2nd September 2001
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No tax cut, no price cut, say milk firms

By Tania Fernando
Amidst government claims that milk food prices will be slashed soon, leading companies have said they will not do it until the government brings into force tax concessions promised to them.

C. Srinamuni, director of New Zealand Milk Products which imports and markets Anchor milk food, said that at a recent meeting they had with members of the ministerial committee on cost of living, the companies were asked to cut down on their advertising and packaging costs and pass the benefit to the consumer. 

"We spend only Rs. 1.10 per packet for advertising and we cannot change the packaging as we have to protect the quality of the product," Mr. Srinamuni said.

He said a letter had been sent to Minister Reggie Ranatunga, chairman of the ministerial committee, explaining the company's position with regard to the price reduction, but todate they had received no response.

Lal Saranapala, a senior executive at Lanka Milk Foods, producers of Lakspray, also scoffed at the government's suggestion for reduction in advertising and packaging cost. He said Lanka Milk Foods incurred an advertising cost of just Rs. 1 per packet and therefore the price reduction could be just Rs. 1 and that too only if they stopped all advertising. Minister Dinesh Gunawardena, a member of the ministerial committee, said the Treasury was studying their recommendation for a tax and duty concessions for milk food companies and a decision would be taken based on the Treasury observations.

Gas at cheaper rate 

The much awaited entrance of a second gas supplying company which has offered to sell its product at a price less than that of Shell gas, will take place next month, officials said.

Officials of Lanka Auto Gas Ltd. said they had obtained cabinet approval and sales would begin as soon as they entered into an agreement with the government.

The company officials said all necessary infrastructure facilities were also ready to begin operation.

The entry of Lanka Auto Gas Ltd. will see an end to the multinational Shell gas company's more than six year monopoly status. 

Drought, power cuts and soon water cuts

The prevailing dry weather which has caused a devastating drought and led to power cuts is also bringing down water levels at water supplying reservoirs, spelling an imminent water cut.

A Water Board official said that with the water levels decreasing in rivers and people using more water due to the dry weather, water at reservoirs had come down to alarmingly low levels, prompting the Water Board to impose unofficial water cuts in areas such as Ragama and Moratuwa. 

In some areas a day-water cut is imposed every other day. Water is supplied from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. during water-cut days.

He said, however, bowsers were sent to these areas to provide water during water cuts.

The official urged consumers to use water sparingly and abstain from using water other than for the most essential requirements until the drought ended.

In most reservoirs the water level has reached near zero level, the official said adding that if there was no rain in the next four weeks, they would be compelled to impose islandwide water cuts.

Heed the majority voice, Stanley tells Anura

By M. Ismeth
If the opposition is in a majority in parliament and asks for sessions to be continued, the Speaker should uphold the supremacy of Parliament and allow it, former Speaker Stanley Tillekeratne said.

He made these observations as opposition parties move to debate the no-confidence motion on the very day parliament reconvenes and put it to a vote on the same day even by suspending the Standing Orders.

Mr. Tillekeratne told The Sunday Times the Speaker should go with the majority decision in setting the parliamentary business.

He said that if there was an attempt to prorogue parliament again after September 7, Speaker Anura Bandaranaike should stand by parliamentary supremacy and heed the majority voice in parliament.

"In this instance a confrontation cannot be avoided between the executive and the legislature. Knowing the Speaker who hails from a family whose parents were democrats, should not give into incorrect steps to prorogue Parliament again," he said.

Mr. Tillekeratne said the government should reconvene parliament and face the no-confidence motion and in case they lost, the President should invite the leader who commanded the respect of a majority of members in parliament to form a government.

Don't join the queue

In a move to stem the flow of visa applicants, the British High Commission has urged people to apply for visas just two weeks before their date of departure as they were only able to process a limited number of applications a day, an official said.

He said this request comes in the wake of a high demand for student visas, and the chances of other applicants being turned away in spite of waiting for hours in the queue, due to accommodation limitations.

He said the High Commission could only accommodate 120 people in comfort and safety. He also emphasised that regular visitors, who had travelled within the past five years and transit passengers did not have to come in person but could resort to the fast track scheme where applications could be submitted via travel agents.

Democracy demos on Wednesday, Thursday

A pro-democracy group has appealed to the public to hoist a black flag, wear a black band and observe 10 minutes silence on Thursday to convey a message that Sri Lanka's democracy is threatened and that it needs to be protected.

The Peoples Power for Democracy says in a statement that Sri Lankan politicians have forsaken democracy for personal and party gain for which the common man is paying the price.

Meanwhile another group calling itself the Human Chain for Democracy had called on the public to join it on Wednesday in protest against the Government's actions.

The group requests that all people should form a human chain on September 5 from 10.30 a.m. to 11.00 a.m. to protest against the economic, social and political volatility that Sri Lanka is faced with today. The campaign is due to take place island wide. 

UNP vows to continue campaign

By M. Ismeth
The main opposition UNP declared yesterday that it would not give up its pro-democracy campaign and press ahead with the demand for the setting up of independent commissions in spite of a government-JVP deal.

"We will continue with our pro-democracy campaign which was launched with the participation of other opposition parties and the civil society despite any arrangement between the government and the JVP," UNP Assistant leader Gamini Atukorale told The Sunday Times.

The UNP's media spokesman Karunasena Kodituwakku said yesterday the UNP was undeterred by the latest developments and was in a position now to get the 17th amendment passed with a two-thirds majority. The UNP's draft for the 17th amendment calls for the setting up of independent commissions for elections, police, the public service and the judiciary. 

With regard to the no-confidence motion, the spokesman said it would take place at the right time.

Mr. Kodituwakku said that with or without the support of the JVP and Sihala Urumaya, the UNP was confident of toppling the government through the no-confidence motion.

"At no point did we expect the support of the JVP and Sihala Urumaya for the no-confidence motion," he said expressing confidence that the party was sure of the required numbers when the real act took place. Earlier Chief Opposition Whip W. J. M. Lokubandara said the party would move a resolution to dissolve parliament in the event the government tried to prorogue parliament again. 

Asked whether there is a plan to form an alliance at the time of an election with those who cross over from the government, he said we will definitely not let them down. 

"How can we let down those who sacrificed their personal interests in order to defeat a corrupt and inefficient government in the interest of the nation," he said.

It's not LTTE, but EPDP, say Tamil MPs

Opposition Tamil MPs have alleged that the EPDP is behind the intimidating campaign that called for their resignations from parliament.

The MPs said the LTTE had denied issuing the threat and their investigations indicated that the leaflet had the EPDP stamp.

All Ceylon Tamil Congress leader A. Vinayagamoorthy said he would have quit parliament, had the request been from the LTTE, but he soon found out it was the work of the EPDP because it wanted to weaken the joint opposition resolve to defeat the government.

TULF MP Joseph Pararajasingham said they too believed that the LTTE had no role in the leaflet campaign.

The UNP's Jaffna parliamentarian M. Maheshwaran said he too believed the EPDP initiated the campaign in a bid to thwart the joint opposition campaign.

The leaflet purported to be issued by the 'Sangiliyan Padai' (Sangiliyan Army) said those who refused to quit 'would not have an opportunity to regret their action'. 

LTTE theoretician Anton Balasingham later issued a statement saying that a Tamil paramilitary group working with the Sri Lanka Army had issued the notice to discredit the LTTE and to undermine Tamil MPs who were supporting efforts by Sri Lanka's main opposition UNP to impeach President Chandrika Kumaratunga. 

EPDP parliamentarian Sinnathurai Thavaraja denied that his party was behind the quit-parliament campaign. 

"We wouldn't ask our own MPs to resign," he said adding "the statement clearly said its from the 'Sangiliyan Padai'".

Facelift for crisis Parliament

Despite uncertainty and rumours about a second prorogation, parliament staff are busy giving the complex a facelift and inviting VIPs for the ceremonial opening on September 7.

Parliamentary sources said about 700 invitations were to be sent to diplomats, ministry secretaries and heads of state institutions as traditionally done.

They said the political crisis had little bearing on their work and they were taking these preparatory measures in accordance with the prorogation notification.


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