The Sunday TimesNews/Comment

18th May 1997



Sea erosion strikes again with monsoon

By H.P.P. Perera

People living along the coastal belt from Panadura to Beruwala are once again affected by sea-erosion with the commencement of the South-West monsoon.

A large number of coconut trees along the coastal belt have been washed away.

Cadjan houses belonging to fishing community have also been damaged, while some families have been told to evacuate from areas where erosion is acute.

At Kalamulla, Kalutara five houses were washed away to the sea. Fishermen live in fear, in their huts with their families as they have no place to shift, if erosion further develops.

M. M. Quintus, a fisherman of Kalamulla, told ‘The Sunday Times,’ that his house is in imminent danger of being washed away if the South-West monsoon intensifies further. His wife and three children live in constant fear but he has no place to shift.

He said that with the assistance of the fishermen they placed plastic fertilizer bags filled with the sand to avert further erosion but unfortunately they had been washed away. Already more than fifty coconut trees have been washed away by the strong away. P.Y. de Silva, Grama Niladhari of Kalamulla, said that the Kalutara Divisional Secretariat had already been informed of the critical situation but so far no relief programme has been implemented.

Probe Merchant Bank, says Union

The Ceylon Bank Employees Union (CBEU) has written to the President Chandrika Kumaratunga expressing fear for the stability of the Merchant Bank of Sri Lanka and the resultant threat to their job security.

The CBEU has alleged that the funds of the bank are transferred to a private company. The funds are then alleged to be allocated, favouring certain individuals.

The union has requested the President to intervene and inquire into these irregularities to ensure proper controls to avoid further deterioration and the possible collapse of the bank.

According to the CBEU, representations were made on the alleged irregularities of the bank to the Chairman of the Merchant Bank. "Although it was agreed to appoint an audit committee to look into the irregularities and take corrective measures, upto the beginning of March we were not informed about the appointment of such a committee or any investigations," the union claims. Todate the situation has remained unchanged and the irregularities continue to be unrectified," the CBEU has alleged.

Estate hospitals need urgent remedy

Warning that health facilities for estate workers have fallen to deplorable levels, a deputy minister has called on the government to immediately nationalise estate hospitals and dispensaries.

Deputy minister P. Chandrasekeran, leader of the Upcountry People’s Front has in an appeal to Health Minister A.H.M. Fowzie said estate management companies were showing little or no interest in estate hospitals and dispensaries. He said workers were in a situation where insult was being added to injury and government should take effective action to provide a better health service.

Mr. Chandrasekeran has also appealed to Mr. Fowzie, who is in charge of highways to upgrade estate roads which are like dirt tracks compared to Colombo’s network.

Top team gives hope to little hearts

In a mercy mission that has won hearts and minds, a British medical team is working at a provincial hospital in Sri Lanka to perform heart surgery free for children below 15.

The team headed by heart surgeon Dr. Richard Firmin has during the past two months operated on 19 children at the Karapitiya hospital in Galle. Such an operation would have cost around Rs. 500,000 in India, a hospital official said.

The British team includes an anaesthetist, two technicians and three nurses. They have also brought equipment worth around Rs. 10 million on this mission which was initiated by a Sri Lankan, Dr. Ranjith Liyanage in Britain.

According to officials here, the team will visit Sri Lanka every six months for such operations. When they come again in November they will take on some difficult cases.

Cancer-patient tailor seeks 2.5m from CTC

By Shelani de Silva

A 57-year old tailor has created judicial history in seeking damages from a cigarette manufacturer who, he says, is the cause of his cancer.

K.S. Perera of Polonnaruwa now living in Panadura has claimed Rs. 2.5 m. as compensation from Ceylon Tobacco Company in a letter of demand. CTC however could not confirm the receipt of the letter.

Last year he was diagnosed to be suffering from lung cancer and medical opinion put the cause to his severe addiction to cigarette. While doctors have given him up as a burnt case, Perera is optimistic that his lawyers would win his case for damages.

Recently a U.S. tobacco company came to a historic settlement with US authorities and handed over documents which, analysts say, could be potentially damaging to the industry. However in a separate suit filed in another state by a cancer victim failed to win damages.

Mr. Perera, a father of an 18-year old son, was doing well as a tailor when last year he started vomiting. He first sought treatment at the Polonnaruwa hospital and later sent to the chest hospital for further treatment. Dr. Stanmore de Alwis operated on him to find the cancer had spread and there was little that drugs could do.

Mr. Perera told The Sunday Times that he started smoking since the age of 15 and had come to a point when he could not do without the puff. This had affected his health, particularly his lungs.

"It was only last year that I discovered I had cancer. This affected my health and I had to give up my work which brought me about Rs. 7,000 a month, and today that source of income is gone," said Mr. Perera.

He had to seek legal aid to get him a lawyer. The President of the Bar Association Romesh de Silva PC, named a lawyer to appear for him.

Mayor offers free clean-up

By Kumaradasa Wagista

Colombo ratepayers will get an opportunity to get rid of their household garbage free of charge on June 7. All your throw away items like tree cuttings, debris will be collected by Municipal workers backed by a fleet of vehicles.

Mayor Karu Jayasuriya, himself sorry for pasting posters on walls, called on political parties to desist from this custom and keep the walls clean.

To help this move 500 bill boards will be fixed at prominent places for advertising.

Free dispensaries and the community centres will be spruced up along with Ayurvedic medical centres.

Ratepayers will be able to pay their taxes to the state banks once arrangements are made. An information centre will be set up at the Town Hall with a hotline 684291.

Messup after mishap in Mecca

By S.S Selvanayagam

A Sri Lankan Haj tour operator has accused a prominent airline of irresponsibility in failing to deliver the baggage including sacred items of 40 local pilgrims.

Tour operator M.V. Makeen said that after the horror of the inferno in Mecca, the 40 pilgrims faced a torrid time at Abu Dhabi Airport. The tickets had been confirmed for all 40 pilgrims but airline officials at the airport said there were seats only for 24.

After protests they agreed to take 34 and further agitation lasting about one hour, forced the officials to accommodate all 40.

But the ill treatment did not end there Mr. Makeen said. On arrival in Colombo the pilgrims found that their baggage including holy water and gifts brought for others as part of the Haj tradition had been left behind.

Though a month had lapsed and despite several appeals the airline had still not delivered the baggage, he charged.

No uniforms

Some 2,300 poor children in Vavuniya refugee camps are unable to go to school for lack of uniforms, a govt. official said. Vavuniya’s Govt. Agent K. Ganesh said the children, some 1200 girls and 1100 boys needed at least two uniforms each.

He has appealed to voluntary groups to help Vavuniya’s marginalised children.

Cop and ex-cop questioned

A police constable and ex-policeman arrested on suspicion of allegedly collecting information for the LTTE about VIP movements including that of President Chandrika Kumaratunga and Deputy Defence Minister, General Anuruddha Ratwatte, are under interrogation.

The two men who had been serving in the Nuwara-Eliya police office were arrested by a special team sent by the Central Province DIG’s office and are presently being held under a detention order.

Both suspects who are from the Eastern Province had been allegedly gathering information about important locations including army camps.

They are believed to have conveyed the information to the LTTE.

Funeral of ex-scout commissioner

A veteran scout and the immediate Past Chief Commissioner of the Sri Lanka Scout Association Lionel Silva passed away on Friday. He had been actively involved in the movement since 1937.

All scouts attending the funeral are requested to assemble at the gate of the Jawatte Cemetery, Torrington Avenue (opposite SLBC) at 4 p.m. today.

Royal remembers its war dead

Royal College will hold a special senior assembly at the Navarangahala on May 19 at 9 a. m. to honour and remember with gratitude the Old Royalists who have made the supreme sacrifice to safeguard the unity, sovereignty and integrity of our Motherland.

The next of kin of the Old Royalists killed in action will be present at this solemn ceremony as the chief guests whilst Lt. Gen. Nalin Seneviratne, VSV, Vice Admiral Asoka De Silva, VSV, Air Vice Marshal Harry Goonetilleke and Cyril Herath, the most recent Old Royalist Commander of the Army, Commander of the Navy and the Commander of the Air Force and the most recent Inspector General of the Police respectively will also attend as guests of honour.

The ceremony will begin with the unveiling of a "Roll of Honour", giving the names of Old Royalists killed in action. Among the fallen heroes is the well known Major General Wijaya Wimalaratne, RWP, RSP,VSV, USP, who happens to be the most senior Old Royalist to lay down his life in the separatist war.

The principal S.H. Kumarasinghe will unveil the brass plaque which is a donation from Mr. Buddhika Madina hewa, an Old Royalist.

Air Vice Marshal Harry Goonetilleke, the father of Group Captain Shirantha Goonetilleke, RWP, who was killed in action is expected to deliver a short speech on behalf of the next of kin and the guests of honour.

Stop to it before it is late, says MP

An organised encroachment by outsiders on state land at Navatkudah in the Batticaloa city has led to tension that could cause communal disharmony, a TULF leader has warned.

Parliamentary group leader Joseph Pararaja-singham in a letter to President Kumaratunga has appealed to her to intervene and order the immediate eviction of the outsiders.

Kandy ratepayers get two-year tax breather

By Shane Seneviratne

Kandy’s ratepayers are in for a bonanza - a gift from its new Mayor, Harindra Dunuwila. He has promised not to increase taxes in the city for the next two to three years and improve water supplies in the city limits and uplift the facilities available for the residents.

Mr. Dunuwila, a former Member of Parliament in an interview with The Sunday Times said that one of the main problems has been the city’s poor water supply. He intends to appoint a committee comprising of municipal members to study the issue.

"We will use modern technology whenever necessary to improve the water supplies and use special expertise to improve the water facilities in the Kandy city," Mr. Dunuwila said.

Under a new plan, the Mayor intends to get the co-operation of city residents to help the KMC in carrying out the administration of the Council.

"There may be many people who do not want to get involved in politics, but we may be able to use their knowledge particularly their technical knowledge and experience. I have a plan to appoint an advisory board comprising of these people," Mr. Dunuwila said.

The Mayor admitted that a 500 per cent increase in rates and taxes was unreasonable, but surprisingly only six per cent had complained and the rest were paying up without complaining.

"However I feel that the sudden increase in the tax was unreasonable. I will be taking steps to regularize the taxes. However I can assure that within the next two to three years there wouldn’t be an increase in any rates," he said.

The Mayor said that he hopes to introduce a zonal system for Kandy under which there will be proper control over the setting up of business establishments which could lead to an orderly city.

"There will be a separate commercial sector so it would not be possible to open shops in any place in the future," he said.

Mr. Dunuwila said that he aims to develop the roads and maintain the pavements with the support of the private sector and said that he had already got a good response from the private sector for this purpose.

He said that the historic Kandy Lake has been neglected owing to legal problems, mainly about whose responsibility it is to maintain it.

"All differences between departments of the Central Government and the Municipal Council should be ended if we need to protect the Lake," he added

Peace moves on tenth year of Indo-Lanka Accord

By Frederica Jansz

With the 10th anniversary of the Indo-Lanka Accord in July this year, senior members of the UNP have indicated a willingness to hold informal discussions with LTTE representatives. Opposition members revealed the UNP insist the LTTE should be consulted on the government’s proposed power sharing package before it can be successfully implemented.

Further that the government should first make its stand clear on Article I of the new constitution on the sovereignty and unitary status of the country. President Kumaratunga, however, in a recent interview to ‘Capital Radio’ said the LTTE are a factor that need to be dealt with but the rebels are not considered a vital contributory to implement the government’s solution to resolve the issue of power sharing in the country.

Some members involved in deliberations at the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) have voiced discontent over the proceedings maintaining the entire exercise in merely an intellectual one. Prof. G.L Peiris is on record as saying the process of the devolution package will go cheek by jowl with the war in the north and east. Mr. Peiris has stressed the government is ready for negotiations without the LTTE provided the Tiger group fall in line with agreed pre- conditions to the talks.

Meanwhile talks between the UNP, Tamil and Muslim political parties conducted outside deliberations of the PSC, have failed, according to a senior UNP source. Both Tamil and Muslim parties involved in these discussions were scheduled to submit a report on May 15. However this report will now not be produced as a result of no consensus being reached between the UNP and the minority parties.

A UNP MP revealed the main opposition party refused to make its stand clear on the unit of devolution. The UNP have further expressed concern over statements made in London by Prof. G.L. Peiris in relation to federalism.

Dr. Neelan Tiruchelvam, TULF MP contradicts this opinion saying discussions will continue with the main opposition party, the UNP. Two conclusions reached as a result of the talks, he asserts, are that a sub committee has been appointed to record decisions taken so far, while others state further discussion is required on the issue pertaining to the unit of devolution. The presence of Prof. G.L. Peiris, Chairman of the PSC, will be required for the next discussion scheduled to focus on this matter, Mr Tiruchelvam said.

Rauf Hakeem, Deputy Chairman of Committees, admitted "a lack of progress" in discussions between the minority parties and the UNP. The latter, he says have refused to address contentious issues relating to the package and instead concentrate on other peripheral matters.

Political analysts claim the Tigers seem to be receiving a bashing in more ways than one. Not only is the Sri Lankan government attempting to use military pressure to force the rebels to the negotiating table but India too have stated clearly that there will be no political interference on the part of the Indian government in Sri Lanka’s ethnic conflict other than humanitarian assistance. This sentiment apparently has the support of Tamil Nadu as well.

As July 27 draws near, which will mark 10 years since the historic Indo-Lanka Accord, yet another significant peace move is expected to pave the way for a negotiated settlement to the 14-year ethnic conflict. The PA government’s constitutional reform with provision for wider devolution of power within a union of regions will be presented to Parliament in September this year.

The Devolution Package has provoked widespread controversy among sections in the south, while inhabitants in the north and east could not care less, as they daily tackle an oncoming armed force and the threat of the Tiger looms large. The LTTE meanwhile maintain the package was never presented to the rebel group in an official capacity so it does not warrant serious consideration by them.

While an atmosphere of distrust prevailed between significant elements in Sri Lanka and India at the time of signing the historic Indo-Lanka Accord, the ‘Hindustan Times ‘ claims that, "having burnt its fingers once, India’s latest policy of staying away from the imbroglio will be widely endorsed on the Indian side of the Palk Straits."

Sinhala hardliners claim the LTTE and democracy are anathema to each other, while Prabhakaran has no time for the niceties of pluralism and dissent. The international community regard the forward movement in Indo-Lanka relations as significant provided India sticks to her policy of non-interference in Sri Lanka’s internal affairs.

The role of a mediator or facilitator to the ethnic conflict is yet to be agreed on by the government and the LTTE. Political party leaders have stressed any third party invited to broker peace talks in the Island would need to exercise sufficient pressure on both parties to the conflict. "A certain amount of arm-twisting is a must," a senior government MP said.

A government official said at long last an opportunity has been afforded to look rationally at the question concerning the Tamils. Apart from political parties deliberating on the feasibility of the devolution proposals, it is time, he said, to reach consensus among the people, before it is too late. A delay could result in the Package being listed in history along the lines of the Indo-Lanka Accord, he said. Is it make or break time for the PA government?

Kotte kids win first round of power

conflict in Supreme Court

The Supreme Court taking up the Fundamental Rights application filed by five infants of Ethul Kotte against the CEB, Koolair Ventures Power (Pvt) Ltd. and several other respondents ordered on Friday that the power plant in question be shut down from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. until the case was concluded.

The court granted leave to proceed regarding the alleged violations of the infants’ rights guaranteed under Articles 11, 12 and 14(1) (h) of the Constitution reserving for the petitioners the right to support their contention that their right to life had also been violated.

The infants appearing through their next friends stated that a 11.2 MW power plant set up by the respondents had operated day and night for three months continuously and that the noise emanating from it far exceeded the national (noise) standards. Three doctors have filed affidavits to support the infants’ application stating that prolonged exposure to noise at levels emitted by the respondents’ power plant would cause hearing and other impairments.

This case has raised several issues about the right to life and the validity of Emergency Regulations passed by the government suspending public health, planning, environmental and public nuisance laws in respect of power generation projects.

The order to shut down the power plant from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. was made with the consent of the respondents.

Justices N.R.M. Dheeraratne, Shirani Bandaranayake and Asoka de Z. Gunawardena constituted the Bench. Attorney-at-law Lalanath de Silva with Jagath Gunawardene, Mihiri Gunawardene, Himali Siyambalapitiya and Radeenika Peiris appeared for the infant petitioners. Senior State Counsel Kolitha Dharmawardene represented the Attorney General and the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) while Attorney-at-law Lucky Wickramanayake looked after the interests of Koolair Ltd.

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