The Sunday TimesNews/Comment

19th May 1996




Mulberry Group sour over CoL

By Shyamal Collure

Parliamentarians of the Mulberry Group in the PA government have told President Kumaratunga that the high cost of living is not due solely to the war but also because of mismanagement by certain Ministry officials, a spokesman for the group said.

Mulberry Group's Secretary Upali Gunaratne told The Sunday Times that some top Ministry officials were trying to discredit the government.

"Even though the people have elected a new government after 17 years the basic structure remains the same.

Most of these officials are those of the last regime", he said

"Though new Ministers have been appointed, the Ministries are run by officials who are sympathetic to the UNP. We blame the Ministers for keeping corrupt officials," Mr. Gunaratne said. He said the Mulberry Group was not happy about many of the Corporations Chairmen appointed by the government and had sent a list of names of such Chairmen to the President.

Mr. Gunaratne alleged that some Ministry officials went to the extent of misleading Ministers. "A Minister might not know all what is happening. For example, Land and Agriculture Minister, D. M. Jayaratne was not aware that a tender had been called for quoting prices, to import 200,000 metric tons of rice from Indonesia. We pointed this out. Our group is not accusing the Ministers but the Ministry officials," he said.

Mr. Gunaratne said the group wanted Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva to appoint a committee to probe how a state land was allocated to a former U.N.P. Provincial Councillor, who is now in custody. He also said complaints of irregularities against any Minister, a government MP or Ministry official could be channeled through the Mulberry Group to the President.

Cops under fire for school mobikes

A Police proposal to allow schoolboys or girls to ride light motor bikes to school has run into fire from the Automobile Association, parents and the City Coroner.

Police Traffic Chief, T. Perinpanayagam and Motor Traffic Commissioner, A.W.D. Perera confirmed they were considering a proposal to reduce the age limit from 18 to 16 for licenses to ride motor cycles below 150 cc.

DIG Perinpanayagam told The Sunday Times the proposal was brought forward, because many school children would be able to use motor cycles to travel to and from school.

"We have studied the situation in several foreign countries and brought forward the proposal," he said.

DIG Perinpanayagam said it had been revealed that many under-aged youth were already riding with 'Learner' (L) Boards and the relaxation of the age limit for licenses was also aimed at tackling this problem.

Motor Traffic Chief, A.W.D. Perera said the proposal had come from the Police and he felt it might help to reduce the problem of under-aged youth riding motor cycles without licenses.

Contrary to Police claims that other countries were issuing licenses for youth below 18 to ride motor cycles, officials of the Indian, Pakistan and Malaysian High Commissions said the minimum age in those countries was 18. In Britain the minimum age is 17, a British High Commission official said.

Among those opposing the proposal to reduce the age limit, was the Colombo Additional City Coroner, Edward Ahangama. He said allowing immature youth to ride motor bikes would create a dangerous situation.

Automobile Association Chief Anton Kandiah accused the Police of trying to expose the younger generation to further risk.

A Senior Police Officer in the traffic division said, as a Police Officer and a parent, I am totally against the idea of issuing driving licenses to children under 18 years. Apart from it being a danger to young life, several other problems will crop up.

Already families are facing economic problems. So when children demand motor cycles, it will get worse. Parents would have to buy motor cycles for all the children. I think that, traffic jams would only increase, by this move, he said.

Werapitiya dies

T. B. Werapitiya, former Minister of Internal Security, passed away after a prolonged illness in Colombo yesterday. He was 71.

Mr. Werapitiya was also a former Deputy Inspector General of Police and President of the Cricket Board. He was educated at Trinity College Kandy and was an outstanding sportsman winning the Ryde Gold Medal for the best all-round student.

The funeral will take place today at the General Cemetery, Kanatte.

Buddhist groups challenge

Kandy Buddhist organisations have protested that the Parliamentary Select Committee on Constitutional Reforms is not properly constituted and most members are not elected by the people.

The Kandurata Thrinikayika Bikkshu Sangamaya and other groups in a letter to the President and the Opposition Leader have pointed out that of the 12 members nominated by the PA to the Committee seven were appointed from the National List. They were not elected by the people.

They also point out that 15 of the 23 members in the Committee are from the Western Province.

There was no proper representation from the up-country which has a historic background.

The organisations say several MPs who obtained very few votes in the north were also serving on the Committee.

Council to agitate for police powers

by Chandimal Mendis

The UNP-controlled North-Western Provincial Council will move a motion giving it powers to form a Provincial Police Commission and the Chief Minister has warned they will launch an agitation campaign if the Centre fails to devolve police powers.

Chief Minister Nimal Bandara told The Sunday Times that in the next two-three weeks they will present a bill empowering the council to form a Provincial Police Commission, before their council within the next three weeks.

He said similar bills would be moved in other UNP-controlled Provincial Councils.

"The 13th Amendment of the 1977 constitution gives powers to a provincial council to form a police force. If the Central Government holds this constitutional right of a council by not seconding a Deputy Inspector General for a province will only show that they are reluctant to devolve power. We will tell the people that if they don't devolve police powers now, it is highly unlikely that they will devolve police powers to the regional councils as stated in the package," Mr. Bandara said.

According to constitutional law experts, under the topic 'Law and Order' the 13th Amendment divides the police force into two categories - national division and provincial division. The national division will be headed by the IGP while each provincial division will be headed by a DIG.

But the DIG on each province has to be nominated by the national division with the Central Government approval. The same procedure is adopted as regard Senior Superintendents as well. The 13th Amendment also says, each provincial division must have a Provincial Police Commission (PPC) and it is the PPC that recruits the lower ranks. The PPC is chaired by the DIG.

The provincial councils cannot set up the PPC if the Central Government does not second the DIG. Once the DIG is appointed, he has to act under the directions of the Chief Minister.

Private sector told to help fire-fighting trust

A trust has been set up with its objective being donating fire-fighting and rescue equipment to the government.

Named Fund for Purchasing Equipment for Fire Fighting and for the Rescue of humans, the trust envisages private sector assistance to beef up fire-fighting operations in the city which was recently taken over by the Air Force after the Central Bank bomb blast.

Top executives of blue chip companies were briefed on the trust activity at a meeting convened by the commissioner general of Civil Defence Force, Air Vice Marshal P. H. Mendis, and the Fire Department of the Ministry of Defence.

Captain R. A. Ananda said the Air Force needed sophisticated equipment urgently to maintain some standards in fire-fighting.

He said the present equipment could only reach up to about the eighth floor of a building. Funds are our major obstacle he said.

The private sector executives were told to contribute towards the trust as the government which is already burdened with heavy defence expenditure could not meet the cost of reequipping the fire department.

US$ 500,000 hotel faces demolition in conservation row

German investor threatens to pull out

by M. Ismeth

A big storm is brewing over a warning by Coast Conservation Authorities to demolish a new hotel in Marawila for not meeting the requirements, while the hotel developer has warned, he would pull all his investments out of Sri Lanka.

The Coast Conservation Department in a hand delivered letter has warned that if the Capricorn Beach Hotel in Marawila is not demolished, that the CCD would do it within two weeks, a hotel owner said.

The beach hotel built at a cost of US $500,000 with swimming pool and other amenities is facing demolition because the owners had not obtained approval from the department according to officials.

CCD Director, Nissanka Perera told The Sunday Times that, "all constructions along the beach must be approved by this CCD. Otherwise they would be demolished," he said. "Pointing out they had demolished 19 restaurants along the Unawatuna beach".

However, Hotel Project Chief, Mr. Dietmar Doering said he had sought approval from the CCD six months ago. They sat on it and were now threatening the hotel he charged. Mr. Doering said the hotel which was nearing completion, had an offer of getting some 2000 German tourists this year, to boost the lagging tourist industry in this country. But all that would be shattered; if the CCD went ahead with the threat, an angry Mr. Doering said when we visited the site. "Today the government and the BOI are doing their best to invite potential investors. But there are others who are driving them out. It is sabotage".

He said he would have to tell the German operators to divert those 2000 tourists to the Maldives or Jordan.

Showing a letter he had received from the Maldives inviting him to come there and set up his office and hotels, he said, "this is not the only place in the world for us. If these people are so callous and indifferent to foreign investors who have been in this country since 1989, what more do you expect from me other than to close shop."

Apart from the dilemma that Mr. Doering is facing with his hotel projects, he told us he did not know what would happen to the rupees hundred million Peace Village Project at Nattandiya.

This Peace Village which is also nearing completion will take care of children under 14, who had suffered loss of limbs.

"We will manufacture artificial limbs and give them free to the children under 14 and if there are any children who cannot be cured here for any sickness we send them to Germany for medical treatment, all at our expense, he said.

Meanwhile, the managing company has been writing to German tourists and to German investors to come here, Mr. Doering said.

"I hope Sri Lanka will not drive away tourists and investors, he said.

Deadly May Day blow, says peace group

The Women for Peace Movement has strongly condemned the Police attack on the NSSP's May Day demonstration where several people, including women, were injured.

In a statement the Women for Peace said they considered that the pre-planned attack on the members of the NSSP, a deadly blow on democratic and human freedom.

"It is the government's duty to establish a conducive socio-political atmosphere in which not only those who hold views favourable to the government but also those who subscribe to alternative views to have the freedom to believe in their ideologies and to engage in political activities," it said.

Continue to the News/Comment page 2 -A nation in crisis prays for rain * Hindu body wants to visit Jaffna * Bitter row at sugar plant * Harassment and degrading treatment at Amsterdam'

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