5th March 2000

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Wealthy couple's sick baby found in thicket

A wealthy couple have been arrested on charges of dumping their new born baby girl in a Kirullapone thicket because the child had a congenital heart problem and down syndrome, police said.

Kirullapone Police Inspector Gunapala Wickremarachchi said the the infant born at the Sri Jayawardenapura Hospital was found by them, after receiving a call from the father.

He said the child was allegedly disposed of by the parents who lived at Bambalapitiya, as they felt that the infant would be a useless and expensive responsibility in the future.

"I received a call and I sent two constables immediately and the baby was found crying under an umbrella, since the weather was wet on that day. I got another call and I think it is the baby's mother who wanted to find out if we had found her," the inspector said.

The baby was later handed over to the Kalubowila Hospital where she was looked after by the staff.

The suspect parents were tracked down after a visiting paediatrician identified the infant as being born at the Sri Jayawardenapura Hospital several weeks earlier, the Inspector said.

Police are also investigating reports that another baby born to the couple on an earlier occasion had perished under mysterious circumstances.

The couple were produced before a city magistrate who allowed them cash bail of Rs. 300,000.

The hospital authorities at Kalubowila were told to hand over the helpless infant to the Prajapathi Children's Home in Panadura, after the couple refused to accept their child.

What SB said

The Sunday Times publishes below the translation of the relevant section of Minister S.B. Dissanayake's controversial speech to the Sri Lanka Institute of Architects last Saturday:

"... the country is spending large sums of money on the war. We in the government believe, that a small country like ours can't go on with this problem. We now see the need for a clear political solution to this, a genuine political solution.

"Otherwise neighbouring India and the world will not allow us to solve this problem by military means alone.

"In some 73 countries there were conflicts over ethnicity, language, 52 of the countries have resolved their problem about sixteen countries have been divided while in the rest of the countries the problems continue.

"In 52 of the countries where the problems were resolved, it has been solved through the devolution of power. Therefore genuinely we tried to devolve power, by bringing in a new constitution and solving the problem. But we did not have the constitutional and legal powers in parliament to do so. During this elections we called the people to vote for us as we want to devolve powers and resolve the conflict.

"We clearly said in the manifesto that even if we did not have the two-thirds majority we will implement the reforms, and to give us a mandate for this. We believe that the people have given this mandate. We now feel that we could obtain this two-thirds majority.

"The PA has agreed on the constitutional reforms. At the moment we are discussing with the Muslim and Tamil parties supporting us. About 99 percent of the differences have been resolved. Currently we are preparing to discuss with the UNP as the main opposition. Ranil Wickremesinghe has requested for a date. We hope to finalise this by April. By May we hope to present the new constitution in parliament, get it approved and finalise it.

"If we cannot obtain the required two-thirds majority for the constitutional reforms, we will close down parliament for a short period and convene it as a constituent assembly and if required close down the courts and implement the reforms.

"There can be legal arguments as to whether it is right or wrong. Whatever arguments there are, we will implement it in the country. If any judges are in disagreement with this they can go home.

"Thereafter it will be difficult for the LTTE to fool the Tamil community. India in particular. India is crucial in this issue. India will definitely stand by Sri Lanka on this issue, if the LTTE does not agree."

Video evidence to protect child abuse victims

By Faraza Farook

To save an abused child being repeatedly cross-examined, interrogated or bullied during a case, video evidence is to be introduced in such cases, an official said.

National Child Protection Authority chairman Harendra de Silva said practical aspects and implementation methods were discussed with three British experts who are in Sri Lanka to assist the NCPA on a British government programme to help Sri Lanka to tackle child abuse.

Now that video evidence had been introduced and all the equipment available to record the evidence, the interviews of victims would be conducted by the Police Women and Children's Bureau which is in the same building as the NCPA, Prof. de Silva said.

Meanwhile the Justice Ministry has undertaken to set up television and video cameras in courts.

The three delegates from Britain are Superintendent David Richards of the Metropolitan Police, paediatrician Chris Hobbs and psychologist Helga Hanks. They arrived last Sunday for a week-long visit ton help local officials in tackling child abuse cases.

Superintendent Richards is in Sri Lanka for the fourth time for the training of local officials whereas the other two experts have come to Sri Lanka once before.

A US volunteer and a volunteer from the UK based VSO (Voluntary Service Organisation) also will be in Sri Lanka to continue the process of teaching local child care authorities on the use of video evidence, Prof. de Silva said.

UNP keen on talks

By Shelani de Silva

The main opposition UNP will not present substantial proposals at Thursday's talks with the President on constitutional reforms but it may suggest changes in subsequent meetings after the party studies the draft including amendments, party chairman Karu Jayasuriya said.

He said the party's legal experts were studying the draft constitution ahead of Thursday's first round of talks for which party leader Ranil Wickremesinghe and three others had been invited.

"The UNP is keen to attend the meetings. We will discuss proposals presented by both major parties. We will not present new proposals at the first meeting but once we finish studying the government proposals, we may suggest changes," Mr. Jayasuriya said.

After the earlier meeting was called off the UNP insisted that setting a date for the next meeting would need to be done by mutual consent, giving time for both parties to study the proposals.

Meanwhile the UNP and the SLMC are to hold discussions with other political parties on constitutional reforms.

SLMC leaders who met the JVP recently are seeking a meeting with the MEP.

MEP Leader Dinesh Gunawardene told The Sunday Times they were not aware of all the government proposals but the party stood by its call for the supremacy of Parliament and the abolition of the executive Presidency.

Rebels await charge sheet

By Roshan Peiris

UNP dissident group leader Sarath Amunugama denied that they had been served with a charge sheet as reported in some sections of the media.

Dr. Amunugama told The Sunday Times they had acted well within the confines of party constitution though it was not the same constitution the founders had framed. He called on the party membership to amend the constitution.

"With several changes, the party constitution has become an undemocratic document. It is undemocratic because the party leader has been given the sole right to appoint the working committee, a power which not even Hitler had," he said.

"Under this constitution the party leader can appoint 60 nincompoops. We are suggesting an alternative model based on the constitution of the British Labour Party and the Conservative Party which allow the membership to elect by ballot its working committee. Is Ranil Wickremesinghe fearing the UNP members and if so why? I ask," he said.

Another dissident Wijeyapala Mendis also said he had not received any charge sheet.

"These are incorrect reports. Why and what for should I or any five of us receive charge sheets? We are only asking Ranil to step down. I have already said so. Otherwise our party will perish."

Asked why Mr. Mendis was against Mr. Wickremesinghe's leadership, Mr. Mendis said: "he has repeatedly lost elections, eleven in all. He is not according to any norms of political behaviour fit to lead a democratic political party.

"So we want him to step down. Doing so we are not violating the party's constitution. We are only asking him to give up in the interest of the people and the country," he said.

Nanda Mathew said: "I have received no charge sheet but instead three letters in reply for asking to give a conscience vote, in voting for the budget.

Mr. Mathew said the Commissioner of Elections had not given any ruling on the CWC case. He was referring to Arumugam Thondaman who came to parliament on the UNP ticket but joined the government as a cabinet minister.

Chula Bandara also claimed that though he had heard of charge sheets none has been received.

"I do not see why I should get a charge sheet. what is my misdemeanour, if any", he asked.

The UNP has invited him, he said, to join in the working committee and parliamentary Group deliberations.

Bandara said "I don't care a rap about the MOU, which is something that took place between the late S. Thondaman and President D.B Wijetunga. It is, therefore, not binding on the party as such".

Susil Moonesinghe being out of the country was not available for comment.

PoW relatives plan March to north, warn of fast

Relatives of missing servicemen will peacefully march to the north if the government fails to take effective steps and start talks to release the prisoners, a spokesman said.

E. P. Nanayakkara, who heads the 5000-strong association comprising relatives of missing servicemen, said the government's failure to send a negotiator had obviously delayed the release of 11 of the 15 prisoners being held at Puthukudiyiruppu.

He said members of the association would peacefully march to Vavuniya, then to Mallavi and if they were not allowed to proceed further into the LTTE-controlled territory, they would stop and stage a hunger strike there.

Mr. Nanayakkara said the LTTE had also been informed of the proposed march.

Meanwhile, family members of the 11 prisoners still being held at Puthukudiyiruppu, called on the government to act effectively and urgently. The family members who visited the prisoners and spent a few days with them last week said the prisoners would resume their fast if effective action was not taken within a fortnight.

On Thursday a letter signed by Captain Ajith Boyagoda, who acts as a spokesman for the prisoners, was sent to President Kumaratunga.

His wife Chandani Boyagoda told The Sunday Times she was taking the initiative in appealing to the President because the other family members lived in rural areas and were somewhat helpless.

Free trade blow to some firms

By Chamintha Thilakarathna

Small and medium scale companies may be forced to close down in the face of stiff competition from Indian and other foreign investors coming here under the Indo-Lanka free trade agreement, business leaders have warned.

Business leader Lalith Kotelawala said when considering long term effects, local agents of Indian companies might lose their businesses if those companies decide to come here and do business themselves under the tariff reductions granted by the agreement.

"Joint ventures would be the best way to avoid such a situation because many small and medium scale companies may find it difficult to compete with the Indians," he said.

The threat as many saw it was not only to local manufacturers but also to big time exporters who may have to take immediate measures to compete with some of the world's largest companies.

National Chamber of Exporters chief Patrick Amarasinghe said the comparative macro disadvantages were that interest and productivity rates were lower in Sri Lanka.

A trade official said foreign entrepreneurs might take over large sections of local exports as well as the Indian market as a result of this agreement. Some local agents and businessmen are concerned over the possible loss of employment as a result of mergers with Indian companies.

At the same time, doubts have arisen over the possibility of Sri Lankans breaking into the Indian market which is highly competitive, although the government expresses some hope in this regard.

Keells Group chief Ken Balendra said that the agreement could give Sri Lanka companies the opportunity of establishing themselves in India, but it did not seem possible at the moment.

BOI Trade Advisor Ruwan de Alwis said inquiries had already been received from Australia, India, Germany and other countries regarding the setting up of tyre, chemical and computers companies. He said the BOI was looking at the agreement with a positive outlook and believed that companies which lacked efficiency and productivity would have to streamline operations or fall by the wayside.

Meeting with loved ones raises hopes

By Shelani de Silva

For the 28 family members who returned to Colombo on Tuesday after visiting their loved ones in LTTE custody, a new battle is ahead with the remaining detainees issuing a fresh threat to resume their hunger strike.

The five days they spent with their sons, brothers, and husbands were in no way a compensation for the years their loved ones lost. For some of the detainees there was news of a birth of a child they are yet to see, or the loss of a close relative. But it was just one word they all hoped for 'release'.

To the family members, the majority of whom live in remote areas, the news of their loved ones staging a hunger strike was music to their ears.

"After seven years of waiting for a positive reply, we knew our boys were coming home," wept S A Ranabandu, whose son was captured by the LTTE during the Pooneryn attack.

Little did he know that he was to visit his son in Jaffna. That trip was going to change the lives of 28 people both young and old.

S. A. Ranabandu first heard that his son was on a hunger strike when he came to the Medirigirya town to buy some provisions.

Ranabandu frantically had tried to locate other family members. Finally on confirmation from the ICRC, Ranabandu was asked to come to a tourist hotel in Anuradhapura the following day to join the group.

With so much happening in such a short time it was not until they were heading towards Tiger controlled territory did they realise that even their lives were at stake.

"It was too late to turn back. We were determined to face anything for the sake of our children. But the warm welcome we got from the Tigers, put our fears to rest. There were about 500 people, both villagers and cadres, to welcome us," said Ranabandu.

The group which travelled for more than 20 hours faced the most difficult part of the journey when they were taken into a room to see 15 young men lying lifeless, not able to lift their heads to see their loved ones after seven years.

"I passed my son and walked to another bed, until I heard a familiar voice calling out to me. I couldn't recognise him. The shock of seeing him, so thin and frail, broke my heart," said W. P. Leelawathie, whose son was among the 'serious' out of the 15 soldiers.

The family members were allowed to stay with the soldiers throughout the visit . The first day had been the worst for both the families as well as for the soldiers. For the families it was an attempt to make up for lost time and plead with the soldiers to call off the strike.

"We all decided to stage a hunger strike if they did not take any food. Feeding my son with milk and biscuits-the first solid food taken after ten days-will remain in my mind till I die," said Leelawathie.

The health condition of T. B. Heenhamy did not stop him from visiting his 25- year- old son T. B. Gamini who was captured during the Pooneryn attack. Gamini, the breadwinner of the family had joined the Army at the age of 19 .

Heenhamy suffering from a lung infection was treated by LTTE doctors and had even got medicine to bring back home.

The family members had received the best treatment from the Tigers. The, meals had been good and even the water for bathing had been drawn by the cadres. They were allowed to roam anywhere within the camp.

"I just couldn't bring myself to eat anything seeing my boy nearly dying. Yes, we were looked after well, but I couldn't help thinking that these were the same people who captured my son. It was too painful to come to terms with," said Leelawathie.

Never did R. D. Wijeratne dream that on their return to Colombo they would be told that his brother R. D. Sirinagar was among the released.

"When we were first told of the release all of us just cried, later we found my brother was also among the released," said Wijeratne.

During their five day stay in LTTE controlled territory, one day had been a field day when the cadres had taken the family members on a sight-seeing tour.

They were taken to visit the LTTE cemetery, the sea, two kovils and the Mullaitivu camp. On their return to Colombo they had visited the Madhu church.

Both parents of Lalantha Athanayake had insisted that they visit their son, who was captured during the Janakapura attack.

"We had to wait four months after the attack to get word that our son was held captive, and now after seven years when we were given this chance to see him. It was a miracle," said L Anuhamy.

Twenty- two- year- old Dhanuska who made the journey along with a cousin of his to see his brother Roshan Jayasena had to break to his brother the most tragic news of his mother's death in January.

Dhanuska's eldest brother was also captured during the Pooneryn attack and the family survives on Roshan's salary.

Ever since Roshan was captured his mothers' health condition deteriorated through the years.

None of the family members nor the soldiers were prepared for the farewell on Monday morning. By this time the condition of the soldiers had greatly improved compared to the first day.

'We had to be forcibly dragged into the bus. All of us were crying. The boys carried our bags into the bus. We just couldn't let go. The only consolation I got was when my son said, 'Thatha don't cry, I will come home soon'. This keeps me going,"said Ranabandu.

Such assurance from their sons, husbands and brothers and the heaps of books which the soldiers had read for years were the only souvenirs these 28 people are left with today.

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