9th July 2000
Business| Sports| Sports Plus|
The two key players in the battle of the VIP wives are Seva Vanitha Secretary Kusum Wickremanayke and Treasurer Pamitha Jayakody who resigned alleging widespread corruption.
One of the allegations against Ms. Wickramanayke, wife of Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake is that she bought a set of furniture from the movement for Rs. 10,000 though the estimated value was about Rs. 200,000.
Ms. Jayakody claims the furniture was to be auctioned but Ms. Wickramanayake had purchased a 24 -seater conference table made of Mahogany for Rs. 4,000, a book case for Rs. 3500 and cupboard for Rs. 2000. The furniture had been transported to Ms. Wickramanayake's son's residence in Horana, she alleged.
Ms. Jayakody said she was informed of the sale to Ms. Wickramanayke, four days after the sale and other committee members were also unaware of this.
Ms. Wickramanayke, however, claims the Committee did not decide to auction the furniture but wanted to sell it.
She said the decision to sell the furniture was not taken by her but by the executive Secretary
"I told the executive Secretary that if the furniture was to be sold it should be done without reducing the estimated price. I also volunteered to sell some of the furniture. We were able to gain a profit since we did not have to pay for transport and tax as in an auction," she said.
Ms. Wickramanayke claims that she had bought only two items valued at Rs. 7,000 by well-known auctioneers and valuers Shockman and Samarawickrema.
But Ms. Jayakody charged that Ms. Wickramanayke had under-valued the furniture during her tenure as treasurer.
"No person will value a 24-seat conference table made of Mahogany for 4,000 rupees. We can't even buy a cheap table for that price," she said.
Ms. Jayakody said that from last year Ms. Wickramanayke had been interested in the furniture and worked out her plans to achieve her ends.
Ms. Wickramanayke also claimed she had got a receipt for her purchase, but The Sunday Times found that no name was mentioned on the receipt.
"I refused to approve the money for fuel. Only the executive secretary was allowed to use the Seva Vanitha vehicle, not the secretary," Ms. Jayakody said.
In a counter charge, Ms. Wickramanayke said this vehicle was kept at the Ministry of Buddha Sasana, which is under the purview of Minister Lakshman Jayakody.
Ms. Wickramanayke said she had used the vehicle only when she was acting for the executive secretary and that too only for three days during which the vehicle was used for official work.
Another allegation against Ms. Wickramanayke is that she worked things out to get the executive secretary and the accountant sacked.
President Kumaratunga has called for a report on the allegation and Minister Hema Ratnayake, president of the movement, had said a probe committee would be appointed. But it has not been done still. Meanwhile, The Sunday Times learns a resolution is to be passed at the AGM on July 27 that members of the Seva Vanitha should not speak to the media without getting permission from the president of the movement .
Ms. Wickramanayake said she wanted a full probe by an independent team.
"I want an inquiry. I have nothing to hide. I have not taken a red cent, while I was serving as the treasurer and even now. I can't understand why she (Pamitha Jayakody) is doing this to me. I never expected Pamitha to act this way. We were very good friends. It is I who nominated her for this post," Ms. Wickramanayke said. Ms. Jayakody said yesterday she was puzzled as to why Minister Hema Ratnayake had not held an inquiry despite an order from President Kumaratunga.
"It is state funds that we are talking about. What I can't understand is why they have to delay holding an inquiry on such an issue," she asked.
Ms. Jayakody warned she would take legal action if an inquiry was not held within the next few days.
By Shelani de SilvaAn angry Kusum Wickramamanayake grabbed a tape and a tape recorder from us after agreeing to give an interview, regarding the Seva Vanitha dispute.
The sideline drama started when we telephoned her Friday morning to get her side of the story on the corruption scandal that is rocking the Seva Vanitha Movement.
But in response Ms. Wickramanayake accused The Sunday Times of trying to damage or ruin her image and her work. We poitned out that our lead story two weeks ago had not even mentioned her by name. But an angry Ms. Wickramana-yake refused to give us an interview.
She also claimed Seva Vanitha members had decided not to talk to the media. When we told her again that we only wnated to give her the right of reply, Ms. Wickramanayake agreed to the interview, but said she might not be able to answer all questions.
Accordingly, we went to meet her at the offices of the Ministry of Plantations at Vauxhall Street around noon. Our photographer was asked to stay at the reception while I was taken to her office.
She once again referred to the news item and how it had damaged her work.
She told us that the dispute involved much more than furniture, with many ministers except her husband aiming at the premiership.
Ms. Wickramanayake also handed over some documents and explained the contents. While doing so she asked me why I was not taking down notes. I told her that the interview was being recorded on a tape which was on the table for her to see.
Ms. Wickramanayake then agreed to allow our cameraman to come in and take her photograph. She then asked me to play the tape.
When I refused she insisted. When I played the parts where she made references to the battle for premiership, she said it should be deleted. When I refused she forcibly took the tape from my hand. Then she took the tape recorder from me and kept pressing all the buttons to get the tape out.
In sheer desperation, she called in an officer to get the tape out from the recorder but he too could not.
When I offered to help, it was declined. The tape was finally removed and we were told to pick up the recorder from the security while Ms. Wickraman-ayake walked out of the room. We waited outside the room for about half an hour and then at the guardroom for another 45 minutes, but the recorder did not come back.
By Leon BerengerThe police in Trincomalee are looking into a spate of complaints by Muslims who have alleged extortion, intimidation and harassment by suspected operatives of the Tamil Tigers, a senior policeman said yesterday.
The Tigers appear to have begun to target Muslims who are a minority in the region simply because they are suspected to be cooperating with the security forces and other agencies. Failing to obey Tiger commands may also be another reason, Police Senior Superintendent (SSP) Gunasinghe Thenabadu told The Sunday Times.
He added most of the complaints were coming in from Muslim areas bordering Tamil villages in Kinniya, Mutur, Siraj Nagar, Toppur and other areas both on the coastal belt and inland.
The LTTE have always carried out an extortion drive against the people in these areas despite the presence of the police and security forces. This has been in operation for nearly a decade, SSP Thenabadu said.
The rebels have spared no one. From fishermen to cultivators and small-time businessmen, all have been forced to contribute to their extortion list, he said.
He also said that another added problem to the crisis was the lack of adequate manpower to patrol every single village in the district. "We provide them with whatever security possible, but there are limitations," he added.
He said unlike in Sinhala areas where there are a large number of homeguards who have volunteered to do service for their community it is a different story with the Muslims because most of them do not like to carry arms against the rebels for fear of reprisals. Also they live dangerously close to areas known for LTTE activity, he said.
Earlier this week suspected LTTE operatives grabbed three Muslim businessmen and are currently holding them at an unknown location pending a ransom demand.
By Tania FernandoAmila Bandara, a student of Ashoka Kanishata Vidyalaya in Maradana, was allegedly assaulted by his class teacher for having entered the wrong information in the record book, a task which the teacher has to do, the parents have claimed.
I M D Bandara, father of ten-year-old Amila said that on that fateful day which was a Tuesday, his class teacher had requested the boy to enter the time-table in her record book, but Amila had mistakenly entered the Monday time-table.
On seeing this the teacher had been annoyed and verbally abused him and then allegedly taken a leg of a broken chair and hit him on his shoulder and hand.
The boy had explained to the teacher that he had made a mistake, but she was not willing to listen and threatened him saying that if he brings his parents to 'watch out'.
When he had come home he had a high fever and could not even raise his arm. On telling his mother that he had been abused, she had scolded him saying that he would have done something to upset the teacher. However on checking his injuries Mr. Bandara had rushed him to the Accident Service and also lodged an entry with the Maradana police.
The following day the father had telephoned the class teacher. While accepting that she had hit him she had allegedly told Mr. Bandara that he could complain to whoever he wished and that she was not scared and if he wanted she was willing to pay for any medical treatment. "I am not scared of even going to the gallows" the teacher had reportedly said.
Mr. Bandara had then taken his son to meet the principal who had spoken to them in the garden. The principal on checking the boy's injuries is reported to have said the injuries were not internal but mere external injuries, and nothing serious.
On insisting that he needs to speak to the teacher, the principal reluctantly agreed to let the parents go to meet the class teacher, but at that time she was not in. Another teacher who was there had asked them to wait at the principal's office and said she would send a message to this teacher, Amila's father said.
"We waited for more than one hour, but she did not come. After some time I saw her going to another room and then about ten more teachers gathered in that room. I could hear them talking. They were saying that if parents don't like their children being hit they should remove their children from school. They were also saying that there were instances that where they even kicked students", said Mr. Bandara.
Later they had requested that he entered the room with the boy. However when he went in with the boy another teacher looked at the injuries while his class teacher ignored them.
Subsequently Mr. Bandara repoerted the matter to the matter to Chief Minister Susil Premjayanth. He had immediately called the Director of Education and requested him to hold an inquiry and take statements from the principal and the parents.
Mr. Bandara said when he met the education director, he urged him not to pursue the matter as ther was no point in taking action over incidents that were over.
On Wednesday (5) Ms. Bandara received a call from the Western Province Education Department, requesting the parents to send the child to school from Friday. On being informed about this Mr. Bandara had rushed to the Director's office but after waiting for more than two hours he failed to meet him.
However, he was informed by an official at the department that the principal had said the teacher was not well and had been admitted to hospital, but when he returned home and called the teacher's house she had answered the phone.
He had subsequently called the teacher's husband who had verbally abused him and said his wife was suffering mentally and that she would be admitted to hospital.
Meanwhile, the principal of Asoka Vidayalaya, Mr. Gunasena said that it was nothing serious and that the parents of the boy are making it a big issue . "We have had no complaints about this teacher, she is very good, anyway now she has been admitted to the Castle Street Hospital", he said.
The Director of Education for the Western Province, W.B.M. Saddharatne when contacted said "we are conducting an inquiry and once it is over I can give a reply" and slammed the phone down.
Mr. Bandara claims that he has made no decision as to what he is planing to do, but intends writing to the Minister of Education and President Chandrika Kumaratunga to look into complaints of this nature so that not only his children but others too can go to school without being abused.
Both HNB and multimillionaire businessman Harry Jayawardene, through his Stassens Group and connected firms, acquired a 44-percent stake at the Sampath Bank. But their plan to get four places for their nominees on the bank board backfired following the court order.
Three bank employees, who are also shareholders, petitioned the court, saying HNB and Stassens had violated rules in acquiring a majority stake at Sampath Bank.
Banking sources said the Central Bank and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) were separately continuing investigations into allegations that the HNB and Stassens had bypassed banking and SEC rules in acquiring millions of Sampath Bank shares off the stock market.
"As far as we know the investigations are continuing. We don't have any other information on this," said Anil Amarasuriya, chief executive officer of Sampath Bank.
Central Bank and SEC officials were not available for comment. Banking sources said there was speculation that the Central Bank - which had said some HNB and Stassens stockmarket purchases might have violated banking laws - was seeking a clarification from the Attorney General on the legality of these transactions.
George Ondatjee is a well-known Colombo businessman owning many companies and a director in some others.
By Faraza FarookMore children are likely to contract HIV with the number of women contracting the virus increasing faster than men, National STD and AIDS Control Programme Director Dr. Iyanthi Abeywickrema warned.
This is true when it comes to pregnant mothers and breast feeding mothers. Though men are said to drive the AIDS epidemic, the overall impact is that women are contracting HIV at a faster rate than men. This is because they are physiologically more liable to contract HIV and because men have more partners than women, a workshop on AIDS held last week was told.
The man to woman ratio at the end of the first quarter (April 30th) of this year was 1.7: 1 while previously it was 3:1, Dr. Abeywickrema said.
Sri Lanka known to be a low prevalence country, has an estimated 7600 persons with the virus of which 2210 are women, 200 children and the rest men. Eighty-six percent of HIV infected persons are between the ages of 20 and 49 with the majority of the infection being reported from the Western Province (70%) due to the large population. While 64% contract the virus through heterosexual contact, which is the most common mode of transmission, indigenous transmission accounts for 16.7 %.
The most commonly targeted groups are commercial sex workers, three wheeler drivers and migrant workers. Of the reported cases, 48% of HIV infected persons are among those seeking foreign employment. But this doesn't rule out that others outside this target group are safe.
The high percentage of testing for migrant workers before issuing visas is the main reason to identify this group. "There are many more people out there who are unaware of their HIV status," Dr. Abyewickrema said.
Despite the high literacy rate and safe sex practices that have kept Sri Lanka as a low prevalence country, the risk factors that make the country vulnerable to the spread of AIDS are many, Prof. Tudor de Silva of the University of Peradeniya said.
While Sri Lanka is still in its initial stage of overcoming this problem, the Government has planned out a Condom Social Marketing Programme funded by the World Bank to be launched soon, Dr. Abeywickrema said.
The workshop also discussed the dominant role played by men especially when it comes to sexual behaviour. "Generally it is men not women, who dictate whether or not intercourse will take place and whether a condom will be used," the AIDS report said.
With sexual intercourse being the primary means of transmission of the HIV virus, women have been the target group of AIDS prevention campaigns hoping that they could persuade their male sexual partners to be faithful or use condoms. Certain physical factors too make it easier for a man to transmit HIV to a woman than vice versa, the report stated. "In the absence of sexually transmitted infections, a man with HIV has an average chance of one in 500 of passing the virus to a woman in a single act of unprotected vaginal intercourse."
By Leon Berenger
Among other clues, the police are concentrating largely on the remains of a burnt-out toy car that was found among the debris. The toy was fitted with an aerial, giving room for suspicion that the explosion could have been triggered off by a remote controlled device, according to top experts.
The bomb is believed to have been concealed on the roof of the cell which borders a bare land running alongside the court premises, which is itself poorly guarded, Police Deputy Inspector General Jayantha Wickremeratne said.
"At night there is only a single civilian watcher to guard the courts. He may have been bribed, threatened or simply left out of the entire plan of the would-be killers. Gaining access to the court compound after dusk is not such a difficult exercise," DIG Wickremeratne said.
He however cautioned it was too early to draw any conclusions at this stage until the matter was thoroughly investigated by the Government Analyst's office which is currently going through the available evidence.
"We are not ruling out several other possibilities as well, such as a grenade blast or even a booby-trapped food packet that would have been smuggled into the cell" DIG Wickremeratne said.
In addition the bomb had been selectively targeted at the cell holding the hard core criminals. At the time of the incident there were six inmates including Upaneetha Perera alias Pamankade Asoka. The neighbouring cell was also packed to capacity but the damage was minimal, DIG Wickremeratne who heads the Police Western Province division said.
However the bombing has in the meantime alerted the police to an extra danger emerging from the underworld.
"High-tech remote controlled devices of this nature in the hands of the local 'cosa nostra' is indeed a cause to be worried about," another senior policeman who did not wish to be identified said.
"This only goes on to prove one point and that is the free availability and easy access to such explosive devices among the underworld in the country. This is a direct fall-out of the war in the north and east. We all know that the underworld is packed with security force and police deserters and many such persons have been trained in handling high explosives while in service. A bomb of this nature is no big deal for them," is how one policeman summed it up.
However he admitted that court houses in the city and elsewhere are poorly guarded and even prisoners and other suspects are often vulnerable to attack from rivals and opponents, not to mention the risk to prison and police officials as well.
In the most recent incident four hard core prisoners broke jail at the Matale court house after they overpowered the lone guard.
He told journalists that his brother Pamankada Asoka was to make a statement in court, disclosing details about the Rohana Kumara killing.
Earlier the CDB had claimed that the killer connected with the murder of Rohana Kumara was already in custody.
A spokesman for one of the groups said prestigious Catholic schools like St. Joseph's, St. Peter's and St. Benedict's were seeking upto Rs. 50,000 for the admission of a child while suburban schools like St. Sebastian's, Moratuwa and De Mazenod, Kandana had doubled their amounts to Rs. 30,000. The doubling of the donations comes at a time of dangerous trends in social inequalities and a crushing cost of living burden in the aftermath of recent price hikes.
The social justice groups in the Church believe the Church should set an example to society in bridging the gap between the rich and the poor by making a preferential option for the poor. Instead Catholic schools had doubled the amount to be paid as donations making the schools privileged institutions and forcing some parents to borrow money at huge interest rates to get their children admitted.
The social justice groups while recognising the need for money to run schools have proposed that rich old boys or girls be approached to start a scholarship fund whereby a substantial percentage of the admissions could be given to poor children without the payment of donations.
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