29th July 2001
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Employees at the Government Press checking the 
ballot papers for the forthcoming August 21 
referendum as they come off the press. 
Pic. by J. Weerasekera

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JVP takes pot to the people

By Shelani de Silva
The JVP will launch a major campaign against the August 21 referendum with a party convention at Hyde Park on Wednesday

Around 10,000 organisers are expected to attend the Hyde Park meeting where party leadership would brief them on campaign strategy, party's propaganda secretary Wimal Weerawansa said. 

He said the party will carry out about 20,000 pocket meetings and public meetings at grassroots level to educate and call on the people to give a vote for the kalaya (pot).

Last week the JVP held meetings in 21 towns explaining its opposition to the referendum. 

'The party has decided to face the referendum, but it is our duty to inform the people what it really means and the Government's motive to go for a referendum at this moment. We feel that the only way to defeat the Government is to vote 'no'. This will show the President that she has to move away from her present stand," Mr. Weerawansa said.

Beware of sex assaults, politics, terrorism: EU, US

Several European Union countries and the United States have issued unprecedentedly strong travel advisories to their citizens to avoid Sri Lanka and warned of civil unrest in the country. 


"Following a terrorist attack on the Airforce base at Bandaranike International Airport (BIA) on 24 July the airport has now reopened although disruption to inward and outward flights is likely to remain for some time. No British nationals were injured. 

It is not clear whether this attack signals a return to terrorist activity in the South but for the time being we advise against all holiday and other non-essential travel to Sri Lanka. 

"There is also a risk of political and civil unrest in Colombo and other cities following the prorogation of Parliament on 10 July and in the run-up to the referendum on 21 August. On 19 July political demonstrations led to a violent confrontation with the police in Colombo in which two people died and over seventy were injured. There is a possibility of further such demonstrations taking place. 

Visitors to Colombo should take particular care, remain vigilant and avoid demonstrations and large gatherings. 

"There has been a small increase in the number of reported thefts from hotels and guest houses. Visitors should take precautions to safeguard their valuables especially passports and money. Recently there has been a small increase in sexual assaults. 

Women visitors, in particular, should take sensible precautions when travelling alone and be wary of befriending strangers."

Here are some of the questions and the answers provided in the UK Advisory. 

Q. What is the current situation at the airport?

A. The airport is open. Sri Lankan Airlines have re-scheduled their flights. But there is likely to be disruption and delays. Other airlines are considering how and when to resume operations. 

Q. What is the current security situation in Sri Lanka ? 

A. We advise against non-essential travel to Sri Lanka until further notice. The North and East of Sri Lanka are areas of conflict between the Government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). 

Visitors are strongly advised not to visit these areas. 

There is a risk of civil and political unrest following the prorogation of Parliament and the run up to a Referendum on 21 August. On 19 July political demonstrations led to a violent confrontation with the police in which 2 people died and over 70 were injured. There may well be further demonstrations over the next few weeks. Any visitors to Colombo should consider minimising their stay in the city and take particular care, remain alert and avoid demonstrations and large gatherings. 

Q. Should I cancel my holiday to Sri Lanka ? 

A. We advise against all holiday and other non-essential travel to Sri Lanka until further notice. Please refer to our travel advice, which is updated regularly. 

United States:

"The Department of State urges American citizens to defer nonessential travel to Sri Lanka. Those who must travel to Sri Lanka, or who are resident there, should exercise extreme caution. On July 24, The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) attacked the Colombo International Airport and destroyed both commercial and military aircraft. Several military personnel were killed in the attack, military and airport employees were injured, and civilians were caught in the crossfire. 

The attack demonstrates the LTTE's ability and willingness to select targets without regard for the safety of civilians, including tourists. The US Embassy may temporarily close or suspend public services from time to time as necessary to review its security posture and ensure its adequacy. 

"American citizens should also be aware that Sri Lanka may be entering a period of increased civil unrest and mass political demonstrations. On July 10, the President of Sri Lanka suspended Parliament. In protest of the suspension, opposition parties have mounted a campaign of civil unrest."

Germany: "Citizens traveling to Sri Lanka should take precautions in view of the LTTE attack and in view of the current political situation. 

Tuesday's attack and the political problems including the opposition demonstrations and the upcoming referendum."

Austalia: "We are asking Australians to consider deferring all holiday and normal business travel to Sri Lanka."

France: "We are worried about the situation in Sri Lanka and warned citizens to avoid Sri Lanka. 

There is the possibility of political related violence escalating in the run up to referendum."

Lucky promoted

Police Superintendent Lucky Peiris, head of the Police Communication Centre and the IGP's Command Room, has been promoted as a Senior Superintendant of Police.

Green light given for referendum monitors

The Elections Commissioner has given the green light for independent election observers to monitor the August 21referendum.

The two independent monitoring bodies, PAFFREL and CMEV which have been monitoring elections for the last few years have, however, decided not to bring down foreign monitors. 

PAFFREL Executive Director Kingsley Rodrigo told The Sunday Times that they were ready with 10,000 monitors to be deployed island wide.

The other monitoring body CMEV is yet to decide on monitoring the referendum but is scheduled to make a decision in a few days. The CMEV has not met the Elections Commissioner.

Lawyers blast police action

By Laila Nasry
The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) yesterday passed two resolutions strongly condemning what they called brutal police action on July 19.

The BASL has urged the Attorney General and Inspector General of Police to ensure magisterial orders be complied with by producing the suspect police officers before courts. 

The first resolution condemned the breakdown of law and order in the country and called for political parties to act with restraint to ensure safety and security. 

The resolution said the police had acted outside the legal framework during July 19 demonstrations killing two civilians. 

They also caused injuries to two lawyers and other civilians. It said the police should act impartially and according to the law. 

The second resolution by Desmond Fernando PC called on the government and the opposition to give priority to the drafting of the constitution and the peace process and to postpone confrontational issues and propaganda. 

The two resolutions were an amended version to the first resolution brought by the BASL executive committee. Out of 175 members present 170 voted for the amended resolutions with Nihal Jayamane PC speaking in favour of thm. Four members voted against them and one member abstained from voting. 

The initial resolution condemning the breakdown of law and order was considered a watered down version in comparison to the present situation faced by the country. 

Upul Jayasuriya totally rejected the initial resolution. He cited several past instances like the murder of lawyer Wijedasa Liyanarachchi, the stoning of judges' houses, where the BASL had acted without fear or favour. 

He also said the BASL should support Magistrate Ayeshani Jayasena who was fighting a lone battle.

While condemning the BASL he said it was more like a welfare organisation concerned with going on trips, buying cellular phones and getting insurance policies.

Ajantha Cooray said the country was faced with a political problem and not a constitutional crisis. He said the situation should be viewed not on its constitutionality but morality.

S. S. Wijeratne said there had been a breakdown of law and order and as members of the BASL a resolution should be brought condemning the entire situation. 

Mr. Neelakanthan said the rape of women by the Armed forces should be condemned. 

W. D. Dayaratne said BASL should not get involved in political matters. 

Of the four members who voted against the two resolutions was Ransiri Fernandowho appeared for one of the suspect police officers involved in the July 19 shooting. 

Mr. Fernando said the facts of July 19 should not be discussed as the case was pending before courts.

Three policemen absconding

Three policemen allegedly involved in the killing of UNP demonstrator Manjula Prasad Kalansooriya continued to abscond despite an order by a Magistrate for their arrest.

The Sunday Times learns that Inspector Salinda Samarakoon who had been admitted to the Police hospital for dubious reason had got himself dicharged on Monday and since then is missing. The sub inspector and the constable involved in the case are also still missing.

The Sunday Times learns that the Police Deaprtment in a counter action is to go to the Court of Appeal asking that the evidence of these police officers be recorded first.

Colombo Additional Magistrate Ayeshani Jayasena earlier had reprimanded the police for including the names of the three officers as witnesses when she had ordered their arrest.

Colombo Magistate Ayeshani Jayasena on July 20 issued orders for the arrest of two Sub Inpectors, SI Samarakoon and SI Silva and constable Kondagama of the Kotahena police over the alleged shooting and killing of Manjula Prasad during the UNP protest of July 19. 

She further directed the investigations currently conducted by the Kotahena police to be handed over to the Special Investigations Unit.

The orders had been issued consequent to the evidence given by two eye witnesses in the Magistrate's Court stating that a person wearing the uniform of an officer had fired the shots at the protester. 

However, the constable contradicted the evidence of these two witnesses by owning up to having shot and killed Manjula Prasad during the rally. 

In the circumstances the magistrate had ordered for the arrest of all three suspects and further directed they be produced before an identification parade.

However, last Monday prosecuting officers SSP Ediriwickreme and SSP D. M. Gunatilleke informed court that the arrests had not been carried out due to the suspects having left the hospital and returned to their home towns.

Meanwhile, attorneys Ransiri Fernando and Denzil Gunaratne appearing for the suspects made representations to court for the withdrawal of the case on the basis of it amounting to justifiable homicide, the suspects having acted in self defence. 

The magistrate stated that the order for the arrest would stand and added that representations could be made following the arrest. The magisterial inquiry pending she had issued directions to the prosecution to furnish a list of witnesses to court the following day. 

In an extraordinary turn of events the list of witnesses furnished to court included the names of the three suspects as witnesses in the case. 

The magistrate stood by her order and directed state counsel to inform the Attorney General to notify the Inspector General of Police to arrest the suspects and produce them before court. 

Cops face criminal assault charges

By Dilrukshi Handunnetti
The UNP legal committee has given the green light to file action against the police on charges of criminal intimidation, assault and other related offences com-mitted on July 19 when the police broke up a protest march organ-ized by the Alliance for Democracy. 

The committee headed by K.N. Choksy and Thilak Marapana has approved the filing of fundamental rights petitions and private plaints against the Police Department. The protest march was largely attended by UNP protestors while several other oppos-ition parties as well as those not represented in Parliament also joined them under the common banner of the Alliance for Demo-cracy.

Meanwhile, UNP parliamentarian Tyronne Fernando is to write to the IGP urging immediate action against those who unleashed an unne-cessary attack on innocent protestors on the 19th leading to the killing of two youths, or to resign forthwith admitting neglect of duty.

A resolution to this effect has been adopted at the UNP Colombo district meeting on Thursday to urge the IGP to hand over the three suspects conn-ected with the killing of one of the pro-testors, Manjula Pra-sad, and to produce the three suspects imme-diately.

100 brand names for one drug - it's a world record

The non-existence of effective control of the quality and cost of medicinal drugs in Sri Lanka was highlighted at last Thursday's meeting of the Action committee on Justice for Patients. 

A spokesman said the authorities such as the Health ministry and the State Pharmaceutical Corporation were claiming they did not have qualified staff or funds to enforce effective measures regarding the quality and cost of drugs. But it was alleged that available resources were not tapped, largely due to inefficiency and corruption or the influence of rich drug companies which were making billions in profits at the expense of the country and the patients.

At present some 10,000 different brand names are imported with as many as 100 different brand names for a single drug. Britain for example allows only a maximum of only four different brand names for any particular drug.

As a result of this unrestricted, unnecessary and sometimes hazardous drug import spree, Sri Lanka is noted to be spending more than Rs. 7 billion a year on drug imports. If a rational drug import policy as recommend by the world famous professor Senaka Bibile is implemented, Sri Lanka could cut down its drug imports bill by more than 50 per cent and thus save about four billion rupees a year. 

The Drug Regulatory Authority of the Health ministry is supposed to control the quality drugs imported. But there are cases where the authority has sometimes registered as many as 100 brand names of one drug - possibly a world record. Such loopholes and a lack of sustained quality testing have allowed unscrupulous drug companies to bring in the most expensive drugs and sell them with an exorbitant profit.

The victim is the patient who is forced or fooled to pay five times as much for essential drugs. The Fair Trading Commission of the Trade ministry, is supposed to regulate the prices of drugs. But there too the system is known to be manipulated by unscrupulous drug companies and again the innocent patient pays for it.

Rather than price regulation which could be manipulated through CIF values and underhand deals with importers, the Action Committee has called for an effective price control whereby the government steps in and lays down the prices with provision for review every six months. Along with this the committee is also calling for a rationalization of drug imports so that essential or critical drugs could be imported under their generic names or low cost brand names which have been properly tested for quality and safety. 

It was pointed out that some drug traders manipulate the system in such a manner that certain Indian manufactured drugs are being sold in Sri Lanka at more than five times the price in India. Dr. B. G. D. Bujawansa, a doctor fighting for the rights of patients, said in a letter that Sri Lanka's existing system to control the cost and quality of drugs was not patient-centered but bureaucracy-centered and was working out mostly for the benefit of rich drug companies. He called on the people to fight for the right to obtain quality medicinal drugs at the lowest possible price.

Hakeem challenges Ferial on constitution

SLMC leader Rauf Hakeem yesterday challenged the claim by his rival Ferial Ashraff that the proposed new constitution was the same as the one presented in parliament last year.

Speaking at a working committee meeting of the SLMC, Mr. Hakeem said Ms. Ashraff's claim was contradicted by the Prime Minister and other ministers who had said the proposed constitution was not the same as the one presented last year.

Ms. Ashraff had said MPs of the SLMC shold support the proposed new constitution as it was the same as the one which was presented last year and fully supported by their late leader M. H. M. Ashraff.

Commenting on the President's invitation for talks with various opposition parties, Mr. Hakeem said the SLMC would demand the resummoning of parliament and the cancellation of the referendum.

He warned that if the government went ahead with the referendum it would lead to a dictatorship and anarchy.


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