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9th August 1998

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Kandy Esala Perahera
The grand finale: The annual Kandy Esala
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Head prefect dies in mystery blaze at A'pura school

By Chris Kamalendran and Dayaratna Ambogama

A bright student, head prefect and top athlete of an Anuradhapura school, died of burn injuries in mysterious circumstances.

The 20-year-old Neville Ranaraja, who won an all-island prize for oratory and was keenly interested in political science, was allegedly burnt while he was sleeping in the school building after late night studies on Friday for the on going Advanced Level examination.

Neville was also serving as the security guard of the Nivanthaka Chethiya Maha Vidyala where he studied and was getting a monthly allowance of Rs. 1,500 as he did not want to be a burden to his family.

The greiving familyHis father, A.M. Sumanadasa, 63, said he suspected his son was burnt because of jealousy as he was reaching the highest educational standards after obtaining four distinctions at the Ordinary Level examination.

"I can't bare this. My two other sons have already died, one in an accident and the other from natural causes," said Mr. Sumanadasa who is a father of six.

"Since we were living in the Paniyankadawala, 25 km away from Anuradhapura and my son could not travel daily, we built a hut in a small plot of land which we owned behind the school for my son to carry on his studies.

"I am a farmer . This is the only son who studied well. He obtained four distinctions at the O/L examination. He wanted to study political science.

Last Tuesday the boy with four friends had sought approval from principal Siripala de Silva and were studying for the A/L examination in the upper floor in a two storeyed school building. They studied still midnight and had gone to sleep with four friends on the upper floor and Neville on the ground floor as he also had to carry out his duties as watcher. Around 3 a.m. the friends who were sleeping on the upper floor had heard a noise. When they rushed out they saw their friend in a small pond in the garden of the school .

One of the four students, Lalith Hemachandra describing the incident told The Sunday Times "We rushed towards the pond and found Neville inside the pond. He shouted 'take me out'. We took him out he was completely burnt. and the clothes pasted on to the body. We alerted the villages and we took him to the hospital.

"He was treated at the ICU but succumbed to the first degree burn injuries three days later," he said.

"We did not see anybody in the area. We cannot tell who is responsible," he added.

Anuradhapura crime detective chief Vidura Jayasinghe who visited the scene told The Sunday Times they found a box of matches, the leg of a chair with blood stain on it.

He said just two days prior to the incident there had been another attempt on the life of Neville.

"On August 2, this boy had gone to a temple and on his return home, he tried to drink water from the clay pot and found that the water had turned green.

He found that it was poisoned with the very pesticide he had brought to destroy the weeds behind the small hut he lived.

Police said no arrests had been made and they had not yet questioned any of Neville's colleagues as they were sitting the exams.

Police have recorded statements from some 15 other persons.

"I have received several anonymous letters, indicating names of suspects and we are hoping to make a breakthrough soon," Inspector Jayasinghe said.

The principal of the school said that the money to pay the student turned watcher was collected from the students themselves with each student contributing one rupee.

He said Neville was the head prefect of the school and was placed second in an all island oratorical contest in 1996. He also took part in various national athletic meets.


Lankan officer helps rebuild Sierra Leone police

Senior officers from Sri Lanka, Barbados, Britain, Canada and Zimbabwe are now in the Sierra Leone's capital of Free Town to reorganize the police force in that country.

Sri Lanka's representative on this Commonweatlh police development task force is DIG Dharmadasa Silva.

The appointment of the task force followed a request by Sierra Leione's president Ahamed Tejan Kabbah, to the Commonwealth. During his vist to Sri Lanka this year Commonwealth Secretary General Anyaoku discussed the matter with Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar and requested the government to sponsor a senior officer for the task force.

President Kumaratunga nominated Dr. Dharmadasa Silva to represent Sri Lanka.

Dr. Dharmadasa Silva holds a Master Degree in Administration of Justice from the Southern Illinois University. He also holds a Doctoral Degree in Sociology from the University of Jayewardenapura, Nugegoda.

The CPDTF will have a two fold purpose. In consultation with the Government of Sierra Leone, and other relevant international agencies, the task force would evolve a strategic plan to rebuild the Sierrra Leone Police Force (SLPF).


Osu Sala to give OPD drugs

The main Osu Sala outlet will provide drugs to patients who cannot obtain them from the OPD of the National Hospital after 4 p.m., Health Ministry officials said.

They said arrangements were being made for Osu Sala outlets to provide this special service from dusk to dawn until National Hospital OPD was streamlined to provide all services, including the dispensing of prescriptions throughout the night too.

At present some OPD doctors work till 8 p.m. but the dispensary closes by 4. p.m.


Maids sick of medical checks

By Faraza Farook

Poor Sri Lankan housemaids are forced to languish for more than two days in Colombo and pay upto Rs. 1000 in getting a medical certificate for jobs in West-Asia but when they eventually go there a medical check-up is conducted all over again. The Association of Foreign Employment Agencies (ALFEA) has appealed to the Foreign Employment Bureau (FEB) to make provision for job seekers from rural areas to obtain these MCs from any public hospital.

ALFEA, President W.M.P. Aponso said, at present all authorised medical centres to obtain these certificates were Colombo-based. The FEB had promised to review the scheme.

FEB Chairman, Kapil Abeyratne, said the authorised medical centres had been designated by the embassies concerned - Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman and other countries.

He admitted that many of these job seekers from rural areas faced severe difficulties in getting their MCs in Colombo. Some job recruits said that because of a delay in obtaining their MCs they had not got their visas and thus lost the job opportunities.

For some it was a case of being told by the medical centres to go back and come the next month for a report, but then it was too late.

After all the hassle, the MCs issued here are often not accepted in those countries.

They are subjected to another medical examination there and eventually that certificate is the accepted one.


Problems yes but Palace plan proceeds

By Chamintha Thilakarathna.

The Government is to go ahead with the 1500 million rupee Presidential cum Secretariat project in Madiwela, Kotte.

The First step in this direction came when the Urban Development Authority made its application to the Central Environmental Authority (CEA) for approval. This application, made in May this year, seeks clearance for the reclamation of nine acres for the project.

'The CEA is yet to begin an environmental impact study on the project', a CEA Director, Iranganee Serasinghe said yesterday.

The UDA in the preliminary report has said the project is expected to cause traffic problems in the area while environmental pollution and flood water retention problems will also crop up with the construction of the head of state residence and VIP complex in Madiwela, but remedial measures also have been suggested.

An environmental assessment report by the UDA states that at least twenty 10-ton tipper trucks and ten 5-ton tipper trucks will be used for construction work along with at least 300 workers.

The transportation of goods and persons and lodging for workers, etc., on narrow as well as byroads will create a serious vehicular block in the area which will need immediate attention and an effective traffic plan, it adds.

The report also refers to the possible pollution that the project could cause. The UDA says it will spray water on the roads to control dust pollution and all vehicles carrying material to and from the construction site will be well covered.

About 19 species of birds in the popular Madiwela sanctuary and fish in the Diyawanna Oya will also face danger from the project, environmentalists have warned.

The UDA has assured it would take steps to relocate the bird sanctuary, though it may turn out to be a difficult task.


Where's the pension for journalists CMC asks Mangala

By Kumaradasa Wagista

A resolution requesting the government to implement a proposed pension scheme for journalists has been unanimously approved by Colombo Municipal Council.

The PA's M.M.M. Mubarak moving the resolution said, professional journalists were performing a responsible task in society and the government must see to their needs in retirement.

The PA's L.R. Stephen seconding the motion asked why the media minister was sitting on this pension which had been proposed by a committee last year.

The JVP's Wimal Weerawansa said he doubted whether this government would implement the pension scheme as it had now forgotten the services rendered by journalists to bring the PA to office.

The MEP's Geethanjana Gunawardena said, a free media should flourish if democracy was to progress. The UNP's C. Mahendran warned the country was heading to totalitarianism and the need of a free media was urgent.


PC polls all at once, says minister

By Chamintha Thilakarathna

A top government minister yesterday dismissed speculation that a presidential election might be held before provincial polls.

Minister and PA General Secretary D. M. Jayaratne also told The Sunday Times that the provincial elections to be held before the end of the year would not be conducted on a staggered basis as suggested by some.

He said the President and the government felt that holding the provincial polls on a staggered basis would create unnecessary disputes between the main parties, including the possibility of the poll in one province influencing the other.

Meanwhile the main opposition party UNP is planning a major campaign against the postponement of elections.

The party's executive committee will meet on August 14 to discuss the strategy with the first major protest rally likely to be held in Colombo.

Party spokesman Karunasena Kodituwakku said the postponement was yet another blatant violation of a promise given in the PA manifesto.

He quoted the PA manifesto which said, "the government's powers to change laws governing any aspect of the conduct of elections, by having recourse to emergency regulations promulgated under the Public Security Ordinance, will be removed."

Amid speculation that the UNP and other parties would go to the Supreme Court to challenge the postponement of the polls, Mr. Kodituwakku said the UNP's former Chief Ministers had been told they were free to take the matter to courts if they wished to do so.


Grama Sevaka aspirants left in the cold

While hundreds of aspiring Grama Sevakas who sat examinations sometime back and are awaiting appointments, a Cabinet decision was taken recently to recruit 1000 Grama Sevakas, from among both Samurdhi and Govi Niyamakas.

This was done on a proposal made by Samurdhi Minister S.B. Dissanayake to create new posts for Samurdhi animators and Govi Niyamakas who have hitherto been employed on a temporary basis.

Some of the animators will be recruited by the Agriculture Department and the Southern Development Authority.


More News/Comment  *  Who tried to include the mystery para in the final draft?  *  India, Pakistan step back from the brink  *  Why I slept at Summit - Salinda  *  PC polls: Never on the cards, but lots of money spent  *  GST bites into library  *  Dead tax dropped  *  Drop conditions for talks, says NPC  *  When you were down and out, David was there

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