The night club nightmare
Hotels and MSD face dilemma over brawls of rich political brats
By Tania Fernando
To hell with the Prime Minister's advice or warnings seems to be the thinking of some of the ministerial brats who often get involved in brawls in popular night clubs.
With the continued involvement of VIP sons, there came a strong warning from Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe to some of his cabinet Ministers: discipline your kids and ensure that they don't tarnish the image of the government.

In the latest night club brawl that occurred on Wednesday, three sons of two ministers allegedly assaulted the son of Airport Aviation Limited Chairman Hemasiri Fernando.

The incident also brought to light the alleged misuse of the ministerial security personnel by ministers and their family members.

A senior police official attached to the Ministerial Security Division said police officers providing security to ministers often carried out various errands for the politician and their family members because they did not want unnecessary problems.

He said there were instances where VIPs had requested the withdrawal of police officers who had refused to carry out orders that were outside their line of duty.

It is alleged that more than ten MSD personnel were withdrawn recently when they refused to escort a son of Minister Mahinda Wijesekera to a nightclub. However, Mr. Wijesekera denies the allegation.

He said his son did not ask the MSD personnel to accompany him to the night club. "Neither did I ask them to do that," he said. "I asked them to leave because they were not carrying out their duties properly."(See box for interview with Minister Wijeskera).

But, a statement the ten security personnel gave at the MSD on Friday 9.30 a.m. tells a different story. According to this statement, the security personnel had telephoned the MSD and said the Minister had asked them to leave his residence when they refused to go along with the son to the night club. The Minister had told them that their services were not needed anymore.

Constable Senadeera (29394), one of the police officers 'expelled' by the minister said: "Around 9 p.m. on Wednesday, the minister's son requested us to accompany him to a nightclub. But we refused. The Minister then intervened and said that our services were not necessary and asked us to leave the premises."

Mr. Wijeskera, however, said that security personnel attached to Ministers were changed from time to time, and the removal of the present batch, which resumed work two months ago, was a routine affair. But MSD officials said that changes were made only at the request of the ministers.

When asked about the involvement of some MSD personnel in five-star brawls and violent incidents elsewhere, the senior police officer admitted that some officers had got involved in such incidents when they were asked to do so by the minister's family members. But he said that all such incidents reported to the Division were being probed and tough action would be taken against those found guilty.

He said all MSD personnel had been served with a circular which clearly stated that they should not go beyond their line of duty. Even at the monthly meetings, this message is stressed, the officer said.

"We have given instructions that their duty is only to look after the VIPs and they should comply with department regulations," he said.

The senior police officer said that all MSD personnel had been given a specific warning that disciplinary action would be taken against them if they were found to have accompanied sons of ministers.

Meanwhile, Pavitra Fernando, son of Airport Aviation Services Limited Chairman Hemasiri Fernando, had lodged a complaint with the Kollupitiya Police saying that the sons of Ministers S. B. Dissanayake and Wijesekera had assaulted him while he was with a few of his friends at the Hotel Oberoi night club, Cascades, which celebrated its fifth anniversary on Wednesday night.

The case has been handed over to the Colombo Crimes Division, the police said.

CCD Chief Inspector Nuwan Wedasinghe said the statements from the night club staff had been recorded.

According to the statement, the incident started 30 minutes after midnight when a person carrying a glass of champagne accidentally spilled it on one of the ministerial sons. Initially the two sides pushed and shoved each other. But later it led to fisticuffs with Pavitra being severely beaten up.

According to reports, the MSD personnel attached to Minister Dissanayake were present at that time and got involved in the brawl.

Meanwhile, Tourism Minister Gamini Lokuge has advised hotels and night clubs to take necessary measures to prevent trouble-makers from entering their premises.

An executive from Hotel Oberoi said a proposal was being mooted to blacklist trouble-makers.

She said that under the proposal all hotels would share information on miscreants and take collective action against them by not allowing them to enter any hotel premises.

Boys will be boys: Mahinda W.

In an interview with The Sunday Times, Fisheries and Oceanic Resources Minister Mahinda Wijeysekera defended his son's involvement in a night club brawl, by saying 'boys will be boys' and accused political enemies of blowing it up to throw mud at him.

Evading police?
Two Ministers' sons who were summoned to appear before the police in connection with the alleged assault on the son of a top official, have not yet turned up, a police spokesman said last evening.

Colombo Crimes Division Chief Gamini Seneviratne said Narada Dissanayake and Kanchana Wijesekera - sons of Ministers S. B. Dissanayake and Mahinda Wijeyesekera - had been told to appear on Friday but had not turned up even by yesterday evening.

He said that when Police inquired from the family, they were told the boys were not at home.

SSP Seneviratne said two police teams had been deployed for the investigations.

Q: What is the reason behind the removal of the MSD personnel who were attached to you?

A: On Friday, December 13, I wanted to go to Matara and I asked the MSD personnel how many of then were available to accompany me on the trip. They said only three were present that day. I had to keep one here and take two with me. I told them that it was a waste of state resources to take along with him only two MSD personnel in an escort vehicle.

I told them to go because they were not looking after my requirements.

Q: Have you ever asked any of the MSD personnel to accompany your children to nightclubs?

A: I have never asked them to go with my children. This particular batch had never gone out with my children. My children are friendly with security personnel attached to me. The earlier batches even had meals out with them.

Q: Now that you have asked that the MSD personnel be withdrawn, who is providing you security?

A:I have four constables from the Matara Police Station and some of my own people. But I am going to write to the MSD, requesting special training for a team by me in handling weapons and providing VIP security.

Q: Do you think that your son faces a security threat?

A:There is no threat to my son. He was involved in another fight a few days back. But boys will be boys. These are largely stories created by my political enemies, just to throw mud at me and say that my sons are killers. They have their future and if they get invovled in a problem, we have to solve it.

Q: What about the Cascades incident on Wednesday night?

A:This was a continuation of an incident that took place at Kompannaveediya. There was a group of youths after drugs and they had assaulted a woman. My son and another Minister's son had intervened and assaulted him and he was a little bit injured.

Q: Do you expect the MSD to provide security for your family

A: I think they should protect me, my family and my properties.

Q: Do you think that you are misusing your perks as a minister.

A: I can be without any security. But providing security is a routine matter and I am entitled to it.

Pavitra tells how he was attacked
By Chris Kamalendran
Pavitra Fernando, son of Airport and Aviation Chief Hemasiri Fernando says he was badly attacked by a group involving the sons of Ministers S. B. Dissanayake and Mahinda Wijesekera.

Explaining the events that night, Pavitra said:

"I was invited for the fifth anniversary of the Cascade night club at Hotel Lanka Oberoi and I went there with a friend around 8.30 p.m. Soon after midnight, I accidentally knocked down my friend's glass of champagne and it fell on a person who was identified as Minister Mahinda Wijesekera's son.

"He caught hold of my friend by his neck and threatened him. At this point, I stepped in and told Mr. Wijesekera that we had not come there for a fight.

"An argument arose and the hotel security staff told us to leave. Mr. Wijesekera along with the two sons of Minister S. B. Dissanayake left but they waited outside,

"I wanted to take a call but since it was noisy inside, I went out to take a call on the cellphone. As I reached the door, I was dragged out and badly assaulted. About 15 of them got involved in the attack.

"Three police constables who were outside the hotel informed the Kollupitiya police station. They arrived there within five minutes. The group who assaulted me vanished as soon as they saw the police. Thereafter I went to the Kollupitiya police to lodge an entry.

But, when I mentioned the names of the persons involved in the attack, they were reluctant to entertain my complaint. I waited there for more than half an hour. Thereafter I left as they were not recording the complaint.

"The following day I was admitted to a private hospital as I had injuries. From hospital, I obtained permission and went to the Kollupitiya police station again and this time they entertained my complaint.

"The same group assaulted me one and half years ago at the Blue Elephant night club. That time, too, I lodged a complaint at the Fort Police, but so far no action has been taken against those who attacked me."

Interview with 'Lankadeepa'
President refutes anti-peace charges
By Gunasinghe Herath
President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga has declared that she was doubtful about the motives of the LTTE and as the head of the State she was only pointing out the deficiencies of the current peace process.

President Kumaratunga in an interview with our sister paper "Irida Lankadeepa" said she felt that the LTTE was building up its strength and also recruiting more cadres and bringing more weapons for themselves.

She said that it was the duty of a responsible government to ensure that the peace process does not end in a disaster and they should act after making a proper assessment of the LTTE, but in this case there were no signs that the government was doing so.

"I am fully supportive of the peace process, but if there are shortcomings in the process, it is my duty as head of the State to inform the public about that. It is my duty to point out these shortcomings," she said.

The President said that the Government had not sought her assistance for the process and though she could place a number of obstacles she did not want to do so.

"I can remove the Prime Minister and take over. I have not done that. I can remove the Defence Minister. But I have not done that. What is the obstacle I have placed for the peace process? Instead what I have done is to have failed in my duties by not informing the public about the shortcomings of the peace process. Only after nine months I started talking about the deficiencies.

President Kumaratunga said that the Government had agreed on a Federal set up and that was dangerous.

"Karuna and Thamil chelvan who had gone to Oslo had made a different statement in Tamil as against what Anton Balasingham had told in English. The Tamil statements had said that they had not given up the demand for Eelam and if necessary would get back to war.

"Without assessing the LTTE it is dangerous to work with them. They have been described by the Time magazine as one of the most dangerous terrorist groups in the world," she said.

"The LTTE is an organisation which has a history of repeating time and again their actions," President Kumaratunga said. "It is necessary to analyse what they did and didn't do at talks before this. When did they abandon talks? But without doing any of this, just in order to win an election they signed an agreement with the LTTE and are having to dance to their tune, now see what has happened, President Kumaratunga said.

The President went on to condemn the corruption in the government stressing that this was the reason for the failure in cohabitation.

"The whole place is wreaking with corruption and it is spilling over. But my part is not like that. That is their part. I am also part of the government. I am four-fifths of the government. They are only one-fifth," she said.

"I am the head of state. I am also the head of government. I am the Commander-in-Chief who issues orders to the armed forces. They are only the cabinet. The Prime Minister has no powers. Only the name tag Prime Minister," President Kumaratunga said, adding "What I said was the position of the Constitution. Therefore what is required for cohabitation has not been provided by their side." The President further said that Ravi Karunanayake started scolding her after she dragged out the golf course story.

"I will say something else about the corruption in the government. They announced all over the country accusing me of robbing money while awarding the tender for the construction of the Colombo-Katunayake Expressway. As soon as they came to power they stopped the construction of this Expressway. But now why is that company quietly doing the work," she asked.

"They made invalid the tender awarded by the PA government, and called for fresh tenders. But nothing more has happened. That company is continuing the work. How did that happen. Who received a cheque for 3 lakhs of dollars," President Kumaratunga queried.

"But I charge that whether it is then or now more corruption takes place during the UNP governments than during our governments. But the media is silent because of the government's control and influence." President Kumara-tunga said. Responding to a question on poll rigging the President said, "Two of the people accused of mass-scale poll rigging during our time have now gone to the UNP. Two more are still on our side."

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