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14th February 1999

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Srimani joins 'dissolve provincial council' call

The United Lalith Front, an ally of the PA government has called on President Kumaratunga to take steps to dissolve the newly elected Wayamba council and hold fresh elections.

"It has saddened me deeply that the democratic process has been violated and that for the first time women had been stripped and forced to walk on the roads. It is unfortunate that the politics of this country has been reduced to such low levels. The people cannot be denied the right to freely choose their representative be it to Parliament, Provicnial Council, or other local bodies," ULF leader Srimani Athulathmudali said.

Meanwhile, another constituent party of the ruling alliance, the Communist Party, has called for the setting up of an independent election commission with wide powers and new electionlaws making the national identity cards compulsory for all voters.

The party condemned the election malpractices and violence in Wayamba, saying it was unfortunate that such deplorable incidents had taken place under the PA government.

The CP said the violence had robbed the government of an untarnished victory. "Had the election campaign been conducted by a joint committee of the People's Alliance this situation could have been averted," the CP said.


Management for excellence

Sunil Kumar, an eminent lecturer in leadership skills and personality development will conduct a workshop on "Management for Excellence" at the Hotel Ceylon Inter-Continental on February 24.

The workshop is organized by the Behavioural Programmes Sub-Committee of the Management and Professional Development Committee of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants - Sri Lanka Division. Organisers say the workshop is aimed at chief executives, senior and middle managers involved in marketing, finance and human resources.


Crash bars breaking barriers

By Ayesha R. Rafiq

Many vehicle owners flout the law which bans crash bars, largely because of police inaction, according to a Sunday Times study.

The law states that 'no fender, metal frame or similar device shall be affixed to, or carried on, any motor vehicle to project beyond the front bumper...'.

Although the law was brought into effect in June 1989, many vehicles with crash bars are escaping long arm of the law with most of the violators being owners of luxury vehicles like Pajeros and double cabs.

Traffic Police chief Camillus Abeygunawardena said the Commissioner of Motor Traffic could, in consultation with the IGP, give approval for a vehicle to have a crash bar if it is essential.

But Motor Traffic Commissioner D.S. Edirisinghe says he has never given any such approval.

The Sunday Times investigation reveals the Sri Lanka Insurance Corporation (SLIC) has been offering insurance cover to vehicles with crash bars even after the law banning them was introduced.

An SLIC motor insurance officer says: "The crash bar is considered an extra fitting and as such the premiums are higher, but the SLIC has insured vehicles with crash bars even after the law was introduced."

Police officers say that the law was mainly enforced for security reasons, as vehicles with crash bars can easily break through most security barriers. "Especially now when security is a big issue, barricades provide a vital form of security which could be jeopardised by use of crash bars," a senior officer said.

Many owners of Pajeros with crash bars also said that they were confused about the law. "My Pajero has had a crash bar for the past four years, and I have never had a problem with the police about it. So I'm not sure about what to do," said one owner.


If politicians have tears, shed them now

Little Niroshika wants new shoes, unaware she has lost her legs

By Nilika de Silva and Shelani de Silva

Will political parties, their thugs and henchmen say no to violence even after hearing of the tragedy that killed an 18-year-old school girl and led to the amputation of the legs of a 10-year-old girl?

The two innocent schoolgirls were among the latest victims of political violence which is still continuing in Wayamba.

Last week a hand grenade was thrown into a house of a PA supporter in Kobeigane killing his eighteen year old daughter and seriously injuring a ten year old child of a neighbour. While Priyani succumbed to her injuries the following day, little Niroshika Priyadharshini was fighting for her life at the Kuliyapitya hospital. Niroshika's life plunged into despair overnight when doctors informed her parents that they had to amputate both her legs to save her. Today Niroshika lies in a semi conscious state not knowing she does not have legs but pleading with her mother to buy her a pair of shoes to go to school.

Her mother, Kanthi, who keeps vigil at her daughter's bedside cannot overcome the sorrow.

"Niroshika was very attached to Priyani, and it was Priyani's father who was coaching Niroshika for her scholarship exam. Everyday she would go next door and somedays she would spend the night there," said Kanthi.

On that day when Kanthi came to collect Niroshika around 8 p.m. they were still at their studies. Not wanting to disturb the two, Kanthi had returned home. The two girls had gone to bed after dinner. They were sleeping close to a window. It is alleged that the grenade was thrown through this window targeting R M Ratnayake, Priyani's father.

"Around 1 a.m. we heard a blast. My husband said that it came from Priyani's house. Within moments we heard Priyani shouting. My husband and I ran towards their house. Both girls were lying on the ground with blood spattered around. The worst affected was Priyani whose lower limbs were blown off but she was still screaming. Little Niroshika was trying to stand up in spite of her feet being severely injured.

"My husband carried her and wanted to take her to hospital. But unfortunately no one volunteered to give a vehicle fearing to get involved in a political incident," she said.

After two hours of desperately trying to find a vehicle, the family was forced to pile into a trishaw and take the two girls to the hospital. Both were admitted in the Kuliyapita hospital and were occupying adjoining beds. But Niroshika does not know that her 'Chuti Akka' is dead. She still makes inquiries about her. Niroshika is the second in a family of five and her father is a farmer. Life has not been easy for them.

"It is here that I can't hold back my tears. At times she recognises people and at times she forgets. But the hardest part is yet to come when we have to take her home and to see such a lively girl confined to a wheelchair," said Kanthi.

Niroshika's family admits that what took place was a politically- motivated incident but adds that the children should not be made to suffer. "My husband and Ratnayake who was a PA organiser did actively participate in the election campaign, but we never thought that we would have to pay the price in this manner," said Kanthi.UNP will ban errant parties says Ranil

Opposition UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe has vowed to bring constitutional amendments to ban political parties involved in election malpractices if the UNP comes to office

Addressing the UNP protest rally after a satyagraha in Kurunegala town, Mr. Wickremesinghe said he would appoint a board to probe actions of politicians involved in undemocratic acts.

The satyagraha and protest rally were held to express UNP's dissent at the manner in which the Wayamba elections were conducted and to force the government to safeguard the people's democratic rights.

Mr. Wickremesinghe claimed that during the Wayamba elections top PA politicians, bar owners, drug addicts and even security force personnel were involved in election malpractices.

"Our party has already agreed to take action to set up an independent police commission and an independent elections commission. The UNP has also discussed with the Editor's Guild to bring amendments to ensure more media freedom," he said.

"We are not here to find fault with the voting system. Fraud at the Wayamba election occurred not due to the Preferential system. It was perpetrated because the Kumaratunga government feared defeat.

People who do not have the strength to accept defeat cannot remain within the democratic system," Mr. Wickremesinghe said.


Postmen ring bells of strike

With the controversial Postal Corporation Bill being presented in parliament, a major postal union is pushing for all-out action by several state sector unions.

An official of the Union of Post and Telegraph Officers said yesterday the unions will meet this week to decide on a course of action against what they saw as the first step towards privatising the postal department.

He claimed that unions of state banks, railways, Electricity Board, Water Board and other public sector trade unions had expressed solidarity with them.


Information Counsellor recalled

Information Counsellor Aruna Kulatunga has been recalled from Sri Lanka High Commission in London to face a disciplinary inquiry by the Public Service Commission here, a Foreign Ministry official said.

Mr. Kulatunga was interdicted by the then High Commissioner, S.K. Wickremasinghe ,who in a report to the Foreign Ministry claimed that the Counsellor did not conform to government guidelines.

Mr. Kulatunga filed a fundamental rights petition on December 18 in the Sri Lanka Supreme Court, which issued a stay order suspending the letter of termination.

He denied all the charges made by the High Commissioner and insisted he had acted within the guidelines and in the best interests of the country. The post of Information Counsellor for some of our key missions abroad was created by the government to counter LTTE international propaganda.


Hokandara horror: a bloody rampage went on for several hours while neighbours kept mum

Villagers in shock, afraid to speak

By Chris Kamalendran

imageWhile the massacre of a whole family of six at Athurugiriya has shocked the country, what is more shocking was the terrified silence of the neighbours as the criminal gang continued their bloody rampage for several hours.

The main suspect and his accomplices carried out the first attack around 2.30 p.m. and thereafter continued their attacks till night at regular intervals, but until late night none of the neighbours had alerted the police.

The people in the area still remained in shock, but most of them want to remain silent. Most of the immediate neighbours are reluctant to make statements to the police fearing reprisals.

"We know it is a serious crime, but if we do not have enough security how could we speak," said an elderly villager who wished to remain anonymous.

But a relative of the family told The Sunday Times: "We are surprised that nobody came forward to call the police. We are sure people would have heard the screams when the family members were being murdered one by one.

Particularly since they had used an axe for the murders it would have been agonising deaths.

Yet the relatives themselves appeared to be fearful of reprisals. The funerals of the six family members were arranged by the Kaduwela Pradeshiya Sabha apparently because others were afraid to get involved. About 5000 people attended the funerals, held under tight security.

Wealthy land owner, Withanage Lalanadasa, 56, his wife and their four children had been living in Hokandara for many years. The house barely half a kilometre away from the main Hokandara-Athurugiriya road was situated close to several other houses.

The inmates of the house included three daughters of whom one was a graduate of the Sri Jayawardanapura University and the son employed in a nearby factory.

On that horrible day, four of the family members had gone to courts for a land case leaving behind Mr. Lalandasa and the second daughter Chithra Dayangani.

A gang led by a notorious kasippu dealer from the area had broken into the house and first murdered the father by hacking him with an axe. They dumped his body into a large box meant to store paddy. Thereafter the gang raped the daughter before strangling her, detectives said.

The gang then waited in the house for about two hours till the other members of the family returned from courts. With brutal indifference to their bloody deeds, they ate biscuits and drank kurumba from the scene of the crime while waiting to draw more blood.

When the other family members returned at different times, the gang murdered them one by one. The mother, Sriyawathi Perera (47) and the two other daughters Chandra Priyangani (29) who was attached to Sumathi Publications as an Accounts clerk and Nayana Damayanthi, an undergraduate, were attacked thereafter.

All their screams went unheard. The last to arrive was the son Chinthakage Nishantha. As he entered the home around 7. 30 p.m., he was attacked, but he struggled with the gang leader, police investigations reveal.

Nishantha pulled the gang leader Amaradasa to the garden and fought. But he was overpowered and axed to death.

Amaradasa also was injured and bled profusely.

It was only after 8.30 p.m. that a neighbour alerted the police. A police party from the Athurugiriya had rushed to the area but could not locate the scene of the massacre. It was only one hour later that the police received precise direction to the scene of the carnage.

Detectives said when they entered the house they found bodies in different places while the gang leader Amaradasa was still alive. He confessed to the Police that he had carried out the attack because of a land dispute.

Amaradasa succumbed to his injuries at the hospital.

According to villagers, the family had quarrelled with Amaradasa and his men who were known to be brewing kasippu in a nearby paddy field and stored it in a land belonging to the murdered family. The family had objected to it and made a complaint to the Police.

A police officer involved in the investigations said that they were surprised that the villagers had not come forward to alert the police, despite hearing the sounds from the particular house earlier in the day. When the Police received the first call, five of the six family members had already been killed.

By Friday five suspects including Amaradasa's wife and son who is schooling were arrested and remanded until February 26 by Kaduwela Magistrate Pearl Karaliyadda Gunatillake.

Police investigations revealed that the prime suspect and his family were planning to escape to Sri Pada. Amaradasa's wife is alleged to have removed gold bangles, chains and other valuables from the Lalanadasa residence before the police arrived.

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