3rd May 1998
What's the meaning of this? "Where are the ministers,
where are the people?" an angry President Kumaratunga
seems to say with herhand on the hip at the PA May Day
rally. Not a very encouraging sign for the provincial
elections round the corner.
Pic by Sajeewa Chinthaka
By Chris Kamalendran
Bandarawela, Diyatalawa and surrounding areas are all agog and sky-gazing, partly in fear and partly in fascination, after several people reported seeing a glittering unidentified flying object (UFO) coming in, landing and going off during the past few days.
According to the principal of Adikaram Primary School in Bandarawela, several school boys and teachers had told him they had seen the UFO. Grade Five student Harsha Ellawellagedera said he had seen the object around 6.30 a.m. on Thursday while several others reported they had seen it at different times in different places.
If school boys might be prone to some imagination, then the District Medical Officer of Diyatalawa, Kamani Pushpakumara, would contradict the sceptics. She said she had seen a UFO flying over her garden a few days ago. Frightened by it, she ran into the house and told her husband to close the door. A driver in the area is also reported he had seen a UFO.
The Bandarawela police have now moved in and asked the student, Harsha, along with others to give a description of what they saw and what happened. Investigations are continuing with space science students likely to join hundreds of long-weekend holiday makers in the resort towns to discover more about the extraordinary scenes in the sky.
The Sri Lanka Army will launch a campaign in schools countrywide in a national level recruitment campaign to enlist 15,000 soldiers.
Plans for this campaign are now being formulated by Army Headquarters. In terms of this, the Army is to seek the help of Grama Seva Niladharies.
They will be called upon to liaise with the schools in their respective areas and arrange for recruiting to visit them.
Army recruitment teams who will visit schools will, with the help of Audio/Visual aids, explain to students who plan to leave school the need for them to enlist.
Attractive terms and facilities are to be provided to them.
Lt. Gen. Rohan de S. Daluwatte, Army Commander, is expected to announce to the media tomorrow how the national level recruitment programme will get under way. He is to seek the help of the national media in this regard.
Army sources said the enlistment of 15,000 additional soldiers would help offset a shortfall in the approved cadres due to desertions.
This is in addition to deaths and also those injured being left out of battle.
At present the number of deserters is estimated to be over 19.000.
See also Situation Report.
By Chamintha Thilakarathna.
President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga who was the first to arrive at the PA May Day rally at Town Hall, was stunned to see that none of her ministers excepting Minister Alawi Moulana, the rally organiser, at the site.
To add to the fury of the President the special invitees section was hardly occupied partly due to heavy security checks. The ministers started to appear one by one an hour later.
Quite unusually the President arrived 15 minutes early for the meeting while the procession was beginning to enter the grounds. She was seen pacing the stage for over 15 minutes, questioning the organisers apparently on the poor organisation.
Her blank expression spoke eloquently of her disappointment at the situation. The discussions between the organisers and the President led to Minister Moulana having to go to the gates to order the public to be taken in without too many security checks.
The organisers had to make repeated announcements assuring the public that they would not have to undergo security body checks. The President relaxed only when Minister A.H.M. Fowzie arrived.
Minutes after, he was followed by the rest of his colleagues. Though requests were being made for those scheduled to make the speeches to come forward to begin the meeting, attempts went unsuccessful. Ministers turned up at odd intervals in turn.
The poor crowd was due to two reasons; one, those who joined the procession were too tired to attend the meeting and had to return to their distant homes; two, because the women do not like being pushed over and jostled and subjected to various body checks, Minister Dharmasiri Senanayake said in his speech explaining the poor show just in front of the stage.
One observer quipped there were more policemen than people. As those who came in procession entered the grounds (though not in hundreds) Mr. Moulana went to the extent of gesturing to them to come faster.
The seats reserved for the Deputy Ministers, Chief Ministers and other important officials of the parties were unoccupied for the most part of the meeting, so did the rest of the seats directly in front of the main stage where policemen were guarding empty seats.
Despite the early disappointment, the President was overjoyed when a section of the procession entered the Municipal grounds. She got up and waved at the crowd in simple appreciation.
Many of those who came with the procession were seen returning home, soon after the procession reached the Municipal grounds, where CTB buses were parked. They enjoyed the buns and the milk supplied by the organisers.
Emirates shuns UNP threats
By Tharuka Dissanaike reporting from Dubai
Emirates Airlines which took over management of AirLanka recently in a controversial deal has said it is not worried about threats by the opposition UNP to abrogate the agreement if it comes to office.
"It is a hypothetical situation. But we are not unduly worried and we will go ahead with our plans to launch a new AirLanka with a modern fleet and profitable routes," Emirates officials told journalists at their headquarters here.
"But the Sri Lanka government has offered us an insurance cover against such threats and we have taken it though that whole development is regrettable," they said.
Chief Executive Officer Tim Clark who played a leading role in negotiations with PERC officials whom he described as hard-nosed, said he personally liked the Saree of the AirLanka air hostesses but no decision had yet been taken on whether or not there should be a new uniform.
"We'll launch a new AirLanka. Under Emirates management, AirLanka will undergo a complete change of image, including airline logo and aircraft interiors. Under the ten-year plan we hope to open new routes, including the revival of the abortive South Africa operation. We'll cut down on non-profitable routes while increasing flights to West Asia and Australia," Mr. Clark told a news conference.
Emirates signed an agreement for 40 percent of AirLanka shares at US$ 70 million on March 31. The agreement has been slammed by critics with the main opposition UNP saying it was a sellout of a national asset.
Under the deal, AirLanka is buying six new Airbuses which had been negotiated for earlier by Emirates.
Emirates executives denied allegations that commissions had been obtained from the deal. "Cross my heart. We have not taken any commissions. That is not how we operate," Emirates Managing Director Maurice Flanigan said. Mr. Clark said if AirLanka had negotiated on its own it would never have got the Airbuses at the prices Emirates obtained them. He pointed out that the government of Sri Lanka had not guaranteed the purchase of these Airbuses, so Emirates raised the money through its financiers and obtained a better price for the aircraft since Emirates itself was buying 16 Airbuses.
He said the purchase of new aircraft was necessary since they felt the aging Tristars needed to be taken out of the international fleet.
Rejecting suggestions, that Sri Lanka had been played out in the AirLanka deal, Mr. Clark said the price settled for was reasonable and beneficial to Sri Lanka.
Politicians, top officials in fear
The recent arrest of an underworld gangster at Pannala and two others recently in Kadugannawa with alleged links to a minister and two deputies and some police officers had shaken up some top officials in the force.
The two who were arrested at Kadugannawa on a tip off too had confessed that they had links with some top politicos and some police officials.
They had been involved in several murders, robberies and several other crimes.
Meanwhile, it is learnt that some politicians had been disturbed as to how the media had got wind of the arrests and confessions.
By Dilrukshi Handunnetti
Many members of Parliament who have obtained liquor licences have sold them to individuals because none of their liquor shops has been officially registered under their names, an Excise Department official alleged.
Although it is public knowledge that the majority of the members have accepted licences under others names, authorities are in a quandary to maintain authentic records, while the MPs continue to make profits. The official also disclosed that the revenue earned through fines imposed on liquor dealers during the four preceding years amounts to a staggering Rs. 51 million. In 1994, a total of 1757 liquor licences under 19 categories were issued. The number of licenses issued in the subsequent years are 1820, 1651 and 1893 respectively.
The revenue earned by way of licence fee in 1994 was Rs 35 million, in the three following years, the revenue earned was Rs 81 million, Rs 126 million and a staggering Rs 161 million respectively. Despite mounting protests from the clergy and intellectuals, the number of bars and liquor shops in the country have doubled.
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