The Meegoda Resource Centre western province was opened by President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga on December 4 to mark International Day of the Disabled. This had been constructed by Ministry of Education, Western Province under the direction of Chief Minister Susil Premajayantha. Here Chief Minister, Western Province Premajayantha and Education Minister Richard Pathirana watched Mihira Wickramarachchi fitting some hearing aids on three hearing impaired children from one family. The hearing aids were donated by Wickramarachchi Opticians, Nugegoda.
A senior police officer attached to the Permanent Commission on Bribery and Corruption is the latest victim in a series of probes by the Commission on each other attached to the Commission.
An administrative inquiry is reported to be launched on the circumstances under which this senior police officer took a vehicle belonging to the Commission and crashed it. According to our sources, the police officer is not entitled to the use of Commission vehicles.
Apart from its unauthorised use the police officer is also reported to have got a Commission driver to swear an affidavit stating that he and not the police officer was in the driving seat.
The administrative inquiry is probing whether this was a voluntary affidavit.
No formal confirmation is forthcoming from the Commission on the basis of a secrecy clause under the Act preventing the divergence of such information, even if it meant an administrative matter.
Only a month ago, a police officer attached to the Commission was transferred by the IGP with no reasons given.
President Chandrika Kumaratunga has called for the resignation of the two Commissioners and ordered the transfer of the Director General. But none of them is complying with the Presidential directive.
Meanwhile, in the Supreme Court earlier this week, the Attorney General assured that the Commission will not proceed with investigations against its D.G. Nelum Gamage amidst a fresh controversy over reports that the Commission was in the process of charging her for corruption.
The Sunday Times last week reported that the Commission is to file charges against Ms Gamage for corruption, according to Commissioner Rudra Rajasingham, a former Police Chief.
Ms Gamage responded angrily to the reports.
There has been no statement recorded from me on the basis of which I could be charged. If action is going to be taken on statements that I have made during proceedings in respect of which I filed writ application in the Supreme Court, that too is not possible as the matter was before court and consequently subjudice.
On what basis is action going to be taken against me? she asked. Mr Rajasingham was not available for comment.
Commission moves to proceed against the Director General for corruption would have to be in the context of an undertaking given by the Attorney General that the Commission would not take any steps to have the Director General questioned by Commissioners T.A.de. S.Wijesundera, Rudra Rajasingham or Superintendant of Investigations M.M. S.Othanapitiya.
It was consequent to this assurance that the Director Generals writ petition against the Permanent Commission was withdrawn before a Supreme Court bench comprising Justices Mark Fernando, A.S.Wijetunge and Dr Shirani Bandaranayake on Thursday.
The Supreme Court was however informed by Additional Solicitor General K.C.Kamalasabeyson PC that the undertaking by the Attorney General was made without prejudice to any future steps that the Permanent Commission might take to initiate disciplinary action against the Director General before the appropriate authority and/or to investigate any matter that they are empowered to do.
In reply, senior counsel for the Director General, R. K.W. Goonesekere stated that the Director General also in turn reserved her right to challenge the status of the two Commissioners and their right to conduct such investigations if any investigations/proceedings are commenced in the future.
The Director Generals writ petition before the Supreme Court had been on the basis that the Permanent Commission had acted with malice and hostility in initiating an investigation against the Director General.
The Director General had been called upon to answer allegations of drawing unauthorized allowances, declaration of assets and the role she played regarding investigations into the activities of two suspects with whom her husband, Lal Gamage was alleged to have had business dealings.
She then appealed to the Supreme Court, stating that the allegations against her were vague and more in the nature of administrative irregularities, rather than charges of bribery and corruption, and that the investigation against her had been undertaken in a manner not authorized by law.
Last Thursdays assurances made by the Attorney General were seen as a virtual acknowledgment that the Permanent Commission had, in fact, acted improperly in proceeding as they did against the Director General.
The other officer figuring in the controversy, Superintendent of Investigations M.M.S. Othanapitiya left the service of the commission recently as his extension to work beyond retirement age had not been approved by the IGP.
The fracas engulfing the Permanent Commission is expected to be debated in Parliament shortly with the UNP bringing a motion of no confidence against the Commissioners and its Director General.
We will need a week at the least to debate all these corruption scandals, a senior UNPer said.
Another union has come out against plans to hand over the Colombo ports Queen Elizabeth quay to the P&O company, describing the deal as ill conceived and unprofitable in the national interest.
The Ports Authority Technical Staff Officers Association in a statement said technical and financial aspects of the proposed deal with the world shipping line would only be counter productive to Sri Lanka.
The net profit from this deal will not exceed US$ 10 million per annum which is the profit that the SLPA earns at present from the QEQ. The 1000 odd non-productive employees to the SLPA will cost the SLPA an expenditure equivalent to over US$ 2 million a year which is the annual rent promised by the P&O after taking over the QEQ. Hence far from generating thousands of additional jobs, thousand jobs that are available at present will be lost or become unproductive as a result the union warned.
At the same time if the breakwater is not built by the government due to financial constraints or non-feasibility of the project. P & O will own the QEQ for 30 years, at the end of which the SLPA will have to get the ownership back, it pointed out.
A massive 200 metric tonne stock of spoilt big onions claimed to be destroyed by the Co-operative Wholesale Establishment (CWE) has found its way to the market reports said.
CWE Chairman Peter Jayasekara denying reports about these onions reaching the market, confirmed the consignment imported from the Karnataka state in India had perished due to the bad weather and high moisture.
A team of The Sunday Times journalists who visited a CWE warehouse complex in Colombo witnessed persons removing the stocks of spoilt onions and sorting them out to be reintroduced to the local market. Mohamed Nazar, 42 who was busy sorting out the onions at the site said: I will sell this to a businessman in the area for Rs. 10 a kilogram. Its not only me, many others are selling these onions.
A security guard attached to a private company near the CWE warehouse said that stocks of the rotten onions were dumped haphazardly outside the premises on the previous day and the people in the neighbourhood come and collect them all the time.
Some of the gunny bags were dumped on the roadside making it easier for the people to collect them, he added.
The rotten onions find their way to the market at a time when health authorities are carrying out a massive campaign to keep Cholera under control.
Mr. Jayasekara maintained that these rotten onions could not have reached the local market again.
I have ordered that all stocks of this consignment to be destroyed. There is no way that these stocks can reach the market again. We have taken all precautions to stop these stocks going to the market,. he said. The stock is valued at Rs. four million and the government was planning to sue the Indian supplier-a state institution in Karnataka, he said
We are going to write to the Indian government about the matter and we will be black listing this particular supplier, he said.
Chairman and Director General of the Southern Development Authority (SDA), Navin Gunaratna sent in his resignation before his term of office ended.
Mr. Goonaratne said that he sent in his resignation before President Chandrika Kumaratunga left to UK and after her return a decision would be taken regarding the post.
The Sunday Times learns one of the possible reasons that prompted him to resign was the handover of a majority of the SDAs activities to the Board of Investment.
A misguided cholera campaign by health inspectors has led to the closure of several small and medium scale factories producing milk-based food items, industry sources said.
They alleged that health officers had advised eating house owners and retail sellers not to sell yoghurt, ice cream and ice lollies. As a result many manufacturers have closed down their industries and large scale closures have put the milk producers in a difficult situation as they were unable to market their stock.
Rohan Fernando president of the Sri Lanka Foundation for Development of Small and Medium Industries told The Sunday Times that what the health ministry meant was to stop selling food items which were in the open such as wadde, buns and sweetmeats, but it was misinterpreted.
We informed the Health Minister who admitted that it was incorrect.
He wanted the Inspectors to rectify the matter. But the damage is done. Rectifying it would not be easy, he said.
He said some factories were unable to pay back their loans and were facing serious problems. We have taken up the matter with the Livestock Development and Industries Ministry. Measures should be taken to grant relief, he said.
The Supreme Court on Thursday rejected documents of the Peoples Bank when it took up an application filed by Yashodha Holdings (Pvt.) Ltd., praying for leave to appeal from an order of the Colombo High Court.
After leave to proceed was granted in September this year a statement of objection with a motion was filed by the respondent bank requesting that certain documents which had been tendered by it be accepted by Court.
Counsel for the petitioner, L. C. Seneviratne PC pointed out that an order had already been made restricting the bank from transferring petitioners facilities to the non-performing category and also restraining the respondent from reporting Yashodha Holdings (Pvt) Ltd., to Sri Lanka Credit Information Bureau.
The counsel submitted that the written submissions of the bank assumed that the documents had been accepted.
Counsel for the respondent bank was directed to file written submissions on this basis on or before January 15 and the hearing of the case was fixed for May 13, next year.
The Court consisted of Justices Dr. A. R. B. Amerasinghe, Ananda Coomaraswamy and D. P. S. Gunasekera. L. C. Seneviratne PC with Desmond Fernando PC, Attorneys-at-Law Suren Peiris, Hemantha V. Situge and Kamani Dissanayake appeared for the petitioner while Deputy Solicitor-General Parakrama Karunaratne watched the interests of the Peoples Bank.
More than 450 Tamil detainees, all LTTE suspects, went on hunger strike yesterday after three inmates, two Tamils and a Muslim, were killed in clashes at a high security prison in Kalutara on Friday.
A group of prisoners allegedly clubbed to death the three terrorist suspects and injured six others after a dispute over food distribution.
The alleged assailants had protested that the terrorist suspects were being meted favoured treatment on the issue of food a charge prison authroties denied.
The incident drew angry reactions from Tamil political parties.
TULF President M.Sivasithamparam told The Sunday Times Justice G. L. Peiris had assured action against those responsible for the attack.
He said the Tamil inmates had now been separated from other prisoners.
The TULF politburo at a meeting yesterday condemned the attack and urged that a full probe be held immediately, especially on the role of certain prison officers.
EPDP leader Douglas Devananda also condemned the attack and alleged there was an undue delay in taking the injured prisoners to the hospital.
PLOTE leader D. Siddharthan and ACTC human rights lawyer A.Vinayagamoorthy who visited the Kalutara prison yesterday said they saw evidence that the assault on Tamil prisoners was premeditated.
Mr. Siddharthan said they had queries why prison officers did not open fire to quell the riots. The prison chief had said they did not do so for fear of harming others in the prison that accommodated some 900 inmates.
He said the Tamil suspects were asking that they be transferred to the Magazine Prison in Borella with a separate section for those being held on political grounds.
TELO leader M.K. Sivajilingam and UNP MP Dr. Jayalath Jayawardena also called on the government to hold an immediate inquiry.
Prison authorities yesterday rushed in 50 additional guards to the Kalutara prison to beef up security after Fridays incident while outside the jail the army and the police stepped up security.
The group of assailants had broken up chairs and carrom boards and attacked the Tamil prisoners shortly after lunch.
The injured prisoners are receiving treatment at the Nagoda hospital.
Prisons Chief K.W.E Karaliyadde told The Sunday Times that a top level inquiry into the incident had been launched and action would be taken accordingly.
Justice Ministry Secretary M. S. Jayasinghe said Prisons Superintendent Kenneth Fernando had been appointed to conduct the inquiry.
Prison sources who did not want to be named said some of the prisoners felt they were being deprived of their normal food supply, but the Tamil prisoners were receiving the supplies due to the close monitoring of their plight by various human rights groups and Tamil political parties.
The short supply of food is allegedly due to various malpractices in which some officials are reportedly involved, the sources said.
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