24th June 2001
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All hands to the wheel, is the motto
followed by this refugee family, as the
children help dig well in their plot of
land in Tharanikulam. This family is among
the  first batch of 212 displaced families 
selected under a Govt. sponsored housing 
programme to give permanent homes to 
over 20,000 people in welfare centres 
in Vavuniya. Pic by M.A. Pushpakumara

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Mirrror Magazine

Head count first phase begins tomorrow

By Sanath Weerasuriya
Cinemas, clubs and all places of leisure will be closed for Sri Lanka's first census in 20 years on July 17, officials said.

They said the national census would be held in two stages with the first phase being conducted from tomorrow to July 10 during which Census officers would visit every household and business premise with a questionnaire containing 25 questions.

The final census will be held on Tuesday, July 17 from 6 pm to midnight and the people are requested to stay at home or at their usual place of lodging. They need not go to their villages or places, where they were born, the officials said.

To facilitate the Census, the Government has declared half a day holiday for public, bank and mercantile sectors. 

While census enumerators visit the households, specially-trained officers will visit hospitals, railway and bus stations, prisons, hotels, guest houses and factories. The officers will also count people on the streets and religious places.

An special card will be given to the people on the streets, after they are interviewed to avoid double counting. 

The first count will take the form of a survey with questions on birth, employment, education, religion, race, and other personal data. There will be a special questionnaie for disabled persons.

All enumerators will carry Census Department identification cards. The enumerators are expected to produce the cards when asked to do so.

CEB transfers routine, says GM

CEB General Manager D. G. C. D Wijeratne referring to media reports on transfer of several deputy general managers, states that the transfers bears no relation to the alleged corruption and malpractices that have rocked the board.

"It is the accepted Government procedure to transfer officers serving in one duty station for four years subject to the requirements of the organisation. In accordance with this long established rule the Board has taken a decision to transfer senior officers who have served in the same station for over five years, after giving due consideration to the efficient functioning of the organisation as well as the need to afford such officers adequate career development opportunities," he said.

However The Sunday Times learns that there are instances where senior officials have served in one location for more than 14 years. It is also believed that some of these transfers were effected to curb corruption in the CEB which was indicted by a parliamentary committee after it probed the board's transactions.

Census goes on the web

The Department of Census and Statistics is making arrangements to release its latest data based on the upcoming census.

Census chief A.G.W. Nanayakkara said that the data would also be availabale on Compact Discs.

No response from UNHCR

By Shelani de Silva
The United Nations High Commission for Refugees is yet to respond to an appeal made by the Department of Census for its help to conduct the national count in the LTTE-held areas in the north and east, The Sunday Times learns.

Census chief A.G.W Nanayakkara told The Sunday Times that they had done the preliminary work in the uncleared area despite some difficulties, but to conduct the Census proper, the UN agency's help was required.

He said he was confident of obtaining the UNHCR support. 

He dismissed reports that said the census would not be held in the north due to pressure from Tamil parties.

"We cannot postpone the census just because we cannot have it in one area. Already we have lost twenty years. By postponing the census the situation is not going to improve," Mr. Nanayakkara said.

The national census is estimated to cost Rs. 417 million, out of which Rs. 365 million has been allocated to this year's work.

Shell, CPC exchange fire over supply price

A conflict between the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) and Shell Gas Lanka Ltd., over a price agreement has resulted in CPC losses escalating.

CPC has been selling LPG to Shell at a price of Rs. 12,000 per metric ton for the last few years. With the monopoly of Shell Gas coming to an end last December, CPC has been invoicing Shell Gas at world market prices. However, Shell continues to pay CPC at the old price.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Shell said that CPC supplies it with 12,000 to 15,000 MT of LPG per year. 

"After our shut down early this year for cleaning of our refinery, we have asked for a supply contract with CPC which would include the price arrangement, but it had not responded".

"We continue our dialogue with CPC and the Treasury on this matter in the hope of arriving at a resolution", the spokesperson said.

Meanwhile, CPC Chairman Anil Obeyesekere said now that the monopoly has ended Shell should pay CPC at the invoiced price, which is in accordance with world market prices. 

"We don't need to sign any agreement with Shell", he said. However Shell claims that CPC has been writing to it with regard to invoice prices and not with regard to a new agreement.

While allegations and counter allegations being traded between CPC and Shell, CPC which has an estimated loss of Rs. 186 million is adding more to it by not coming to an arrangement with Shell, which is still the sole distributor of LPG in the market.

Dispute over entry of new gas firms

By Tania Fernando
A company which was planning on entering the market with the ending of the monopoly on domestic gas last year, offering a lower price, is being blocked by impractical conditions being stipulated by the authorities, an official of the company claimed.

The company claimed it had been ready to enter the market at the end of last year, but to date no agreement has been signed by it with the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC).

The company official said they received a copy of a draft agreement from the CPC in March this year and had written back requesting clarification as to what will happen if the CPC cannot supply LPG and the exact composition of the gas used.

"We have had no response to our queries", he said adding that a Sri Lankan company is being left in the lurch while the CPC is presently negotiating with another multi-national.

"After we had assurances from the authorities, we set up the basic infra-structure investing Rs. 150 million on the project", an official of the company said.

The initial discussions for this project commenced in January 2000 with PERC and the Ministry of Finance. A letter dated November 24, 2000, signed by Treasury Secretary Dr. P B Jayasundera, says the company has to purchase the entire output of LPG from CPC and sell 12.5 Kg cylinders at Rs. 50 less than the present suppliers' retail price solely for domestic use only.

The letter further states that an equal quantity purchased from CPC should be imported and LPG has to be sold only through CPC dealers.

However, a company official says it is not feasible to restrict itself to CPC dealers as it is planning a more consumer oriented distribution system. Restricting itself to CPC outlets only would not help to achieve its target, he said.

Meanwhile, after four months of negotiation with the Finance Ministry, the company had been requested to negotiate with the Power & Energy Ministry.

The Power & Energy Ministry had appointed a committee to look into the issue. The committee came back with more conditions for the company which it claims were not negotiable..

A Cabinet memorandum No. 15/2001 says that CPC can supply LPG for a period of one year to this company and that prior to starting operations the company has to import 120,000 cylinders within four weeks, the entire quantity should be for domestic use only and LPG has to be purchased from the CPC at world market prices.

At present we have around 25,000 cylinders and we have ordered more but we cannot put out 120,000 cylinders at once, a company official said.

"We have to go gradually and cannot dump more money without having signed an agreement", the official said.

CPC Chairman Anil Obeyesekere said a draft agreement had been sent to the company, but it had not been signed by the company. 

The CPC is presently negotiating with a Malaysian multi-national and is waiting for Cabinet approval.

"Meanwhile, we have been asked by the Cabinet Sub-Committee which is looking into the increase in the cost of living to start negotiations with the company again", Mr. Obeyesekere said.

The company which has had discussions with the Cabinet sub-committee has forwarded its proposals which is that it be permitted to purchase the full quantity of LPG produced by CPC and market it without any restrictions, other than determining the retail prices.

The Central Bank Report for the year 2000 states that according to its Socio-Economic survey 1996/97, the proportion of households using LPG for cooking purposes had increased to 10.8% by 1997 from 2.6% a decade ago. 

Editor wounded in road accident

By Christopher Kamalendran 
Jaffna based Tamil daily Uthayan Chief Editor M.V. Kanamylnathan (58) was injured in an accident involving a vehicle driven by an EPDP cadre yesterday and was admitted to the Jaffna Hospital. 

The Editor was coming to office on the pillion of a motorcycle when the accident occurred on the Jaffna-Pallaly Road near Illupady junction. 

Two months ago, Uthayan's Manager Administrative K. Nandakumar (56) was killed on the same spot in an accident involving a Navy vehicle. 

Hospital sources said the Editor and his rider were undergoing surgery, but were reported to be out of danger.

Petitions against CJ dismissed

Justice S.W.B. Wadugodapitiya, refusing leave to proceed in the three fundamental rights applications which challenged the appointment of Sarath N. Silva as the Chief Justice, said that the President may have had good and ample reasons for making the appointment.

Justice Wadugodapitiya reading the order of a five judge bench also comprising Justices P.R.P Perera, Shirani Bandaranayake, D.P.S. Gunesekera and Ameer Ismail emphasised that the Supreme Court has no jurisdiction with regard to the removal of the Chief Justice. 

Stressing that the constitution is the paramount law of the land, he said that a declaration nullifying the appointment of the CJ would be adding yet another method of removing the CJ from office . That would contrary to the constitution and would be an amendment by judicial action he said.

The Judge said the petitions filed by Victor Ivan , Rajpal Abeynayake and W.B.A. Jayasekera, were misconceived and relief was clearly not available in these proceedings.

Bouquets from all

Both major parties have hailed Speaker Anura Bandaranaike's historic ruling to uphold the supremacy of Parliament.

Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake on behalf of the government said the Speaker had clearly outlined the powers and privileges of Parliament.

Opposition UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe said the historic ruling by the Speaker had reinforced the rights of Parliament.

Former Speaker M.H.Mohamed thanked Mr. Bandaranaike for upholding the supremacy of Parliament. 

Fresh order to Customs

The Court of Appeal has re-ordered the Customs to release a consignment of yarn belonging to a garment factory on the guarantee that the owner will extend the bank guarantee every six months until the conclusion of the case. The Court on February 12 made orders releasing the two consignments of yarn belonging to Janatha Garments Manufacturers. But the petitioner said only one consignment was released on February 15. 

In another case the petitioner has moved court to frame charges against the Customs for acting in violation of a court order.

Torture victim says he can't even sign

By Laila Nasry
A person who alleges he was severely tortured to the point of being unable to sign his own proxy in a Fundamental Rights application, was granted Leave to proceed by the Supreme Court.

Petitioner I. A. Hemantha Kumara Perera of Kelaniya placed his right hand thumb print on the proxy as he was unable to sign the document authorising legal representation. 

Citing, Wattala police officers and others as respondents, the petitioner alleges he was arrested on March 26 by the Wattala Police for no reason and was severely tortured. 

Kumara said he was taken to a lonely stretch of beach in Hendala and threatened with death. He alleged he was asked to hand over two pistols and three hand bombs, which he was supposed to be in his possession of, or that he would be killed like a dog. 

However though he stated he was not involved in any unlawful or illegal activity, Kumara states he had been taken to the station and assaulted with poles.

Hung by his hands on a cross bar he was further assaulted. In order to prevent his struggling Kumara states his sarong was removed and used to tie his feet. 

Kumara alleges as a result of the assault he had sustained injuries in his spine, neck shoulders, hands and feet. He also bled from his mouth. 

Sheperdian Walk
The 'Shepherdian Walk', organised by Good Sheperds Convent Kotahena will be held on June 30 to raise funds for a project to a home for elderly Shepherdians who are in need of accomadation.

The walk will be followed by a 'Fun fair' and 'Beat show' at the school premises.

Colombo Sylvesters meet
The annual get-together of St. Sylvester's College, Kandy, OBA Colombo branch will be held on July 1 at the Palm village Hotel, Uswetakeiyawa.

Medical equipment repair to be decentralised

With a shortage of trained staff to maintain medical equipment in state hospitals, cabinet approval has been sought for a company to step in at provincial level. 

The Biomedical Engineering Service based in Colombo is seeking permission to set up maintenance units in provincial hospitals to attend to urgent repairs on sensitive medical equipment. Delays in repair work often paralyse services offered by hospitals. If a repair team is at hand, an efficient service can be provided by the Health Ministry, officials said.

Meanwhile, The Sunday Times learns that Kandy hospital's Cardiology Unit is unable to discharge its service effectively owing to shortcomings in equipment. 

Health Ministry sources said that despite requests made for proper maintenance of equipment no proper action had been taken. Meanwhile The Sunday Times last week inadvertently reported that the cardiologist in Kandy did not know how to operate the angiogram, a machine used to X-ray the coronary arteries.

Gas disaster averted

A bowser filled with LP gas sprang a leak but timely action by the fire brigade prevented a major disaster at Peliyagoda.

A fire brigade official said the incident had occurred when the bowser was parked at Peliyagoda on the Kandy-Colombo main road during peak hours on Friday.

Alerted by a garage owners the fire brigade rushed there and blocked the leak.

New Bench to hear The Sunday Times Editor's appeal case

By Laila Nasry
The application filed in the Supreme Court by The Sunday Times Editor Sinha Ratnatunga for special leave to appeal against his conviction for criminal defamation of President Kumaratunga came up for support on Thursday and was refixed for July 3 as two of the three judges refused to hear the application.

The Bench comprised Justices A.R.B.Amerasinghe, Ameer Ismail and P.Edussuriya of which the former two judges declined to hear the appeal.

Justice Amerasinghe citing personal reasons stated the Editor's brother was very well known to him and Justice Ismail declined as he had heard the case in the Appeal Court which had come up for determination whether the trial judge should have called for a defence in the High Court.

Presiding on the case Justice Amerasinghe requested it be re-fixed for support before a Bench on which Justices Ameer Ismail, D.P.S. Gunesekara and himself were not members. 

The accused-appellant petitioner Sinha Ratnatunga is seeking the grant of special leave to appeal against the December 5, 2000 order of the Court of Appeal which dismissed his appeal and upheld the conviction delivered in the High Court. 

He further prays court to set aside the Court of Appeal order, quash the findings of the High Court which convicted and sentenced him and acquit him of the charges contained in the indictment filed in the High Court.

The petitioner seeks to invoke the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court on the following grounds.

The said order being contrary to law and against the weight of the evidence in the case.

In as much as the prosecution was conducted on the basis that the petitioner ought to be found guilty on one of the charges which were framed in the alternative in the indictment, the High Court Judge failed to take into consideration that the charges in the indictment were framed in the alternative and proceeded to convict the petitioner on both counts. 

The finding by the High Court Judge that the alleged defamatory article is per se defamatory is contrary to law, not rationally possible on the evidence before him and is unreasonable. The judge had failed to examine the alleged defamatory article in its totality and in its proper context as required by law and instead examined an edited version constructed by rearranging some of the words appearing in the said article. 

In as much as no innuendo had been pleaded in the indictment, the High Court judge was in error when he took into consideration meanings other than ordinary meanings of the words and phrases, contained in the alleged defamatory article to reach a conclusion that the article was of a defamatory nature. 

The High Court Judge by his order on May 23, 1996 has demonstrated he had predetermined the case against the petitioner and thereby deprived the substance of a fair trial.

The High Court Judge by his order dated December 20, 1996 deprived the petitioner the opportunity of adducing relevant evidence and thereby precluded the petitioner from placing his defence before the court for consideration.

The High Court Judge by orders of May 23, 1996 and December 20, 1996 and other incidental orders made in the course of the trial and other matters had displayed a bias in favour of the prosecution in a manner that precluded a fair and genuine consideration of the charges levelled against the petitioner.

The charges framed in the alternative are not permissible by law and amount to an admission on the part of the prosecution that there exists a doubt in regard to the person who made or published the alleged defamatory article, the benefit of which doubt the trial judge has failed to give to the petitioner.

That there was no evidence to support the contention that it was the petitioner who made or published the alleged defamatory article or that he did so with such intention or knowledge to constitute a charge of defamation as set out in Section 479 of the Penal Code.

That a prosecution on a charge under Section 14 of the Press Council Law is possible only upon a conviction of some other persons on a charge under Section 15 of that law. 

The Trial Judge proceeded to convict the petitioner on consideration of the publication of the alleged defamatory article in the City Edition of The Sunday Times of February 19, 1995 whereas the entirety of the prosecution case and the defence of the petitioner was based on the Provincial Edition of the said newspaper which edition had left the newspaper office by the time the petitioner had read the alleged defamatory article. 

In as much the petitioner had given evidence that he honestly believed the said article to be harmless and non-defamatory and for that reason he would have no knowledge of the commission of an offence by its publication in the newspaper in which he was the Editor, the High Court Judge has failed to give him the benefit set out in the Proviso to Section 14 of the Press Council Law.

The High Court Judge by not recording his verdict forthwith or within 10 days of the conclusion of the trial and giving his reasons thereof has acted in contravention of Section 203 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. 

The Editor was indicted before the High Court on two counts.

The first count was that he did by publication in The Sunday Times of February 19, 1995 of words that were intended to read "Anura: sootin says courting days are here".

The second count framed in the alternative to the first was that the above imputation was published by some person in The Sunday Times and that person had committed an offence punishable under section 479 of the Penal Code read with Section 15 of the Press Council Law. Thereby, as Editor of the newspaper responsible for publishing the said imputation, he had committed an offence punishable under Section 14 read with Section 15 of the Press Council Law. 

The High Court of Colombo convicted the Editor of criminal defamation on both counts. In the first count a fine of Rs. 7,500 and in default of the payment of the fine a sentence of four months simple imprisonment. In addition the petitioner was sentenced to twelve months simple imprisonment suspended for a period of seven years. 

In the second count a fine of Rs. 2,500 and in default of the payment of the fine a sentence of three months simple imprisonment. In addition the petitioner was sentenced to six months simple imprisonment suspended for a period of seven years. The suspended sentences were to run concurrently. 


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