12th August 2001
By M. IsmethIn the street fights between UNP-led demonstrators and the police on July 19 many bystanders and others who were going about their normal business got injured. R. F. A. de Alwis, 47, was one such victim who paid a heavy price for being in the vicinity of the scene.
Mr. de Alwis, a graphic artist and a father of two children who was hit by the police tear gas attack left hospital without the vision in his left eye.
Trying to recover from his shock in his home at Ragama he said he was at his office in the first floor of the Borella super market when the street battles took place.
After putting the finishing touches to a newspaper job he had heard some commotion in the street. When he peeped out of the window he had seen demonstrators shouting anti-government slogans.
At the time many other shop and office workers too were watching the scene from their work places. He said he advised others not to stay in the first floor as it was risky.
Having advised others to be careful he had peeped through the window to see what was happening in the neighbourhood. Then he was hit by a tear gas canister. He was rushed to the Eye Hospital with a badly injured and bleeding eye. He said he was operated on but doctors could not restore the vision of his left eye. He left the hospital on August 9 still wondering why fate turned out to be so cruel to him.
Mr. de Alwis has two school-going children. He said he had raised a
bank loan to buy computers for his small office. With all his dreams shattered
he is wondering who would take the responsibility for his present predicament.
Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva at a meeting with union leaders gave an assurance that he would obtain funds from the cabinet to provide more overtime payments and meet other demands, union officials said.
According to reports, the undelivered mail includes 80,000 registered
letters and 1028 unopened mailbags. Worst affected by the go-slow were
GCE A/L students sitting the ongoing exam and pensioners.
The traditional Kap planting ceremony will take place on Wednesday at the auspicious time. The Dorakada Asna-Anusasana scheduled for August 18 precedes the Kumbal Perehera, the same day.
Mal Perehera will be conducted on Sunday inside the Vihara premises for four consecutive days, followed by the ancient Pavada Perahera on August 23, where relics and sacred statues are carried on head.
On August 24, the Ransivilli Perahera will parade around Bellanwila
village as usual. The event will culminate with the Randoli Maha Perahera
on Saturday which will leave the temple premises around 10 p.m. and parade
along Sri Bodhi Raja Mawatha, Bellanwila junction, Pepiliyana Road and
Vihara Mawatha before it returns to the temple.
A statement issued by the Ministry of Finance & Planning said, on the contrary, the Government has provided additional facilities and opportunities for non-resident Sri Lankans to invest their foreign currency in Sri Lanka.
Housing loans at concessionary rates of interest, insurance compensation to dependents, monthly pension benefits, and scholarships to children are being offered to migrant workers as indicated in the Budget 2001, the statement said.
The release further stated that in addition a new investment scheme,
namely Rupee Accounts for Non-Resident Sri Lankan Investment (RANSI) has
been implemented under which Sri Lankans working abroad can maintain foreign
currency accounts in a bank in Sri Lanka.
'The power cuts cannot be relaxed as the water levels in the reservoirs
have not increased despite a few showers in the catchment areas', the spokesman
Narme Wickramasinghe, chairman of the Ranaviru Seva Authority (RVSA), said he would urge the President to amend the Ranaviru Seva Act, empowering the RVSA to monitor activities of groups collecting funds for the welfare of the soldiers and to check their accounts.
Dr. Wickramasinghe said the operations of these bogus groups both in Sri Lanka and abroad had seriously affected fund-raising task of genuine organisations such as the RVSA, the only legally appointed body to look in to the welfare of soldiers and their families,
He said the bogus groups were active in rural areas where most of the soldiers and their families lived.
Dr. Wickramamsinghe called on the people to be wary of these bogus groups, one of which he said had sold Rs. 10 tickets with an emblem similar to that of the RVSA.
He also expressed concern about media reports that a Ranaviru organisation was prepared to pay the fine imposed on Minister Sarath Amunugama by the Supreme Court in a fundamental rights case.
He said that in the wake of this report several donors had telephoned the RVSA to ask whether the funds are being misused.
However the organisation which had pledged to pay the fine on behalf of Dr. Amunugama was identified as Ranaviru Seva Padanama and had no affiliation with the RVSA, he said.
He said there were several genuine organisations such as the Kobbekaduwa
foundation which worked for the welfare of the soldiers.
Dr. Iyanthi Abeywickrema, Director of the National AIDS control programme, told The Sunday Times her unit was carefully studying all aspects of the issue before giving a report to the Director General of Health services.
The Director General, Dr. A. M. L. Beligaswatte has sent to Dr. Abeywickrema documents relating to a proposed agreement with an Indian drug company, for the supply of the HIV/AIDS treatment drug under the generic name.
Earlier this cocktail of drugs was marketed by western based multinational drug companies at a huge cost of about $ 10,000 per patient for a year. Under intense pressure from African governments and civic action groups, the price was brought down to $1000.
But later the South African government won the legal right to buy and provide this drug under the generic name at a cost of only $300 per patient for a year.
The Sri Lanka government also will buy the cocktail of drugs at the slashed price of $300 but they will be provided free to an estimated 8,500 HIV/AIDS patients in Sri Lanka.
Dr. Abeywickrema said that following the move by the Director General they were now looking into various areas including the stage at which treatment should begin, monitoring of the treatment to ensure that patients follow the procedure testing for side effects and the facilities available for counselling.
Dr. Abeywickrema who has more than 15 years of worldwide experience
in HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment, said that hitherto Sri Lanka had
concentrated on preventive methods. Preventive drugs had been given to
pregnant women and this has been found to be successful.
By Feizal SamathSri Lanka's beleaguered business community, struggling to cope with crisis after crisis, came out with its guns firing last week, issuing a strong challenge to the ruling PA - "if you can't run the government, hand over the reins to us."
"Enough is enough. We have had enough. This country has had enough. If the government can't govern or the other parties can't come to some agreement over a stable government, hand it over to us. We will run the system efficiently (with civil society)," said an angry Macky Hashim, president of the Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FCCI).
Mr. Hashim, flanked by members representing various sectors of industry, made the call on Friday at a news conference a day after top leaders of a variety of chambers of commerce and industry rebuffed President Chandrika Kumaratunga through a silent protest.
Chamber officials present at a meeting called by President Kumaratunga for the business community on Thursday decided not to ask questions in a mark of protest over her stinging criticism of the J-Biz forum in a magazine interview.
"We were shocked and hurt over her attack and took a decision to go for the meeting but not ask any questions," said a senior industrialist. Some industrialists also decided to boycott the meeting in which more than 750 people were invited. Earlier Ms. Kumaratunga in an interview with a local business magazine had criticised the J-Biz forum _ representing business and industry chambers _ which has been canvassing the formation of a national government.
The meeting itself was a disappointment with Ms. Kumaratunga making her usual presentation of past events and blaming the UNP for not cooperating. There was no discussion as anticipated and only a few questions, relating to more personal issues, were raised.
At Friday's news conference, FCCI senior vice president Nihal Abeyesekera suggested the introduction of a monitoring committee to make sure the government and the main opposition UNP stick to whatever agreement was reached. "We need some kind of mechanism like this as both sides have a credibility problem in negotiations of this nature," he said.
Mark Reade Mckenna, Colombo representative of the US-based Asia Foundation and a senior member of the American chamber of commerce here, said what would be more appropriate was for senior journalists to be permitted to be present at these negotiations. "There could be some kind of arrangement where they are told not to report sensitive issues, but they would act as a buffer against any attempt by either party to paint a false picture of the negotiations, later."
The responses of an angry business community capped a difficult week for Sri Lanka's economy in which the shipping crisis where global insurers have sharply raised premiums for ships calling at Colombo was the biggest issue. Ports Minister Ronnie de Mel is this week leading a delegation to convince Lloyds of London that adequate security measures have been taken at the port and to cut premiums, which has affected the export and import industry across the board.
Representatives of some shipping lines said if the situation worsens they would be forced to pull out, a worry expressed by foreign airlines. The hotel industry had its own problems - as a fall out from the Katunayake attacks - with fears that tourist arrivals could dip by as much as 40 percent this year.
Higher freight rates, increasing airfares, a shortage of air cargo space and tumbling tourist arrivals were some of the problems raised by the business community last week while private economists said economic growth was certain to record sharp falls this year.
To add to the country's woes, the Association of Licensed Foreign Employment Agencies (ALFEA) - which finds jobs for thousands of Sri Lankans in West Asia - said they expected a sharp fall of around 75,000 in the number of jobs for Sri Lankans.
"The cost of airfares has risen sharply. This would make it more difficult for our housemaids," said ALFEA president Suraj Dandeniya. The association failed in an effort last week to convince SriLankan Airlines to scrap the Market Development Programme, in which ticket prices are controlled, and allow the free market to operate to bring down ticket fares.
Asia Foundation's Mckenna said many problems were affecting the economy and if there were no steps from the government to address these issues, half the members of the 275-strong US association may go out of business.
"It is a serious problem," he said adding that the difficult period would be when garment buyers had to place orders from March/April 2002 onwards. "For the moment, orders to January/February have been taken care of," he said, urging the government to implement some confidence-building measures and assure investors.
A delegation from the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) was due at the weekend to undertake a security audit of the airport and suggest necessary measures. There have been representations made by the business community for the Katunayake airbase to be shifted to another location but airforce authorities have said it would take at least two years to do this. "We did an independent assessment and believe it could be done in three months," a hotel industry source said, adding that as long as the airport was next to the airbase, it would pose a security threat.
The gloomy economic environment has also hit the construction industry. "We are badly affected and people are getting laid off because there is no work," noted Surath Wickremasinghe, a top architect and former president of the Sri Lanka Architects Association.
He said there were no major projects and even house-building plans had
been put on hold by individuals. "The construction sector is the first
to get hit in an economic downturn."
Justice Upali de Z. Gunawardana says:
Biased people cannot give fair decisions
By Laila NasryAppeal Court Judge Upali De Z. Gunawardana, has said people who are likely to be biased cannot realistically be expected to make fair decisions. He was giving a judgment in a case pertaining to a writ application filed by an official of the Ceylon Tourist Board, seeking to quash an order of dismissal from service.
In this case Ceylon Tourist Board Chairman, H.M.S.Sama-ranayake had appointed S.Rathnasinghe as inquiring officer to look into a complaint made by him against the petitioner on the charge that she had allegedly made some allegations or remarks to a former minister which reflected on him as Chairman of the Tourist Board.
The judge quashing by way of a writ of certiorari the proclamation made by the inquiring officer held that dismissing petitioner Neidra Fernando from service was arbitrary and contrary to the rules of natural justice.
Justice Gunawardana held that in any event the rule empowering or requiring the Chairman to appoint an inquiring officer has to be strictly and sensibly construed as being subject to the sacred rule of natural justice.
However Justice Gunawardana stated that confidence in the decision making process is undermined because of the Chairman's involvement in it.
For it was the Chairman (who is party to the proceedings and very much interested in the outcome) who had handpicked the inquiry officer who will figure as the judge or arbitrator. "There is always the prospect of the Chairman being suspected of selecting as the inquiring officer one who would be favourably disposed towards him.
The Chairman would have acted contrary to human nature if he had selected as the inquiring officer, one for instance who is ill disposed towards him,"he noted
He said "there is also room for reasonable suspicion that the inquirer might feel obliged to give a decision favourable to the Chairman out of gratitude or goodwill towards the Chairman for the inquirer owes his appointment to him."
The Judge was of the view that since the Chairman had appointed the inquiring officer a reasonable person has cause to suspect that the Chairman is in the position of being dominant with the possibility of it ultimately affecting the decision making process. Justice Gunawardana reasoned that "a person may be disqualified by bias not because it created a real possibility of bias but because it created a possibility which a reasonable person might have suspected would taint the fairness of proceedings. His is a safeguard, which is really not concerned with the fact that the decision-maker was actually biased but with the possibility that he or she might have been biased."
On the facts of this case there is scope for a reasonable man to perceive that a real danger of bias exists, the Judge noted. "In fact one can say that bias is manifested in the action of the inquiring officer in recommending that the maximum possible punishment be meted out to the petitioner without giving any reasons whatever for prescribing such a drastic punishment.
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