16th July 2000

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JVP hits out at Government over cost of living, war

By Nilika de Silva

The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna is busy carrying out campaigns to popularise the party and bring pressure on the government.

A demonstration by workers will take place in front of the Fort Railway Station on Wednesday (19), JVP spokesperson Wimal Weerawansa said.

The JVP district conventions have already been held in the Galle, Hambantota and Gampaha districts, and the other district conventions will be held by July 30.

Meanwhile, last Tuesday, a JVP rally protesting against the division of the country, the high cost of living and the selling of the country, was held in the heart of Nugegoda drawing a massive crowd.

"Rs. 3,000 is not enough for us, we want a Rs. 5,000 increment in workers' salaries," Member of the JVP Central Committee, Lal Kantha said.

Pointing out the unfairness of giving only a Rs. 400 increase to the private sector when the state sector is getting a Rs. 600 increase, Lal Kantha said goods in a shop are sold at the same price whether a private sector worker or a state sector purchases them.

Overnight gas prices were changing from Rs. 260 to Rs. 330, and from Rs. 330 to Rs. 410 and from Rs. 410 to Rs. 470 in Colombo while in Hambantota it was as high as Rs. 510 and in Anuradhapura Rs. 515, he said.

Is this a government of the Sri Lankan people, he questioned. They should have presented the package to the people of this country who really matter, instead of which they showed it to Norway and then to Prabhakaran, he said.

Why Norway? Because it can exploit the coastal resources in the North and East . They are eyeing the North and East that comes along with the partitioning of the country, he said, adding, "In order to defeat the Chandrika-Ranil joint regime, all the people of this country, the Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims should unite and defeat them."

Making a fiery speech Party leader Tilvin Silva said, in one month and twelve days the rule of this government comes to an end, but no moves are being made by them towards preparing for elections. "We feel that they are planning to postpone elections and stay in power for some more time," he said.

"Last May at the time the Elephant Pass camp fell, exploiting the people's feelings, the government placed the country on a war footing," he said adding, "To Chandrika the war is like a sweep, it is like a gymkhana,"

"Is Chandrika representing the people or the Shell Company," he asked, adding, "Chandrika is not a head of state but a broker for multi-national companies."

"It is a lie to say that the price of goods goes up due to the war. Do they bring gas from Jaffna", Tilvin Silva asked, adding "What is the connection between the Shell people and the war There is no difference betweeen the Government and the black market", he said.

Is this war ours, he questioned. "We do not like this war. This war is not one we want. The war was started by the UNP and is being continued by the PA," he said.

"The JVP is the only opposition party in Sri Lanka. Ranil's UNP is no longer an opposition, it is Chandrika's legacy," Wimal Weerawansa said.

Today this country needs an alternative. It does not need management, because all management is done by the World Bank, he added.

Kalutara UNPers at loggerheads

The recent appointments to the UNP Kalutara district Bala Mandalaya has triggered off a wave of protests and created dissatisfaction among the UNP high rankers of the area with one parliamentarian being accused by the rest as being 'self-serving'.

With the resignation of Kalutara district secretary and Bandaragama organizer from Parliament and the UNP to form 'Sihala Urumaya", the appointment of former deputy minister and senior partyman Raja Samaranayake as ' district campaign manager' has been reportedly objected to by MP Mahinda Samarasinghe whose proposal to appoint Indradasa Hettiarachchi, another former deputy minister for the same post was shot down by district UNP heavyweights.

UNP sources alleged that Mr. Samarasinghe has campaigned along with former deputy minister Indradasa Hettiarachchi, for the replacement of district president and Bulathsinhala organizer MP Sarath Ranawaka, which was rejected by all others.

Accordingly, disagreements have been openly expressed but Mr. Samaranayake's experience has been taken into consideration when appointing him as the district campaign manager.

Sources said that other Kalutara district parliamentarians lobbied for the retention of Sarath Ranawaka as party president despite protests by certain sections to have a replacement. However, party leader Ranil Wickremesinghe has opted to appoint Mr. Samaranayake instead of Mr. Hettiarachchi.

Meanwhile, Hemantha Wickramarachchi has replaced Mr. Tilak Karinaratne as the Bandaragama organizer. The UNP leader has also divided the Panadura electorate into two and appointed Senaka Samaranayake and Mervyn J. Cooray as organizers. Sanjaya Galaboda and Lakshman Wijemanne have been appointed as organizers for Agalawatte and Dodangoda respectively.

No faith motion in limbo

The UNP-sponsored no confidence motion against the Speaker is likely to be taken up in August despite UNP members protesting over what they term as the government's obvious lack of interest to debate it early.

A deputy whip of the UNP, MP Tyronne Fernando who moved the motion told The Sunday Times as the motion was 'undated' which technically means it would not get priority over scheduled business, it was unlikely to be debated this month.

However, the UNP parliamentary group which is meeting tomorrow (17) will request the leadership to urgently have a date fixed at the Party leader's meeting on Thursday to debate the no confidence motion.

With four more sittings scheduled for July and only four other sittings scheduled for August prior to the dissolution of Parliament itself, the UNP feels that the debate might not be possibly held.

Beef bust in jungle

By Sunny Samerasinghe, Nochchiyagama Correspondent

A canter deep freezer carrying 3,000 kilos of beef was seized yesterday in a forest in the Katukeliyawa area in Kahatagasdigiliya, police said.

They said seven suspects transporting the beef were also nabbed and remanded.

Police said they found the carcasses of milk cows and buffaloes and nine calves ripped from the wombs of pregnant cows all destined to be sold over the counter in Colombo.

PA partners to name their men

The constituent parties of the the ruling People's Alliance's have been asked to prepare their lists of candidates for the general election before the next meeting scheduled to take place in the next few weeks.

The constituent parties have held discussions for the past weeks to decide on the support to be extended to the Government.

With more parties joining the PA the constituent parties which contested the last elections have decided to go along with the PA.

Housewives come out against rocketing CoL

Despite a silent protest by the Sri Lanka Housewives Association last Tuesday, the authorities have not come forward with any promise of relief, while housewives have vowed to continue their protests.

"We will go on protesting till some relief is given to the housewives. Our branches will back us up, and we expect some relief," President of the Association Chithra Tillekeratne told The Sunday Times on Friday.

'We are not demanding just a 50 cents reduction on a loaf of bread', she said.

Tuesday's protest which was born as a result of numerous requests not only from members but from housewives islandwide, marked the beginning of a series of similar demonstrations.

The 16 branches of the Housewives Association have also been told to mark their disgust at the escalating cost of living by coming out in silent protest."We have to get together on something like this as we are protesting on behalf of all housewives in the country," Mrs. Tillekeratne said.

Stressing that this is the first time things have become so bad, Mrs. Tillekeratne said, "All increases have come at the same time followed by the devaluation of the rupee."

"The middle class pensioner will get about Rs. 4,500 monthly, with the increment. What is a couple going to do today with Rs. 4,500," Mrs. Tillekeratne asked. "Especially when you are old you need drugs. That is something very essential but they are very expensive today. Then coping with the electricity, telephone and water bills, and paying for gas. I don't think they can manage. Everything has gone up in price. So what are the poor pensioners going to do with Rs. 4,500, the maximum they will get," Mrs. Tillekeratne asked.

"You can't dream of keeping someone to help you, even though that is very essential when you are old," Mrs. Mallika Samarakoon, Joint Secretary of the Association said. "You can't have an aide today, because supporting another person is a hassle. Leave alone the salary, the food is the most expensive thing," she said.

"We do not have any political views, but we expect any government coming in to give the housewives some relief," Mrs. Samarakoon said, adding, "We thank our parents because we have been properly nourished and we can cope with anything today, but will our grandchildren thank their parents. They cannot because they haven't got what their parents got."

" We are not asking for luxuries," Beryl Rangala, Assistant Treasurer said, adding, "The essentials are very important, the food, the drugs and of course the transport. Everything is very important for the children.".

"When it comes to children if they are not nourished properly it will be a big problem, and I think we will come close to Ethiopia if we go on like this," Ms. Tillekeratne said.

Branches of the Housewives Association in Anuradhapura, Badulla, Bandarawela, Dankotuwa, Galle, Kalutara, Kandy, Kegalle, Kuliyapitiya, Kurunegala, Maharagama, Matale, Moratuwa, Negombo, Panadura and Ratnapura, are soon to mark their protest against the unbearable cost of living.

UNP plagued by crossovers

By Dilrukshi Handunnetti

The UNP is expected to suffer further losses with more decamping to follow in the aftermath of former finance minister Ronnie de Mel signalling an imminent cross over to the ruling party.

Authoritative government sources confirmed that at least two other members would be shortly crossing over to the PA prior to the polls, and have already come to a certain understanding with the Peoples' Alliance and were only biding their time. The source confirmed that a vociferous member of the now defunct Patriotic Parliamentarians' Platform and Hambantota district parliamentarian Mervyn Silva and Galle district member Upali Amarasiri have had a series of discussions with the PA leadership and have pledged support to the ruling party at a crucial time to the country.

Mr. Amarasiri had a difficult period following his father M.S. Amarasiri's cross over to the PA just before the Presidential election campaign over disagreements with party leader Ranil Wickremesinghe. Mr. Silva has also been noted for his criticism over the UNP's alleged pro-LTTE stance and has been vociferously advocating a PA-UNP coalition of sorts to usher in peace.

Meanwhile, a violent reaction has been triggered off by government rankers in the aftermath of Mr. de Mel's overtures to the PA. It is confidentially learned that Mr. de Mel was to be appointed as Deputy Finance Minister in addition to his Cabinet portfolio.

However, snags have been discovered with the contemplated appointment creating much dislike among government rankers for giving instant recognition to those who switch sides in preference to those remaining faithful to the party. It is also learned that Prof. G.L. Peiris has been very unhappy about the possibility of stripping him off his deputy finance minister portfolio.

Mr. de Mel has responded to the UNP's show cause notice last week by requesting time and is expected to formally join the ruling PA within a fortnight and assume government office in a ministerial capacity, possibly replacing slain Minister C.V. Gooneratne by accepting the Industrial Development portfolio.

Germany needs computer specialists

By Hiranthi Fernando

The Federal Republic of Germany has offered attractive job opportunities to 10,000 specialists in the Information and Communication Technology sector, to meet a serious shortage of IT specialists in that country.

According to a document issued by Walter Riestar, Federal Minister of Labour and Social Affairs, on March 13 the German Government and the Information and Communications Industry, agreed on a 'IT Specialists Temporary Relief programme'. The document details all requirements of the programme. To facilitate the procedures for applicants from non-European Union countries, the German government has prepared legal changes which are due to go into effect in early August 2000.

The job offers are open for IT specialists such as software and multi media developers and programmers, circuit and IT system developers, IT consultants, systems and Internet and network specialists.

Graduates holding a Bachelor's or Masters Degree from a university or technical college, in any Information Technology subject such as Computer Science or Communications Engineering, are eligible to apply. Specialists without a degree however can only work in Germany if the employer agrees to pay an annual salary of DM 10,000 or more before taxes or deductions. Prospective employers have been given several options for recruiting IT specialists.

Punchihewa pays and settles the case

The case between former Pure Beverages Managing Director Ana Punchihewa and the Securities and Exchange Commission has been settled with Mr. Punchihewa paying the due amount to the commission.

The SEC announced that consequent to the settlement it had withdrawn the case against Mr. Punchihewa in the Fort Magistrate's Court.

The nearly four-year-old case began with the SEC probing certain trades carried out on the Colombo Stock exchange in respect of Pure Beverage Shares on January 29, 1993.

Twenty thousand shares of the company had been sold by Mr. Punchihewa at Rs. 53.50, the investigations disclosed. This was subsequent to a Board Meeting of the company on January 28 at which the accounts for November and December 1992 were tabled.

ACTC leaders get death threats

By S.S.Selvanayagam

In the aftermath of the slaying of ACTC leader Kumar Ponnambalam at least three other leaders of the party say they have received death thrreats.

ACTC sources told The Sunday Times, party President Appathurai Vinayaga-moorthy, General Secretary N. Kumaraguruparan and Senior Vice President E. Nadarajah had been threatened throug anonymous telephone calls.

They said that Mr. Vinayagamoorthy received a threatening telephone call in English on Wednesday evening, warning he would be shot dead if he did not quit politics within weeks.

The same evening a threatening call was given to to Dr Kumaraguruparan in Tamil. As he was not there, his family members were told to warn him that he and other leaders would be killed if they did not step down.

Mr. Vinayagamoorthy, an eminent human rights lawyer, and Dr Kumaraguruparan have made complaints to the Narahenpitia Police.

Narahenpitia police assured them adequate police patrols would be carried out in their areas.

Mr Vinayagamoorthy has also informed Amensty International of the threats and said they suspected former Tamil militant groups.

Protecting man from his best friend costing a packet

By Chandani Kirinde

A dog's bark may not necessarily be worse than its bite where the state health sector is concerned. However, treatment for dog bites is costing the state a staggering hundred million rupees annually, a public health official said.

Although human deaths from rabies is on the decline, at least 60,000 people are treated for dog bites at government hospitals each year, Dr.P.A.L. Harischandra, Director of Public Health Veterinary Services said.

He said although bite victims are vaccinated free of charge, those who develop sensitivity to these drugs have to purchase anti-rabies injections which can cost as much as Rs. 40,000.

He said community and stray dogs who make up only about twenty per cent of the estimated 2.5 million dog population in the country were responsible for more than 65 per cent of reported cases of human rabies.

He said there were 110 death from rabies last year but the number went down to 31 deaths in the first six months of this year.

The introduction of a device called the auto plunger to vaccinate community and stray dogs for the first time had been responsible for the successful injection of more than 3000 animals in Colombo's suburbs within a month.

He said this method was far more successful than the dog elimination programme because less than 300 dogs can be caught and destroyed in a month.

Dr. Harischandra explained that there was also opposition to killing the dogs he categorised as community dogs who are around 15 per cent of the dog population.

He said these animals live in temple premises, hospital compounds and neighbourhoods and although they have no known owner, they are looked after by the community.

However few people bother to have these dogs vaccinated when the anti-rabies immunisation clinics are conducted thus making them a threat to humans, he said.

He said 50 percent of the dog population is termed as family dogs and about 650,000 of them were vaccinated by the state last year.

He said it was necessary for dog owners to muzzle and leash their pets especially when children were around as a large per cent of dog bites were inflicted on minors.

He also said it was also advisable to keep pet dogs in a kennel when strangers were around.

More manpower and vehicles were needed to effectively implement the rabies control programme. Community support was also necessary, he said.

He said people needed to stop throwing garbage along road sides as they were creating an attractive habitat for stray dogs to breed in close to their own neighbourhoods.

"Rabies is a disease that can be eliminated from the country in a few years time if people take the trouble to have their dogs vaccinated against the disease and stop dumping garbage all over the road," he added.

An unwanted economic burden would be lifted from the state health sector with the elimination of the disease, he said.

Missing doc in sports drug mystery

South Asian gold-medal-winning athlete Ashok Kumar Jayasundera has been suspended for two years for taking a banned performance-enhancing drug at the South Asian Games last September but the doctor who allegedly prescribed the banned drug for him without the athlete's knowledge has gone missing.

An experts committee headed by former Government Analyst Dr. A. R. L. Wijesekara has in a report said it called the doctor concerned to give evidence after the athlete insisted he had not known that a banned drug had been prescribed for him. But the doctor did not turn up for the inquiry despite repeated appeals and merely sent a letter denying he had prescribed a banned drug for the athlete.

The doctor who had agreed to give evidence is said to have refused at the last moment claiming that he was leaving for Britain on a scholarship.

The committee comprised Dr. Wijesekara, sports medicine expert Dr. Maiya Gunasekera and lawyer Sidat Sri Nandalochana.

The committee said in its report that it had sent to the doctor a copy of the submissions made by the athlete. But the doctor did not respond except for the denial.

Mr. Jayasundera who won a gold medal in the 400 metre event at the Eighth SAF Games in Kathmandu last year was tested by an IAF expert after the race and was found to have taken the banned substance nandrolone.

He told the probe committee later he was unaware of the nature of the drug he was injected with.

The committee report said the athlete had claimed that the doctor had administered injections on three occasions on the grounds it was essential to enhance his physical strength.

The athlete claimed the doctor had told him not to disclose that he had been given such injections.

The committee said the athlete had produced a copy of the prescription issued by the doctor for the injection which he bought from Unique Pharmacy in Wellawatte.

According to the committee report, the doctor in his denial had claimed that he had prescribed some vitamin injections for Mr. Jayasundera in 1997. After that, the doctor said he had no contacts with Mr. Jayasundera and was aware that he was under the supervision of the Sports Ministry's Dr. Lalith Ratnayake.

When Mr. Jayasundera was informed of the doctor's denial, he again reiterated his claim that it was this doctor who prescribed the banned drug.

The committee said it had no reason to disbelieve the athlete's claim that he was totally unaware that the injection given to him contained any prohibited substance.

The athlete said that on his return from the Kathmandu Games he had shown the prescription to his coach Sunil Gunewardena and the Sports Medicine Unit Chief Dr. Geethanjana Mendis who indicated to him that it was a banned substance.

"The committee is constrained to state that the gravity of such situations should be clearly spelt out to all athletes, and they themselves should be aware that it would be obligatory on their part to ensure that no prohibited substance in any form is taken by them," the report added.

While the athlete, however, innocent he may be has been banned from local and international meets for two years from September 1999, no action has yet been taken against the doctor.

Attempts by The Sunday Times to meet the doctor failed, as he is said to have left his residence some four months ago.

A notice at the gate of his old residence said his consultations would be at St. Anne's Nursing Home, Bambalapitiya but nurses there said the doctor left the country a month ago on a scholarship.

Meanwhile the Sri Lanka Medical Council President Dr. H.H.R. Samarasinghe said they were unaware of the situation and were unable to take any action against the doctor unless the matter was reported to them.

The Sunday Times also learns that the world controlling body, the International Amateur Atletics Federation, has expressed reservations on the report, pointing out that the role of Mr. Jayasundera's coach Sunil Gunewardena in this case has not been examined.

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