Pramuka employees urged to forgo salaries
By Quintus Perera
Desperate Pramuka Bank (PB) depositors, struggling to recover their money in the midst of a liquidation process that has been halted by the courts, are now urging employees to forgo their salaries - at least for the time being.

Depositors see their deposits slipping away from their grasp as cases filed by them against the liquidation process by the Central Bank has opened up another problem - payment of salaries for employees, which come from deposits.

While the Appeal Court prepares to hear arguments in favour and against the petitions during a four day period (May 19 to 23), Pramuka employees received their latest salary payment in April making it a total of Rs. 24 million (Rs. 4 million a month) being paid since November 2002.

The Pramuka Bank Employees' Union initially joined the struggle launched by the PB Depositors' and Stakeholders' Associations to reopen the Bank but that support appears to be waning since employees are receiving their salaries - even though some may have found other jobs.

Palitha Gamage, President, Pramuka Stakeholders' Association told The Sunday Times FT that they have requested Sunimal Dabarera, President, Pramuka Employees' Union to make a public statement pledging support to the campaign and for its members to postpone acceptance of salaries and claim it with arrears once the bank reopens. Gamage said the union has so far declined the request. Dabarera could not be reached for comment.

Ramesh Schaffter, Director, Janashakthi Insurance which wants to take over and revive the bank, said that they were proceeding with the preparation of the restructuring proposal but find the going tough in the absence of vital documents pertaining to the affairs of the Pramuka Bank that the Central Bank has refused to release in view of the court cases.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court is preparing to hear three petitions on May 8 challenging the controversial way in which the amendments to the Monetary Law Act were pushed through parliament to enable Pramuka to be liquidated. It was alleged that this was yet another step to cover up the evidence of Central Bank corruption in handling the Pramuka matter. The three petitioners complain that the controversial provisions in the amendment were neither placed on the Order Paper of Parliament nor published in the Government Gazette as required by the Constitution so that the public would have the opportunity of petitioning the Supreme Court in respect of their inconsistency with the Constitution.

However, some constitutional lawyers are of the opinion that even if the Supreme Court decides in favour of the petitioners it would raise some constitutional issues as to whether parliament should accept the court verdict.

Gamage says that 12,000 out of Pramuka's 15,000 depositors have joined the depositors' association and at a recent meeting decided to raise the Pramuka issue with international donors and appeal for their intervention. A protest outside the Pramuka Bank by depositors is also planned just before the court hearings to put pressure on the authorities to act in favour of depositors.

Prime Minister will not take over PERC
A statement from the Office of the Government Spokesman last week, quoting official sources, said there was no move by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe to take over the Public Enterprises Reform Commission.

It said Chrisantha Perera, chairman of Forbes and Walker, was not "ousted" from his position as chairman of Sri Lanka Insurance Corporation and that "his outstanding performance in managing large and strategic enterprises like SLIC and his commitment and understanding of economic reforms was a basis for the Minister of Economic Reforms Milinda Moragoda's decision to appoint him as chairman of PERC".

The statement - which referred to our story on PERC in The Sunday Times FT - also said the privatization of SLIC was "one of the model transactions" done by PERC.

Business Editor's note:

Our story said the government was considering revamping PERC and that Chrisantha Perera was likely to be its new chairman. We reliably understand that the government did consider bringing PERC under the Ministry of Policy Development and Implementation, which is under Prime Minister Wickremesinghe, when PERC came in for heavy criticism over the controversial Ibis bus deal, which is yet to be finalised.

Apollo's 24-hour emergency unit has on-call specialist
Apollo Hospital's Emergency Medicine Department (EMD) has a specialist on duty, 24-hours a day, from its large staff of on-call specialists, the hospital said last week.

Another benefit is that these facilities are not restricted to Apollo registered patients only, but to all emergency patients. Unique from other disciplines, Apollo's EMD is actually many things both internal to and external from the hospital such as a 24-hour Emergency In-patient service, a fleet of mobile Intensive Care Units, and a helipad for Air Rescue units.

The EMD also utilises the "Hospitals On Wheels" fleet, which has state of the art ambulance type vehicles linked by a wireless communication system. "Another aspect of Apollo's rescue fleet is the helipad which affords Apollo an unique opportunity in being able to receive air evacuations. In the recent past air evacuations utilising Sri Lanka Air Force helicopters have been carried out with positive results. Patients from the North and from Kandy have been brought to Apollo by air," the hospital company said.

Customs strike affects exporters
The Exporters' Association of Sri Lanka has asked the Sri Lanka Ports Authority not to charge rent for cargo not cleared owing to delays caused by the strike by Customs officers.

It said exporters were finding it impossible to clear cargo because of trade union action by Customs officers.

It has asked the SLPA to treat any period where there is delay in clearing cargo from the port due to trade union action as a rent free period.

The association has also asked Sarath Jayathileke, Director General of Customs, to make arrangements in consultation with the SLPA to issue gate passes for cargo where Customs clearance has already been obtained.

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