4th June 2000

Front Page|
Editorial/Opinion| Plus|
Business| Sports| Sports Plus|
Mirror Magazine

The Sunday Times on the Web


Contents Index Page
Front Page
Sports Plus
Mirrror Magazine

Monsoon sets in but situation is still bleak

By Hiranthi Fernando

With the onset of the south-west monsoon a few days ago, the severity of the impending power crisis in the country appears to have abated marginally.

However, we are not out of the woods yet. On the first day the monsoon rains broke out around Colombo, the catchment areas had only a drizzle. In the next two days, many of the catchment areas received considerable rainfall. Yet the overall storage levels in the reservoirs has reduced further since power generation did not reduce. The overall storage level which averaged at 18% last week, before the rains started, had dropped to 15.84 per cent as at June 2.

Consumers today are burdened not only with the increased electricity charges effective from June 1, but also the possibility of a 25% surcharge if their consumption is not reduced by 20%. According to the new tariffs, rates have been increased according to different categories and with varying slabs, giving an average 5.3% increase. The increase in the domestic sector is higher than in the industrial and commercial sectors.

The tariff increase has been gazetted on April 28. A Gazette Extraordinary No. 1134/21 dated May 31 also detailed compulsory regulations under the emergency, for reducing the consumption of electricity in all sectors.

The increased rates and surcharge are causing much heartburn, particularly among domestic consumers. They complain that they do not use electricity unnecessarily because they have to pay a high cost for it. Many consumers feel that it would not be possible for them to cut 20% of their consumption. Some felt it may have even been preferable to have a power cut for one or two hours a day rather than a surcharge.

Why did the Electricity Board not take adequate steps to meet the crisis before it reached this stage, they question.

CEB Chairman Arjun Deraniyagala said they had a strong expectation that the rains would come by Vesak.

The present situation is due to the failure of the north-east monsoon as well as the inter-monsoonal rains, and now the delay of the south- west monsoon.

'We did not want to create a fuss unnecessarily since we expected the rains', he said. 'We monitor the water levels on a daily basis. We have a plan to manage up to December depending on the water levels' he said.

D. C. Wijeratne, Additional General Manager, Transmission, said that at the start of the year, the storage in the reservoirs is normally in the region of 1000 GWh or 1000 million units. 'This year it was around 500 GWh', he said. 'We took immediate action to hire 80 megawatts of emergency diesel plants at an enormous cost. This should have been sufficient if the expected rains came' he said.

Mr. Wijeratne said they had taken steps to be less dependent on hydro power since the last power crisis in 1996.

The CEB had added 115 megawatts of gas turbine plants and 80 megawatts of diesel plants. The barge-mounted plant generating 60 megawatts has just been connected and is being tested. For the future, contracts have been entered into for 300 megawatts of combined cycle plants and 40 megawatts of diesel power to be ready in 2001. The Kukule project will give another 70 megawatts by 2003. When all the plants are completed the capacity will be 938 megawatts of thermal power and 328 of hydro power.

The combined cycle plants were delayed by having to undergo environmental clearances, Mr. Deraniyagala said.

The Upper Kotmale project which would generate 150 megawatts was also delayed since there was a court case. Now the approval has been obtained but the money has to be found to start on the project since we have lost the funding. We have to develop hydro power which we have without foreign inputs, he said.

The annual increase in demand for power is estimated to be about 10%.

'Every seven years, we have to double the capacity to meet the demand', Mr. Deraniyagala said.

"In order to meet a crisis situation which will arise in 2004, we have to increase our capacity. We need the coal power plant which can generate 900 megawatts in three stages. However, this plant is also delayed due to protests' he said.

Speaking of the surcharge to be imposed, he said it was an inducement to the public to save electricity.

Sinhala party starts drive in South

The Sihala Urumaya held its first meeting in the Southern Province last week in a bid to increase its membership and enlighten the people on its activities. Speaking at this meeting held at Handunugoda Estate, Tittagalla, Ahangama, S.L.Gunasekera the Chairman of the party said, "All political parties coming to power cannot understand the nature of the LTTE war.

It is a war of conquest - nothing more nothing less - the only difference being that on this occasion the war is being waged by our own citizens.

When a man in the South kills somebody he is put into Welikada prison to serve a period of imprisonment. When Prabhakaran and his gang of murderers kill thousands of people we are trying to hand over a part of the country to them. How can we maintain law and order? The LTTE must be crushed and Prabhakaran either captured or eliminated, Mr. Gunasekera said.

The Co-ordinator for the Southern Province Malinga Gunaratne stated, "Today people are shy to call themselves Sinhalese because leaders of the major parties are trying to erase the identity of the majority community of this country.

"All wars for the unification of Sri Lanka began from Ruhuna," he said. This organisation is no different. The legitimate objective of Sihala Urumaya is to recapture every inch of lost ground for Sri Lanka. We are not Colombo based. We will take the Sihala Urumaya to every member in the south. The Sihala Urumaya to-day is the voice of the voiceless, betrayed by every political party craving for power' he said. Champaka Ranawaka, Major General Tilak Paranagama & Dr. Neville Karunatilleke also spoke.

LTTE Thai base uncovered

The LTTE has made Thailand a hub of their south-east Asian gun-running and fund-raising activities, sources close to Thai military intelligence said.

An AFP report from Bangkok yesterday quoted the sources as saying.the LTTE had been operating a sizable base on a Thai island 15 kilometres (nine miles) from the south-west coast tourist resort of Phuket.

Thai government officials have denied the existence of the base. The Bangkok Post reported that an army intelligence unit had photographed Tamil Tigers transferring weapons to the island on May 25.

Phuket governor Charnchai Sunthornmat had previously dismissed reports of the Tigers' presence near Phuket as being the "suspicions of a foreign news agency."

Sources told AFP the alleged base near Phuket was just the tip of the Tiger iceberg in Thailand, with LTTE funding activities and arms smuggling also taking place in Bangkok.

Earlier this year, shipping news publication Lloyd's List reported the Tigers had shifted south-east Asia operations from Myanmar to Thailand duetoo diplomatic pressure.

The Nation daily reported on Saturday that Thai police suspected a shipyard near Phuket of producing speedboats for the Tigers. The shipyard was "partly owned by a Tamil separatist sympathizer," it said, quoting government sources.

Local newspapers had previously reported that Thai authorities had found a half-built submarine, believed to belong to the LTTE, on a southern Thai island.

Leave to proceed in Sunday Leader rights case

The Supreme Court on Friday granted Leader Publications Pvt. Limited leave to proceed with the fundamental rights violation plea, challenging the ban imposed on The Sunday Leader and Irida Peramuna newspapers by the Competent Authority.

The Court fixed the application for interim relief to be supported on June 6. Leave to proceed was granted on the alleged arbitrary treatment, the infringement of the freedom of expression and the infringement of the right to practice the lawful profession of choice.

Romesh de Silva PC with Palitha Kumarasinghe instructed by G.G. Arulpra-gasam appeared for the petitioner Leader Publications (Pvt) Limited.

Mr. Romesh de Silva said under emergency regulation the ban period should be one month but the Competent Authority had imposed a ban of six months.

Counsel further pointed out that because of the closure of the press they were unable to publish the Sinhala newspaper Irida Peramuna which had no allegations against it.

The Court inquired from the Additional Solicitor General Saleem Marsoof about an official document sent by the Presidential Secretariat which referred to the Editor of The Sunday Leader as a "worm"

Joint front stymied by UNP 'patriots'

By Dilrukshi Handunnetti

The Patriotic Parliamentarians' Platform's (PPP) scheduled grand launch on Friday ran into trouble and was postponed at the eleventh hour when the UNP participants were not given the green light to hold its inaugural meeting.

The MP's collective founded by a group of PA and UNP parliamentarians willing to assist the military campaign to defeat the LTTE was to be officially launched on Friday morning at the Parliamentary Complex under the motto 'country first, party second' to urge all people to recognize the LTTE as the common threat .

The problem arose when the "Patriotic Parliamentarians" sought permission from their respective party leaders to go ahead. President Kumaratunga has given the green light on Wednesday evening whereas the Opposition Leader's approval was withheld, according to reliable sources.

UNP sources confirmed that the delay was caused after making all plans and informing the media and selected invitees. The UNP leader who delayed signifying approval of the common media release on Wednesday due to illhealth, further delayed permission to let the members have 'their own separate show' until later .

The 35 member group has put forward three main policies all connected with defending the country's territorial integrity.

Jayalath's complaint to be taken up by IPU

The Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians of the Inter Parliamentary Union based in Geneva, at its 166th session held in Amman on May 6 has referred the complaint made by MP Dr. Jayalath Jayawardena, to the council of the IPUU.

The decision taken in accordance with the procedure for the examination and treatment by the Inter Parliamentary Union of communication concerning violation of Human Rights of Parliamentarians, will result in Dr. Jayawardena's case continuing to be examined at its next session to be held in July at the Union's headquarters in Geneva..

It is the first time in the recent past of the Parliamentary history of Sri Lanka, that a complaint made by a Sri Lankan Member of Parliament to the IPU has been taken up for public debate.

The Sunday Times case

'Words, like people are judged by company kept'

Additional Solicitor General Mr. Rienzie Arsecularatne told the Court of Appeal that the trial judge in The Sunday Times editors defamation case was justified in concluding that the phrase 'in the heat of the silent night' conveyed a sense of sexual receptiveness.

He also said that the defence counsel's unwillingness to plea in mitigation showed the accused's arrogance in spite of the fact that he was found guilty by a court of law.

The ASG was presenting the Respondent's submissions in the case where The Sunday Times editor was convicted of defaming President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga by way of an article that appeared in the gossip column of the newspaper in 1995. The article said that the President had attended the birthday party of Parliamentarian Asitha Perera in his private suite at the Hotel Lanka Oberoi, but later turned out to be false. The ASG said that when interpreting the expressions in the article such as 'in the heat of the silent night' and 'Epicurean tastes', consideration must be given to the headline and rest of the contents of the article. He said that these are not expressions that are used in common speech and the headline 'Anura: Sootin says courting days are here', is suggestive of romance. The trial judge had said that words, like people must be judged by the company they keep. The ASG said the time, manner of entry and guests are not mentioned in the other parties referred to in the article.

Justice Kulatillake: Only two people are mentioned.

Counsel: Only two people are mentioned, any reference to food has been expressly taken out, expressions not used in reference to other parties referred to in the article are used in relation to this party alleged to have been attended by Her Excellnecy, as such it is not unreasonable that the learned trial judge came to the conclusion that the article is defamatory of the President especially when one considers the fact that the meaning of 'in the heat' is used in a sexually receptive period. The test required here is not whether the words are in fact defamatory but whether they had the potential to convey a defamatory meaning, especially considering the context in which the words have been used and the headline of the article. The ASG said it is not necessary that the majority of those who read the article attributed a defamatory meaning or sense as long as the words published contained the potential to defame. In a civil defamation case the number of people who understood the article to be defamatory is necessary to compute damages. The ASG also submitted that the ordinary reader is understandably prone to indulge in a certain amount of loose thinking, and his capacity to read between the lines is high when one uses ambiguous and fanciful phrases such as 'Epicurean tastes'. According to the Oxford Dictionary an Epicurean is a person who is devoted to sensual enjoyment. The defence cited the Chambers 20th century Dictionary according to which the meaning of the word Epicurean is 'brutish sensuality'. As such sensuality is inherent in the word 'Epicurean', counsel submitted.

Words such as these are defamatory not only for what they express but what they suggest.

Justice Yapa: When a word has a defamatory meaning and an innocent meaning the defence said that the innocent element will have to give for the benefit of the editor.

Counsel: That is not so, My Lord. It is sufficient if the words have the capability or the potential to convey a defamatory meaning. Mr. Arsecularatne submitted that the prosecution in the case went beyond that position as two of the witnesses called by the defence namely, Mr. Rohan Edirisinha, Senior Lecturer of Law at the Colombo University and Mr. Edmund Ranasinghe, former Editor of the Divaina said although they did not understand the article to be defamatory, others may have understood it in a defamatory sense. Mr. Ranasinghe also admitted that if his wife was accused of the same conduct that the President is alleged to have indulged in his opinion of her would have been lowered. There might have been a difficulty to interpret the article if the article was defamatory in one sense and complementary in another, counsel submitted.

Justice Yapa: Have you come across a situation where an article is both complementary and defamatory.

Counsel: Yes, My Lord.

Mr. Arsecularatne cited an English case where the defendant alleged that it was the plaintiff who was a member of the club to which they both belonged that gave away to the police that there was illegal gambling in the club. The plaintiff sued the defendant based on the latters assertion that it is the defendant who gave the information to the police. Here on the one hand the statement is defamatory as there can be those who would think bad of the plaintiff for being disloyal to the club. On the other hand there may be others who would have praised the plaintiff for his public spiritedness. Mr. Arsecularatne also said that a statement can be defamatory even if nobody believed it, the test is whether if it had been believed, would it be defamatory. Therefore the argument of the learned counsel for the accused, that the article appeared in the gossip column of the newspaper and as such nobody would have believed it will not hold water, the ASG submitted.

Justice Yapa: In that case anybody can publish a defamatory article in a gossip column and escape liability.

Counsel: My Lord, the law does not provide for such a defence.

Justice Kulatillake: What kind of impact would the falsity of the article have on the charge?

Counsel: Falsity along with a refusal to apologise shows intention to defame. The prosecution's position is that an article can be defamatory even if the contents are true.

Justice Kulatillake: If the accused had tendered an apology would it have exculpated him of the penal charge?

Counsel: My Lord, the act of publication is already committed, and as such an apology cannot exculpate but it will have an impact on the sentence. Here the defence counsel did not even plea in mitigation.

Justice Yapa: What is the effect of that?

Counsel: My Lord, that shows the accused's arrogance.

Justice Yapa: You can't attribute that to the accused.

Counsel: My Lord, counsel was acting on the accused's instructions. In this instance the counsel was a very senior counsel.

The ASG quoted Mehrotra on Defamation to support the contention that even if an apology had been tendered, it may mitigate punishment and the absence of an apology would aggravate it, but it could not affect the liability of the accused. Counsel also submitted that there is no inconsistency between the two counts contained in the indictment. In count one it is alleged that the accused published the defamatory article while in count two, it is alleged that 'someone' published the article in The Sunday Times. In terms of Section 15 of the Press Council Law it states that 'someone' is guilty of an offence.

As the accused is the editor of the newspaper, he is liable in terms of section 14 of the Press Council Law. The word 'someone' includes the editor and as such there is no inconsistency between the two counts as alleged by the defence. The defence position is that in count two the prosecution has alleged 'someone else' published the article in the newspaper. This is not the actual position the counsel explained as count two does not refer to 'someone else'. The counsel also submitted that the prosecution has presented the two counts in the indictment in the alternative but needlessly.

It was submitted when the editor is proved to have committed the offence set out in count one, i.e. under section 479 of the Penal Code, he is automatically guilty of count two of the indictment for that 'someone' mentioned in the indictment includes the editor and the court has no option but to convict the accused on count two as well as there is evidence before to establish that count. In any event counsel submitted that there is no prejudice caused to the accused by the conviction on count two as the sentence in respect of count two is lesser than that imposed in respect of count one and the sentences run concurrently.

Anti-ragging campaign throttled by hooligans

A major anti-ragging campaign set to be launched from the University of Peradeniya was brutalised into silence when a mob of around 300 students and outsiders surrounded the building and attacked the anti-raggers.

After the four hour battle, the Arts Faculty was shut down on Friday night with police moving in and a cloud hung over the whole university.

The anti-ragging group, Students' Movement Against Violence (SMAV), comprising students of all faculties and lecturers was meeting to discuss how to register the group when the mob attack took place.

Eyewitnesses said the mob including arts faculty freshers and student union members began the attack around 5 p.m., shouting they would never allow any anti-ragging to work in the campus.

They said while some in the mob argued with the anti-ragging groups and other lecturers, others surrounded the building and locked it.

The lecturers appealed to the security staff to intervene and open the doors but there was no response apparently due to fear of student unions.

The eyewitnesses said they were trapped till the Dean of the Arts faculty intervened and opened the back door for them to escape.

But part of the mob outside moved to the back entrance also and trapped the group again and assaulted them with clubs and bricks.

The eyewitnesses said even female students were assaulted while males were hammered and trampled by the mob.

They said the police had refused to intervene without the Vice Chancellor's permission while some 30 students were lying badly injured and no medical help was given for about 90 minutes.

They said the mob had also attacked a lecturer's car, causing heavy damage to it.

The ambulances finally arrived around 7.30 pm to take the injured to hospital, but the mobs moved on to other halls, looking for anymore anti-raggers to attack them.

It was 8.30 p.m. when the police finally intervened but anti-ragging group members were advised by lecturers that it would be dangerous for them to come back to campus till effective action was taken by the authorities.

Ragging at Peradeniya has continued despite the introduction of tough anti-ragging laws two years ago. The anti-ragging group was launched to help implement the law, but mob rule has prevailed in the university, a spokesman for anti-raggers said.


UN Colombo office attitude deplored

By Nilika de Silva

"The world today has accepted Vesak as being a sacred day, and if there are people who ignore the significance of this day I consider it a weakness on their part," Venerable Madihe Panaseeha said.

The Mahanayake of the Amarapura Sangha Sabha, was commenting on the non-observance of Vesak by the UN Colombo office.

The UN office in Colombo has come under much censure for having completely ignored Vesak day, which was declared by the UN head quarters in New York to be a day of observances.

While even the UN headquarters in New York saw the holding of events to mark the day, the Colombo office of the UN chose to simply grant a holiday to its staff. No event was held either in advance nor after Vesak Day to mark its significance to the Buddhist world.

Minister of Buddha Sasana and Cultural Affairs, Lakshman Jayakody said, "I don't want to blame the UN office straight away of anything. I think it had a holiday here, but the idea is not only to have holidays, but to have an observance of Vesak."

"It is a day of observance in the United Nations, that is what the resolution states," said Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lakshman Kiriella, adding, "The resolution was to make Vesak day a day of observance to spread Lord Buddha's message to the western world."

Meanwhile, attempting to explain the disinterest shown by the Colombo office of the UN, Minister Kiriella said, "I don't know whether the country offices have received any directive."

All the UN agencies have always been anti-Sri Lankan, anti-Sinhalese and anti-Buddhist. Therefore I am not surprised, said General Secretary of the Sihala Urumaya, Tilak Karunaratne .

"We totally condemn the way the UN Colombo office ignored Vesak Day, this year," Kamal Deshapriya of the National Movement Against Terrorism said.

The exploding of the bomb near a Vesak pandal in Batticaloa on Vesak day was a direct challenge to the declaring of Vesak a day of observances by the UN, Mr. Deshapriya said, adding, "However, neither the UN office in Colombo nor UN Secretary General Kofi Annan released a statement condemning this atrocity."

Attack on journalist:

Two more out

By Tania Fernando

Two more policemen allegedly involved in the attack and illegal arrest of The Sunday Times crime reporter Leon Berenger have been moved out of Dehiwela Station while a report on the probe has been handed over to the police chief.

The move comes after the journalist made another complaint saying the continuing presence of the two officers at the same police station was a threat to his safety and well- being since they were closely associated with the other two officers who were also among the arresting party.

Earlier Inspector Senaka Ratwatte and another constable identified as Prasanna who were named in the initial complaint made by the journalist were transferred out pending further investigations by Superintendent Nandana Wijeratne.

The two constables transferred this week have been identified as Sriyananda and Jagath Perera. They have been moved out to Bandureliya and Welikada, Deputy Inspector General Jayantha Wickremaratne said.

In a complaint to the inquiring officer on Tuesday, the journalist said the two constables were allegedly meeting several underworld characters in the Dehiwala-Galkissa area and canvassing on behalf of Inspector Ratwatte.

This was followed by several visits to his home by various elements who tried friendly persuasion to get the journalist to withdraw the complaint.

Meanwhile the findings of the inquiry conducted by SP Wijeratne has now been sent to police chief Lucky Kodituwakku for necessary action. A decision is expected to be announced soon, according to sources at Police Headquarters..

Earlier on a complaint made by The Sunday Times editor, Media Minister Mangala Samaraweera requested the IGP to hold an immediate and impartial inquiry into the alleged incident and report back as soon as possible. President Kumaratunga was also briefed on the matter and she asked that a report on the probe be submitted to her. In recent weeks The Sunday Times journalist had exposed the operations of several underworld outfits in the Dehiwala area and even alleged that certain police officers were linked to some of the criminals.

Package a wreckage, says NJC

The National Joint Committee is carrying out a protest campaign against the Government's move to present the political package before the elections.

It has called on the Government not to present the political package but instead continue to suppress the LTTE militarily.

In a letter to President Kumaratunga the NJC says that presenting the package in Parliament will affect the morale of the soldiers.

NJC Secretary Piyasena Dissanayake told The Sunday Times the package should not be presented since it will have an adverse impact on the country.

"The National Joint Committee has always opposed the political package. We have for many years carried out protests in this regard. We will not change our stand. It was the NJC which organised several campaigns against the package, and we will continue to do so" he said.

SB's summons goes to ministry

By Ayesha R. Rafiq

The Supreme Court summons served on Minister S. B. Dissanayake have been accepted by Sports Ministry's Assistant Secretary U.K.G. Abeysinghe.

Minister Dissanayake has been instructed to appear before the Supreme Court on June 21 to show cause as to why he should not be charged with contempt of court for his alleged remarks that parliament and courts would be closed down if the government failed to get a two thirds majority to pass the political package.

Minister Dissanayake was however out of the country when the summons were served, and it was therefore accepted on his behalf by Mr. Abeysinghe. Supreme Court sources however say it remains to be seen whether objections would be raised on June 21 as to the fact that the summons had not been accepted by the Minister, but by the Ministry's Assistant Secretary.


More News/Comment

Return to News/Comment Contents


News/Comment Archives

Front Page| News/Comment| Editorial/Opinion| Plus| Business| Sports| Sports Plus| Mirror Magazine

Please send your comments and suggestions on this web site to

The Sunday Times or to Information Laboratories (Pvt.) Ltd.

Presented on the World Wide Web by Infomation Laboratories (Pvt.) Ltd.

Hosted By LAcNet