15th February 1998


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Sarojini: calling for an end to the gun culture

By Roshan Peiris

Jaffna’s first woman Mayor Sarojini Yogeswaran is calling for an end to the gun culture and is seeking funds to provide a better water service, health care and other facilities to the people of the battered city.

Sarojini Yogeswaran

Sarojini Yogeswaran

Mrs. Yogeswaran who will take oaths next month is getting her gown and cloak sewn in Colombo. The Mayoral chain is there but without the emblem.

“I am disturbed about the gun culture where Tamil parties especially the EPDP and PLOTE have their own private armies.

“This is bad. During the elections many of our candidates withdrew because they felt threatened by them. We in the TULF don’t have an army of our own and don’t intend to,” Mrs. Yogeswaran said in an interview with the Sunday Times.

“I wish there were fewer checkpoints by the army in Jaffna. It is time consuming, if not unnerving. But then, I find that over here in Colombo, you have the same thing. I have been stopped several times and even though I told the security I am the mayoress of Jaffna they were sceptical and perhaps had not read the newspapers,” said Mrs. Yogeswaran whose husband, a one-time MP for Jaffna was slain allegedly by the LTTE.

The TULF has only a slim majority in the 23 member Jaffna MC. Outlining her plan, Mrs. Yogeswaran says: I hope all members will co-operate in re-building Jaffna town. But if they try to scuttle me or don’t co-operate the TULF will press for new elections. We will have more time to campaign and election registers could be updated.” What are her priorities for Jaffna?

“I want to see that facilities such as roads, sewage, drainage and the like are improved. We have all been bitten by mosquitoes since malathion is not used and the army does not allow the garbage to be collected as before and to be taken to a central place for security reasons. Now each household is asked to burn its own garbage and this is seldom done due to fear of fire. So the mosquitoes are thriving.

“As a woman I want to set up maternity clinics and child clinics. The Germans have offered to help. For all my ideas to be implemented we need funds.”

“ Minister Alavi Moulana has promised to provide what is possible. I also hope to ask foreign missions to help us. I want to meet the President whom I have never met, and discuss some of my priorities for Jaffna with her.

“The Jaffna middle class, most of them getting money from abroad, can afford the exorbitant prices for rice, sugar, dhal, potatoes and the like. Those who suffer are the very many in Jaffna living below the poverty line. Their condition is pathetic and I want the Municipality to help.

“ The people of Jaffna are disillusioned and desperate for peace.

“They have had enough of suffering and loss of life. We are really pining for peace. The army at present is good and is keeping the peace, but as I said earlier, we don’t want gun culture anymore. We daily pray for peace and hope the major parties will come up with proposals which the Tamils will accept,” she said.

Government decision within days

Referendum or PC polls:

By Arshad M.Hadjirin

Government will take a crucial decision within days on whether to hold a nonbinding referendum on the devolution proposals before the provincial councils elections in June.

People’s Alliance General Secretary and Minister D.M.Jayaratne said President Chandrika Kumaratunga would take a decision on the referendum, after consulting ministers and some MPs.

The government, with a wafer thin majority in parliament has been seeking the support of the main opposition party UNP for a two thirds majority to pass the new constitution, including the devolution package.

But the UNP is now totally opposing the devolution package and with even some PA partners going against the government’s proposals, it seems there would be no alternative but to go for a referendum, political sources said.

This was backed up by Mr. Jayaratne who said the referendum would solve the problem.

UNP-ULF talks for coalition

By Dilrukshi Handunetti

Talks are being held between the UNP and the United Lalith Front led by Srimani Athulathmudali for a possible merger before elections within the next few months, political sources said.

A UNP official told The Sunday Times a merger between the two parties was possible as they had similar policies and social welfare issues. He said the UNP was not interested in attracting individuals but in a merger with the ULF as a whole for the benefit of both parties and the country.

A ULF spokesman acknowledged a dialogue was taking place with the UNP because the Party felt an alliance with a bigger group would be in the best interests of all. But no final decision had been taken and a merger was not likely until a nomination date for elections was announced.

He however pointed out that a merger would mean that a meeting of political minds and in that context the ULF had serious differences with the UNP regarding the Lalith Athulathmudali assassination.

No pay hike but extra allowances for MPs

By Chamintha Thilakarathna

Though a controversial decision to increase salaries of MPs has been shelved, they are from January getting additional allowances amounting to Rs. 6,500 a month, parliamentary officials said.

They said the fuel allowance for an MP has been increased to Rs. 5,000 from Rs. 1,500 and the driver’s allowance also doubled from Rs. 1,500 to Rs. 3,000.

Some MPs said it might not be right to get extra allowances at a time of national crisis. But MPs also facing a hard time with lots of bills to pay. At present an MP gets a salary of Rs. 22,000 a month plus allowances.

A Parliamentary Administrative official told The Sunday Times the increase had been approved and MPs were being notified of the increase.

Many of the MPs although agreed that an allowance increase was not the done thing at the moment but stated that the MPs get very low salaries once all the deductions are made for type writers, photocopy machines, vehicles, telephones, houses, etc.

The extra allowance comes amidst a row between the ruling PA and the UNP over who originally proposed the pay hike for MPs, with both parties now passing the buck.

Lifting Tamil youths revived: TULF MP

By S.S. Selvanayagam

TULF parliamentarian charged the security forces as well as the pro-government Tamil militants for the re-emergence of picking up Tamil youths by persons in civilian clothes coming in vehicles in Batticaloa.

Joseph Pararajasingham, the TULF parliamentary group leader, told The Sunday Times” that picking up Tamil youths by persons in civilian clothes, rampant during the period between 1991 to 1994 in Batticaloa and Trincomalee, has reared its head again.

In some cases it was found that the security forces were responsible for such action and in many cases the pro-government Tamil militants acting independently of government authority were responsible, he said.

He said that three Tamil youths coming on their bicycles were picked up by persons in civilian clothes coming in a Blue Pajero at Chenkalady junction last Monday.

Top cop retires after transfer order

By Christopher Kamalendran

A top cop of the Special Investigation Unit (SIU), an arm of the Police Department probing allegations against its own officers, has retired from service after he was transferred to an operational area.

‘The Sunday Times’ learns that the SIU Director, Senior Superintendent of Police Nimal Fernando, had been transferred to an area where he would have to work under three senior officers against whom he was conducting investigations.

The officer is reported to have appealed to the IGP on the grounds that his son who is also attached to the Air Force was serving in an operational area and there were 20 senior officers who were yet to serve in the operational area.

Senior DIG Administration, Dr. S.P. Dharmadasa Silva confirmed that the resignation had been accepted last Thursday, but declined to give reasons.

If you are harassed write to us, says Defence Secretary

Defence Secretary Chandrananda de Silva said yesterday any complaints regarding harassment of civilians by the security forces could be made directly to him.

Asked what purpose it would serve if the complainants could not give identification numbers of the security personnel involved the Secretary said the public could just write in with details of the incidents and he would direct an investigation.

Summons re-issued on ex-GA

By Hemachandra Nanayakkara

The Colombo High Court has re-issued summons on Jaffna’s former Government Agent, Chelliah Pathmanathan in a case where he is charged with withholding information regarding some LTTE suspects.

When the case was called recently the former GA was not present to answer the indictment served on him by the Attorney General under the Prevention of Terrorism Act. He was ordered to appear on February 24.

All’s well that ends well

A lapse by the ministerial security division drew the anger of a cabinet minister who was greeted by an unidentified woman at a function in Bandaragama.

The woman dressed in a black skirt approached the Minister of Public Administration Ratnsiri Wickramanayake without being challenged by security personnel on duty. The minister showed his dissatisfaction over the security provided him.

Tailpiece: The woman was arrested, questioned and released as it was found that she was soft in the head.

Forbes directors resign enmasse

As many as 14 senior executives, including directors, of one of Sri Lanka’s oldest brokering firms, Forbes & Walkers resigned this week in protest at the way the company has been managed in recent years.

Lack of leadership, basic management flaws and the fact that the company has been sold thrice in the past four years have been cited as the common ground for the mass resignation.

Among the directors who resigned this week are Ravi Kumararatne - Chairman of Forbes Tea Brokers, Anil Cooke, Nissanka de Mel, Bernard Fonseka, Rohan Iddawela, Ananda Sirisekera, Marcel Peiris - Managing Director of Forbes Soy Food and Dhammike Wedande - CEO and Managing Director of Forbes Services.

The 118-year-old firm is at present in the hands of Vanik having first being sold to Ondaatje Corporation of Canada, and then to Physicians Insurance Co. of Ohio (PICO).

Mr. Kumararatne confirmed the mass resignation and told The Sunday Times that the company had been owned by the directors and employees for 114 years, and that their inheritance had been “encashed.”

Flats not up for sale

The Torrington government flats in Colombo 5 will not be sold. This assurance comes from the Public Administration ministry officials.

Minister of Housing and Urban Development Indika Gunwardena had made the proposal in a cabinet paper.

“We will not sell the property to its residents. Although this was proposed by the previous government, it was withdrawn later and the withdrawal still stands” said Director, Ministry of Public Administration, D. J. B. de Silva.

He said that the ministry was not interested in selling these flats, and as for the recent cabinet decision to sell them they will not accept or consider the matter.

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