperturbed style began to speak. "Today the planets did not
change for S.B. They changed for Chandrika. Don't get worked up. Go
out on to the roads and see. Today S.B. has become a hero among the
people. Chandrika's intention was to put S.B. behind bars for
robbery and corruption for him to suffer humiliation. Instead she
has turned him into a hero. Even if Chandrika's mother and father
return from their graves, they cannot break the UNP,"
Wickremesinghe then took Mahinda
Wijesekera and Professor G.L. Peiris into his office for further
discussions as to what the UNP's action plan should be. Wijesekera
was appointed pilot of the project to counter the attack on
Dissanayake. Wickremesinghe also instructed Wijesekera to commence
the battle that very day inside parliament.
Entering during the course of this
meeting, UNP Deputy Leader, Karu Jayasuriya, Chief Opposition Whip,
Mahinda Samarasinghe and UNP Chairman Malik Samarawickrema joined in
making several crucial decisions. The meeting lasted about two hours
and resulted in raising the confidence and spirit of organisers and
Rising to leave at the conclusion of
the meeting, Wickremesinghe said "I thought Chandrika would
give me just an ordinary prisoner. Instead she has given me a
political prisoner. She doesn't realise how difficult it can be to
contend with a political prisoner."
Unknown to anyone, Wickremesinghe got
into his official vehicle and instructed the driver to take him to
Dissanayake's residence down Rosmead Place. Having got caught to a
huge traffic jam near Museaus College, Wickremesinghe asked the
driver how long it would take them to get out of the block. "a
long time, sir," the driver responded, at which Wickremesinghe
got out of his vehicle and walked the rest of the way to
As he entered the house, he was greeted
by a weeping Tamara Dissanayake, the MP's wife, who held
Wickremesinghe's hands as she cried. Responding with utmost calm,
Wickremesinghe comforted Tamara saying, "Don't worry about
anything, Tamara. Everything that has to be done about S.B. we have
already decided to do. Be patient, we are doing everything we can to
get him out." As he was leaving Dissanayake's house after
comforting Tamara, Wickremesinghe's official vehicle had just
it is the custom for the issues that come up at heated cabinet
meetings to fizzle out over the next few days, last week's full
blown battle between the JVP ministers and President Chandrika
Kumaratunga which resulted in a vote being called on the education
reforms proposed by Kumaratunga showed no signs of dying down as
The very next day, President
Kumaratunga summoned a senior ministry secretary, a presidential
advisor and two of her closest confidants for a discussion with her
at President's House. The meeting centred around the fact that
Kumaratunga had planned to write a book detailing incidents from the
moment JVP Founder Rohana Wijeweera gave the orders at a politburo
meeting for Vijaya Kumaratunga's murder upto the point at which the
assassins shot at her husband killing him.
Getting emotional during the
discussion, the President said that of all the JVP's killings, it
was the slaying of Vijaya that had hit closest to home and greatly
affected her life and that of her children.
"Today most people have forgotten
that the JVP killed Vijaya. On his death anniversary, state media
carries old film clips and songs by him and then they forget all
about it. Children who were mere toddlers when Vijaya was murdered
are now adolescents and they know nothing about Vijaya Kumaratunga.
So before I give up the presidency, I have a duty to my children to
reveal the truth about who killed Vijaya and how it was done, so I
have to write this book," President Kumaratunga explained.
Elaborating Kumaratunga said: "My
hands are tied. I can't expose this via the state media because I am
part of this government and it will cause problems for the alliance
if I do that."
The President issued instructions to
those present to obtain all the necessary reports and documentation
from the CID and the National intelligence Bureau and all evidence
gathered by the commission to probe Vijaya Kumaratunga's murder and
make all the necessary preliminary arrangements to publish the book.
"Get all the information and come
to me with it. I have information about his killing that even the
CID doesn't have. I will add all that in the book," she said in
What with the S.B. bomb exploding, not
to mention the previous week's fireworks in cabinet, everyone
expected this week's meeting on Wednesday (8) would be full of
conflict once more. Oddly though, things proceeded as usual with the
President presiding over the meeting.
Addressing the issue of Upcountry
Development Minister D.M. Jayaratne after going through the cabinet
minutes, Kumaratunga said that she would see to it that Jayaratne is
allocated all the funds he needs to make sure that development takes
place in his areas. At the President's words, the cabinet of
The next problem that was to come up
was put forward by Minister Jeyaraj Fernandopulle who said that the
JHU was applying pressure that liquor outlets near schools and
temples be shut down. Responding to this, President Kumaratunga said
that it was very important to find out how much revenue the
government would be losing from such a move.
Fernandopulle played the losses down
saying that since hardly any supermarkets were purchasing liquor
licences anyway, there would be no significant losses.
Finance Minister Sarath Amunugama
however disagreed saying that such a move to shut down bars and
cancel supermarket licences would result in tremendous losses to
government revenue. Since his budget proposals were structured based
on the revenue flowing into the Treasury, he could not take
responsibility for the loss of revenue if such a move was
implemented, he said. Dr. Amunugama added that buying liquor at
supermarkets had become a common practice and such stringent
measures would result in people being afraid to sell liquor at all.
The President agreed and it was decided
that the matter had to be studied further before it could be
Rohitha Bogollagama who had had a
baptism by fire at his maiden UPFA cabinet meeting, did not have a
much better time last Wednesday. He submitted his very first cabinet
paper last week about opening up a leather factory in Hambantota.
President Kumaratunga however rejected the idea outright, saying it
would not bring revenue to the government or create any significant
number of jobs.
goes soft on fast unto death threat
By Dilrukshi Handunnetti
Following the government's positive
response to three out of four urgent demands made by the Jathika
Hela Urumaya (JHU), a fast unto death by the saffron robed scheduled
for today (12) has been called off.
Chief among the four demands was the
immediate appointment of a commission to probe the death of Ven.
Gangodawila Soma Thero who passed away in Russia exactly one year
Following a letter sent by Vice
President, JHU, Ven. Dr. Kotapola Amarakitti Thero to President
Chandrika Kumaratunga on December 3 issuing her an ultimatum, a
commission headed by Prof. Mendis Rohanadheera has been appointed
last week to probe Soma Thero's death and a full report has been
promised in three months.
However, delivery appears difficult on
the other three issues. When queried about the broad pledges given
to the JHU, Vice President, UPFA, Susil Premajayanth said that it
was not an attempt to quieten the monks or to prevent political
embarrassment to the UPFA but the pledges were made because the UPFA
felt the same way about those demands.
The other demands are the immediate
closure of all liquor shops and the prohibition on issuing new
liquor permits, stop the launching of two online lotteries and the
most difficult of it all - the presentation of the JHU's bill
against unethical conversions as a government bill - a position that
the government is reluctant to adopt.
But this does not irk the JHU that is
currently happy with the commitment shown by the UPFA. However, Ven.
Dr. Kotapola Amarakitti Thero speaking to The Sunday Leader said
that the JHU would remain observant of the follow up action and
would not fall victim to attempts to eyewash. " The key issue
was the commission to probe the thero's death and we know other
matters would take time. We will closely watch the government and
keep reminding that promises are meant to be honoured,"
Amarakitti Thero said.
According to the government, the
difficulty in cancelling the online lotteries has been explained to
the JHU. If cancelled, the Sri Lankan government will be made to pay
some Rs. 100 million by way of settlement which would also involve a
Last week, Prime Minister Mahinda
Rajapakse has reportedly responded to the lottery issue at a public
meeting and castigated foreign companies for wanting to desecrate
the indigenous culture of Sri Lanka by introducing modern gambling
It is learned that Rajapakse has
claimed that some of these companies were not even welcome in their
own countries and has called for collective action to protect the
culture from these corrupting foreign influences. However, there was
no explanation given as to how the lotteries were introduced to Sri
Lanka in the first place if the government felt so strongly about
Responding to our query on the online
lottery issue, Commerce and Consumer Affairs Minister Jeyaraj
Fernandopulle said that a decision couldn't be taken by a single
political party concerning such matters.
"We require to have a national
policy with regard to such matters and there should be all party
consensus so that a decision could be reached," said
Fernandopulle, adding that a cancellation of the newly launched
online lotteries would prove a burden on the exchequer as the
companies have to be compensated.
Ven. Kotapola Amarakitti Thero too
agreed that an adhoc decision could not be taken. "We wanted a
firm undertaking on these three issues. Of course it requires
consensus and the will to remain committed to a country without
gambling opportunities, the thero explained.
The same goes for the closing down of
liquor shops. According to the government, liquor and tobacco sales
are two key sources of income for the government and it has been the
policy of all governments to issue a certain number of liquor
licences annually during the past two decades.
" It is difficult to suddenly turn
back the clock. They are the livelihood of so many thousands as
well, so all that has to be considered before closing down all
liquor outlets," explained a senior official from the Policy
"The government policy however is
not to issue further liquor licences," said Minister
Fernandopulle. He added that the country's culture was such that a
surfeit of liquor shops would affect its identity.
" It was the UNP that started this
liquor permit issuing business. That was the way to make their
lackeys happy and to reward them after coming into office. Then it
gradually became a policy of sorts to issue a certain number of
permits annually and how to stem the flow is our problem," he
said, stressing that the government was firm on its commitment to
stop issuing licences in the future.
However, the government is not willing
to accept the JHU on its final demand- to present the JHU proposed
Anti Conversion Bill as a government bill. "The Supreme Court
has given a ruling on a previous bill and if at all, it is best
presented as a private members' bill by the JHU. We have done our
best to accommodate the demands of the monks and would not want to
embarrass Buddhism and Buddhist monks by making themselves launch
fasts unto death in order to be heard by a government. We are
willing to accommodate their views, but the last demand is outside
our ambit," said Susil Premajayanth.
The JHU for its part claim that they
would monitor the progress on the other three demands. " If
they drag their feet on the commitments made, then we will have to
renew our call for agitation," said Ven. Dr. Kotapola
Amarakitti Thero, adding that the creation of a dharmarajya or a
righteous society was also the duty of the state.
toasts for new liquor law
Ranee Mohamed and Shezna Shums
A decision to give the kiss of life to
an Excise Ordinance of the 1980s has created a cocktail of confusion
and concern among entertainment circles.
Management and members representing
hotels, restaurants, bars and clubs are trying to look for loopholes
in this law or obtain 'special permission' in a bid to carry out
their day to day business.
The law requires that all sales of
liquor be stopped from 11 p.m. anyday.
"The country is booming with
tourists right now and this decision will hamper the industry and
also encourage only up market tourists who can afford to stay and
drink in hotels rather than go to the clubs and bars in Colombo.
This is a decision that is going to take us backwards, not
forwards," said Chairman, Clancy's, Jeffrey Fernando. "I
have a staff of about 70 people and this decision will affect these
employees and over 5,000 clients who come to the club," he
Meanwhile, concern raged on among
members of the leading clubs in the city as to how they can
implement this '11 p.m.' law and still be in business.
The bar secretary of a leading club in
Maitland Place, Colombo 7 said that members come into the clubs at
around 8.30 p.m. "To finish at 11 p.m. makes no sense, besides
to finish at 11, we have to start closing down by 10.30 p.m. The law
uses the same brush on everybody. The law that applies to public
bars applies to us all and bars chuck everybody out at a given time
and close the doors. Does this mean that we are expected to chuck
out all our customers at 11 p.m. and close the door even though they
may be having their dinner or a soft drink?" he asked in
"Members can go home and drink,
but what about the tourist? Where will he get his drink. This is the
beginning of another trend - people will look for ways out of this
ban. We may be able to see kiosks - mobile kiosks that will take the
customer for a ride and for a drink," he pointed out.
Good for Pettah
Several members of leading clubs in and
around Colombo said that this is an infringement on their rights.
"This law is good for bars at bazaar areas of Pettah or
Maradana where people drink and create problems and become a
nuisance on public transport. This is like having a principal
looking over you. How can they tell adults what to do and at what
time to do it?" they asked.
Meanwhile, it is learnt that the
managing committees of leading clubs in Colombo are expected to sit
at a committee to discuss the issue of the ban of liquor sales at 11
Secretary, NCC, Camillus
Abeygunawardene said that an action committee of the clubs will seek
to make representations to the Finance Ministry and the Excise
Commissioner for clubs to be identified as a different category.
"We do not want to be treated as
mathpan hal. We are clubs meant for 'members only," he pointed
General Secretary, CR & FC, Jehan
Canagaretna said that the CR & FC will not be affected by this
law because they are a sports club, but went on to say that this law
is not practical. "This law will not affect us because our club
closes at 11.30 p.m. anyway. But laws of this nature will affect
tourism at some stage. Many tourists come to Sri Lanka thinking that
this is a liberal country. If this is about curbing drunk driving,
then closing down at 11 p.m is not the way to do it," observed
Meanwhile, President, Tourist Hotels
Association of Sri Lanka and Managing Director, Aitken Spence
Hotels, Malin Hapugoda said that this 11 p.m. decision will
definitely affect tourism. "The government must amend this law
in keeping with the tourism requirements of the present day,"
He went on to stay that the government
should have sep- aratly considered where tourists and locals can be
served alcohol and at what time. He said that a large number of
complaints are received from guests when alcohol is not served on
Managing Director, Sopranos, Dana
Foster said the decision will adversely affect business. "In a
karaoke business, the guests arrive sometimes after 11 p.m. Or even
later during weekends. What will this law do to the revenue. This
will affect not only our customers, but our profits and our
employees," she pointed out. "If this decision is made in
order to curb crime, the authorities must be aware that crime now
will start much earlier," she said. "I barely survive with
the business these days and we do not make millions. We depend much
on foreigners and their usual clients, but now this decision will
affect our revenue, tourism and even employment," she said.
While hotels, clubs and customers
criticised the government's 11 p.m. deadline, the Excise Department
continued steadfastedly, making preparations to implement the law.
In accordance with the gazetted Excise
Ordinance Notices, Excise Notification No. 975 dated Wednesday, May
11, 1980 lists the establishments and the times they are allowed to
Commissioner, Excise Department, P. E.
Bandara said that it will be a technical offence to serve liquor at
a forbidden hour. "The fine for such an offence would vary,
depending on the place and circumstances and this fine could go up
to Rs. 500,000," he said.
Cannot cancel licence
He pointed out however such a breach of
the law will not make it possible for the department to cancel the
licence. "But if they do continue to serve liquor regardless of
the previous fines, then they can be taken to courts," he said.
"At the time of renewal of
licences all fines will have to be paid," he pointed out.
The Commissioner went on to say that:
"Following instructions from the Presidential Secretariat we
have increased our night raids to two per week during the last three
weeks and there have been around 40 detections made where alcohol
was served after the permitted hour," said Commissioner Bandara.
The Commissioner went on to say that
the decision was made in order to curb the increasing crime rate in
Excise Department sources state that
the supermarkets and wine stores can sell alcohol from 8 a.m. to 9
p.m., restaurants and clubs will be allowed to serve alcohol from 11
a.m. to 2 p.m. and then again from 5 p.m to 11 p.m. Hampers too,
containing bottles of liquor are prohibited from being sold and if
so done will constitute a viable offence.
"What about the pubs in the five
star hotels in the country. Are they expected to close down?"
asked a frequent visitor, who said that he does not go to the club
to get 'drunk' but to relax over a drink.
However, officials from the Bloomfield
Club as well as the Premasiri Supermarket welcomed this law,
pointing out that it will stop people from buying alcohol late in
the night and drinking on the roadside.
1,032 licences have been given to
supermarkets, wine and beer stores, 534 licences have been given to
tourist hotels, 88 cinemas have been issued with licences and 525
restaurants, 55 rest houses, 80 sports and social clubs have been
issued with liquor licences. 233 beer only licences have been given
to shops and wine and beer licences issued have totaled 231.
Meanwhile, Ven. Omalpe Sobitha Thero of
the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) said that they will continue to call
for a complete halt of liquor sales in supermarkets.
"Liquor will destroy our society.
But today one can walk into a supermarket and purchase a bottle of
liquor just as easily as one would buy a bottle of orange juice or
apple juice. You can walk in decently, like a mahathaya and buy a
bottle of arrakku. Even school children can do it," he said. He
said that it is not as pointed as walking into a tavern and buying a
bottle, that it can all be done so "decently" today.
of the jungle
By Dharisha Bastians
The murder of Judge Sarath Ambepitiya
last month shook a nation prone to lethargy and amnesia when it
comes to issues of national importance. And while the respected
judge's death sparked several knee-jerk reactions from the
government, including the reintroduction of the death penalty for
the second time since 2000, and made the public sit up and take
notice, it is no secret at all that the law and order situation in
the country in general and the capital Colombo in particular has
been deteriorating rapidly in the last year.
Islandwide, the figures of homicide,
rape and other serious crimes have shown sharp increases and in
Colombo city, the problem of underworld killings and contract
murders have become a constant headache for law enforcement
authorities. To date, there have been 81 murders within Colombo city
limits, as against 76 during the whole of 2003, with most of the
killings being reported from the Pettah, Maradana, Keselwatte,
Borella, Wellawatte, Kirulapone, Grandpass, Modera and Kotahena
areas, according to records maintained by the Colombo Crimes
Division (CCD). According to these figures, between October 31 and
December 8 this year alone, there have been 13 cases of homicide
But apart from murder and rape, the
issue of vehicle theft and hijacking has become a primary concern in
Colombo and the suburbs. With the signing of the ceasefire and the
opening of the A9 highway linking the south to the Tiger-held Wanni
and also the Jaffna peninsula, a lucrative market for stolen cars
opened up. The tracking down and recovery of stolen vehicles becomes
virtually impossible once they reach rebel-held areas, says
Director, CCD, SSP Sarath Lugoda. "Although civilians can go
into those areas, a policeman cannot, so inquiries cannot be carried
out there," he said.
So common is the phenomenon of car
robbery that while SSP Lugoda was being interviewed by The Sunday
Leader about the problem, he received a call notifying him about a
car that had been stolen in Pettah a short while before. "A
lady had come to Pettah to buy fish and left the vehicle with the
driver. When she came back both the vehicle and the driver had gone
missing," Lugoda said adding that it was difficult to say
whether the driver had been abducted along with the vehicle or
whether he had driven off with the vehicle himself.
In Colombo city, there have been 232
cases of vehicle theft reported so far, as against 262 cases
reported in 2003. According to SSP Lugoda southern criminals are in
contact with their counterparts in areas of the north and vehicles
stolen in the south are then taken into LTTE controlled territory
along with forged documentation and sold to civilians and the Tigers
themselves at very low prices.
"It is these luxury vehicles in
which the LTTE is moving around. Most of them are Monteros, Pajeros
and pick-ups," SSP Lugoda said. He added that in the recent
past, checking at the last government controlled town of Omanthai in
Vavuniya had become more thorough and as a result, the Vavuniya SSP
had recovered several vehicles at this point. "The thieves sell
the vehicles and hitch rides back to the south. It is difficult to
inquire thoroughly since then there are allegations of harassment of
civilians against the police," SSP Lugoda explained.
Meanwhile, the streets of Colombo
remain deadly at night. Mugging at knife point occurs a mere 30
metres away from policemen standing guard over lonely areas of
Colombo's suburbs. A victim of such an assault on Wednesday,
December 8 in Madiwela said that he and a friend had been waiting
for a ride after having car trouble in the area when they had been
attacked. He said that four masked men had come up behind them, held
a knife at the throat of one of his friends and demanded they hand
over all their money and mobile phones.
"One of them hit me over the back
of the head and my legs just buckled under me. When I turned around
there were four men behind us and one of them had a knife to my
friend's neck. We gave them our mobiles and wallets and then they
ran away. We walked up to the police officers who were about 30
metres away and asked them if they could help us and their only
response was "we didn't see anyone go this way. This kind of
thing happens here a lot, that's why we keep saying don't hang
around." So we didn't even bother lodging an entry with the
police later," the victim of the attack revealed.
And while gala openings of urban
waterfronts are attended by the highest politicians in the land amid
much fanfare, these same leaders remain unperturbed at what is a
rapidly collapsing law and order situation in the very same city,
not to mention the rest of the island. Last Tuesday, when a private
television channel hosted a debate on the topic of the collapse of
law and order in the country, no representative from the government
turned up. Despite the production team's repeated calls to both the
SLFP and the JVP even during the programme, the two seats reserved
for UPFA members remained vacant throughout the debate.
Lack of confidence
Speaking at a symposium on the rule of
law and public confidence in the judiciary recently, Chairperson,
Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka, Dr. Radhika Coomaraswamy said
that the crisis of impunity, or the ability of various sections of
society to be above the law was as much to blame for the collapse of
the rule of law in the land as is the lack of confidence in the
judicial process. With politicians in league with prominent
underworld figures and senior police officials being found to be
liaising with hardcore criminals, public faith in the law is likely
to deteriorate as rapidly as the law and order situation in the
Attempts made by The Sunday Leader to
contact Secretary, Public Security Ministry, Tilak Ranaviraja for
On October 10, the son of Managing
Director, Event Productions, Roshan Wijeyratne went for his
tuition class as usual. He was driven there by a driver in
Wijeyratne's Honda Civic. Waiting for the little boy to finish
his class at Right Circular Road behind the parliament car
park the driver was parked outside. At about 5.45 p.m. three
persons had walked past the car and asked the driver for
directions to a particular road. When the driver responded
that he did not know, they assaulted him. The assailants then
carried the driver and put him on the ground near the rear
seat. Two men got into the rear and put their legs on him
while the other had driven the car.
The driver had indicated to the thieves
that he could not breathe, to which one of them responded that
they should kill him. The assailants had been communicating
with each other in Sinhala and Tamil. They had dropped the
driver off down a lonely road behind
parliament, close to the Jayewardenepura Hospital Road
and instructed him not to get up for one hour, saying that
their goons keeping watch in the area would kill him if he
did. Twenty minutes after his attackers left, the driver got
up and walked to the top of the road and got a lift to the
Maharagama police station.
Wijeyratne's driver is 70 years old and
although he was not injured in the attack, he was in shock for
some time after the incident. "I have made an entry at
the Thalangama police station the same night but have not had
any news since then. According to the police station there
have been around 20 vehicles stolen this year within their
area and last week alone four vehicles had been stolen,"
Wijeyratne told The Sunday Leader
He added that the country was in a
state where we have to now live in fear in our own homes or
whilst travelling. "I will never be at ease when I send
my wife and kids out even with a driver. The ministers and
politicians are not worried as they have their escort vehicles
and security. But what about the innocent citizens who cannot
afford the security and have to go about doing their day to
day work?" he said.