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14th March 1999

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Battle over dead man's party tag

By Shane Seneviratne reporting from Nawalapitiya

True to the saying that politics leaves nothing untouched, claims and counter-claims are being made over a dead man's political affiliations.

Was the man who was killed in the Nawalapitya grenade attack a party supporter or a curious passer-by who was just drawn to the scene of attack?

W. H. W. WimalasooriyaThe ruling PA has sent Rs. 50,000 to the grieving family of W. H. W. Wimalasooriya, pending further compensation. But UNP supporters say he was not a partyman.

Mr. Wimalasooriya was killed when PA and UNP supporters clashed after a convoy of UNP vehicles was allegedly attacked by PA supporters. Some 40 others were injured in the attack.

It is alleged that the clashes began when the PA supporters placed burning tyres on the road and pelted stones on the vehicles of UNP supporters moving through Kurunduwatta town.

Mr. Wimalasooriya's wife told The Sunday Times said she did not believe her husband was killed because of his political affiliations.

his grieving wifeShe said her husband was a recognized SLFP supporter who had also worked and campaigned for PA candidates.

"My husband was working at a fish stall before he found a job as a waiter in a hotel at Kurunduwatte. I think he would have gone out to see what the commotion was about and would have been outside the hotel when the bomb went off," she said.

Four UNP activists including a Kandy district parliamentarian Cader Hajiar and UNP main candidate Keheliya Rambukwella were remanded till March 26 by Gampola Magistrate Tudor Gunaratne, in connection with this incident.


Criminal gang preys on housemaid returnee

By S.S.Selvanayagam

An organised gang of criminals is alleged to have gang-raped and robbed a West Asian returnee in what is increasingly been seen as just another crime in the ever-increasing horrible list of crimes.

The case of a Tamil woman who was returning from Saudi Arabia has been reported to the Anti Harassment Committee by the Forum for Human Dignity (FHD), a human rights group.

The 39-year-old widow, a mother of five, returned to Sri Lanka after working as a housemaid for two years in Saudi Arabia.

She had with her six sovereigns, three bags of clothes and other items valued at Rs 75,000.

She wanted to go to Colombo to take a bus to Batticaloa. There were two other Tamil women. The time was 5.30 a.m.

The two other women had organised a van and persuaded her to join them, according to the complaint made to the AHC.

There were two men who spoke Tamil in the van. After travelling for some distance, the men said the van had developed some engine problem and organised three-wheelers for three of them.

The widow said the three-wheeler in which she was travelling stopped at a lonely spot and she was forcibly taken into a house.

The gang then robbed her and gang raped her, the human rights group alleged.

She had seen an old, bearded man in the house being paid money by the members of the gang, FDH said.

The woman was kept their till night but she escaped and hitched a ride to Colombo in a van.

The woman claimed she had Rs 3,000 hidden in her blouse which was not detected by the gang. She travelled by bus to her village without knowing the fate of the other women, the human rights group said.


Where is the freedom for free campaigning, asks Ranil

In the aftermath of police action of removal of loudspeakers at the UNP's Nittambuwa sathyagraha, Opposition UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe has charged the PA leadership of not abiding by the all-party consensus to allow free campaigns and ensure non-interference by state agencies.

The UNP leader told The Sunday Times the sathyagrahas were organized as a protection mechanism and they symbolized mass agitation to protect freedom of expression which the government seemed to be obstructing.

"The UNP has proposed election law reforms but the President shot them down at the all-party monitoring committee by agreeing to consider it later. But we accepted her proposal to set up the APC and participate in it hoping to usher in a new political culture. But today's actions symbolized the PA leadership's commitment to democracy by depriving the main opposition party a platform of its choice. The UNP has never turned its back on the people, so police or no police, they cannot tell us to do that now," he said.

The satyagraha campaigners were told by the police to re-erect their stage facing anywhere but the main road. Party general secretary Gamini Atukorale alleged that this was totally uncalled for as the organizers had duly obtained permission for loud speakers and to erect a stage.

However, the organizers defied the police order, leading to the removal of loud speakers by the police.

When Mr. Wickremesinghe and Anura Bandaranaike arrived the sathyagraha was held on the same platform, with everyone sporting a gag, symbolic of the denial of the use of the public address system.

The UNP's next sathyagraha campaign will be held on Wednesday and Thursday in Polonnaruwa.


'Police pressured to implicate UNP candidates'

Three suspects, two of whom are top politicians in the Central Province were remanded till March 26 after they surrendered to court through their attorneys on Friday.

The Kandy District UNP parliamanetarian A. R. M. Abdul Carder, the UNP's main candidate for the Central Provincial Council, Keheliya Rambukwella and Peter Dangahagedara were the suspects who surrendered to Gampola Magistrate Tudor Gunaratne through their lawyers Daya Perera and Hemantha Warnakulasuriya. They were wanted in connection with the killing of W. M. Wimalasooriya.

President's Cousel Daya Perera told court the investigation carried out by the police in this instance was partial. He claimed pressure had been brought on the police to cover up the episode that took place at Kurunduwatta, Nawalapitiya at the instance of Mahindananda Aluthgamage, PA candidate.

Mr. Warnakulasuriya, senior Counsel for Mr. Rambukwella said the whole episode had been stage-managed and framed after having got instructions from the top to implicate his client, as he was a formidable candidate contesting the PC elections. All other suspects are candidates, except Mr. Carder who is an M.P. and Chief Organizer of the UNP for the Central Province.

The court was told by the lawyers for the suspects that on March 10, the UNP supporters were participating at a branch opening ceremony. On this day there were about 30 vehicles which came in the UNP motorcade. The UNP supporters alighted from their vehicles and distributed campaign leaflets and opened the party branch at Nawalapitiya, amidst jeering from a crowd of PA supporters.

According to the lawyers of the suspects, when the UNPers were proceeding along Kurunduwatte, they saw the road being blocked with burning tyres. They contacted the Gampola police and wanted them to come to the scene and deal with the situation. But the police never arrived. Then the crowd started hurling stones at the UNP motorcade.

They rejected the accusation that their clients were involved in any greande throwing incident.

"Instead of arresting those people responsible for the carnage, the police under pressure had made the complainant, the aggressor, the innocent victim. This was done to prevent Mr. Rambukwella from engaging in his legitimate political activities in the area," Mr. Warnakulasuriya submitted. The Gampola OIC said they had recorded statements from a large number of injured persons who had stated that they saw these four suspects hurling grenades at them.


Ravi to sue Srimani dear

By Dilrukshi Handunnetti

United Lalith Front Parliamentarian Ravi Karunanayake will demand a record-breaking Rs. 500 m as damages, in a defamation suit from party leader Mrs. Srimani Athulathmudali for her alleged move to arbitrarily expel him from the ULF.

Mr. Karunanayake, in the aftermath of the withdrawal of expulsion notice by Mrs. Athulathmudali told The Sunday Times that he would fight tooth and nail to show the world that he was a man wronged by the party he strived to protect and nurture from the time the NDUNLF was founded, as it was called then, by the late Lalith Athulathmudali.

He did not want the people to believe that he struck a deal with the leadership leading to the withdrawal of the arbitrary expulsion order, hence the action to clear his name before the public and to prove that the party leadership has adopted a dictatorial stance in contravention of the party constitution.


SC to decide on private medical college

By Ayesha R. Rafiq

A private medical institute has moved the Supreme Court, asking that it be allowed to go ahead with the establishment of a medical college, the setting up of which was suspended last year by the government after student protests

The Institute of Medical Studies has in its fundamental rights petition said its right to equality has been violated by state action.

The medical college to be set up at a cost of Rs. 170 million was to be affiliated to the University of Aberdeen and would cater to those seeking a foreign medical degree in Sri Lanka, the petition said.

The IMS has submitted that having obtained all the necessary approvals from the relevant authorities both locally and in England, the arrangements for the project were underway when it was informed that the BOI has decided to suspend the agreement with immediate effect.

The IMS claimed that the BOI had acted arbitrarily by suspending the agreement.

The IMS in its petition claimed that apart from the benefit to potential medical students in the country, it would greatly reduce the drain on foreign exchange as the fees for the college would be paid in local currency. Overseas students who may be attracted would also bring in more foreign exchange.

The IMS has asked that the suspension imposed by the BOI be annulled for it to be permitted to continue with the establishment of the medical school, and for Rs. 10 million as damages.

The BOI and the Attorney General are cited as respondents.

The application will be supported on March 25.


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