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22nd July 2001
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Thursday's street battles in the Colombo
city and the suburbs had its share of 
innocent victims. Here an anxious father
is trying to take his son in tears home
after both of them came under a teargas
attack by the police in Peliyagoda.
Pic. by Lakshman Gunatilaka 

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Local government election funds for referendum

By Shelani de Silva and Laila Nasry
The Elections Department is to use the funds which were allocated for the local government elections in the Budget estimate, for the forthcoming referendum amidst opposition protests and legal action over the issue. 

An Elections Department official told The Sunday Times that the Department has a total of 550 million rupees which was allocated for the local government elections scheduled for April.

'We will be using this money. If we exceed the sum, we can get monies from the contingency fund' he said.

With the Elections Department predicting close to six hundred million rupees as the cost for the forthcoming referendum it is estimated that the bill would hit the one billion rupee mark, when taking the cost of transport, security and other factors into consideration.

The Elections Department which is making preparations for the August 21 referendum will spend close to the sum spent on the last elections. 

According to the Budget estimate for 2001 the allocations can be used for preparation of voters lists annually, conducting Presidential elections, Parliamentary elections, referendums, Provincial Council elections and local government elections.

Last week the main Opposition UNP lashed out at the Government that funds will have to be released through Parliament approval.

Dr. Karunasena Kodi-tuwakku, UNP media spokesman yesterday said that all government officials have been cautioned not to release funds for the referendum as they do not have the authority to do so.

However an Elections Department official said funds for the referendum can be taken from the contingency fund, which does not specify a time period to settle the loan.

Meanwhile Provincial Councils and Local Government Minister Nandamithra Ekanayake told The Sunday Times that the Department can use the funds allocated for the local government elections.

'There is no provision to say that it should be used only for a particular election,' Minister Ekanayake said.

Meanwhile the Court of Appeal on Friday issued notice on the Attorney General seeking his assistance with regard to the two petitions filed challenging the August 21 referendum on the grounds that conducting it without funds approved by Parliament is illegal, arbitrary and bad in law. 

The Bench comprised Justices C.N. Jayasinghe and Gamini Amaratunga. 

The petitioners K.V.Cha-ruka Priyadarshana Sam-arasekera of the Institute of Human Rights and T Sadacharam a businessman from Colombo in their petition state that the Elections Commissioner has no right in law to hold the referendum utilising public finance which has not been approved by Parliament.

Further he does not have sufficient funds to hold a referendum without subsequent allocation from Parliament. 

The petitioners state that the referendum not being envisaged at the time of allocation of funds has not been provided for in the Budget estimates of 2001. 

However using the funds amounting to Rs. 632 million allocated for the local government elections is in violation of the laws governing the financial control of public funds as stipulated in the Constitution and Financial Regulations.

Further it is stated that obtaining money from the contingencies fund established to deal with "urgent or unforeseen expenditure" does not apply to the present referendum situation as it does not come under such a category within the meaning of the law. 

The matter was fixed for support on July 24 for the determination whether notice is to be issued on the respondents. 

Meanwhile the Elections Department is making all preparations to hold the referendum. The Department last week began sending out poll cards to the district offices, which is scheduled to be completed by the second week of August.

The Department is to keep August 12 as a special delivery day for polling cards. However with the Government announcing the date of the referendum at short notice, Assistant Election Commissioners have decided to get more staff from State institutions, to complete their tasks by the given date. 


Varsity teachers lecture on good governance

Thirty-nine teachers of the University of Peradeniya have urged the government to desist from its reckless and unprincipled course of action that may have tragic consequences for the nation.

A newsrelease signed by these teachers says the government should let Parliament exercise its rightful functions, paving the way for free and fair general elections under the protective cover of new enlightened legislation that would have effectively depoliticised the organs of government.

"As for the referendum the question whether most people want some constitutional change is unnecessary because it is self evident that they do. The question is obscure because it is not formally linked to a precise set of constitutional proposals. It is a worthless diversion because the need of the hour is not constitutional change so much as virtuous governance by selfless men of principle and it is premature because Parliament has not voted on it.

"Consequently this proposed referendum is an exercise in futility and a callous waste of public funds-an insidious way, perhaps, of inveigling the people to say 'yes' to something they might want, in order to impose upon them something they might detest. Moreover the sordid culture of election malpractice now endemic will surely bedevil the referendum as it did all recent elections," the release said.

The teachers say they wish to make public the sense of outrage and moral indignation at the untimely prorogation of Parliament, and the decision by the government to hold a hasty and ill-conceived referendum in complete violation of democratic convention and all norms of decency in conducting affairs of the state.

The statement was signed by Prof. A N I Ekanayake, Prof. C M Madduma Bandara, Prof. G H Peiris, Prof. Anuradha Seneviratne, Dr. Upul B Dissanayake, Prof. D T B Tennakoon, Prof. J S H Q Perera, Prof. S A Kulasooriya, Prof. P A J Perera, Prof. Merlin Peiris, Prof. Mervyn Thenabadu, Prof. Emeritus K M de Silva, Prof. H. M N Bandara, Prof.. Sudharshan Seneviratne, Prof. R M G Rajapakse, Dr. K M Wijeratne, Dr. Ananda Chandrasekera, Dr. H W Dias, Dr. E K Rodrigo, Prof. M Udupihille, Prof. M de S Wijesundera, Prof. U Illangasekera, Dr. P U Ratnayake, Prof.. R Sivakanesan, Prof. Malkanthi Chandrasekera, Dr. M Sabanayagam, Dr. N Kasturiarachchi, Dr. N Athurugiriya, Dr. D J Welgama, Dr. H. W Cyril, Dr. M P B Wijayagunawardene, Dr. K Samarasinghe, Dr. V Jayawardene, Prof. M N M Ibrahim, Prof. A N Jayakody, Prof. J A Gunawardene, Dr. M Rajaratne, Mr. S Wijesandiram, Mr. J M A Jayawickrema


Sivaji dies

Sivaji Ganesan, widely admired as India's greatest Tamil actor, died last night at the age of 74, the Press Trust of India reported.

An artiste who has become a legend in his lifetime, 'Sivaji Ganesan captivated the hearts of millions of cine-goers in India, Sri Lanka and other parts of the world. With more than 280 films to his credit many of them top-notchers, Sivaji made his debut in films in 1950 with Parasakthi. 

With a flair for playing historical roles, Sivaji has portrayed all types of leading characters with distinction, one of his most outstanding performances being in Veerapandiya Kattabomman, which won him the Best Actor Award at the Afro-Asia Film Festival in 1959. The hero-worshipping cine-goers of Tamil Nadu have conferred the title of 'Nadigar Tilakam' on this jewel among film stars. 

His contribution to the Tamil cinema has been of such outstanding nature that he has created a permanent niche for himself in the history of South Indian cinema. India has honoured him with the highest award Padma Sri.

Sivaji Ganesan, a film idol in Sri Lanka, also visited this country several times, the last being in 1999.


No cricket or pony rides at new Galle Face Green

The Galle Face Green, Sri Lanka's most popular beach-front esplanade will be reopened to the public from next month but the traditional cricket and pony rides will not be allowed.

UDA Assistant Director G.W.G. Abegunawardene said food stalls would be allowed under licence but there would be some restrictions on the entry of carts. He said no entrance fee would be charged.

Urban Development Minister Mangala Samaraweera said earlier the new green would also have a platform like in Britain's Hyde Park where anyone could speak or musically entertain others.


Figures poser for elections chief in referendum result

By Laila Nasry
A lacuna in the provisions relating to the referendum with regard to its numerical strength may well leave the Elections Commissioner fettered in declaring the results of the referendum. 

Legal experts say the Constitution does not provide for the necessary majority in the event of a referendum called with regard to "a matter which in the opinion of the President is of national importance", as in the case of the upcoming referendum on August 21. 

Article 85 (3) of the Constitution provides the majority required in the case of a Bill or a provision of a Bill presented to the people for approval at a referendum. 

It states that such an approval requires "an absolute majority of the valid votes cast at such a referendum". 

Further the proviso sets out that in the event of the total number of valid votes being less than two-thirds of the whole number of electors the Bill shall be deemed approved only if it is approved by not less than one-thirds of the whole number of such electors. 

However the upcoming referendum does not involve a Bill or a provision of a Bill but is merely a matter referred to the people on whether they need a new constitution or not. 

In this event the constitution is silent with regard to the necessary numbers, a substantive right it has not provided for. 

Though the enabling provision set out in Article 87 (2) provides Parliament with the power to make laws relating to "matters of national importance referred to the people at a referendum" it has not been incorporated in the Referendum Act. 

Speaking on the matter, former judge K.M.P.B. Kulatunga stated that in this event the result of such a referendum is "only of persuasive value." 

Speaking from the viewpoint of the Elections Commissioner, Mr. Kulatunga said "it fetters the determination of a legal result. "

"All he can declare is the number of valid votes cast for or against the question posed" he said. 


Insurance Corp. hit by new malady

By Chris Kamalendran
Unfair and unequal distribution of work for assessors at the motor traffic department of the Insurance Corporation of Sri Lanka has given rise to charges of corruption, with unusually high claims from motor assessors and enhanced payments to two photographers attached to the section.

A section of the assessors at the insurance department has been seriously hit by the unequal distribution of the work. Insurance corporation sources said some of them were hardly given any work while some of the assessors had over seven vehicles to inspect and assess.

Despite repeated calls from the assessors who had been affected by the non-distribution of work evenly, no action had been taken to remedy the situation, they said.

An Insurance Corporation official said the assessors were paid Rs. 300 per vehicle in addition to subsistence and other allowances such as travelling.

He said some of the assessors had claimed over Rs. 50,000 in certain months raising questions as to their credibility.

Insurance Corporation sources said some of the assessors had been able to obtain very high sums as their monthly payments.

Meanwhile, a former assessor told The Sunday Times an officer had to inspect 20 to 30 vehicles a day if he were to earn over Rs. 50,000 a month.

A corporation official said large payments made to two photographers had raised another problem. He said they had only to photograph vehicles which had met with accidents. He said the two photographers had been paid an average of Rs. 70,000 a month for the past three years.

According to him, one photographer had earned Rs. 796,020 in 1999, Rs. 898,141 in the following year and Rs. 180,930 in the first two months of this year. The other photographer had earned in Rs. 725,355 last year and Rs. 145,740 in the first two months of this year. 

The official said photographers were reported to be taking an excessive number of photographs which were not really necessary.

The Sunday Times learns that payments are made from the Insurance Corporation's "Premium Fund".


AI condemns police attack

The London-based human rights group Amnesty International has condemned the brutal police attack on Thursday's opposition protests, describing it as an excessive use of force and an infringement of the rights to the freedom of expression.

In a strongly-worded statement, the AI said people of all political persuasions must recognise and respect each other's right to gather peacefully and express their opinions without fear for their safety. Referring to the deaths of UNP supporters Achintha Gunaratna and Manjula Prasad, the AI expressed dismay as the two had been killed by bullets from T-56 automatic weapons, the type used by the police and the army.

"The police have admitted using live ammunition, rubber bullets and tear gas and there was also film footage of a police officer handing a knife to a person in civvies thought to be a member of the security forces or a member of one of the government parties," the statement said. The AI urged President Kumaratunga to instruct law enforcement agencies to strictly observe internationally accepted principles.

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