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14th January 2001
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Cyclone damage costs country colossal sum

By Nilika de Silva
The cyclone which struck on December 26 and wreaked havoc in the lives of people living in the Eastern, North-Central and North-Western Provinces, will cost the country more than rupees two billion (2,471,400,000) in housing compensation alone. 

Each of the families whose houses have been destroyed in the cyclone will receive Rs. 20,000, the Ministry of Social Services said last week.

Rs. 15,000 compensation will be paid to the family members of those who died in the cyclone, while loss of occupational equipment will be compensated with Rs. 10,000 and loss of kitchen equipment with Rs. 1,500.

Although vast numbers of fishing boats were lost and destroyed in the cyclone no compensation is still on the way as the fishermen will first have to submit police reports.

Social Services Minister Milroy Fernando told The Sunday Times that relief was trickling down to the 248,850 families affected by the cyclone last month.

He said funds were not a problem as "we have the allocation for our Ministry set apart at the beginning of the year".

There were 59,091 houses completely damaged due to the cyclone and another 64,479 houses partially damaged. The extent in which crops have been damaged is estimated at 32,618 acres.

Trincomalee District with 60,383 families affected, Batticaloa District with 58,171 families affected and Anuradhapura District with 50,108 families affected are the worst hit areas. 

" In a way what has happened has been beneficial as all the small tanks have been filled and in the coming Yala season the farmers will have no water problem," Minister Fernando said. Development work is being accelerated as roads damaged by the cyclone will have to be renovated, he added.


Appuhamy out of death row

By Laila Nasry
A man sentenced to death for allegedly killing two children walked free after the Court of Appeal this week upheld his petition.

The Court of Appeal Bench comprising Justices Hector S. Yapa and P.H.D. Kulatilleke acquitted W.M. Appuhamy who was sentenced to death by the Badulla High Court for killing two children on June 6 1998, and causing injury to their mother. 

Justice Yapa with Justice Kulatilleke agreeing observed that the prosecution had not established its case against the accused-appellant beyond reasonable doubt. 

The judgment also upheld the submission of the appellant's counsel that there was no direct evidence to implicate the accused appellant with the shooting. 

On the day of the shooting the father of the two children L. Muthubanda who was sleeping in a room with his two children was awakened by the sound of shattering glass followed by a gunshot which struck his two children, the court was told. 

His wife, who was sleeping in another room came to their rescue only to be hit by another bullet while attempting to take the younger daughter towards the kitchen. 

A witness told court that he had rushed out of the house to inform two others and on his return he had seen the accused. 

According to the witness the motive for the shooting had been previous enmity the appellant allegedly had with a former neighbour and Muthubanda. Attorneys-at-law Dr. Ranjith Fernando with Anoja Jayaratne and Sandamali Munasinghe appeared for the accused- appellant.


Reputation of BASL at stake 

Former President of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL), Desmond Fernando, PC, drawing reference to a BASL press release issued by the Executive Committee has criticised the statement and called for what he referred to as, 'remedial steps to be taken to salvage the honour and reputation of the Bar Association and the legal profession".

The press release under reference was issued in response to an article carried in newspapers on December 10 which highlighted the alleged wrongful termination of Mr. Hiran Ekanayake, a former Magistrate by Chief Justice Sarath N. Silva, who is also the head of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC). Mr. Fernando in his letter attributes the statement as being 'a ragbag of elementary howlers in law and logic." He goes on to state that, "the article in question attributes to no improper or ulterior motive". The letter further states that the BASL has acted contrary to its duty which is to safeguard the independence of the judiciary by taking appropriate steps to ascertain whether the allegations contained in the petition are warranted or not and further promote and protect fundamental rights which includes freedom of expression as set out in Article 19 of both the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Mr. Fernando has advised the consulting of past presidents of the BASL, "to obtain their views in order to find a way out of the present unfortunate predicament, for the BASL should be independent and appear to be independent."


Hakeem confident of gaining party leadership

SLMC co-leader Rauf Hakeem who says he is very confident of gaining leadership of the party at the February 11 elections is marking time until the "100 days" are up. 

Declining to say what he would do in the event his demands were not met, Mr. Hakeem said, "You would know when the 100 days are up."

Incidentally Minister Hakeem was reported to be avoiding the media as he is tired of being reminded of the "100 days".

Responding to a question on Kalmunai, Mr. Hakeem stressed that the creation of a separate administrative district for the coastal areas is based on long term grievances of the Tamil speaking peoples of that area. 

"It is one of the integral parts of the agreement that we have with the Government when we agreed to support it to form this Government," Mr. Hakeem said.

"It is only a matter of administrative convenience and I do not see any political issue arising out of it. Only people who look at it in an unreasonable and partisan manner see something more in it," he said.

Meanwhile, four months have passed since the death of Minister M.H.M. Ashraff, the late leader and founder of the SLMC but investigations have not progressed regarding the mysterious air crash. 

"We have insisted that a Presidential Commission be appointed. The President felt that it must be done after some consultation with us. We did identify a senior lawyer to head it, but then he felt that pressure of work does not permit him, and since he is also a close associate of our late leader there could be a credibility question." Mr. Hakeem said.

"I am meeting the President on Tuesday when this matter will be taken up and we will see that a person with the required credentials is appointed," he said. 


Stand up for your rights: a call from Pera. lecturers

The Peradeniya Medical Faculty Teachers' Association has expressed deep concern about recent events leading to the continuous deterioration of democracy, the law and order situation and increased violence.

The association in a statement signed by its President Dr. C.D.A. Goonasekera and Secretary Dr. A. Ratnasooriya, has called upon the public, trade unions and other civic conscious groups to fight against what it called "the systematic violations of citizens' rights".

The association among other issues has condemned the recent election malpractices, re-appointment of Anuruddha Ratwatte as Deputy Defence Minister and the arbitrary transfer of Central Province Deputy Inspector General Sirisena Herath.

The text of the statement follows:

"The Peradeniya Medical Faculty Teachers' Association (PMFTA) observes with dismay the reported increase of violence, voter intimidation, ballot card stealing and other unfair methods in the elections held in Sri Lanka.

"This association made a similar observation following the North-Western Provincial elections held in 1999. It is our opinion that since independence from the British in 1948 democratic rights have continued to erode and have been more systematically undermined since 1977. 

"The PFMTA is of the opinion that the right of Sri Lankan citizens to elect a legitimate government has been significantly violated. The PFMTA holds the view that such significant violation of citizens' rights to elect a government of their choice calls for necessary and adequate changes in the election process. 

"The members of the PFMTA support the call for the immediate establishment of an independent election commission. We are also of the opinion that such a commission be strengthened by independent commissions of the judiciary, police and public service.

"The PFMTA is further perturbed by the fact of appointment of a number of ministers and deputy ministers grossly in excess of national needs, despite the serious allegations of election related violence, vote rigging and improper use of state property by some of these politicians.

"We are particularly perturbed by the appointment of Deputy Defence Minister Anuruddha Ratwatte against whom PA General Secretary and fellow PA candidate D.M. Jayaratne reportedly made a written complaint to the President. Reappointment of Gen. Ratwatte and others against whom similar allegations have reportedly been made, to posts in the Cabinet and as deputy ministers is a gross violation of people's trust in the policy makers of the nations. 

"These appointments are an insult to the collective public opinion and its intelligence. Such appointments demonstrate a callous disregard for public opinion and will. 

"We condemn strongly the arbitrary transfer of the Deputy Inspector General of Police of the Central Province, Sirisena Herath, and demand that he be retained in the province. Our association also deplores the continuing political victimisation of public servants and others.

"We observe with disappointment that all these major political parties the PA, the UNP, and the JVP and some of the other political parties currently represented in Parliament have at some time or other violated the democratic rights of Sri Lankans. They are yet to demonstrate adequately and transparently regret such violations and a desire to prevent doing so in the future.

"The PMFTA is of the view that urgent and definitive changes are required if Sri Lanka is to continue as a civilized society with credible systems of government and law. 

"We believe that a national reconciliation process, which will include admissions of human and political rights violations by politicians and other relevant authorities is an essential part of national rehabilitation.

"Failure to do so would continue to take its place in a downward spiral of conflict and social chaos and promote an environment of public pessimism and cynicism. Inability and indifference to bring about such necessary and adequate changes will continue to increase the growing and dangerous alienation of people from the process of law and order. 

"We therefore urge fellow citizens and other workers associations and unions to rise against the systematic violations of our citizens' rights."


Conflicts retard port development project

The lack of a cohesive national shipping policy coupled with the conflict between the Ministry of Shipping and the Ruhunupura Project were identified as the reasons causing the retardation of the Hambantota Port Development Project when a group of professionals discussed the feasibility of it at a seminar yesterday.

The seminar was conducted by the Institute of Maritime Engineers to ascertain the feasibility of a container port in Hambantota and the possible generation of development opportunities.

The discussion highlighted the reasons for preventing the ambitious project getting underway, despite tremendous political support from all quarters to a mega development project in the South.

It transpired at the discussion that the failure to realize this 'ambitious southern dream' stemmed from the failure to develop it initially as an industrial port in the haste to find a shortcut to the Hambantota Port at any cost. The marine experts said the insistence that Hambantota be immediately turned into a container shipment port in the country is unrealistic.

It was claimed that the dispute between the Ruhunupura Project and the Ministry of Shipping probably delayed port development in the entire country, leaving none the beneficiary in the end. It was also argued that the tussle between Colombo and Hambantota which stemmed from a lack of shipping policy should be tackled immediately to facilitate the taking off of this project which could inject much needed development to the deep south which is facing many employment and poverty concerns. It also transpired that Hambantota with a rapid modernization scheme would have the potential to undertake international transshipment handling operations as well, but required to be developed originally as an industrial port. The availability of vast tracts of land and proclaimed benefits of sea space in Hambantota were recognized as being essentials in later developing the port into a fully fledged international transshipment port, provided that other infrastructure and national linkages are also simultaneously developed.

The availability of more land, depth and ability to handle more ships per year with immense scope to support industrial development and easy settlement of the workforce were among the identified reasons of a port with tremendous potential to grow. To achieve the best results, it was stated that phasing out the project first as an industrial port being considered necessary.

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