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21st June 1998

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Little angels of mercy
Little angels of mercy: They work behind the scenes to alleviate the suffering and agony of soldiers wounded at the war-front. No one sings hosannas for them, but in their own simple way they are a source of solace and comfort. While the nurses provide the medical care, 17-year-old Indika Thushari writes a letter for this wounded soldier in his hospital bed in Ragama Hospital, to be sent to his parents. Thushari is a member of the Suwa Seva volunteer organisation.
Pic by Lakshman Gunatilleke
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A Gestapo State ? asks Kumar

By S.S.Selvanayagam

The proceedings of a meeting held by a Tamil group including intellecutals and pressure groups was taped and the audience were videoed by the National Inteligence Bureau (NIB) raising concern among the participants.

The meeting was held by the Action Group of Tamils in Colombo (AGOTIC) on Friday evening at the Sri Kathiresan Hall, Bambala-pitiya.

The meeting discussing the Contemporary Situation of the Tamils and the stand the Tamil people need to take on the matter of Tamil parliamentarians was presided over by AGOTIC President N.Vijayasingam.

Tamil Congress leader Kumar Ponnampalam, one of the seven speakers billed to address the meeting told The Sunday Times that there were three strange persons in civvies with tape recorders and a video camera and that it was brought to the attention of the organisers.

Mr. Ponnampalam said that when he questioned the threesome, they claimed that they were from the police. I asked for their identity card though they produced it, they were reluctant to give it to me stating that they won't do so to the civilians. I noted down their names, he added.

Eventually, an Inspector of Police on duty there, intervened and told us that they came here with an order from the top brass of the police, he added.

Mr Ponnampalam, angrily said, 'It is unprecedented and a moral threat. Is it a military state or Gestapo State? This sort of act probably might lead to open revolution.'

Jaffna Deputy Mayor elect N. Raviraj of the TOCF told 'The Sunday Times that he was there and the AGOTIC president mentioned the incident half-way of the meeting.

'Though we noticed the videoing and recording by persons in civvies from the beginning, we did not suspect. Most of the audience were learned and varsity students' he said.

'It is an unwanted act and is really against fundamental rights. As citizens of Sri Lanka, we have every right to convene a meeting permitted within the framework of the law,' he said.

Mr Raviraj denounced it as a high-handed act of the government and said that this act would certainly create ill-feeling.

Govt. to now go ahead with polls

The Government will heed Opposition's call for Provincial Council elections, a senior Cabinet Minister declared yesterday, amidst uncertainty and backstage political talks on whether or not to go ahead with the polls.

"If they (opposition) want it, we are ready. But the polls will have to be held without adequate security including those for candidates and aspirants for Chief Ministers' posts," General Secretary of the ruling People's Alliance and Minister D.M. Jayaratne, said.

He told The Sunday Times, "we would have preferred the polls to be put off by six months due to the prevailing security situation. In view of current troop and police deployments, diverting the required number for polls duty is the difficulty."

Last Wednesday, Home Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake, met Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, to convey the Government's inability to hold Provincial Council elections in view of the prevailing security situation in the country. Coming in that backdrop was a news release issued by the Department of Information where the Mahanayakes of the four Chapters - Malwatte, Asgiriya, Amarapura and Ramanna Nikayas - jointly called upon the Government to postpone the elections till "the conclusion of the war." It was issued after the Secretary of Information, Ariya Rubesinghe met the Deputy Minister of Defence Anuruddha Ratwatte.

Meanwhile nominations for the North Central province have been called for. Accordingly, nominations will be accepted from July 4 to July 11, the Commissioner of Elections, Dayananda Dissanayake said yesterday. The joint statement of the Mahanayake Theras appears on Page 4.

Mr. Wickremanayake, however, declined to comment, when The Sunday Times asked him what his response was to the Opposition's demand for elections. "I do not want to say anything on that," he declared.

The United National Party's Working Committee, the main policy-making body, met on Friday night to discuss the Government's call for a postponement. Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, told the meeting that he would abide by whatever decision the Committee took on the matter.

The Working Committee decided to reject the Government's call and appeal for the conduct of the polls.

Speaking in his capacity as a UNP organiser, City Mayor Karu Jayasuriya, told The Sunday Times, "I feel this is a national issue.

All the parties showed concern over the country's law and order situation. If the situation demands, we will even call for an all party meeting to discuss the issue."

Mr. Jayasuriya said the UNP would send a written reply to the Government on the Working Committee's decision.

Deputy Minister Defence Minister, General Anuruddha Ratwatte made a personal appeal to two Mahanayaka theras to issue statements calling for the postponement of the Provincial council elections on the grounds that on going operations in the north and east could get disrupted.

Earlier, Minister Ratwatte had personally visited the Mahanayaka Thera of the Asgiriya chapter, Ven, Palipane Sri Chandananda thera and Mahanayaka thera of the Malwatte Chapter Ven Rambukwelle Vipassi on Thursday.

The minister had explained that troops would have to be pulled out of the north and east to provide security for the elections.

After both Mahanayakas consulted each other and agreed to issue a statement calling for the postponement of the elections the Secretary of the Asgiriya Mahanayaka thera, Ven Palipane Bharathi thera was entrusted to draft the statement.

The Maha Nayaka thera of the Amarapura Maha Nikaya , Ven. Madihe Pagnaseeha who was also in Kandy to extend an invitation to the Mahanayaka Theras of the Asgiriya and Malwatta chapter for the ceremony to hand over the Sinhala Commission report had been informed about the appeal.

Taxman knocks on Mahanayakes' door

By Shane Seneviratne

Sri Lanka's two leading Buddhist prelates have turned away a state insurance corporation representative who went to their temples to brief them on the luxury tax on the limousines gifted to them by the President recently.

A marketing officer of the National Insurance Corporation (NIC) called over at the temples of the Mahanayake Theras of the Malwatte and Asgiriya Chapters to deliver a formal letter on the tax they need to pay for the revenue licences of their luxury vehicles.

The Sunday Times learns that both Mahanayake Theras had turned away the officer saying it was not their duty to pay the tax amounting to more than Rs.100,000 for each vehicle.

One of the prelates, it is reported, had handed over the car key to the officer saying he was willing to return the vehicle rather than pay the tax.

NIC General Manager Nimal Perera told The Sunday Times they had granted free insurance cover for the two vehicles for one year and the Kandy branch office was directed to brief the Mahanayakes on the tax. Meanwhile, Kandy Divisional Secretary S.B. Beddewala told the Sunday Times revenue licences had not been obtained for the two vehicles.

Wrong procedure, Ranil writes to CBK

Since Parliament has not passed a resolution calling for the removal of any Commissioner and therefore in calling for their resignation without an address of Parliament the President has seriously violated the provisions of the Act, says the Leader of the Opposition and UNP Ranil Wickremesinghe in a letter to President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga. In his letter dated June 18 to the President, he states that it was highly inappropriate of you as the President to intervene in the much "publicised dispute" between the Commissioner and the Director-General and on that pretext call for the resignations of the Commissioners.

"According to the law, the President can remove a Commissioner from office after an address of Parliament for the removal of such a member ( Section 2 (5) (a) of the Commission to Investigate the Allegations of Bribery and Corruption Act).

"So far. the Parliament has not passed a resolution calling for the removal of any Commissioner. Therefore, in calling for the resignation without an address of Parliament you have seriously violated the provisions of the Act."

Mr. Wickremesinghe stated that to ''correct your conjecture that Mr. Tilak Marapana is the legal advisor to the UNP, in fact there is no such post in the UNP. For your information, Mr. Pelpola is the Legal Secretary of the UNP. Mr. Marapana has appeared for me in my personal capacity only on one occasion.

"A number of leading lawyers have played prominent roles in party politics and as you are well aware, they endeavour to keep their professional work separate from their political work.

"Mr. Marapana has always upheld this tradition. It is a pity that as the President of this country you yourself are unable to conduct yourself impartially, as evinced by your bigoted statements at the mere mention of the UNP. "You seem ignorant of the fact that the question of making offence of "corruption retroactive was raised and disposed of during the second reading of the bills in October 1994."

Quotes from Hansard:

He further stated that no step had been taken to replace Justice Siva Chelliah who expired in January 1997. A Director General has not been appointed to the Commission since Mrs. Nelum Gamage ceased to hold office and the supporting staff of the Commission had been withdrawn. Hopes the President in her reply would address the three issues raised by him.

"Your persistence in pressurising the Commissioners to resign through various reasons, and your autocratic resolve to act with complete disregard to lawful procedures in this matter create deep suspicion in my mind as to the motives of your government.

"The appointment of the third Commissioner and the Director General who is the chief administrative officer will result in the immediate reconstitulion of the Commission. He would be glad to assure the co-operation of the UNP with regard to these two appointments provided the UNP is consulted in the selection process and the final appointees have bipartisan approval, in view of the prevailing circumstances.

He also stated that a resolution for the removal of any Commissioner can be presented on grounds of "proved misconduct or incapacity," not on indeterminate allegations of inefficiency. After all you appointed Commissioners on the recommendation of the Prime Minister and in consultation with the Speaker. I was never a party to the process.

''The core issue is not one of making the law retroactive, but the empowering of the Commission to inquire into the allegations of bribery and corruption made against members of the government by appointing a third Commissioner and the Director-General.

''lt is a violation of ethical standards as well as tenets of common decency expected of a Head of Government to call for the resignation of the Commissioners at a time when you and the members of the Cabinet are yourselves the subject matter of complaints made to the Commission .

"The move of your Government in introducing a Resolution in Parliament for an Address of Parliament for the removal of the existing two Commissioners in itself is an obvious "delaying tactic" adapted to prevent the commencement of investigations into complaints already made against certain cabinet ministers, inclusive of yourself'.

This is patent because the Commission can be reconstituted and activated by your taking the three simple steps already referred to.

"Every action of yourself and your Government in respect of the Commission bears the obvious stamp of subverting the Rule of Law and abusing and misusing your authority as President to protect and shield yourself and your immediate colleagues", he claimed.

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