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20th January 2002

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Liberian dollar doctors remanded

A policeman holds up the front and reverse of a counterfeit US $100 note two Liberian nationals have printed in a safe house at Mount Lavinia. The two Liberians one a medical doctor and the other a medical student were remanded for 14 days while the police have sought the Goverenment Analyst's assistance for investigations. The two suspects were arrested when Mount Lavinia police decoys approached them, saying they wanted to buy the dollar-printing technology. The suspects had demanded one million US dollars for the technology and high security papers used in the operation. The suspects had printed US$ eight million counterfeit notes using their simple but hi-tech method. Police said forged notes were made by placing a genuine dollar note on a chemically treated special security paper, then by drawing a hot iron over it. Police said the counterfeit currency had been banked in a 'test run' with two private banks accepting the US $100 bills as genuine. Pic by M.A. Pushpa Kumara

Long Rangers' detention illegal

The long term detention of an officer and four soldiers all members of the once top-secret Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol after the Police raid on an Army Safe House at Athurugiriya has turned out to be illegal.

After their arrest on January 2, they had been detained in a remand cell, normally used to house criminals and drug addicts, for three days. This was on a Detention Order for three days issued by the Senior Superintendent of Police of the Kandy Division under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). That is the maximum period an SSP is empowered to issue a Detention Order under the PTA. Thereafter, the detaining authority is required to obtain a Detention Order from the Ministry of Defence. 

Mahinda Balasuriya, until last Friday DIG in charge of Central Province West, which covers the Kandy Division, wrote to Defence Minister, Tilak Marapana, that a Detention Order be issued for the period January 5 to 10 to cover the further period of detention. But Mr. Marapana has refused to do so. Hence, the arrest of the Officer and four soldiers and their detention after January 5 have turned out to be illegal. 

The officer and the soldiers are to file a fundamental rights violation petition before the Supreme Court, citing their illegal detention and many other reasons. The country's leading lawyers have offered to appear free of charge for them.

A Police party led by Kulasiri Udugampola, Superintendent of Police, (Special Operations), Kandy Division, conducted the raid on the Army Safe House at Millennium Park in Athurugiriya. It transpired at a top level conference at Police Headquarters on January 7 that Mr. Udugampola had neither briefed his immediate superior, DIG Balasuriya nor obtained his clearance to carry out the raid outside his division. 

Last Sunday, Mr. Marapana ordered the immediate release of the Officer and soldiers. All of them barring one, a former Tiger guerrilla who surrendered and became an Army soldier, were handed over to Brigadier B.H.M.R. Tammita, General Officer Commanding the Army's Central Command. The former guerrilla was held back for what was described as "further interrogation." Last Tuesday night, Mr. Marapana ordered his release, too, after reports that he was to be moved to another location. 

The Sunday Times has learnt that no incriminating evidence whatsoever about any illegal activity or conspiracy was found during investigations into the safe house. All weaponry found inside the safe house has been accounted for. Army authorities have also explained that they had arranged to stitch a set of Tiger guerrilla uniforms. Though Mr. Udugampola had contended the funds used were not approved, they explained that expenses in instances like this were secret and not accounted for. As a result of the raid and a massive propaganda blitz, the LTTE became aware of the operations of the Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol and the men involved. Intelligence services were not only able to confirm this but also learnt of witch hunts Tiger guerrillas had launched to punish civilians in areas they dominate in the Batticaloa district for helping LRRP teams. 

In today's Situation Report, Iqbal Athas reports on the aftermath of the probe and the degrading treatment meted out to men of the LRRP.

Ceylinco boss offers to be peace envoy

Ceylinco Group Chairman Lalith Kotelawela has offered his services to Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe to be the Government's "Peace Envoy" at future negotiations with the LTTE, The Sunday Times learns. 

Mr. Kotelawela, lost an eye following the LTTE's suicide-bombing of the Central Bank building in January, 1996 when the adjoining "Ceylinco House" building was also destroyed. In a letter to the Prime Minister, Mr. Kotelawela has said he is willing to be the chief negotiator for peace, a company spokesman said.

He said their chairman had been hand-picked by the former government as well to negotiate with the LTTE as a businessman's initiatives to settle the country's 20 year old northern insurgency, but conceded that the process could not be started.

Power crisis

Rubbish to the rescue

Sunil Jayatilleke
A proposal to take over the thousands of tons of garbage and produce electricity to beat the power crisis has been made by a subsidiary of a British-based company.

The proposal, now being considered by the Ministry of Power and Energy and the Ministry of Environment, involves the management of solid waste in the Colombo city and two suburbs to generate energy.

At present, the CMC spends as much as Rs. 507 million a year for disposal of garbage.

A company spokesman said they could produce electricity and sell it to the CEB at about Rs. 7 per unit.

The total load of daily garbage collected by the CMC runs into 1300 tons whereas the quantum needed daily for such a power factory is only 600 tons.

The proposal comes as the government further extended the power cuts with effect from yesterday while continuing its highly expensive mystic project to bring down more rain. A Kataragama monk, well-known for his chanting of mantras, has been given a luxury vehicle and a special escort to travel hundreds of miles across the country to make the chants at the reservoirs. He has so far exercised the mystic power at Victoria, Lakshapana and Randenigala. Much was expected but little rain has come. 

Meanwhile, the power cut was extended by two to two and half hours yesterday with weather projections indicating there would be no substantial rain till after the national New Year. 

The new Power and Energy Minister Karu Jayasuriya, however, expressed confidence the situation was a little better and he hoped that the short-term, medium term and long term plans would help overcome the power crisis. 

The minister has, however, insisted that public cooperation is vital and urged house holds to switch off unnecessary lights and electrical appliances.

Flour subsidy slashed, says minister

By Faraza Farook
Consumer Affairs Minister Ravi Karunanayake said the new Government would not be providing the existing subsidy on flour because it lacked funds and accused the former government of reducing prices as an election stunt.

Mr. Karunanayake said the government was looking for other means of reducing the price of flour and consequently the price of bread which had risen since the general elections.

The former government provided a subsidy of Rs. 5.75 a kilo of flour which this government has reduced to Rs. 2.75.

The bad news for consumers came amidst accusations by the government that Prima which had a monopoly on wheat flour processing had violated its contractual obligations by exporting flour to the Maldives without keeping a sufficient buffer stock in Sri Lanka.

Co-operative Minister A.R.M. Abdul Cader accused Prima of exporting flour to the Maldives creating a shortage locally.

Prima had been exporting flour to Maldives for some months now.

Prima denied it had violated the agreement with the Sri Lankan government saying a new agreement which came into effect in September permitted exports. 

Prima Ceylon company holding the monopoly for flour milling and distribution has allegedly violated its agreement with the government by failing to maintain buffer stocks and exporting flour to Maldives.

"I have been receiving complaints from the public about flour shortages everyday. Even today there is no market stock," Minister Cader said.

The issue about flour shortages was taken up at a meeting between Minister Cader and representatives of the Prima Company. However the issue about the violation of the agreement did not figure at the meeting.

Mr. Cader said he was informed about the exports and the alleged violation by its officials after the discussion had taken place.

In addition to the shortages in the outstations the consumers have been forced to pay high prices for flour as the transport charges incurred by the distributors were now being passed on to the consumer.

Minister Cader said his ministry was considering the import of floor to meet an emergency. 

Contrary to the minister's allegations, Prima officials claimed there was no shortage. However, they admitted that buffer stocks levels were going down because of a delay in a wheat flour shipment to Sri Lanka in December. Moreover, they said that the Government guarantee for war risk premiums given for the Colombo Port did not cover the Trincomalee Port.

Earlier, the company was entitled to import, distribute and sell its products only for the local market. 

Commenting on the recent price hike in flour the Prima officials said the decision by the Government to withdraw Rs. 3 from the subsidy triggered the price increase.

Wheat flour prices in different areas varied as transport costs were added to the final price. The factory price per kilo of flour was 18.50, but retail prices were Rs. 20 and up. 

The transport and distribution of goods was previously carried out by the government's Food Department and the CWE bore the cost of transport and labour. However, after the privatisation of the company, the agents and dealers themselves handle the transportation. 

Prima has also turned down a request by the Food Department to handle the transportation after the privatisation, stating that the retailers and agents preferred their own transport because the goods were delivered to their doorstep. Earlier, the food department distributed to the Co-operatives and the dealers had to collect the goods from there.

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