18th February 2001

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Pow families turn to Bishop for help

By Shelani de Silva

Desperate family members of servicemen missing in action are to meet Mannar Bishop Rayappu Joseph to ask him to intervene on their behalf and get their loved ones released from the LTTE custody.

The families turned to the Bishop, who returned from a visit to the LTTE-controlled Wanni area last week, after they received no positive response from the government to their pleas, said E P Nanayakkara, who heads an association of families of missing servicemen.

Last week the association's members met National Integration and Ethnic Affairs Minister Athauda Senev-irathne to discuss their plan to visit to Wanni but the talks did not produce the expected results, he said.

Mr. Nanayakkara said the Bishop's visit to Wanni had given them a ray of hope and they were planing to meet the Bishop. "We have met the Bishop on several occasions, but after last week's visit we are hoping to meet him again," he said. Bishop Joseph told The Sunday Times that the church delegation had raised the prisoners issue with the LTTE leaders last week and sought their release.

"I urged the LTTE to first release the non combatants, and then through a goodwill gesture release the soldiers. We have to wait and see. I asked for a list of names of the prisoners but was told the list has been given to the ICRC and that it is just a small number," the Bishop said.

Journalists invited to vie for awards

D.R. Wijeywardene Sepala Gunasena D.B. Dhanapala Upali  Wijeywardene
Mervyn de Silva Prof. Kailasapathi B. A. Siriwardene

The Editors Guild awards
in memory of publishers
and editors who had
made a significant
contribution to the
print media.

The Editors Guild of Sri Lanka has called for applications from print media journalist to select the journalist of the year 2000 and 15 other awards.

The aim of this award ceremony the third since 1998 is to select outstanding journalists for their excellence in reporting and writing during a particular year.

An independent panel of judges all media personnel, appointed by the Guild will select the best entries.

There will be awards for reporters, writers, photographers, cartoonist and design teams in the print media.

The number of awards have been increased this year. The award of Journalist of the Year takes pride of place and prominence. This Award has been named after veteran journalist Mervyn de Silva, the founder President of the Guild.

The Sunday Times defence columnist Iqbal Athas was presented the first ever Journalist of the Year Award in 1998. Mervyn de Silva himself presented this award. The Award was then named after Mr. de Silva, following his death. In 1999, Sonali Samarasinghe of The Sunday Leader was presented this coveted award.

In addition to the Journalist of the Year Award, the Guild has decided to select the Best Journalist in the Sinhala, Tamil and the English media as well at the year 2000 Awards ceremony.

There will also be additional features this year, with an Award for the Best Sports Reporter, Best Columnist and the Best Foreign News Writer too, the latter Award is sponsored by the European Commission.

Several awards are named in memory of former publishers, editors and journalists, who have made significant contributions in the history of the print media. Accordingly, in addition to the Mervyn de Silva Award, awards in memory of the late D R Wijewardene (for earning the appreciation of peers and public), the late Sepala Gunasena (for defending press freedom in Sri Lanka), and the late Upali Wijewardene (feature writer of the year - for contributing to the common welfare of society) will be given away as in the past three years.

Three new awards will be given in memory of the greats like D B Dhanapala (for the most sensational/exclusive news item), B A Siriwardene (for best columnist) and Prof. K Kailaspathy (for reporting under special circumstances).

In addition to the main awards, other awards and merit certificates too will be given away. All journalists in the print media in Sri Lanka, including free lancers are eligible to apply for these awards.

Applications from such journalists should be accompanied by originals or photo copies of such articles.

Editors may also send entries on behalf of their staff and contributors. Members of the Guild can recommend any nominees for any number of awards. The entries must be for publications between January 1 and December 31, last year.

Entries must be sent to Amal Jayasinghe, Bureau Chief, Agence France Press (AFP), Convenor, Journalism Awards of Excellence Panel of Judges, 100 Barnes Place, Colombo 7, before February 28.

Wheelchair for mother of nine soldiers

A report in The Sunday Times about nine members of the same family serving in the army and their mother in need of a wheel chair has drawn prompt response from the Army Headquarters.

imageOn the instructions of the Army Commander Lionel Balagalle a wheelchair was presented to G. B. Yasawathie Alwis of Homagama, widow of an Army Veteran and mother of nine sons serving in the army, at a ceremony held at the military hospital in Colombo.

Major General Dudley Perera, Medical Advisor to the Sri Lanka Army, deputizing for the Army Commander presented the wheelchair.

Ms. Alwis arrived at the hospital accompanied by her son, Staff Sergeant G. A. Alwis.

Chief Military spokesman Brigadier Sanath Karunaratne told The Sunday Times that following the newspaper report on February 4, the Army Commander had instructed the Army to look into the welfare of families which have three or more soldiers. Attention must be paid to the basic needs of such families, and all such instances must be brought to the notice of the Commander, the Army chief has said.

Maj Gen. Perera is seen making the donation to Ms. Alwis as her son looks on.

NUA ginger group wants Muslims in the Norh-East administration

By Nilika de Silva

The NUA ginger group has called on the President to ensure equitable Muslim representation in the North East administration machinery.

"There is no ethnic balance in the North East Administration. Not a single Muslim person has been appointed as head of department, secretary or even senior assistant secretary," a member of the group said adding that they had written to the President outlining their grievances and seeking an appointment with her. The MP also said the group would meet leaders Rauf Hakeem and Ferial Ashraff in separate meetings tomorrow to explain the group's objectives.

Bogus army sleuths' robbery mission backfires

By Tania Fernando

Two persons who posed off as army sleuths and tried to rob a bystander of his belongings have been nabbed by people and handed over to the Mt. Lavinia police.

According to police, the suspects, clad in army trousers and T-shirts, had approached the victim, a Tamil, who was waiting for a bus in Ratmalana, and identified themselves as military sleuths by showing their forged military identity cards.

When the victim's identity card revealed he was a Tamil, the suspects had asked him to come with them to the Ratmalana army camp to face further interrogation, the police said.

The two suspects then got into a bus with the victim, got off near Borupana Road and proceeded to walk down the road. When they arrived at a lonely spot, the suspects had asked him whether he was carrying any money. The victim said he was carrying Rs. 8,500 to pay the telephone bill. The suspects then asked him to hand them over the money, his chain and the ring, saying that the major in the camp would not return them if they got into his hands.

The police said the whole operation went berserk, when a garbage collector who came by that way alerted the victim, warning him to be careful.

The two suspects who had by then had the victim's money fled the scene. Some bystanders who was suspiciously watching the drama then joined the victim in giving a chase and nabbing the two suspects, according to the police. The suspects were handed over to the Mt. Lavinia police who said the culprits had their pictures pasted on top of two military identity cards.

The two suspects have been identified as Ruwan Lathif, 36, and G D Rameshwaran, 27.

Hindu priest gets Supreme Court nod for rights petition

By Laila Nasry

A Hindu priest who alleged he was tortured after being illegally arrested and detained in three police stations has received the Supreme Court go-ahead for his fundamental rights application.

The Bench comprising Chief Justice Sarath N.Silva, Justices Priyantha Perera and Shirani Bandara-nayake, ordered the Kalutara Judicial Medical Officer to examine the priest and submit a report.

The petitioner Sivasithambara Thesi-ga Kothandathas, a 37-year-old Hindu priest and father of two, citing the Muthur Police Officer-In-charge and five others as respondents, says that on August 21 1999 he was asked to report to the police station but when he went there he was arrested and detained. No reasons for the arrest were given and while in detention he was assaulted by police officers, he alleges.

He says the following day he was taken to the Trincomalee Police Station where he was detained and subjected to assault. While his hands were tied they beat him on the buttocks, hips, rammed into his stomach with a crow bar and forced a pistol into his mouth fracturing a tooth, he alleges.

He was then sent to the Kandy Police Station. The policemen there, he alleges, hit him on the head with a pole, his hair and beard were pulled, his testicles squeezed and his body was burnt with cigarette butts. Petrol was poured into his mouth and chillie powder mixed with petrol was applied to his wounds, he says in the petition. On August 24 1999 he was taken to the JMO Kandy who instead of examining him recorded what was dictated by the police, the priest says.

He was then produced before the Kandy magistrate who remanded him under the Prevention of Terrorism Act. He was later transferred to the Kalutara Remand Prison, the petitioner says.

Gang attacks church

A church in Hiniduma was attacked by a group of people, a week after its parish priest was beaten by a gang, but police are yet to make any arrest.

The incident took place at a recently-built St. Sebastian's church in an estate in Hula-nduwa.

There had been threats to the church and the priest even sought police protection, Galle Vicar General Fr.Nihal Nanaya-kkara said.

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