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4th June 2000

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In preparation for Sri Lanka's first War Heroes' Day
on Wednesday, Royal College cadets are seen
cleaning the war memorial built in memory of
old boys who died for the country.
Pic. by Athula Devapriya

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Supreme Court judges tell President; "Clear our names"

By Ayesha R. Rafiq

Eleven Supreme Court judges have written to President Kumaratunga asking her to clear their names of her allegation that a member of the judiciary was corrupt.

A letter signed by the 11 Supreme Court judges including the Chief Justice was on Friday sent to the President asking her to take some action to clear their names.

"We would kindly request Your Excellency to take such action as Your Excellency considers fit to clear the names of all the signatories, as the said publication attributes those statements and allegations to Your Excellency," the letter said.

President Kumaratunga had reportedly told a UNP delegation in April that judges appointed during the UNP regime were corrupt and that she was aware that a sitting judge of the Supreme Court had taken a bribe from a LTTE supporter on a fundamental rights case and that a file in that respect had been given to her.

Each of the Supreme Court judges in their letter to the President have specifically denied any charge of bribery or corruption. They also said that if there was any such credible information against them it should have been referred to the relevant authorities.

"Had there been any credible allegation of bribery or corruption against any of us, disclosed in the file said to have been submitted to Your Excellency, we believe that, in the normal course, that would have been referred to the relevant authorities for investigation and action according to the procedures established by law," the letter said.

"Each of us categorically state that he/she has never been informed of or questioned about or asked for an explanation in regard to any such allegation by any relevant authority," the judges said.

Editors challenge censorship

Ten editors of national newspapers have gone to the Supreme Court accusing the Competent Authority of enforcing censorship in a selective, subjective and arbitrary manner.

The fundamental rights petition was filed in the Supreme Court on Friday by The Sunday Times Editor Sinha Ratnatunge, Lankadeepa and Sunday Lankadeepa Editor Siri Ranasinghe, The Daily Mirror Editor Lalith Alahakoon, The Sunday Island Editor Manik de Silva, The Island Editor Gamini Weerakoone, Divaina Editor Upali Tennakoon, Thinakural Editor A. Sivanesaselvan, Ravaya Editor Victor Ivan, Weekend Express Editor Philip Cooray and The Sunday Leader Editor Lasantha Wickremetunga.

The editors said the blanket media censorship was a flagrant violation of the freedom of expression of the people, a violation of their fundamental rights and it was being enforced in a manner that was discriminatory, unreasonable and arbitrary. The editors have cited the Media Minister, the Attorney General, the Competent Authorities as respondents. The editors said the censors were arbitrarily censoring statements, articles and cartoons which did not contain any material prejudicial to national security or public order.

They said such censorship was unwarranted and outside the scope of powers of the Competent Authority under the regulations.

The editors said Competent Authority Ariya Rubasinghe, acting on irrelevant grounds, had failed to take into account relevant considerations and had accordingly failed to examine them objectively, thus engaging in selective, subjective and arbitrary censorship.

The editors said the Competent Authority had acted mala fide and in a biased manner against The Sunday Times, The Sunday Island, The Lankadeepa and The Sunday Lankadeepa. As an example, they said a statement of the Editors' Guild was censored when it was sent by the four independent newspapers, but the state-controlled Lake House group was allowed to publish it in full.

The editors also said they had become inhibited in the publication of comments, views and opinions in view of the current practice of arbitrary censorship and the possibility of drastic action being taken against them for alleged contravention of the regulations.

Big tourism show cancelled

A highly promoted world tourism conference scheduled to be held in Colombo this week has been postponed amidst conflicting claims as to the reasons for the move.

Tourism Ministry Secretary W.P.S.Jayawardena said the World Tourism Organisation (WTO) Executive Committee meeting and the Business Council meeting due to be held on June 7 and 8 had been postponed by the government in consultation with the WTO.

"Since the country has been placed on a war footing we cannot have any major functions at the WTO session and therefore decided to postpone the events," he said. Hundreds of delegates from more than 35 countries were due to attend the conference which had been billed as a platform for a major tourism promotion effort by Sri Lanka. The Sunday Times learns that some of the delegates had expressed reluctance to come due to the situation and that adverse reports including LTTE propaganda probably had an impact.

Ministers turn on the gas

By Shelani de Silva

As shockwaves over the staggering LP gas price increase hit the country, senior cabinet ministers have appealed to President Kumaratunga to investigate the dealings of the Shell Gas Company.

LSSP leader and Science and Technology Minister Batty Weerakone accused Shell Company of exploiting the monopoly advantage and said the Government should review the agreement with the multinational company.

He was responding amidst widespread public protest that the Shell Company was playing hell with the lives of an already heavily-burdend people who will also have to pay extra for electricity, telephone calls and probably water from this month.

"There is no question of the government giving permission since Shell runs this company. The agreement allows certain increases, but this hike of 105 rupees is absurd and unacceptable," an angry minister said.

Referring to the Shell's claim that it was running at a loss here, the minister said he found it hard to believe that such a widely criticised multinational company would stay in the business if it was not earning a massive profit.

"These multinational companies are clever in concealing the actual picture," he said.

Minister and trade union leader Alavi Moulana said he and other ministers had appealed to the President to fully probe and review the gas situation.

Among other ministers firing questions during and after last Thursday's cabinet meeting was Mahinda Rajapakse.

He said that in vital areas the government could control prices by setting up corporations so that the middlemen could be kept in check.

The Shell company boss in defending the massive price hike said on Thursday the government had given a subsidy of 400 million rupees to the company from September to December last year to offset losses.

He said prices had to be increased because that subsidy was withdrawn. Government sources said the ministers had discussed the possibility of renewing at least half that subsidy so that the gas price hike could be reduced.


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