5th August 2001
By Chris Kamalendran & Shane SeneviratnePolice are in the process of picking up vital evidence in the case of the mysterious murder of the university don's wife and daughter in Kandy, at the same time keeping an open mind about who the culprit or culprits responsible for the deaths were.
The scope of inquiry into the double murder which has shocked residents and close friends of the two victims is due to be widened now that the police who were pre-occupied with providing security for the Kandy perahera until yesterday can devote more time to the investigation.
'Police are looking into these killings from different angles. We cannot immediately pinpoint one particular culprit or any persons as we are still in the process of gathering more evidence', said Senior Superintendent of Police, Kandy Asoka Ratnaweera who is directing investigations.
In what could be a break-through, police have tracked down two three-wheelers which are reported to have passed the house of Professor Nimal Seneviratne where the crime took place. The house is located off Deveni Rajasinghe Mawatha, Getambe.
Police have found that the two three-wheelers traced tally with the registration numbers of two three-wheelers written by the daughter of the professor on a piece of paper and found in the mother's handbag.
'We are trying to ascertain whether the two three-wheelers were in any way involved in the crime' SSP Ratnaweera said.
One line of investigation is on a dispute between the professor's wife and a group of squatters who had encroached on a state land close to the professor's house. The group allegedly backed by a political party had began encroaching on the land and the professor's wife, Amitha Seneviratne had strongly objected to it.
An argument had taken place between Mrs. Seneviratne and the squatters three weeks before the killings, as the encroachers had diverted one of the main drains from the state land onto the professor's land. Mrs. Seneviratne had also objected to strangers settling on the state owned land. The encroachers are reported to have told her to mind her business.
However the dispute about the land is only one of the angles which the police have been following and investigators will not follow only this line, the SSP said.
Police have videoed the scene of the crime and collected as much evidence as possible which they believe would help in their case. They have also searched the professor's office at the Peradeniya university.
Among the items taken into custody from the house is a detective story titled 'The Body Farm' written by Patricia Cornwell about the murder of a mother and a daughter. The book appeared to have been read recently, according to SSP Samaraweera.
Investigations have also revealed that Rs. 6.9 million had been deposited by Mrs. Seneviratne in her personal bank account on the day prior to her death.
The professor himself has been questioned and his statements recorded.
The domestic aide, Sirisena (62) who is currently in police custody has turned out to be one of the key witnesses in the case as he had been in the garden at the time of the crime.
According to investigations carried out so far Sirisena is said to have been working in the garden after his master left for work. Around 11.15 a.m. he is said to have walked back to the house realising that it was time to take his master's lunch to the university.
Sirisena usually enters the two-storied house from the rear entrance, but as the door was closed, which was unusual, he had decided to use the front entrance. He had entered the house through the unlocked front door and called out 'nona-nona' (madam-madam), but since there was no response he had gone upstairs and seen Mrs. Seneviratne and her daughter strangled, according to police.
Sirisena had thereafter rushed to the house of the immediate neighbour, a doctor, and related what he had seen to the gardener as the occupants of the house were out. Thereafter the lady of the house had been contacted and the police had been alerted.
Police who had rushed to the house believed that the daughter was still alive and had rushed her to the Peradeniya Teaching hospital. Although Mrs. Seneviratne was believed to be dead she was also taken to the hospital. Both of them were pronounced dead at the hospital.
The bodies of the mother and daughter were given to the undertakers and the house sealed for investigations.
The daughter Ransika's body was later placed at Hillwood College, Kandy where she had her schooling.
'She was a bright student and was the head prefect in the junior school. Every year she has been the first in class', the school Principal Miss S.R. Ratnayake told The Sunday Times.
Mrs. Seneviratne has also taught at the same school.
With the mystery over the double murder yet to be cleared police say
they were confident of getting a breakthrough in the case.
By Faraza Farook and Tania FernandoThe impact of the imposition of war risk surcharges on both aircraft and ships arriving in Sri Lanka in the aftermath of the LTTE attacks last week have begun to trickle down to all sectors including consumers.
Exporters, importers, the tourist industry, the hotel trade and manufacturers said the impact on them was turning out to be severe with the next few weeks being crucial for them.
Air and sea freight costs have been substantially increased following the attack on the Air Force base at Katunayake while it had also affected the Bandaranaike International Airport.
The already paralyzed economy has been dealt another tough blow, with the only international airport and Colombo Port, being identified as risk zones and insurance premia being increased, thus affecting the import and export trade.
Chairman of the Sri Lanka Freight Forwarders Association Romesh David said that already air freight orders were dropping as exporters have to pay more.
Korean Airlines which operated a cargo service mainly exporting garments to the United States has suspended its services until further notice causing concern among garment exporters.
'We will not operate until the situation improves', General Manager Korean Airlines Ms. Deepthi de Saram told 'The Sunday Times'.
Importers and exporters of some items are contemplating closure of their businesses, unable to cope with rising costs.
"Cost of production is increasing on all sides and soon we'll find it difficult to compete," said one exporter in the apparel industry.
President of the National Chamber of Exporters Patrick Amarasinghe told The Sunday Times that the impact of the increase of insurance premia will affect all exporters as they would have to pay more.
'Usually garment exports are increased during the winter and if exports are not made in time it will affect the trade', he said.
In the event that under-writers declare Colombo as a war risk zone, the premia could be increased without any restrictions. This would mean that the number of vessels calling at Colombo would decrease drastically, resulting in a huge loss of revenue to the Sri Lanka Ports Authority and to businessmen.
An official of the Sri Lanka Shipping Corporation said that the 'Mahapola' which carries 400 containers was charged a premia of US$ 3500 per year, but this has now risen to US$ 5500 per month.
"Big vessels coming to Sri Lanka may be charged around US$ 75,000 for each call", he added.
Vice Chairman of the Ceylon Association of Shipping Agents (CASA) Parakrama Dissanayake said that if the insurance companies feel that the Colombo port is a war risk zone, they would increase the premia to US$ 30,000 – US$ 70,000 per call.
Aitken Spence Group of Companies Chairman R. Sivaratnam said the present crisis would paralyze transshipment cargo very badly as they would be diverted to other ports.
According to Mr. Sivaratnam, 65% of our cargo is transshipment cargo. He said that even feeder ships would have to pay increased premia.
"There is no short cut to recovery. Recapturing this market is going to be difficult," Mr. Sivaratnam said, adding that the chances of small vessels bypassing Colombo was high, as it would not be economically viable for them.
The London Underwriters, one of the biggest markets, declared the port in northern Sri Lanka as a war risk zone about three years back.
However, Colombo was considered safe and was kept outside this demarcation. Failure to build confidence among international under-writers that Colombo is safe will result in the collapse of the export and import trade.
Though the bulk of our exports and imports are by sea, the increase in the cost of air freight too which has also been used by particular trades will affect them.
An aquarium exporter said the situation would have to be watched and even alternate markets found.
"Our exports are mainly to Japan, USA and the European Union, but now we are experiencing a reduction in flights to those areas and we cannot get our orders delivered on time. We will have to find viable destinations to which our orders can continue undisrupted" he said.
The estimated export earnings from aquarium fish in the year 2000 was around US$ 10 million, industry sources said.
"The apparel industry which was one of the most stable industries has now been affected with air and sea freight increasing sharply," Ajith Wijeyesekera of the National Apparel Exporters Association said.
He said that increase in freight charges cannot be passed on to the buyer, as these costs have to be absorbed by the manufacturer.
Mr. Wijeyesekera said that buyers who stop over at Colombo to place orders are now avoiding this destination, as they are not sure their orders can be confirmed.
"We have to ensure that our orders are ready on time if we are to avoid using air freight," he said.
Meanwhile, a representative of a freight forward company said that goods that used to go directly to certain destinations have now to transit, before reaching their destinations.
"We used to send certain items directly to Milan, but now we have to
send them to London and then only to Milan", he explained, adding that
when newspapers are sent in this manner, there is a delay in them reaching
their destinations, causing much inconvenience.
By Ruwan WeerakoonA proposal to deploy a security firm, which has British trained Gurkhas, at the Bandaranaike International Airport is among some of the tough security measures put forward by the travel trade and tourist industry delegates at a meeting with President Chandrika Kumaratunga.
At a meeting with the President early this week to call for remedial measures to safeguard the travel and hotel industry affected by the airport incident, the delegates said that foreign experts should be consulted to maintain security at the airport.
The deployment of Gurkhas, improving the airport security sytem and the deployment of a special foreign team to handle the management of the airport were among the proposals taken up for discussion.
The improvement of the airport security system was given high priority at the meeting.
Defence Secretary Chandrananda de Silva was accordingly instructed to look into the security aspects.
At the meeting it was decided that the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) should be invited to carry out a security audit and review the contingency plan and make recommendations.
Travel trade representatives had pointed out that their agents would
be comfortable if a security audit is carried out and a report made.
Officials said the Jaye Container Terminal (JCT) was paralysed yesterday too with few vessels coming in as the employees continued their protest demanding that the shift system be withdrawn.
The dispute began after the Sri Lanka Ports Authority introduced a three-group-two-shift system which is described as worker friendly. But trade unions are asking that the earlier two-group-two system be continued.
The management claimed the new system offered benefits such as more off days, improved salaries and other benefits, but trade unions say the workers would lose on overtime payments.
The management has warned that the Port is an essential service and
those who do not report for duty would be considered to have vacated post.
The management also invited retired employees and West Asia returnees for
walk-in interviews and immediate recruitment. By yesterday about hundred
employees are reported to have returned to work. But no new recruits had
taken up duties still. In one incident of violence, gunmen are reported
to have fired into the air near the house of a crane operator who had reported
By Chandani KirindeWith the start of the school holidays, the Dehiwela zoo is expecting more than 15, 000 visitors daily but a cloud hangs over this premier zoo because of a row over water.
National Zoological Gardens director Brigadier H.A.N.T. Perera and the National Water Supply and Drainage Board are trading charges over a water shortage which is affecting thousands of animals and visitors.
Brigadier Perera claimed that the matter had not been given priority by the Water Board despite several rounds of talks. He said the main valve supplying water to the Zoo had not been fully opened thus slowing down the pressure.
It is also alleged that the Zoo's supply line is being tapped to supply water illegally to a nearby business establishment.
Water Board Deputy General Manager H.G.Tillekeratne tells another story. He said a new pipe line was laid two weeks ago and the Zoo is being supplied with adequate water.The problem was not the supply but the lack of storage facilities at the Zoo.
But the zoo's director insists that while the daily water requirement at the Zoo is around 80,000 gallons, in the past few weeks the supply had been down to around 25,000.
He said this was grossly insufficient to meet the needs of the animals, keep their enclosures clean and also supply water for the visitors to the Zoo.
The aquarium itself needs upto 15,000 gallons a day.
Brigadier Perera also claimed present water storage facilities at the Zoo was sufficient while steps were also being taken to install a water recycling plant and tube wells. He said the situation now was uncertain as the weather- with enough water on some days and no water on others. He said angry visitors had even broken taps one day recently when there was no water.
If the water dispute is not settled the zoo director says he would appeal
to the minister of public utilities directly.
Due to strong winds and heavy rains that night, a tree had fallen onto an electric wire running over the Rhinoceros's cage. The wire snapped in two and one part fell into the animal's cage.
The unsuspecting animal bit into the wire resulting in its electrocution, according to initial inquiries on the death of the Rhino three months ago.
Now measures have been taken to remove all electric wires which run
over animal's cages, an official said.
The Commission headed by former Supreme Court judge S. W. Walpita, Justice A.D.T.M.P. Tennakoon, Prof. P.A. de Silva, Prof. Lily de Silva, and Mr. Dharamasena Uduwela visited all districts, except the three districts in the Northern Province, to record evidence.
The Sinhala Commission completed its first part of the report in 1998, triggering a major political debate.
The final part of the report deals with the British-sponsored Indian
Tamil immigration to Sri Lanka, NGOs and their role in undermining the
Sinhala culture and traditions, misuse of the communication media to the
detriment of the Sinhala people, ethnic cleansing of the Sinhala people
as a result of successive governments implementing foreign policies inimical
to their interests, among others.
By Shelani de SilvaThe JVP has proposed to the joint opposition that they should call for a dissolution of Parliament in the event the President prorogues the House again.
A JVP spokesman told The Sunday Times that the party discussed the proposal with the Opposition UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe on Thursday morning and later at the Joint Opposition meeting.
He said all parties agreed to discuss the matter further at their next meeting on Tuesday.
The JVP move follows after its meeting with President Chandrika Kumaratunga last week ended inconclusively. The JVP delegation which met the President told her that they were ready to extend conditional support to the government for one year provided the referendum was called off, the government agreed to set up five commissions and abolish the executive presidency.
JVP leader Tilvin Silva told The Sunday Times if the government did not call off the referendum, the party would continue with its campaign for a 'no' vote.
But if the government agreed to call off the referendum, the JVP would support the government from outside.
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