9th April 2000

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Former SI and trio arrested in car swindle

By Leon Berenger

A former Police Sub-Inspector (SI) was arrested earlier this week after he allegedly led a gang of fraudsters who cheated leading finance companies by taking several luxury vehicles on hire purchase from them and later selling the vehicles, the Criminal Fraud Investigation Bureau (CFIB) said.

The arrest was made after several weeks of covert investigations by the CFIB which took sleuths to several parts of the country where the vehicles were subsequently recovered from their unsuspecting owners.

The modus operandi of the gang was rather simple. First they would purchase the luxury vehicle after paying the initial payment to the finance company and later remove it to a location where several changes take place.

The vehicle is given a fresh coat of paint and the chassis and engine number are expertly changed. Thereafter fresh documents, purporting to be from the Import and Export Control, Customs and even the Registrar of Motor Vehicles (RMV) are made through forgery, and perhaps sometimes with the connivance of certain state officials, Inspector G.M. Jayaratne who headed the probe told The Sunday Times.

The rogue SI was picked up from the safe house at Katugastota and later the vehicles were recovered from Kelaniya, Matara, Embilipitiya, Ratnapura and Dehiowita. Three more accomplices who had assisted him in the operations were also subsequently arrested and are currently under questioning, IP Jayaratne said.

Meanwhile the fraudulent import and sale of luxury vehicles are on the increase, and prospective customers have been warned to be extra vigilant before making a purchase because they could end up making a costly decision, Director, CFIB SSP V. Kanthasamy said.

He said that in one particular case the CFIB had come upon a car that had no supporting documents and was sans an owner as well. What baffles the police is as to how the vehicle was taken out past the Customs without being detected. Even the country of import could not be traced, SSP Kanthasamy added.

Paddy Board Bill to stage a comeback

By Shelani de Silva

The Government is to reintroduce the Paddy Marketing Board Bill in Parliament and decentralise its functions, Deputy Minister of Agriculture Chamal Rajapakse said.

Following the resolution to dissolve the Paddy Marketing Board which was defeated in Parliament on Wednesday, the Bill is to be reintroduced in Parliament.

Mr. Rajapakse told The Sunday Times that a date has not been fixed but the Bill will be reintroduced after consulting other parties and presenting it at the Group meeting.

'We will definitely bring back the Bill and form a Board similar to the PMB . However it will be at district level and be under the Provincial Councils' he said.

The resolution moved by Agriculture Minister D M Jayaratne to dissolve the PMB and to liquidate its assets was defeated by a slim majority.

Meanwhile the Chairman of the Paddy Marketing Board, E. Hippola told The Sunday Times that a skeleton staff is hired to maintain the assets and are paid on a daily basis.

In a related development the CWE has been directed to purchase paddy at Rs. 14 per kilo from farmers.

Another Antonov scare

Barely a week after an Antonov aircraft crashed to the ground in a ball of fire at Weerawewa in Anuradhapura killing 40 people another plane of the same manufacture was forced into several minutes of tense flying as its hydraulic system went on the blink minutes before touch down at the BIA.

The Antonov owned by the Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) arrived from the northern military base of Palalay on Thursday. On board were some 40 police and security forces personnel returning on leave for the National New Year.

The ground staff at the BIA went into emergency action, with ambulances and firefighters standing by after the pilot told the control tower they were having a problem with the hydraulic system in the undercarriage and they could not eject the wheels for landing.

But later on it was found out to be an erroneous signal from the micro switches, with no serious danger or threat to the plane and to those on board and the pilot was able to bring the aircraft down smoothly without any major problem, SLAF spokesman T. Wijeysundera said.

The matter had been properly fixed, and the same plane was pressed into service even yesterday, Wing Commander Wijeysundera said.

Thursday's brief scare for the SLAF comes as Ukrainian aviation experts joined their local counterparts to bring together evidence relating to the cause of last week's crash at Talawa in Weerawewa.

The Unkrainian team which includes representatives from the plane's manufacturer Antonov has met Air Force Commander Jayalath Weerakody and other top brass. They conducted an on-the-spot probe in the teak forest where the plane crashed.

The possibility that the plane was brought down by LTTE anti-aircraft fire has also not been ruled out, the SLAF spokesman said.

The crash at Talawa came four days after another Antonov plane owned by a private air cab company crashed in wet weather onto a residential area killing some 10 people on board and on the ground.

Rajitha:More in the same boat?

By Dilrukshi Handunnetti

Details of about twenty government parliamentarians who have reportedly entered into various contracts with the state have been unearthed, according to highly placed opposition political sources.

Accordingly, it has been decided to expose these members and divulge the information through the media before embarking on a legal course of action, the source asserted.

This comes in the wake of the Appeal Court's recent determination that UNP National List member Dr. Rajitha Senaratne has no right to sit and vote in Parliament.

Parliamentarian Dilan Perera's petition that Dr. Senaratne had no right to remain in the legislature was upheld in court where it was established that the dentist turned politician has entered into contracts with the government to supply dental equipment through his "Senaratne Dental Suppliers", a privately owned company.

Meanwhile, Dr. Senaratne told The Sunday Times that he was poised to appeal against the determination and seek a stay order when the court vacation ends on April 24 and his legal advisor K.N. Choksy also returns from overseas.

He said that his party was still studying the legal implications to see whether a re-appointment was possible.

Currently engaged in electoral politics in Kalutara, he said that until a stay order is obtained, all perks and privileges enjoyed by him as a MP have temporarily ceased.

"I take all these political upheavals in my stride. This is not the first time I have been treated with malice by individuals" he said.

Tilak quitting to form front

UNP parliamentarian Tilak Karunaratne is to resign next month to form what he describes as a democratic front to protect national interests.

Mr. Karunaratne, who is also a leading industrialist, told The Sunday Times that he was quitting the UNP with his honour intact, but with no malice towards the party or its leadership.

He said he was confident of getting support from all sections ranging from the grassroots to professionals and intellectuals.

Mr. Karunaratne, known as a Sinhala hardliner, said he believed Tamil and Muslim political groups had too much bargaining power and it was time for the Sinhala leaders to assert their authority.

Clarifying his position, Mr. Karunaratne said that though he was quitting the UNP, he had nothing to do with the alternative group which he believed was playing a double game.

HR official denied access

The Vavuniya branch of the Human Rights Commission has sent a protest to the Commission claiming that one of its representatives has been denied access to visit detainees held by the Police in Vavuniya.

The representative who has been visiting the detainees for the past eight years has been denied access on the grounds that she should undergo a security screening.

The Co-ordinator for the Human Rights Commission office in Vavuniya, S. Sritharan has sent a letter to the head office of the Commission saying that its representative had been visiting the centre earlier without any problems earlier.

The Commission was appointed by the President in 1997 to ensure that the fundamental rights of the detainees are protected.

The Commission members regularly visit the detainees.

Inquire into Ruhunu violence: Vasudeva

The Left and Democratic Alliance led by controversial Parliamentarian and former Presidential candidate Vasudeva Nanayakkara has written to President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga to hold an immediate inquiry into the politically motivated incidents of violence that occurred at the Ruhunu University recently.

Mr. Nanayakkara has also stated that the Ruhunu University crisis has reportedly been triggered off by a Southern provincial councillor on the instructions of his brother who is also a Cabinet minister of the PA government.

The letter further urges the creation of an atmosphere conducive for students to continue their education without outside threats, specially from politicians.

May Day in the hills for UNP

The Opposition UNP has decided to celebrate International Labour Day in grand style in the hill capital Nuwara Eliya with massive trade union participation.

Organizers of the big event told The Sunday Times that the UNP was keen to muster minority support and also demonstrate their commitment to the working class, specially the estate workers who gained their citizenship owing to decisions made by the UNP.

In this backdrop, in an evident political move to reduce the CWC power base, the UNP-led trade unions and the UNP affiliated Up Country Peoples' Front are poised to demand the estate workers' daily wages be raised to Rs. 150.

The UNP affiliated trade unions have also claimed that despite there being a ministry dedicated to estate infrastructure development, hardly anything has been achieved for the workers' benefit.

At present, an estate labourer is paid only Rs. 104 per day.

Meanwhile, the rally is expected to be staged with much fanfare as a springboard to launch an unofficial election campaign, just a few months before the general elections are announced.

The mother is herself a 'baby'

Child of incest creates traumatic situation for family

By Hiranthi Fernando

A thirteen year old schoolgirl gave birth to a baby daughter at the Sri Jayawardenepura Hospital about three weeks ago. Inquiries revealed that the father of the baby was her 17 year old brother.

According to Mirihana Police, the 17 year old boy who abused his young sister had himself been abused as a youngster, allegedly by a man in the neighbourhood.

The boy has been remanded and will be charged for rape. The mother of the young boy and girl wishes to adopt her daughter's baby and bring her up.

Meanwhile police authorities say although such tragedies do occur, they are rarely reported.

Dr.Samarajiwa, a physician, commenting on the case, says that the mother of the baby, at 13 years, is not even mature enough to assume the role of motherhood thrust on her. "She would be traumatised by it. Not only is the mother ill equipped to bring up a child, she also has to face social pressures, peer pressures and family pressure," he said.

There also may have been a relationshp between her brother and herself. It probably wasn't a forced one. She would therefore feel ashamed to face the world. Her life could be intolerable and she would need counselling and support to carry on with her life. The girl may be left with a permanent scar which could affect any future relationship with a man," he said.

The boy too is not quite an adult and has undergone trauma of his own. If he is not counselled and supported, he can turn out to be a serial rapist or become unbalanced The parents would also need counselling to face the world. It is a traumatic situation for the entire family.

Dr. Marlene Abeywardena, an obstetrician and gynaecologist, says the future of the girl and the brother has been blasted by this tragedy. Also, congenital defects can be magnified in such babies.

She says she had heard of two or three other cases recently. Such problems tend to occur particularly in families where the mother is away working in West Asia. It is a social problem and can happen anywhere. 'What is needed is for social workers to go out to the villages and educate the people so that this kind of mishap does not occur," she said.

Rev. Sister Immaculate, who has much experience in counselling young women with such problems feels the 13 year old mother needs help to overcome the trauma of it. She feels that the baby should be given for adoption. "I do not know how attached the child is to the baby. Yet, it would be traumatic for her to have the baby with her as a constant reminder of what she has undergone," she said. She feels that the girl needs to be rehabilitated away from the brother and the baby.

On the legal aspect, a legal officer at the National Child Protection Authority says the case has to be treated as statutory rape since a person below sixteen years cannot give consent in such circumstances. The case has to be tried in the High Court. The police report the matter to the magistrate. The magistrate will order the Information Book (IB) to be sent to the Attorney General's Department to prepare indictment. The boy can be bailed out in 14 days if the relatives are able to comply with the requirements set by the magistrate.

The legal officer said that age limit of a child is not set out clearly in Sri Lankan law since it varies in different statutes. According to the National Child Protection Act, anyone up to 18 years is treated as a minor. Incest is a crime against society, she explained. The police have to prosecute even if the parents do not wish to. As regards the punishment for the crime, she said by the time the case is tried and the judgment given, the boy will be a major. However, the judge will bear in mind that he was a minor when the crime was committed.

Will bang bang herald a bigger bang or ban?

By Faraza Farook and Tania Fernando

Sri Lanka greets any occasion with a bang of crackers. Be it weddings, political meetings or festivals, it all starts with a bang and sometimes ends with a bang too.

With the dawn of the Sinhala and Tamil New Year this week, both the young and old celebrate the year by lighting crackers. However, with unpredictable bomb explosions taking place, the use of crackers and other fireworks seem to pose a threat to security.

Looking at some of the recent incidents it can be seen how the lighting of crackers can be a cover for shootings or bomb explosions, as was the case of the Town Hall bomb blast which followed the lighting of crackers.

It not only poses a threat to the security situation, but also puts innocent lives in danger, causing grave injury to the users if not handled properly.

Although the police said that the display and sale of crackers is not allowed, it is a common sight to see our vendors selling them on the streets with different type of fireworks when it is close to a festive season.

OIC Pettah Police, Y.D.M Karunaratne said that street hawkers are not permitted to sell crackers and that they strictly carry out orders, and even during political meetings they do not allow fireworks.

"The street hawkers do not need any permit to sell it, but the main dealers do need a special permit from the Defence Ministry", he said. Though it is illegal and these hawkers can be arrested it does not deter them from selling crackers by the roadside to make some money during the season.

According to one of the fireworks manufacturers, incidents are on the rise due to the fact that the persons using them do not follow instructions and also because they are under the influence of liquor.

Mr. Udaya Kumara, showroom manager of Fireworks Palace said that adults should pay attention when children use fireworks. He said fireworks wont be dangerous if used with caution.

Looking at statistics of the past three years, it is noted that there is a marginal increase in the number of cracker injury victims. The most common period for injuries seemed to be December 31, where most new year revellers seem to fall prey to lighting crackers.

"This was a problem five to six years back, when we used to treat about 100 to 150 cracker victims, but now the situation has improved a lot", said National Hospital Director, Dr. Hector Weerasinghe.

Burns, fractured fingers/hands which can cause permanent damage and eye injury that sometimes results in the loss of eye sight are some of the common cracker injuries. Referring to an incident that took place in January this year, Dr. Weerasinghe said "the victim who was old enough to know the consequences of mishandling crackers had blown into a 'chakra' (Catherine wheel) which he thought was not lit properly. This resulted in the fireworks piercing his eye and damaging his brain resulting in death", he said.

He warned that people can even die and if children are using crackers, they should always be under the supervision of an adult. "We should ban the powerful crackers that are in the market today", he said.

Although here is much talk on the pros and cons of lighting crackers, A. Dissanayake of the Ministry of Defence said that there are no plans at present to ban crackers. They only ban illegal crackers, he said.

Pen knife attackers yet to be tracked down

By Chris Kamalendran

Police are yet to track down the team of security personnel and police who allegedly took into custody a girl at a checkpoint and caused physical harm to her.

OIC of the Bambalapitiya Police, Harischandra Bandara said according to a complaint lodged at the Modera police station the girl who had been travelling by bus had been stopped at a checkpoint and taken away in a jeep by the security persons who were on duty.

The Bambalapitiya police has been directed to carryout the investigations since the incident occurred in the Bambalapitiya police area.

The girl who had been heading to Wellawatta for A/L tuition had been taken away with a couple of other passengers.

However she had been interrogated separately in a building of which the identity is not known.

The girl had been allegedly cut with a pen knife and burnt with a cigarette butt, according to the complaint.

OIC Bandara said they had so far not been able to trace the particular check point as the girl cannot identify the location where she was taken off the bus. He said she was also not in a position to identify the person or the place where she was allegedly harassed.

Security stepped up in Trincomalee

By Leon Berenger

The police and security forces in Trincomalee have stepped up anti-Tiger operations following intelligence reports that they were planning to mount more attacks on the Main Supply Route (MSR) which is the highway linking this town with the rest of the country.

Over the past 10 days suspected LTTE fighters launched a series of attacks, picking on lightly guarded targets bordering the MSR in an apparent indication of future plans for the area, a senior policeman said last night.

In the most recent attack on Tuesday three civilians including a ship captain were killed when a landmine planted by the LTTE blew up underneath the bus in which they were travelling along with several Naval personnel.

The incident occurred on the main Trincomalee-Colombo highway at Kithulutuwa.

Since then an increase of LTTE movements along the MSR have been confirmed by the intelligence units of the police and other security forces.

"If the LTTE should have their way it would mean a serious interruption to the supplies of both the security forces and civilians both to and from the port city", Trincomalee's police chief Senior Superintendent (SSP) K.P.P. Pathirana told The Sunday Times.

Meanwhile in a successful anti-Tiger operation the police on Friday raided an LTTE safe house at Saliya and recovered several documents relating to their military strategies along with a load of dry rations and some communications equipment.

The safe house which was being used by more than a dozen Tiger operatives was situated close to the beach front at Saliya a few kilometres away from the Uppuveli police station.

The LTTE is keen to show its presence in the district even though their manpower has been drained to keep up the fighting in the northern Wanni area where they are bogged down in battle with the government security forces, SSP Pathirana said.

He added that several special police and combined anti-Tiger operations had already been planned but refused to elaborate for obvious reasons.

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