3rd September 2000

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UNP has secret plans to check poll rigging

By Chandani Kirinde

UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe said yesterday the party had decided on a strategy of counter action to prevent any rigging, which could rob the UNP of victory at the upcoming general elections.

Addressing a special pre-election convention at the Town Hall in Colombo, Mr. Wickremesinghe vowed his party would not allow the PA to play games with the electoral process.

He said details of the strategy to counter any rigging would be would be revealed to party workers in each area on the eve of the polls.

On a positive note, the UNP leader said that if elected to office he would govern with the consensus of opposition parties to build a stronger and more united Sri Lanka.

But he lashed out at the government, accusing it of mishandling the war and dividing the military while bribery and corruption were rampant along with moral degradation at VIP level.

UNP frontliner Anura Bandaranaike said the UNP was well on the road to victory and on a personal note quipped, "You can look at my sister's face and see that she is losing her glow."

Mr. Bandaranaike also introduced to the delegates the PA Western provincial council member Edmond Silva who had decided to support the UNP at the election.

Opposition Whip W.J.M. Lokubandara said that even the astrologers were predicting a UNP victory and no dirty tricks could stop it.

UNP Chairman Karu Jayasuriya, General Secretary Gamini Atukorale, M.H. Mohamed and Ravindra Randeniya were among others who spoke.

Bonanzas in UNP manifesto

The UNP yesterday promised an extra allowance of Rs. 2000 for state employees, Rs. 750 for pensioners and Rs. 1000 for Samurdhi beneficiaries.

These and other promises including a solution to the ethnic conflict through talks with all parties were spelt out in the party manifesto titled 'Your Future'

The UNP also promised major amendments to the GST, removal of other war-related taxes, removal of monopoly given to companies like Shell and more jobs by building industrial estates in all parts of the country with high technology.

Jobless youth have been promised a dole of Rs. 2000 a month for one and a half years till they are given suitable jobs.

In education, the party pledged high priority for the English language and computer studies.

It pledged a new constitution with the abolition of the executive presidency and a five-year term for parliament.

Medial reforms laws would be introduced immediately along with the setting up of independent elections, police and public services commission.

Author allowed bail

An author of a controversial book that the Catholic Church says insults the Virgin Mary was arrested by the CID and subsequently released on bail.

Manjula Wediwardene was arrested for conspiring to subvert religious and ethnic harmony.

He was produced before the Maligakanda Magistrate. The Catholic church has gone to court to prevent the sale of Mr. Wediwardene's book "Mary named Maria".

The Colombo District Court had issued an interim order onThursday temporarily preventing the publication and distribution of the collection of short stories.

Cricket Board bowls under-arm

The controversy-ridden Cricket Board has run into further trouble over funding and what some cricket fans see as political advertising.

The board recently published a full-page colour advertisement in a state-run newspaper, congratulating Sports Minister S. B. Dissanayake on his appointment as SLFP general secretary.

When asked about the 'appropriateness' of the advertisement, a cricket board official defended the action claiming that it was an expression of gratitude to a man who was doing much for sports.

The advertisement read: "We wish you a successful test innings when you go out to bat today as the general secretary of the SLFP."

Cricket fans told The Sunday Times cricket was already over politicised and more party politics would only do more damaged while others questioned the waste of funds.

In another indication of growing personal or political ties between the new Cricket Board officials and Minister Dissanayake, the board has decided to allocate Rs. 125,000 to buy casual wear for Sri Lanka's Olympic Games contingent.

According to sports ministry sources, the ministry has also promised cars to those who won gold medals at the Asian track and field games held in Jakarta last week. But no such promise has been made to super sprinter Susanthika Jayasinghe who won a gold medal at the International Amateur Athletics Federation meet in Greece last week.

CB intervenes to settle bank row

The Hatton National Bank (HNB) and the Sampath Bank (SB) were summoned to the Central Bank last week over the recent attempt by HNB to acquire SB.

The meeting was arranged on a request by the Attorney General who required more information to decide whether HNB had violated regulations by holding excess shares of another bank, Central Bank Governor A.S. Jayawardena told The Sunday Times. After holding talks with the two banks, the Central Bank has submitted a report to the Attorney General.

Earlier the Central Bank sought the Attorney General's advice to decide whether HNB had contravened the provisions of the Banking Act in acquiring more than 10 per cent shares of the Sampath Bank. In July HNB together with multimillionaire businessman Harry Jayawardena, acquired 44 per cent shares of the Sampath Bank. But the purported plan to take control of the bank was thwarted when Sampath Bank employees petitioned courts stating that the purchases of shares were illegal

The Securities and Exchange Commission also slammed five companies, including HNB, saying they had "acted in concert" in acquiring shares of the Sampath Bank. The Sampath Bank Employees Association has accused the Central Bank of dragging its feet over the issue and urged the authorities to resolve the crisis speedily.

Right of reply

The Hatton National Bank has said the sacking of an employee who challenged the management in courts for making use of Employees Provident Fund to purchase Sampath Bank shares was a 'sheer coincidence'.

The HNB was responding to a story in The Sunday Times last week about the sacking of the employee S. B. Abeysekara.

HNB Deputy General Manager U.A.C. Obeyesekere in a letter to The Sunday Times said: "It was a sheer coincidence that the Inquiry report was received a few days after Mr. Abeysekera had filed a petition in the Colombo District Court in regard to a matter concerning the purchase of shares from the Sampath Bank.

"Mr. Abeysekera had been reported by the Manager and Assistant Manager of the Bank's Kotte Branch for having on 24/4/99 along with a mob of about 25 persons attempted to forcibly enter the branch without any legitimate business to carry out there. They had also reported Mr. Abeysekera for damaging their vehicles by breaking the aerials, scraping the bodies of the vehicles and deflating the tyres.

"In accordance with these and several other offences, six charges were served on Mr. Abeysekera on 24/06/99, and this was followed by a formal disciplinary inquiry by an outside independent officer, an Attorney-at-Law and retired President of the Labour Tribunal Colombo."

Mr. Abeysekera who heads the HNB branch of the Ceylon Bank Employees Union, in a petition filed in the Colombo District Court has alleged that the bank's management had used Rs. 120 million from the EPF funds to buy more than two million Sampath Bank shares. He sought an enjoining order against the HNB management, preventing it from using the funds money without the employees' approval.

Note: Our Reporter says he stands by the story. Whether it was a "sheer coincidence" or not, the HNB union leader was sacked for an incident which took place over an year ago immediately after he filed the court case.

No bail for temple blast suspects

The four suspects in the Abhayarama bomb explosion at Narahenpita were refused bail and further remanded till September 12 when the case was taken up for hearing at the Additional Magistrate's Court last Thursday.

The Headquarters Inspector of the CID stated that releasing the suspects on bail can hinder the ongoing investigations. He also said the four people injured in the blast on August 6 were allegedly the suspects.

Of the four suspects - Ananda Hettiaratchi, Jeevantha Wickremasinghe, H.P.Amil Dhanasiri Silva and H. K. Kushantha Perera-only three were produced before Colombo Additional Magistrate Ayeshani Jinasena with the fourth suspect is still receiving treatment at the National Hospital.

Tourism ethics approved

The World Tourism Organisation (WTO) has approved the Global Code of Ethics for Tourism in order to minimise the negative impacts of the trade on environment and culture while at the same time helping to expand tourism destinations. International tourism is expected to triple in volume over the next 20 years.

The code approved at the WTO general assembly meeting held at Santiago in October last year sets out a framework for development of world tourism in the new millennium.

The code has ten articles including 'rules of the game' for destinations, governments, tour operators, developers, travel agents, workers, travellers and favours the setting up of a world committee on tourism ethics to redress grievances.

Upali is no more

Leading photographer Upali Aturugiri, 58, died last week.

He began his career at the Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Ltd, and specialised in portrait photography.He later set up his own studio at Kirillapone.

Accompanied by his wife Helene, attached to the French Foreign Ministry on her postings abroad, Upali's interest in photography increased. At the same time, he continued to do freelance work and photo-journalism.

Having lived in Malaysia, Martinique and Indonesia before returning to set up his own business in Sri Lanka, Upali also worked for AFP. Upali leaves behind his wife Helene and daughters Nell and Nangui, presently studying in France. His funeral will take place at 10 a.m.tomorrow at the general cemetery, Colombo.

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