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8th August 1999

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Anuruddha wants SSP investigated

By Shane Seneviratne

A top level investigation is under way of a complaint made against a senior police officer by a doctor for retaining his pet dog Brutus, beating the animal and for accepting a ransom to release the animal.

Police chief Lucky Kodituwakku has received orders from Deputy Defence Minister Anuruddha Ratwatte to take legal action against the SSP.

According to an investigation by another police officer, enough evidence has been recorded in relation to the alleged incident to terminate the services of the SSP, it is claimed.

However, the Police have failed to obtain a statement from the women involved in the kidnapping of the dog.

The dog had been kidnapped when it had strayed to the neighbouring house of a doctor from where a couple had stolen Brutus in a van.

The Alsatian dog was released by the police officer after the payment of Rs. 10,000, it is claimed.


How risky is PA show?

By M.Ismeth

Plans by the ruling People's Alliance to bring in a crowd of about 100,000 for an anniversary procession in Colombo next week, have provoked questions regarding security issues.

UNP Media spokesman Karunasena Kodituwakku told The Sunday Times demonstrations by the UNP and by journalists last week were restricted by the police on the basis of risk in high security zone and the reported presence of suicide bombers.

On that basis he asked what the police felt about the plans by the PA to pack and jam busy streets for an anniversary bash.

Dr. Kodituwakku asked whether security risks at an opposition procession did not apply to a PA one.


Bribery Commission

UNP performs funeral rites

The UNP carried out the last rites of its two-day protest outside the Bribery Commission Office by a ceremonial burning of a coffin signifying the death of the trouble-plagued commission.

With Parliamentarians and other party supporters having created a mini camp site for protesters, the 'final rites' were performed by opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe who pledged to continue the agitation campaign islandwide.

The area around Bauddhaloka Mawatha was filled with streamers and banners condemning the government for crippling an independent commission which had been heralded as a body to lead the fight against corruption and bribery.

Effigies of President Kumaratunga and the controversial media advisor Sanath Gunetilleke were hoisted in the middle of the road, while a CID team was seen filming it all.

After much exercising of vocal chords, party men and many parliamentarians invited UNP leader Wickremesinghe on to a makeshift stage which was precariously balanced. However, the commotion also caused a traffic jam in the area with policemen doing their utmost to direct vehicular traffic away from the crowds.

As Mr. Wickremesinghe demanded the reactivation of the commission, the coffin was set on fire while the effigies were strategically placed in a waltzing pose but spared the burning.

In parliament this week, UNP MP A. H. M. Azwer read out an obituary which he claimed was found near the coffin outside the bribery commission.

The obituary read: "It is most regrettably announced to the innocent public of the Republic of Serendipity that the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery and Corruption died under most unexpected and tragical circumstances being throttled and suffocated by the People's Alliance government. Born on 04.10.1994, breathed its last prematurely on 10.08.1997. Cortege leaving SLBC/SLRC precincts to an unknown burial ground within a high security zone on an unannounced day."

The address was given as "Tarred Garden in the Centre of Buller's Rd. (kissing distance of BMICH), Garrisoned City of Colombo, Sri Lanka."


Bus passenger's arm smashed up in accident

By Faraza Farook

The arm of a commuter was mashed up when the bus he was travelling in was hit by another bus that was trying to overtake at Wadduwa on Friday.

The victim, Thunga Siriweera (47) of Dharga Town was on his way to Colombo in a Kalutara - Colombo bus when a Galle bound bus crashed on to the Colombo bound bus window completely separating Siriweera's arm, Police said. Siriweera was rushed to the Panadura hospital with the assistance of a doctor who was also travelling along the Colombo - Galle highway.

Warded at the Colombo National Hospital, Siriweera's arm has been grafted. However hospital officials say that the arm might have to be amputated if unfavourable signs are evident such as an infection.

According to the driver of the Colombo bound bus the accident took place around 7.40 in the morning near Pothupitiya at Wadduwa. Siriweera was in the seat behind the driver.

The Galle bound bus had then struck on to the right side of this bus where Siriweera was sitting.

Meanwhile the Galle bound bus driver in his statement said that he tried to overtake a bus that had been stopped near a bus stand and saw the Colombo bound bus coming in front. Despite flashing the headlights, the Colombo bound bus failed to stop and then it crashed said the driver.


Media law debate on October 8

An all-party motion calling on the government to present legislation for vital media law reforms will be taken up for debate in Parliament on October 8.

This came on a proposal made by opposition UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe on Friday after the government blocked a move to debate the motion on that day.

The motion calls for legislation to implement proposals for the repeal of criminal defamation laws, the replacement of the Press Council with a Media Council with a majority of non-government members, the codification of laws relating to subjudice and contempt of court and the introduction of a freedom of information act.

At a news conference on Friday, Mr. Wickremesinghe called for bipartisan support for the media law reforms saying a new media culture would help create a vibrant democracy in the new millennium.

The government had suggested that the four media law reforms be placed before the parliamentary select committee but later agreed to the debate.

The Media Minister in the meantime has promised to accelerate the Select Committee proceedings.


Peace groups to lobby support for package

With the Government planning to present the political package in Parliament, several peace groups are to hold meetings to seek support and encourage the Government.

The meeting which is organised by the Alliance for Peace will bring together 200 Non Governmental Organisations next week to discuss the package.

Convenor of Alliance for Peace Kingsley Rodrigo, told The Sunday Times that the meeting would take place on August 16 at the BMICH before the Government presents the package in Parliament. "We feel that this is the last chance for peace and all peace activists should get together to support the package," he said. He said the Alliance members would also meet political party leaders after the NGO gathering.


Finish work CBK tells MPs

By Shelani de Silva.

President Chandrika Kumaratunga has set all PA MPs a deadline to complete development projects in their electorates by the end of the year amid speculation of a General Election early next year.

The President, who met all government parliamentarians on Friday evening to discuss the development work in their electorates, gave a list of projects to be completed in the respective district.

The deadline set for the completion of the projects is December. The projects have been categorised into three groups.

Building of canals, bridges and roads will be done in villages, while the bigger projects will include, school buildings libraries. Main stress will be on agriculture and agricultural equipment will be given to farmers.

An MP told The Sunday Times that the president had allocated the funds to be used for each project. The funds will be used from budget allocation.

The meeting concentrated on the unemployed youth in the country which is one of the main problems the government faces.

Friday's meeting is an indication that the People's Alliance is expecting an early election. The President however had not discussed any date of presenting the political package to parliament but added that another meeting will be held to discuss the issue.


SriLankan's Monara in new hands

With the change of logo and name, the national carrier SriLankan Airlines has also given a new look to its monthly magazine, 'Monara' but at a heavy cost.

The ten-page Monara this month has been handled by Bates Strategic Alliance which reportedly charges more than Rs. 11,000 to do the artwork of every page compared to the earlier cost of Rs. 600.

Bates was chosen in June this year to handle marketing and public relations for SriLankan Airlines.

Nimal Gunawardena, Managing Director of Bates Strategic Alliance, said the job given to them was to upgrade the magazine of the national airline and they hoped to do it in the highest professional standards.

He said estimates had not yet been agreed upon.


Interns get bitter medicine

By Faraza Farook

Six hundred post graduate interns who found themselves jobless on completion of their internship on July 15 are now being deprived of a remuneration for their services at state hospitals.

The interns who were initially refused appointments to the Preliminary Grade were later taken in on a temporary basis until the Government arrived at a decision. The Health Ministry letter confirming the temporary appointments of the interns, however, did not give particulars of remuneration or the grade the interns are posted to.

However hospital authorities have decided on a salary scale which apparently is not uniform. The salary differs from hospital to hospital and ranges from Rs. 4000 to Rs. 13,000.

The medical graduates say that they are doubtful if they will be paid a salary until they receive it. The ad hoc decision by the Health Ministry to stop recruitment has left the 600 interns stranded.

The medical interns also complained of not receiving the allowance they are entitled to. Out of 25 medical institutions the interns are temporarily serving in, only nine are said to have been paid the allowance.

Meanwhile the Government Medical Officers Association has set a two week deadline for the Health Ministry to absorb the interns to the preliminary grade of the state health sector, failing which they would be forced to take trade union action.

Dr. Ananda Wijewickrema of the GMOA said the Ministry of Health had not responded to a request by the Association for a meeting to solve the problems without resorting to trade union action.

He said the Cabinet paper presented to Parliament last Wednesday was different from what was initially prepared.

It has been the practice throughout that the interns are absorbed into the state health sector on completion of their internship. However the Health Ministry now has plans to recruit the interns on a two year contract basis and appoint a committee to study further the question of recruitment of medical officers for next year.

The GMOA is against the Government's decision to absorb intern medical officers on a contract basis as it has had a bad impact on the health service.

According to Health Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva, the reason for not absorbing the interns is the lack of funds.

As a result, the Government is asking the new medical officers to engage in private practice, while the medical officers ask how they could do private practice with 40,000 quacks in the country.

Another problem they raised was how the Government expects inexperienced, young doctors to engage in private practice, when they are often under observation by their seniors even after internship.

President of the Sri Lanka College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists (SLCOG) Prof. Harshalal Seneviratne and president of the Asia and Oceania Federation of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Prof. Ratna Samil of Indonesia arriving at the opening ceremony of the 32nd Annual Scientific session of the SLCOG, held at SLFI on Friday evening. Pic By Lakshaman Gunathillake

The Sri Lanka College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in its 32nd anniversary celebrations held at the Inter Continental hotel discussed how effectively they could improve the reproductive health sector and serve as a catalyst for the next millenium.

Some of the topics discussed at the scientific sessions included pregnancy induced hypertension, assisted reproductive techniques, ultra sound scanning and surgical incisions. In addition to this, young gynaecologists and post graduates were awarded the Dr. Ashley Dassanaike Travel Fellowship.

These sessions were conducted by senior specialists in the field of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.

President of the AOFOG Prof. Ratna Samil from Indonesia, spoke on aspects of enhancing the present reproductive health system, how we could promote total health care for women, keep doctors updated on the latest developments and to be a catalyst to member countries.

Another distinguished guest was Prof. Malcolm Symonds of the University of Nottingham. Prof. Symonds who delivered the Richard Caldera Memorial Oration also received the Richard Caldera medal. The oration was on high-blood pressure and pregnancy. Other prominent foreign delegates were the President of the South Asia Federation of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and Vice President of AOFOG Prof. T.A. Chowdhury from Bangladesh and Secretary General of AOFOG Prof. S.S. Ratnam from Singapore.


Indian fishermen held at Kankesanthurai

Four Indian fishermen, along with 11 Jaffna Tamil youths, are now being kept in the Kankesanthurai detention camp, said an official of the Human Rights Commission.

Human Rights Commission's Jaffna Committee co-ordinator S. Sritharan who visited the Anti Terrorist Unit at KKS on Wednesday told The Sunday Times that eight detainees have already been sent to Anuradhapura Magistrate's Court and date for inquiry was fixed for four detainees.

The HRC coordinator who took charge of the released youth handed him over to his parents at Kondavil East, Kondavil.


Mystery 'bacteria' behind SriLankan airline desert water deal

Out goes Sprout: UAE water checks in

By Frederica Jansz

Imagine importing water from the deserts to the tropical paradise island of Sri Lanka where rivers and springs run all over? Next we might hear of Sri Lanka exporting oil to the Emirates or such flights of fancy which are not uncommon for the so-called bird of paradise.

The latest controversy is over the supply of bottled drinking water with a mystery memorandum and even more mysterious bacteria, leading to a local supplier being thrown out of inflight services to be replaced by a UAE supplier.

The local firm, Sprout Lanka Pvt Ltd., supplying bottled water to SriLankan airlines was suddenly axed with no warning, as its natural water collected from a spring at Knuckles Range has been replaced with bottled water from the U.A.E. on board SriLankan airline flights.

Sprout Lanka is the registered producer for Sprout brand Mineral Water and has been in the market for the past three years. In April this year the company says it got an order from the national carrier to supply bottled water both for in-flight and ground purposes. It was a verbal order.

Sprout Lanka Chairman Reza Odayar said the water supplied by his company had been tested by respected local and foreign agencies.

He said that from February to June this year the national carrier had bought 15,000 bottles of mineral water from his company at Rs. 15. 60 for a 1.5 litre bottle.

On July 27, SriLankan airlines executive, N.C.B. Petiyagoda, designated as 'Trainee Check Executive' reportedly sent a memo to the In-flight Services Manager saying that the AirLanka Catering Services Laboratory which tested the bottled water "bought from an unknown factory in the Kandy district and now used aboard" has been found to have a high bacterial count including toxic bacteria.

Top airline and catering services officials are now denying knowledge of this memorandum and Mr. Pettiyagoda is out of the island.

Mr. Petiyagoda recommended that the supply of this water on all SriLankan Airline aircraft be stopped. The Sprout Lanka bottles were immediately replaced with bottled mineral waters from the UAE.

According to local company sources, the factory is located not in Kandy but in Hunnasgiriya.

Gowri Liyanage, Assistant Purchasing Officer of SriLankan airlines said they had only made an interim purchase from Sprout Lanka until the shipment of bottled water arrived from the UAE.

She refused to disclose the price paid for the water from the UAE.

In a mysterious turn, our investigastions reveal that Sprout Lanka bottled water which was withdrawn from SriLankan planes, is being sold to ground staff and passengers at the airport at Rs. 25 a bottle.

The question is whether the bacteria in the air disappears when it hits the ground.

The water is sold at the departure lounge and at the airport restaurant located at the duty free section. We bought three bottles of Sprout Lanka Mineral Water from these restaurants on Tuesday.

Mr. Odayar claimed the water they used was collected from a spring bordering the Knuckles Reserves where there was no human habitation for about 3 kilometers and the spring was located about 3500 feet above sea level. He said if anyone had really found toxic bacteria in Sprout Lanka water, they should have filed legal action.

SriLankan airline regional manager Chandana De Silva said he did know much about the dispute but if toxic bacteria had been found then the water should not be sold even at the airport.

Sprout Lanka sells its bottled water to the Maldives, Ukraine and ironically will make a shipment soon to the UAE. But as often happens, a local product which is appreciated abroad is not rejected in its own country. Sprout Lanka says its water is sold to several five-star hotels and they are the sole suppliers to the prestigious Hilton Group in Sri Lanka and the Maldives.

The bottled water from the UAE is said to be pure spring water from the Al Worayaa spring in Fujairah, and the label states that the water is "specially bottled for AirLanka."

SriLankan airlines communications manager Rienzi Pereira said there was no such memo from Mr. Petiyagoda and they had not found any bacteria in the Sprout Lanka water. That was why they continue to sell it at the airport.

An official of AirLanka Catering Services also denied that they had tested the Sprout Lanka water or found it to be contaminated.

Mr. Pereira said the stocks were brought from Sprout Lanka on an an hoc and temporary basis till the purchases were made through the tender awarded to the UAE company. He said he was not aware how many other firms had tendered but added that purchases for inflight services and airport services were generally made on a different basis.


VIP security foil necklace grab

Armed security guards of a VIP, recently had to abandon the VIP to rush to the rescue of a damsel in distress, from a snatch thief.

The incident took place at Kasagahawatte, off Old Kottawa Road. A young woman was walking from the Udahamulla depot towards this junction, when she was accosted by a snatch thief on a bicycle.

He grabbed at the gold chain she wore. He was however, thwarted in the act, by the security guards, of the VIP who was visiting the area. Hearing her screams, they leapt from the escort vehicle and ran towards the spot. The thief beat a hasty retreat, empty handed.

Residents of Udahamulla say that chain snatching and burglary have become common occurrences in the area, due to malfunctioning street lamps.

The street lamps at the Old Kottawa Road, Kasagahawatte junction has not been lit for many months. Passengers alighting at the bus depot, walk down the road and turn into lanes, which are in darkness. Many of the petty thefts are committed in these dark by-lanes. Visitors' vehicles are frequently robbed of their wing mirrors and fog lamps if left unattended.

The people of the area are up in arms. They say that repeated requests to Kotte Municipal Council to have the street lights repaired, have fallen on deaf ears. And that is not all, they complain. The absence of any municipal bins the streets has resulted in dumping of garbage on the road, attracting flies, stray dogs and cattle. Irate residents threaten to withhold the payment of rates in protest, since the council has failed to provide satisfactory public amenities.

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