Interior Minister dismisses CBK’s criticism as her political opinion
By Nilika Kasturisinghe
Interior Minister John Amaratunga has brushed aside President Chandrika Kumaratunga's order that action be taken against UNP parliamentarians who were allegedly involved in violent acts. Minister Amaratunga told The Sunday Times that it was based on the President's political opinion.

In a letter to Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe last week the President called for immediate action against the parliamentarians. The President's missive has particularly criticised the inactivity of Minister Amaratunga and his Ministry.

"As the letter was addressed to the Prime Minister any questions concerning it should be posed to the Prime Minister", Mr. Amaratunga said. Commenting on the recent violence involving parliamentarians Mr. Amaratunga said "every case is before the eye of the law. Regarding disciplinary inquiries against the police officers on duty at the time the storming of the Seeduwa Police Station by Gampaha MP Olitha Premathiratne allegedly took place, that is one side of the story. Now it is under investigation and has been referred to the Attorney General for clarification."

The recent incidents of violence allegedly indulged in by government parliamentarians, their supporters and a Pradeshiya Sabha member include incidents in Nuwara Eliya, Kahawatta, Galgamuwa, Wennappuwa and Puttalam.

In her letter of April 30 the President has warned that she will be obliged to intervene to contain the increasing trend of unjust and uncalled for political pressure being exerted on the police, taking into consideration the appeals made by the public.

The President has emphasized in her letter that against such a background the attempt by the Minister in charge of the Police to bring in a Bill on Organised Crime is a move to prepare the ground for a police state. "Neither the Minister nor the Ministry has taken any steps to contain these incidents," the President has stated.

She has instructed the Prime Minister to focus on this problem immediately and provide a report to her within two weeks stating what steps will be taken to restore the police service to its due state.

The IGP considering commencement of an investigation against the police officers who were apparently discharging their duty when a parliamentarian allegedly stormed the Seeduwa Police Station last month to secure the release of a suspect, shows that discipline in the Police Department is in a poor state.

Meanwhile, the plight of the public appears to be grave with both the government and the law enforcement officers ignoring the violence rampant in society. With the crime rate at an all time high and the murder statistics registering an average of three per day, The Sunday Times contacted several senior officials of the Police department to no avail.

The violence registered on a daily basis throughout the country appears to be remarkably high. OIC Statistics Division of the Police Department, IP Prematilleke said this year's statistics for the first quarter are still not available adding that the figure would probably not exceed 400 for this period.

He said 1347 homicides had been registered in 2002, an average of over three per day. In 2001 there had been 1576 homicides recorded with 304 recorded during the first three months of the year. In 2000, 362 homicides had been recorded during the first three months.

Meanwhile, the Police Commission appointed with a view to improving the prevalent conditions does not appear to have made its mark yet. The office located at the BMICH is in the process of recruiting staffers.

CWE sales dip as stocks dwindle
By Chandani Kirinde
The CWE is facing a shortage of many essential items including lentils, potatoes and onions in all its retail shops countrywide with its income plummeting during the past few weeks as a result.

The daily sales in the CWE outlets that were around Rs. 30 million have plummeted to around Rs. 10 million as a result of these shortages, The Sunday Times learns.
Many customers at CWE retail shops in the big cities have complained that items such as milk powder, soap and canned fish were also missing from the shelves.

Officials at one of the CWE's biggest stores complex has informed the authorities concerned that there were no stocks of at least 20 items including lentils, red chillies, big onions, potatoes, Basmati rice, garlic, pepper, canned fish and tamarind.

Some of the retail shops in the outstations have also reported a shortage of sugar but as there are inadequate stocks in the stores, these items cannot be sent to the shops, reliable sources told The Sunday Times.

When contacted, CWE Chairman Lal Wickrematunga told The Sunday Times that one reason for the shortage of some of the items was the recent holiday season.
He said that shortages would ease within two or three days adding that onions and potatoes had already been made available to the shops. The CWE has around 150 shops across the country, which are now open 24 hours a day.

ADB aid for R&R in N-E
The Asian Development Bank is to provide a loan of US $ 40 million as a contribution to the government's relief and rehabilitation programme in the North and East.
The project is to be implemented in two components - large scale anchor sub projects and small scale community level projects.

The anchor sub project is said to benefit a broad section of people in a district while the community level projects are investment for individuals or for local organizations/communities as implementing partners.

Farmers meet in uncleared area
The National Farmers Alliance held its fourth annual conference in LTTE controlled Kokkadicholai last week despite uncertainty in peace talks between the Government and the LTTE.

The Alliance comprising of Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim farmers held the conference last Sunday. The meeting was held at Ramakrishna Mission College with the participation of 60 regional leaders in farming. The leaders of the Alliance including its Muslim leaders and the LTTE leadership of Batticaloa participated.

Formerly affiliated to the UNP, the National Farmers Alliance (NFA) is now acting independently following the government's move to slash the fertilizer subsidy. Participants at the summit commemorated the deaths of farmers who had committed suicide due to unbearable losses in farming. A fortnight ago D.M. Samarakoon Banda, a farmer at Dehiattakandiya having sustained heavy losses during the Maha season committed suicide on New Year's Day.

The Advisor to the National Farmers Alliance and President of the Association to protect the Eppawela phosphate sites, Ven. Mahamankadawala Piyaratana Nayake Thera delivered a special sermon.

The distribution of books and pens to school children in Kokkadicholai took place while 700 farmer families were issued with jak, coconut and arecanut plants.

National Farmers Alliance President Ratna Gamage told The Sunday Times that irrespective of ethnicity we came together to solve the problems common to farmers."
The LTTE's Batticaloa-Ampara leader Karunamman co-ordinated with the NFA representatives to organize the summit which was held in LTTE controlled areas.

Case against Vedda youth: AG upholds Vedda culture
By Palitha Ariyawansha from Badulla,
Upholding the Vedda traditions, the Attorney General has withdrawn an indictment on a Vedda youth accused of having raped an underage Vedda girl on grounds of "customary marriage".

The case had been filed by the Attorney General against Uruwarige Loku Banda (20) for having raped a Vedda girl aged 15 between April 5, 1999 and August 30, 1999 in Dambana, Mahiyanga.

The accused claimed that he was married to the girl, and according to the Vedda tradition marriages were not registered and that a Vedda lad was allowed to take as his mate a Vedda girl. The accused was released taking into consideration these traditions. The Uva Province High Court this week ordered the release of the youth following the withdrawal of the indictment.

Uva High Court Judge W.A.T. Ratnayake ordered that the Vedda youth be released after State Counsel Harshana Nanayakara told court that the Attorney General had consented to withdraw the indictment.

Defence lawyers Pradeepa Jayasinghe and Saman Perera argued that when similar cases were taken up, the Vedda culture had been pointed out. The lawyers also showed that this right of taking one's partner was practised following the engaging in hunting, farming, defence, worshipping of devils, and obtaining foodstuffs from the forests. On Thursday a group of Veddas comprising Vedda Chief Wannila Aththo, and Gunawardena of Dambana were present in courts.

Following the releasing of the suspect, the Vedda Chief told the media that he appreciated the decision taken by the Attorney General at a time when legal obstructions were hampering the traditional life styles of his people.

Vesak day deadline for SLFP-JVP Pact
Somawansa criticises President’s peace attitude
By Harinda Vidanage
President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga has instructed the SLFP delegation preparing the JVP-SLFP MoU to finalise the agreement by May 15 so that its draft can be presented at the SLFP general convention to be held on May 25 in Colombo.

Amidst accusations by the JVP that the SLFP delegation was showing a lacklustre attitude towards the agreement President Kumaratunga took a firm decision when both parties met last Wednesday.

President Kumaratunga has told the delegation to finalise the symbol and the name to be adopted by the alliance. A marathon four rounds of talks are expected to commence on Wednesday.

Both parties were expecting to end the round on policy agreement by the end of April but according to Nimal Siripala de Silva, a member of the SLFP delegation, the talks were delayed due to the withdrawal of the LTTE from the peace talks.

But sources within the JVP said that the party was not happy at the progress blaming the SLFP delegation for being inefficient. The JVP in particular had said that the inefficiency of SLFP General Secretary and the constant delays made due to overseas visits of Nimal Siripala de Silva has contributed to the lethargic proceedings.

The JVP's frustration over the delay was evident in JVP leader Somawansa Amerasinghe's May Day message which was read at the rally by a party member. He had criticised the President's attitude and approach to the ongoing peace process though supporting her on any action she will take to prevent the separation of the state.

He had also indicated that the President has accepted, in her recent visit to India, the fact that she is aware of a de facto Tamil Eelam being formed with the progress of the peace process but that she insists she supports the peace process. This according to Somawansa is a very contradictory stance by the President of the country.

The JVP leader had also said that the President is the only person who has constitutional powers to prevent the division of the country but up to now she has used her powers verbally and has not taken any clear action.

He had warned and reminded the President she no longer has executive power over the North and East and said that if she does not take timely action she will lose it altogether. He had also warned the President to be straightforward and not to heed or bow to anyone, even the international community.

The JVP has already handed over a five-year work plan which includes governance matters, after the formation of the alliance between the two parties and in the event of a possible takeover of the government.

The SLFP is likely to replace the current negotiation team after the end of first round of discussions which is to form a policy consensus between the parties, with only Maithripala Sirisena being included in the new team as he is the SLFP General Secretary.

The new negotiation team which will discuss with the JVP a work plan or plan of action in the event of a takeover will be headed by President Chandrika Kumaratunga, Maithripala Sirisena, Mangala Samaraweera, Anura Bandaranaike and Opposition leader Mahinda Rajapakse.

The Anura-Mahinda squabble has been finally settled and both are looking for top posts in the possible formation of a new government, a source close to the former Speaker told The Sunday Times.

Meanwhile the SLFP has appointed three main committees to scrutinize the five year plan of the JVP and bring it on par with SLFP policies. They are the economic committee, the security committee and the administrative committee.

The economic committee is headed by P.B. Jayasundara who is likely to become the next Presidential secretary. This committee is facing a Herculean task as the JVP plan encompasses a wide range of subsidies including the fertilizer and Samurdhi subsidies. The JVP plan also includes the immediate implementation of the wage reforms proposed by the Tissa Devendra wage commission and the cut down on ministerial perks and privileges especially in use of vehicles.

The security committee is headed by a former CID Chief who retired with the election of the new UNP government and would include former military top brass. The administrative committee is in the process of planning out the new administrative appointments after the possible take over of the government.

This has been an area where the JVP has stressed that retaining of political enemies within the permanent administrative structure will be a problem to the new alliance government.

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