21st January 2001

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Speaker wants report on 'spies' at UNP's Beruwela meeting

Speaker Anura Bandaranaike has written to the Police Chief, requesting him to launch a probe on the alleged presence of police officers in civvies at a UNP meeting in Beruwela and submit a report to him.

The Speaker wrote to the Police Chief following a complaint by UNP's Kalutara district Parliamentarian Imtiaz Bakeer Markar, in whose residence the meeting was held.

Mr. Bakeer Marker complained that the alleged presence of the two persons at a party meeting not open to public was a violation of his privacy as an individual and as a Member of Parliament when two unidentified persons attended a session which was not open to the public.

Mr. Bandaranaike has also permitted Mr. Marker to raise the matter in Parliament tomorrow and to complain to the Inter-Parliamentary Union.

Explaining the incident on Thursday, Mr. Bakeer Marker told The Sunday Times the two outsiders were noticed seated at the meeting, on the pretext of waiting to obtain letters of recommendation from the MP. They had stayed on even after they were asked to go to the Dharga Town office.

Later they were seen taking down notes and when asked to produce their identity cards, they had refused. He said he found out that the men identified as W.A.R. Pushpakumara and R.M. Ruwan Bandara carried Reserve Police identity cards. Mr. Bakeer Markar said he believed the two men had been sent by the intelligence unit of Kalutara police to spy on the UNP meeting.

"Ironically, the Beruwala police were also clueless about this mission when we handed them over to them after lodging a complaint about their invasive presence," he said.

Super scanner for National Hospital

The Neurosurgical Unit of the Colombo National Hospital will take a big step forward with the commissioning of an ultra modern MRI scanner which was bought at Rs. 84 million after five years of fund-raising.

Some Rs. 48 million had been provided from the President's Fund while Rs. 34 million came from some 25,000 donors and through fund-raising campaigns, including the sale of autographed Arjuna Ranatunga caps.

Upto now patients needing a Magnetic Resonance Imaging scan had to get it done at private hospitals at costs ranging from Rs. 7,500 to Rs. 15,000. The President is expected to be the chief guest at today's commissioning.

According to medical experts, the use of magnetic rays in an MRI scanner protects from exposure to harmful radiation. This advanced machine helps see minute structural details including soft tissues such as muscles and fat, usually not shown in a conventional X-ray or even a CT scanner.

Ceasefire hartal paralyses Batticaloa

Life in Batticaloa town came to a standstill yesterday when a student union called for one-day hartal demanding a government response to the LTTE's ceasefire offer followed by talks to end the conflict.

Reports from the area said most shops were closed and passenger transport services were brought to a halt.

The Independent Student Union had called for the hartal, despite a warning by the security forces that the move was illegal.

Due to the hartal a Government-organised cultural show at Webber Stadium last evening to mark Thai Pongal was poorly attended and many artistes reportedly pulled out at the last moment.

A similar hartal was held by university students in Jaffna earlier this week.

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