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As part of the expansion process of the Sri Lankan 
naval force, now a blue water navy, three new ships 
were commissioned at a ceremony at the 
Bandaranaike Quay yesterday. Picture shows navy 
personnel on board the SLNS Suranimala. 
Pic by Gemunu Wellage

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MPs to be armed with researchers

By Gunasinghe Herath
In a bid to improve the quality of parliamentary debates, which are to be telecast live, each MP is to be given the services of a graduate research assistant but the escalating cost factor in maintaining MPs is also causing concern.

The move is expected to improve not only the quality of debates but also the quality of work amidst increasing concern that the standards in parliament had dropped to irrelevant or frivolous levels, if not something worse.

Speaker Anura Bandaranaike has agreed to the move and also will establish a special research unit headed by a director in a bid to provide research material for MPs for debates.

The move comes in the wake of a decision to permit state and private electronic media to telecast important debates live from Parliament.

The decision was taken on Friday by a committee presided over by the Speaker and including Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickramanayake, Opposition UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe and House Leader Richard Pathirana.

While raising standards and possibly public confidence in parliament, the appointment of research assistants will also push up the cost of maintaining MPs.

At present MPs are entitled to a salary of Rs. 26,500 a month, an unlimited payment for two land phones, a Rs. 2000 payment for a mobile phone, a Rs. 10,000 payment for personal staff, fuel allowance of Rs. 7000 a month and Rs. 500 a sitting.

The MPs are also entitled to a duty free vehicle.


Unseated MPs sitting tight at Madiwela

By Shelani de Silva
The Secretary General of Parliament is to ask the Attorney General to take legal action against 15 ex-MPs who are still occupying official MPs' quarters at Madiwela.

Secretary General Dhammika Kitulgoda had informed all MPs who had lost their seats at the elections to vacate the houses by December 4. However 15 MPs are yet to go.

"Written notice was given to all MPs to vacate the premises by the first week of December. While some left there are about 15 who are still occupying the houses," he said.

The ex-MPs who are occupying the houses have been compelled to pay Rs. 500 a day.

The MPs pay a monthly rental of Rs. 1000 in addition to the water, electricity and telephone bills.

Meanwhile some ex-MPs claimed that they had come to an understanding with the new MPs to occupy the houses for a few more weeks.


Child pregnant after Bingiriya rape horror

By Kumudini Hettiarachchi
The acting principal of a state primary school at Thisogama in Bingiriya, who was taken in for questioning last week over the alleged rape of a nine-year-old student was released on bail on Friday despite a police request to keep him in custody for further investigations.

The police produced the suspect before Kuliyapitiya acting Magistrate L. Bulumulla, seeking that he be remanded on a complaint by the student that she was raped frequently during the past two years by him in school.

But the acting magistrate allowed cash bail of Rs. 10,000 and two sureties of Rs. 15,000, Kuliyapitiya Inspector Premaratne Adikari said.

The girl complained to the police on December 3 of rape by the suspect and the acting principal was taken in for questioning last Thursday. After the filing of the complaint, the police directed the girl to the Bingiriya Hospital, from where she was transferred to the Kuliyapitiya Base Hospital.

Kuliyapitiya Judicial Medical Officer Dr. Saman Wanasinghe confirmed "chronic sexual harassment and rape", after conducting tests and examining the girl.

He told The Sunday Times that rape was confirmed and added they suspected the girl may be pregnant, after a urine test turned out positive.

"The girl came with a history of vomiting and loss of appetite. We carried out a urine test, which was positive. As this may not be 100 percent accurate, an ultra-sound scan was carried out by the gynaecologist on Friday, but ascertaining pregnancy was difficult. Therefore, a decision was taken to take another scan in a couple of weeks," he said.

"The girl also shows signs of trauma, so we have decided to refer her to the psychiatrist of the Kurunegala Hospital, as we do not have one at Kuliyapitiya," he said.

Meanwhile, National Child Protection Authority Chairman Harendra de Silva said though rape of a child below 16 years of age was statutory rape it was a bailable offence, left to the discretion of the magistrate. The NCPA is reviewing a proposal to recommend legislation to make it a non-bailable offence.

Prof. de Silva gave an example where a teacher in Negombo charged with emotional abuse of children, had been released on bail, and was working in the same school while the case was pending in the High Court. When the NCPA requested the interdiction of this teacher who is alleged to have tied up, blindfolded children and taken their photographs "there was a difference of opinion" with the education authorities.
See full story


Criminal defamation conviction

ST vs. CBK: appeal dismissed

The Court of Appeal has dismissed the appeal filed by The Sunday Times Editor Sinha Ratnatunge against his conviction on charges of criminal defamation of President Chandrika Kuma-ratunga. 

The Editor was indicted by the Attorney General, in respect of an article published in The Sunday Times of February 19, 1995, referring to the birthday party of Asitha Perera, allegedly attended by the President. The High Court had found the editor guilty but he appealed to the Court of Appeal which gave its ruling last Tuesday. The Court of Appeal Bench comprised Justice H. S. Yapa and Justice P. H. K. Kulatillake.

Lawyers for the Editor said they would be appealing to the Supreme Court. 

see Judgment


DIG out, special unit dumped

By Shane Seneviratne
In a surprise move, the Central Province's new DIG has disbanded a powerful special police unit which was responsible for cracking down on crime and other vices, police sources said.

The disbanding of the unit came soon after the province's former DIG Sirisena Herath was transferred to Police Headquarters a day after Anuruddha Ratwatte was reappointed as Deputy Defence Minister.

The special unit comprising about 300 officers also had a motorcycle squad and was responsible for busting up crime and carrying out raids on illegal operations in areas where the local police could not take action for various reasons, including political pressure.

DIG Herath during the recent general election is reported to have clashed head on with General Ratwatte's son and party supporters. 

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