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17th July, 2005  Volume 12, Issue 1

First with the news and free with its views                                     First with the news and free with its views                             First with the news and free with its views                                    

News

Cabinet minute rejecting PM’s note and Mahinda Rajapakse — In hot water


Funds transferred in violation of cabinet decision 
Mahinda has misled cabinet and parliament

Cabinet fixes PM on tsunami scam

By  Sonali Samarasinghe

Evidence has surfaced that the cabinet of ministers had rejected Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse's cabinet note on the disbursement of tsunami funds.......

More...


Top News 

> LTTE summons TNA MPs to Kilinochchi

> SLMM upset over SC order on P-TOMS

> Govt. loses JBIC funding for CEB restructure

> Soldier killed in Batticaloa 

> Wijedasa moots constitutional reforms

> Govt. disappointed over Sethusamudram

More News.......

Funds transferred in violation of cabinet decision 
Mahinda has misled cabinet and parliament

Cabinet fixes PM on tsunami scam

By  Sonali Samarasinghe

Evidence has surfaced that the cabinet of ministers had rejected Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse's cabinet note on the disbursement of tsunami funds contrary to claims he made that cabinet approval was obtained.

Rajapakse, on July 5 answering charges he had siphoned off over Rs. 82 million of tsunami funds received by the Prime Minister's Office into a private account at Standard Chartered Bank, claimed he had received cabinet approval to do so on the basis of a cabinet note submitted by him on February 2.

The minutes of the cabinet meeting of February 10 revealed that cabinet, having taken into consideration the Prime Minister's cabinet note had unanimously agreed that all tsunami funds received both locally and internationally should be deposited in the official Disaster Relief Fund established at the Central Bank.

This was in keeping with the circular issued by the President through Secretary, W.J.S. Karunaratne on December 29, 2004 that no separate account for tsunami funds was to be established.

The cabinet decision rejecting the Prime Minister's cabinet note on the issue had been communicated in writing to the Prime Minister's Secretary for action by Cabinet Secretary, D. Wijesinghe and Additional Secretary, P. Hapangama on February 17. Copies were also sent to the President's Secretary, Finance and Planning Ministry Secretary and to the Auditor General.

The Prime Minister, who received large sums of money following the December 26 tsunami disaster, is accused of opening an account named 'Prime Minister's Punarjeewana Fund' on December 31, 2004 at the People's Bank and depositing over Rs. 73 million in contravention of a Presidential directive dated December 29, 2004 not to open any separate bank accounts but to credit all monies received to the President's Fund for Disaster Relief, maintained at the Central Bank.

The Prime Minister and Secretary, Lalith Weeratunga had subsequently directed Accountant S.A.N.R. Subasinghe to transfer Rs. 82,958,247.70 to a private account established at the Standard Chartered Bank in Rajagiriya on January 29 this year, under the name 'Helping Hambantota.'

The original cheque dated January 31 was returned due to a wrong payee name and a fresh cheque dated February 3 signed by Weeratunga and Subasinghe was issued with the amended payee name 'Helping Hambantota' A/C No. 011-237322-01.

The signatories to the private account included Prime Minister Rajapakse's brother Chamal Rajapakse, a close associate, Mahinda Gunawardena and another confidant Professor Epasinghe.

Following The Sunday Leader exposing details of the private bank account, the Prime Minister informed parliament on July 5 that he submitted a cabinet note and had obtained approval. However, even in that cabinet note there was no disclosure of the private account that was established at Standard Chartered Bank or the transfer of monies to it from the Prime Minister's Punarjeewana Fund.

The Prime Minister's cabinet note was dated February 2, while the private account was opened on January 11, and the first cheque deposited on January 31.

The cabinet rejected Prime Minister Rajapakse's note on February 10, and communicated the decision in writing on February 17 by circular number AMP/05/0155/002/002.

It is now revealed that despite the cabinet decision on February 10, the large sum of tsunami funds continued to remain in the private account outside the control of government and state financial regulations. On July 1 these monies were transferred into a call deposit at the same Standard Chartered Bank at Rajagiriya on a fixed interest rate.

The cabinet decision communicated to the Prime Minister's Secretary on February 17, specifically said action should be taken in terms of the February 10 decision to transfer all monies received by the Prime Minister to the Disaster Relief Fund at the Central Bank.

However, the Prime Minister and his officials did not implement this decision but instead transferred the monies at the Standard Chartered Bank to a call deposit in the same bank.

The cabinet circular in Sinhala dated February 17 states a decision taken at the cabinet meeting of February 10 is attached for necessary action.

    It then goes on to set out specifically item (c) 40 in the cabinet agenda stating that cabinet has take due cognizance of the Prime Minister's cabinet note dated February 2 number 05/0155/002/002 titled 'Description of tsunami relief funds at the Prime Minister's Office,' which says that details of all donations have been published in the newspapers and that all donations have been duly deposited into accounts.

   The cabinet of ministers unanimously agreed that all tsunami funds received locally and internationally should be deposited in the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, the minutes also state. The cabinet circular calls for the action of the Prime Minister's Secretary on this matter.  


Soldier killed in Batticaloa 

The spate of violence in the East continued yesterday as well when an Army foot patrol was fired upon killing one soldier , at Vandaramulla in the Eravur Police Division in Batticaloa.

The foot patrol on a routine duty was fired by unidentified gunmen using a T-56 weapon around 6 pm. The dead soldier was shot in the chest.

It was a culmination to a violence filled week that commenced with the murder of two LTTE cadres, including a former Sea Tiger leader, and two civilians in Selvanaygumpuram, Trincomalee on July 10. Army spokesperson Brig Daya Rathnayake told The Sunday Leader that at least 14 police officers, 16 Army personnel and three civilians had been injured in the violence during the week and that more than 20 incidents had been reported.

An LTTE cadre was killed during a confrontation with the Army in Trincomalee on Wednesday, July 14. The Same night three civilians were bound and shot dead in Akkaraipaththu in Ampara. The three wheeler they were travelling in was also burnt.

However, till yesterday's attack Batticaloa had been spared of the violence and remained relatively calm. "We are watching the situation," Batticaloa LTTE political head Anupmaran told The Sunday Leader, during the week.

While several other offices had been closed during the week, the main LTTE political office in Batticaloa town remained open and Anupmaran said that there was no decision to pullout.


LTTE summons TNA MPs to Kilinochchi

The LTTE has convened an emergency meeting today with the 22 TNA MPs in Kilinochchi.

The urgent summons went out to the TNA MPs Friday, after the Supreme court order on the P-Toms agreement was delivered in Colombo.

The Supreme Court on Friday refused to grant interim relief sought by the JVP to stay the P-TOMS agreement stating there was no illegality in entering into an agreement with the LTTE or its representative.

The Supreme Court also did not invalidate the ceasefire agreement which forms part of the P-TOMS agreement.

The Supreme court however stayed the provisions relating to the regional fund and locating the regional committee headquarters in Kilinochchi.

The LTTE it is learnt, has convened the meeting of the TNA MPs to announce some decisive steps with regard to the P-TOMS agreement and the ceasefire agreement following the Supreme Court order.

The Sunday Leader learns, the LTTE is not averse to shifting the headquarters of the regional committee from Kilinochchi to a LTTE controlled area in Trincomallee.


SLMM upset over SC order on P-TOMS

By Easwaran Rutnam

The Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) has expressed regret over the stay order issued by the Supreme Court on some provisions of the P-TOMS agreement.

SLMM Spokeswoman, Helen Olattsdoftir told The Sunday Leader that at the time the agreement was signed, the monitors welcomed it as it would boost confidence between the parties.

"Now that the Supreme Court has issued a stay order against the P-TOMS, it will have a negative impact on the confidence between the parties," Olattsdoftir said.

Meanwhile, Tamil National Alliance (TNA) MP, Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam also expressed his regret on the Supreme Court judgment saying, "It will erase any chance of taking the peace process forward."

"The P-TOMS was a pure administrative structure and would have gone a long way to strengthen the cooperation between the government and the LTTE," Ponnambalam said.

The TNA MP further said incidents in the east have already destabilised the ceasefire agreement and the Supreme Court decision would only add fuel to the fire.

However, the Secretariat for Co-ordinating the Peace Process (SCOPP) believes the Supreme Court decision will not have a direct impact on the peace process. Communications Director, SCOPP, Sharmini Serasingha told The Sunday Leader the stay order does not affect the P-TOMS as a whole but only part of it so it is still very much in the frame.

"The stay order is only against Clause 6B (11), 6B (1V), 6F, 6(I) and 7 so it can be implemented partially. The government will file its objections to the stay order by July 29," Serasinghe said.

Director (Economic Affairs), SCOPP, Senaka Abeyratne explained that Clause 7 covers the Regional Fund and the government in its objections will try to prove that it falls in line with Article 149 of the Constitution, which was the basis for the petition filed by the JVP.

"If we are successful in proving that, then we are through. For now, because of the stay order, funds will not be diverted to the north and east," Abeyratne said.


Govt. loses JBIC funding for CEB restructure

By Mandana Ismail Abeywickrema

The government will not receive the US$ 30 million allocated for the country's power sector by the Japanese Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) due to the delays in implementing the restructuring programme.

The fund pegged to restructuring the power sector, which expired on June 30 was not extended following the government's request for an extension. Representative, JBIC, J. Sahara told The Sunday Leader even if the government meets the requirements of JBIC in restructuring the power sector, its fund amounting to US$ 30 million would not be granted forthwith.

Sahara explained that since the fund was not extended, the bank would have to commence deliberations once the government finalises its restructuring programme, before arriving at a decision on disbursing the fund. "No extension was granted and even if the government meets the bank's requirement, we will have to decide at that time," he said.

However, Sahara refrained from commenting on the report submitted by the power sector reforms committee on Wednesday (13), as the bank is yet to see a copy of the draft.

Even the tranche of US$ 30 million from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) for power sector reforms is still in limbo. The deadline for the fund disbursement also expired on June 30 and although the government requested for an extension, the ADB has not officially extended the time limit.

Reforms that have been on the cards propose to unbundle the  Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) into independent units of generation, distribution and transmission.

According to Power and Energy Minister Susil Premajayanth, he has not been officially informed by JBIC of the non-extension of the loan.

"We have made a request asking for an extension and they have not got back to us," he said. However, Premajayanth said that once the draft report has been finalised with the consent of the trade unions, he would present it to cabinet and also forward it to  the ADB and JBIC through the Treasury.

With an overall debt of Rs. 89 billion and a short-term debt of Rs. 36 billion, if the government manages to secure the funds from the ADB and the JBIC it could secure up to Rs. 6 billion to pull the CEB out of its present cash crisis.


Wijedasa moots constitutional reforms

A government member of parliament has submitted a private member's bill in which he proposes that the president of the state should not be elected by popular vote as done today but be nominated for the post by parliament.

The draft bill, referred to as the 20th Amendment to the 1978 Constitution was submitted by UPFA Parliamentarian Wijedasa Rajapakse and seeks to repeal the constitutional provision relating to the election of the executive president by the people and to enhance the number of legislators from 225 to 241.

It is further proposed that 168 out of the total number of 241 members be elected on the first past the post basis and the remaining 73, according to proportional representation.

Clause 62(1)(a) of the draft referring to the composition of parliament proposes  increasing the seats to 241. Clause 62 (1) (b) proposes that 168 to be directly elected in the manner provided in Article 97 of the Constitution and 73 members to be elected from several electoral districts according to Articles 98 and 99 of the Constitution.

Clause 04 of the draft bill seeks to amend Article 31 of the Constitution by the repeal of that Article to provide for the election of a president by parliament.

Under that, it is proposed that the constitution should be amended to elect a member of parliament to the office of president and that any member may nominate a member of parliament to be elected to the office of president in the event that there would be two or more candidates, the House to elect one of them.


Govt. disappointed over Sethusamudram

By Jamila Najmuddin

The Sri Lankan government has expressed its regret on India's failure to address concerns on the Sethusamudram project.

Government officials told The Sunday Leader last week that despite the recent visit of Indian Foreign Minister, Natwar Singh to the island where a decision was taken to conduct expert level meetings on the impact of the project, the Indian government has however, to date remained silent.

Acting Deputy Director, Public Communication, Foreign Affairs Ministry, Himali Arunatillake said that a decision was taken to conduct the meetings in July, proposing dates of July 11 and 12.

However, the Indian government had failed to respond. "The dates had been fixed in the presence of the Indian Foreign Minister but it is sad to note that they have not responded," Arunatilleke said.

She added the meeting was to be held between scientists from both  countries where several issues including the environmental impact which had not been satisfactorily discussed, could be addressed. She said India would also have to respond soon as the project had been discussed at state level.

However, despite Sri Lanka's persistence to conduct meetings with India, the Indian government said last week Sri Lanka's concern about the environmental problems arising out of the Sethusamudram channel project are unfounded. Top Indian Shipping Ministry officials said that the project had been approved after going through all the pros and cons related to the environmental issues and long-term repercussions.

Foreign Minister, Lakshman Kadirgamar told  parliament last week that despite several discussions between both the countries, no uniform position has emerged todate.

He made his comments noting that discussions were still open despite India claiming that the Setusamudram project is one of the most ambitious projects to be ever conceived in the Indian port sector.


LTTE firm on t'port issue

The government and the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) are to hold discussions this week on the tense situation that has arisen following the LTTE refusing to accept the proposal of the government on the land transport issue.

SLMM Spokesperson Helen Olatsdofftir told The Sunday Leader that a letter sent by the Political Head of the LTTE, S. P. Tamilselvan to the SLMM regarding the transport issue was handed over to the government Peace Secretariat last week.

"The government has asked for time to study the contents of the letter before it decides on a response," Olatsdofftir said.  The LTTE, which had demanded extra security for its cadres who travel by land, had said it couldn't accept the conditions set by the Secretariat for Co-ordinating the Peace Process (SCOPP).

Olatsdofftir said, while the SLMM hopes an amicable solution could be found there was no chance of an escalation of violence as predicted by certain reports especially in light of the LTTE shutting down some of its offices in the east.


 Trinco religious leaders tell service chiefs

Negotiate with the LTTE

Chief of Defence Staff and Navy Commander Daya Sandagiri and  Army Commander Lt. General Shantha Kottegoda  were told by religious leaders in Trincomalee to negotiate with the LTTE to bring the situation  in the area under control.

The two service chiefs were told to negotiate with the LTTE at the meeting they convened with the religious leaders in the Trincomalee  District  at the naval dockyard on Friday. Speaking to the religious leaders of all denominations, the service  chiefs solicited their  advice on hoaw to bring the situation in Trincomalee under control. It is following this request the religious leaders in unison told the service chiefs the only way to resolve the issue, was by negotiating with the LTTE.


60 per cent of youth are drug addicts

Over half the youth in lower income groups are drug abusers, latest findings by the Sri Lanka Anti Narcotics Bureau (SLANA) indicate.

Sixty five percent  of those aged between 15-35 in the lower income groups are involved in substance abuse said R.K.P Rajapakse, programme coordinator for SLANA. "The main reasons for this, according to recent studies, is unemployment, low level of education, poverty and high population density; particularly in the Western Province," Rajapakse said.  He added that going by personal experience, a common feature in all young drug abusers was a lack of vision or hope for the future.  Drug lords and dealer networks operating in slum areas in and around Colombo and even in certain rural areas thrive, as each heroin addict consumes up to 15grams of drugs a day.  A one gram packet of heroin costs between Rs.100 and Rs.125.

"A key source of income for drug abusers is cement laying at construction sites" sources involved in the recent research said.  Contractors come to slum areas and collect truckloads of young men, mostly addicts.  They are then taken to the site and each given a packet of heroin. This keeps them attentive and focused throughout the day providing cheap, labour.

According to the National Dangerous Drugs Board heroin, is mainly smuggled via South India to the western coast of Sri Lanka using fishing boats.  In 2004, 78 kilograms of heroin were seized and 11,846 arrested on heroin related charges.

However offenders often escape the notice of authorities as prior warning systems are well established throughout dealer zones. "Whenever a trishaw with three or more people passes, spies who keep watch at every possible entrance to the area, know it's the police. In addition there are informants at each station," sources told The Sunday Leader.

Dealers meet customers at an appointed time - usually early morning around 5 a.m. and 5 p.m. in the evening everyday. "Around 200 people gather around each dealer to get their daily share. It sounds like picketing," sources said.


Timber Corp. trainees demand increased wages, permanency

By Kumudu Amarasingham

Over 300 trainee employees of the State Timber Corporation took part in a picketing and fast, demanding increased wages and permanent letters of appointment, in Battaramulla last Friday.

Commenting on the issue Environment Minister A.H.M.Fowzie said the trainees were political appointments made by the previous government. "There are no vacancies for them as such. They have filed a case against us, and in March we promised to increase their pay to Rs.4000 if they withdrew the suit." Fowzie said.

The protestors however refuse to withdraw the suit claiming they have been treated extremely unfairly by both the previous and present regimes.  Dasun Naminda, a forest assistant, said they were hired in June 2000 as trainees on a salary of Rs.2500. The letters of appointment stated that salaries would be increased to Rs.4000 after the three-month training period was over.  "This was not done and instead, in September 2001 we were made casual employees on a monthly salary of Rs.4000, with the promise of an yearly increment from January 2002." Dasun said.

However a month later the letters were taken back on grounds of irregularity, and the employees were reverted to the original salary of Rs.2500.  From October 2001 to date, the employees have remained as trainees on a salary of Rs.2500.  In December 2004 Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse intervened, and following talks with Commerce and Consumer Affairs Minister Jeyaraj Fernandopulle and Minister Fowzie the employees were promised casual appointments.


Cabinet approves JVP proposals

By Mandana Ismail Abeywickrema

One month after resigning from their portfolios, cabinet proposals forwarded by two former Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) Ministers were approved last week.

A cabinet proposal forwarded by former Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Minister Chandrasena Wijesinghe to receive fund approval for the establishment of temporary boatyards, specifically in the tsunami affected areas was granted by the cabinet when it met last Wednesday.

Another such proposal to receive the green light was the one forwarded by former Small and Rural Industries Minister K. D. Lalkantha to give all non ferrous metals discarded from government institutions to small scale and rural entrepreneurs as a raw material for their products.

According to Health Minister and Government spokesman Nimal Siripala de Silva, although the JVP has left the government, they would continue with the progressive proposals and projects that have been initiated by the JVP.


Fowzie criticises JBM decorations

By Risidra Mendis

Environment Minister A. H. M. Fowzie and environmentalists have come down hard on UNP MPs who participated in the Jana Bala Meheyuma (JBM) for polluting the environment.

Environmentalists have also accused the UNP of  not removing polythene used to decorate the roads since the completion of the JBM.

Speaking to The Sunday Leader Environment Minister  Fowzie said this is not the first time the UNP has caused environmental pollution. "While travelling towards Panadura I saw Karu Jayasuriya burning garbage, polythene and tyres left over from the tsunami in Moratuwa. The UNP doesn't care about anything else except themselves. They will destroy the environment and the economy to get what they want," Fowzie said.

But despite the heavy use of polythene for decorations and other uses, the Environment Ministry is yet to implement a total ban on polythene.  "The cabinet paper for the total ban on polythene has being passed. However due to a delay in the Attorney General's (AG) department the ban on polythene is yet to be implemented" says Fowzie. But despite the delay at the AG's Department, Fowzie has ensured all environmentalists and nature lovers that a ban on the use of polythene will be implemented within the next few months. If the ban comes into effect not only the UNP but politicians from Fowzie's own UPFA and other parties would have to seek alternate ways to  get the attention of the public.

"Once the ban is implemented the police will have the authority of taking down all polythene decorations as they come up in the country" Fowzie said.

Meanwhile naturalist Kamal Edirisinghe said if the UNP decorates the streets with polythene they should take the responsibility to remove them. "From the time the JBM started the streets were littered with polythene, lunch paper packets and empty plastic water bottles. How can these politicians think of developing the country if they start their protest by polluting the environment? We will not vote for politicians who pollute the environment" Edirisinghe said.     

Former UNP Environment Minister Rukman Senanayake said a decision was taken by the party to remove the polythene decorations once the JBM was over.  Tissa Attanayake who was involved in decorating the streets at present is overseas. However an official who answered Attanayake's mobile phone said it was the responsibility of the Municipal Councils to remove the polythene decorations.

Responding to the official's statement Colombo Deputy Mayor Azath Sally said a decision was taken by the Colombo Municipal Council (CMC) to ban the use of polythene in the city. "I have sent a motion to all political parties to refrain from using polythene for their functions as I took office. Only the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) uses cloth for their political functions. At present there is no law to ban the use of polythene in the city. But as far as the CMC is concerned polythene is banned."


One out of 10 children sexually abused

By Arthur Wamannan

One out of every 10 children interviewed by UNICEF said that they were subjected to sexual abuse. According to the National Survey on Emerging Issues Among Adolescents In Sri Lanka, most of the children who were victims in early adolescence were boys (14%) while the statistics were the same with both genders in mid or late adolescence (10%).

According to the report, most of the adolescents were aware of sexually transmitted deceases, where 55.1% were males and 58.6% were females. The research was also done on the basis of ethnicity and it was found that awareness was fairly low within the Tamils (50.9%) when compared to Sinhalese (58.3%). The most commonly known decease was HIV/AIDS. However the knowledge regarding other sexual related deceases such as gonorrhea and syphilis was slightly lower.

The report also stated that more than one fifth (around 21%-24%), of the adolescents knew how to adopt preventive measures against STDs. However, the knowledge of the symptoms pertaining to the STDs was on the lower side (less than 20%).

According to Assistant Resident Representative, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Louise Chamberlain,  Sri Lanka has to respond to many risk factors in the country to meet with the UN's global target, to halt and reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS by 2015.  Recent reports have indentified several risk groups in Sri Lanka where the threat of HIV spread was high. These include migrant workers, internally displaced populations including tsunami refugees, the armed forces and sexually active youth.

According to the Millennium Development Goals Report (MDGR), 190 out of 649 HIV patients have died as of  March this year. It also stated that, women employed in the Free Trade Zones, military personnel who are away from their families and workers in the plantation and fishing sectors are vulnerable to these diseases. It also indicated that the effects of the tsunami such as lack of privacy especially in camps and destruction of the community structures also make way for the transmission of infections such as HIV.


Annual loss of Rs. 80 mn to feed MPs

By Dilrukshi Handunnetti

The annual loss incurred by the Parliament Catering Department is a colossal Rs. 80 million with only about 3% of what is spent being recovered.

According to a Value For Money (VFM) study conducted by a special training unit and the parliament audit branch for the years 2003 and 2004, the present appropriation accounting system does not reflect the correct picture with certain expenditure relating to previous years being settled in subsequent years in stark violation of procedures.

The VFM study has also faulted the legislature for its failure to maintain corporate finance information including cost data.

While the food expenses incurred in July 2004 amounted to Rs. 6,817,473, the income has been Rs. 208,883 - a mere 3% of the total expenses incurred.

According to the breakdown given, Rs 4,448,249 was spent on staff dining though only Rs. 50,990 was recovered. The money spent on the MPs' dining alone was Rs. 254,288 while the income was a mere Rs. 10,974.

Through the provision of meals to the legislators' visitors at the guest dinning area, Rs. 46,925 was earned while the expenditure amounted to a massive Rs. 1,570,414.  Similarly, executive dining that month had cost Rs. 652,307 while the income has been Rs. 14,424.  Parliament room service too has incurred Rs. 68,528 as expenses while only Rs. 37,713 was recovered. The public cafeteria has cost the parliamentary coffers Rs. 1,028,174 while only Rs. 47,857 was recovered.

The monthly income as per the report is Rs. 208,883 while the expenditure stood at Rs. 6,608,590.

The report alleges that both Housekeeping and Catering Departments carry out other activities without proper management and monitoring control, particularly the catering.

Further, the study faults the Catering for weak meal pricing policy, poor accounting framework and management decisions. In addition, it claims that as catering expenses are accounted for on a cash basis, the actual results were never disclosed to the government accounting system.

Among the other observations were the massive wastage of food particularly by the MPs' dining, and the failure to increase the executive meals priced at Rs. 5 to Rs 15, though recommended by the house Committee in 1983.

Accordingly, the catering Department prepares over 240,000 meals each year at a total cost of around Rs. 85.85 million or about Rs. 358 per meal.

The report also compares figures of three years to arrive at the general estimates.

In 2002, Parliament has served 5,200 breakfasts, 287,500 lunches  and the total cost of the meals served had been Rs.52,000.

The average cost of breakfast and lunch has been estimated to be  Rs. 60 and Rs. 80 respectively.

In 2003, 6,000 breakfasts and 290,000 lunches have been served. The total cost of meals served was Rs. 58,500 while the average prices of breakfast and lunch had increased to Rs. 80 and  Rs. 200, respectively.

Some 6,500 breakfasts and 295,000 lunches have been served in the year 2004. The total cost of meals has been calculated to be Rs. 67,000 with the average cost of breakfast and lunch being Rs. 100 and Rs. 225 respectively.

The parliament catering provides meals and refreshments to the members of parliament, 1,100 staff members members and ancillary institutions at nominal rates.

Dining at a glance

Cafeteria

Allocated staff

Meals served-July '04 

Executive dining 07 1,958
MPs' guest dining 13  599
MPs' dining  15 779
Room service 15 312
Staff cafeteria  08 13,213
Public cafeteria 08 3,160
Total 66  20,021

Govt. nominee to P-TOMS waiting for others

By Mandana Ismail Abeywickrema

The appointment of Constitutional Affairs Minister D. E. W. Gunasekera as the government nominee to the P-TOMS committee would not have any impact as the LTTE and the Muslims are yet to appoint their nominees.

Speaking to The Sunday Leader, Gunasekera observed that the committee could not meet and decide on the future action plan until all three members of the committee meet together.

"I can't decide on any future plan. We have to wait and see till the LTTE and the Muslims appoint their representatives," he said, adding, "till all three members meet nothing can be done," Gunasekera said.

Gunasekera also said that he has no idea as to how long it would take for the LTTE and the Muslim parties to appoint their representatives.

"The government has given the green light and now it is up to the others," he said.

The Muslims however, are yet to reach a consensus with regard to appointing a nominee to the committee.

Leader, Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC), Rauf Hakeem earlier in the week told The Sunday Leader that his party would continue with its non-co-operative stance with regard to the P-TOMS committee.

He charged that the government and the Norwegian facilitators have undermined the rights of the Muslim people in signing the P-TOMS agreement.

However, on Thursday (14), Health Minister and Government Spokesman Nimal Siripala de Silva said that the Muslim parties would nominate their representatives, adding that the SLMC is not the 'sole representative of the Muslim people.'


Leader  editor assault case accused found guilty

The two accused charged for the assault on  The Sunday Leader Editor, Lasantha Wickrematunge and then Editorial Consultant, Raine Wickrematunge of Kandewatte Terrace,  Nugegoda, were found guilty of two charges  by  Magistrate Padmini Gunathilake on July 14.

The sentencing of the two accused, Thilak Premalal Perera and Jagath Kumara Hewapathirana was postponed till July 28.

Evidence at the trial showed that the accused had worked with President chandrika Kumaratunga when she was chief minister of the western province.

Attorney Nalin Ladduwahetty assisted by the CID appeared for the complainants.


Ceremony to mark 15 years of priesthood

The parish priest of St. Anthony's Church and the Church of Our Lady of Sorrows, Nainamadama, Fr. Morris Anderson will be completing 15 years as an ordained priest on July 21.

In celebration of this event Their Lordships Frank Marcus and  Valance Mendis, Bishops of Chilaw, will attend a ceremony on July 21 at the Church of Our Lady of Sorrows, Nainamadama, at 5.30 pm. on that day, followed by Holy Mass.

 Eleven priests who were ordained with Fr. Anderson will also attend this Mass on July 21.


After the crushing, who  cleans up?

By Easwaran Rutnam

While the government carried out the destruction of a large haul of illegal arms at Independence Square a fortnight ago using heavy road rollers,it has  failed to clean up the mess which has created a different kind of 'danger.'

The once clean surroundings of Independence Square were seen last week littered with shrapnel caused by the flattening of the weapons much to the irritation of daily joggers, motorists and cyclists in the area.

Nails, metal pieces, broken wood from destroyed guns were also seen scattered over the road leading to the Independence Square as well as the lawn.

"The nails and metal pieces from the weapons stick to our shoes and invite danger as it could easily slip through and cause injuries," one jogger said.

Drivers who use the road - where the weapons were crushed - which leads to the country's premier state television station, also expressed concern that there was a possibility of vehicle tyres getting punctured.

So who was responsible to clean up the road and the surrounding greenery? Not us says the Colombo Municipal Council (CMC).Deputy Colombo Mayor, Azath Salley speaking to The Sunday Leader said it was not fair to put the blame on the CMC as the area falls outside their jurisdiction.

"The road which leads to the state television station where the weapons were crushed is under the Cultural Ministry. It is their responsibility to keep the area clean," Salley said.

The Deputy Mayor also said that before the weapons were destroyed, the Cultural Ministry had requested the CMC to trim the grass surrounding the Independence Square.

"We carried out that duty as requested. We were not asked to clean the area after the weapons were destroyed. We would have carried out if a request was made," Salley said.The shrapnel was however cleared by the CMC three days after the event - enough time for someone to get an injury. Many were seen picking up shrapnel as souvenirs.

However, Azath Salley's position was that the CMC decided to clean the shrapnel merely to assist the Cultural Ministry and it was not a task expected to be performed by them.

Cultural Ministry officials were not available for comments.


Government likely  to relent on buffer

By Dilrukshi Handunnetti

Seven months after the tsunami, the 'strict' 100 metre  buffer zone may not happen with the  government inching towards relaxing the controversial rule.

The experts' report, prepared on coastal resource management, rebuilding and safeguards, is to be handed over to President Chandrika Kumaratunga next week.

Informed sources said that the key recommendation contained in the report is that a strict buffer is unviable and a buffer should reflect the coastal defences found in each specific area.

"What we recommend is that a uniform approach should not be followed as the extent of damage differed according to the natural defences. Certain areas were completely untouched by the ravaging waves due to sand dunes, sand pits, mangroves and coral reef bases. Therefore, certain areas are well shielded by the natural barriers peculiar to those areas.

"What we recommend is the reinforcement of regulations and protective mechanisms to ensure all areas are equally covered," says Director General, Coast Conservation Department, (CCD) Dr. R. A .D. M. Samaranayake.

The experts apparently feel that what is required is not the declaration of buffers but maintenance of buffers. Also, they feel that the extent of buffer zones should depend on the devastation suffered which indicates the vulnerabilities.

In the meantime, the government is seeking to clear certain areas in the southern and eastern coastal areas to exclusively use for promotion of tourism. That would mean clearing more than 100 metres in selected areas with great potential for the hospitality industry and tourist activities. The identified areas include Pottuvil and Arugam Bay in the east and Bentota and Hikkaduwa in the south.


Indian school a model for Asian region

By Mandana Ismail Abeywickrema in Hyderabad

Poverty in the South Asian region has proved to be a festering cancer and the root cause for many problems.

Although governments in many countries have tried to address the issue, a sustainable response to the gamut of issues, especially in the education sector has not been forthcoming.

However, in Hyderabad, India, the Institute of Chartered Financial Analysts of India (ICFAI) as part of its social responsibility programme established the ICFAI Republic School. The school was set up at Fateh Nagar, Hyderabad last year with classes from kindergarten to Class 5 with 450 students.

The Republic School is a co-education school open to children, particularly from underprivileged sections. With a vision of reaching children from low economic backgrounds and providing them with knowledge, skills and facilities to enable them to compete in the mainstream, ICFAI Republic School plays a key role in helping children transform into responsible adults and support themselves and their families while nurturing human values in them.

All classes in the school are conducted in English and offers a quality, modern education and equal opportunities for all children. According to Director, Alpha Project (a part of ICFAI), Koshy Verghese, this year the school has increased classes up to the eighth grade and houses 780 students.

Verghese observed that apart from free education, the school also offers free books, a glass of milk in the morning with Bournvita or Horlicks, a nutritious afternoon meal and uniforms at subsidised rates. Although uniforms are provided at subsidised rates, if parents are unable to meet the payment, it is given free.

To avoid making any wrong admissions to the school, a market research agency is hired to check details of the applicants, as they have to adopt a bottom up approach. According to Co-ordinator, ICFAI Republic School, Mala Sundareshan, the school spends approximately 1,000 Indian rupees per month on each student. The annual cost incurred by the school is 10 million Indian rupees.

Sundareshan said the school provides students with an uninterrupted supply of filtered water for drinking purposes and the kitchen where the meals are prepared is located next to the school as using gas in a place closer to students could be dangerous. "We pay special attention to hygiene and the students too are taught of personal hygiene," she said. Other facilities provided by the school include a computer lab with 20 computers, an English lab, library, creative lab for music, dancing and painting and an in-house counsellor to provide solutions to students' problems.

ICFAI Republic School has proved to be a model for others in the region to follow - where a large scale private education institute has given due consideration to its social responsibilities as well.


16% of tsunami affected children malnourished

By Jamila Najmuddin

Seven-year-old Kumara celebrated his birthday on July 8.

While it was an event much looked forward to for this innocent child as his father had promised him a bicycle last year, Kumara was however not awake to celebrate his birthday this year.

Instead of being clad in his favourite pair of shorts and t-shirt awaiting his gift, Kumara spent the day sleeping on a dirty mat in a tent as he was suffering from high fever.

Kumara looked pale even while he lay asleep. His mother tells us he has not had a decent meal in months and was now suffering from malnutrition just like several other tsunami affected children in the south. "We have no income as I lost my husband to the devastating waves. The government gave us a Rs. 375 ration card in the first few weeks after the tsunami and later Rs. 5,000 which continued only for two months.

"However, we have not received a cent after that and now live each day in starvation as we have no money," cries Kumara's mother, P.  Lilian . With tears pouring down  her eyes in fear of losing her only child, Lilian looks at us silently - in the hope that someday her son would lead a normal and healthy life once again. "If I don't feed my child soon, he is going to die," she wails adding that she would continue to fight till they receive what they deserve.

Like Lilian and her son, the battle for survival and justice continues amongst thousands of tsunami victims - a generation who faced the worst natural tragedy in Sri Lankan history.

While thousands continue to live in tents and temporary wooden houses in all parts of the island, the government's lethargy in providing aid has destroyed hope for many and has now  led to starvation and malnutrition amongst the tsunami children.

Neglected by the authorities concerned, an alarming 16% of tsunami children have now been identified as suffering from high levels of malnutrition by UN agencies.

"A lot of victims have no income and therefore are restricted to having only one meal per day. Therefore the threat of malnutrition is rising," an official from the World Food Programme told The Sunday Leader.

As these victims now  live each day in fear of losing their children due to starvation, they claim the government should act fast before it is too late. "If we lose our children, the government will be responsible for it. They will have to pay heavily then," Lilian adds.


Colombo's twilight zone

By Shehan Moses

The time is around 5.30 p.m. and the traffic along Galle Road,  Colpetty is at its peak with many people returning home after a hard day's work.

Close to Colpetty town, adjoining a leading hotel lies this road renowned for massage parlours and other forms of sexual gratification.

Down Sellamuttu Avenue, there are several establishments of ill repute operating with name boards that proclaim  'massage parlours.' A famous place among them is a recently raided Chinese karaoke club which offers massages and much more.

When a customer walks in, he would be greeted by the Chinese women who would list out the services available. Accordingly, for a basic massage it costs Rs. 2,000 and the price goes up to Rs, 4,000 for sex.

The receptionist directly asks potential customers what service he wishes for and quotes the price before escorting him to the lounge occupied by several Chinese women ready for the pick.

In addition to the brothels operating down Sellamuttu Avenue, there are sex brokers who roam the lane in search of potential customers.

These brokers would sit in three wheelers by the side of the lane and patiently look towards Galle Road in search of customers who walk down the avenue seeking a 'massage.'

When someone walks down the lane, these men would approach the person and directly ask whether he is looking for a "good massage."  As the conversation develops between the customer and the broker, the latter would offer a variety of choices for massage and sex around Colpetty at varying prices.

Accordingly, local girls would cost Rs. 600 for 45 minutes whilst Chinese girls would cost Rs.1,500-2,000.

These brokers who have contacts with various massage and sex parlours  would immediately drive the potential customer or instruct the customer to follow him closely, where he would guide the customer to a parlour of the customer's choice.

The majority of local girls are below 30 years of age and saree-clad with sleeveless blouses exposing their bodies and are seated next to each other in a room, seductively smiling at customers.

In case the customer selects a girl, the broker would receive Rs. 100 from the 'madam' who is in charge of the massage center.



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