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21st January 2001

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UNP to begin a week's protest march on Feb.3

By Dilrukshi Handunnetti

Amidst mounting protests over opposition inactivity in voicing public concerns, the UNP would launch a seven-day protest march beginning February 3 in Kandy.

The protest march would eventually lead to a civil disobedience movement. The UNP had invited political parties, civic groups and interested parties to join the protest, authoritative party sources said.

A Colombo district parliamentarian who is a key organiser of the protest march said the party had decided to parade the streets in its attempt to mobilise people against the government.

UNP assistant leader Gamini Atukorale said considering the enormity of the purpose and the project, a special unit had been set up at " Sirikotha", to co-ordinate campaign.

The protest march will start on February 3 in Kandy and will end on February 10 with a small rally in Colombo. Throughout the week, UNP groups will hold pocket meetings and explain how the PA secured political victory through an alleged programme of violence and rigging.

Mr. Atukorale said Kandy was selected in sheer protest at the alleged "Ratwatte Campaign" to ensure a victory for the PA, which in the UNP's opinion was nothing but a daylight robbery with security forces being used for the campaign.

When questioned about the security concerns, Mr. Atukorale said this was not the first protest to be held under the emergency, and won't be the last. He said the UNP was aware of government attempts to attack the protesters, and claimed the party was prepared to face the consequences.

"We have been very patient. But the time is ripe to mobilise the people against the administration. When we get galvanized into action, the government gets jittery. When the PA went on protest marches and held human chains, it did not pause to think of the consequences. We are not going to incite people the way the SLFP did in the past, causing massive destruction to public property. We will do this with a sense of responsibility while understanding the risk involved," he said.

Responding to the government's claim the UNP was courting trouble, he said a disgraceful government that had lost public respect with its members unable to get out of their houses was now attempting to obstruct the UNP.

He said the government's sinister motives were best demonstrated by the statement issued by Media Minister Anura Priyadarshana Yapa alleging that angry people would turn on the UNP.

"I trust the public will protect us and not destroy us," he said.

Being in the opposition, the UNP would not have the luxury of special security networks but will have to take a chance, he said, adding that despite the government's prophesies, the protest would mark the beginning of the end of the government.


Fishermen's fervent appeal to President

By Tania Fernando

The fishermen who have been protesting the price hike in fuel have appealed tp President Kumaratunga for relief .

They had appealed to the President when Fisheries Minister Mahinda Rajapakse told them he was unable to help them.

The appeal had been through the Bishop of Chilaw Rt. Rev. Frank Marcus Fernando requesting the President grant relief to carry on their livelihood, Canisius Fernando, secretary for the Fishermen's Federation said

The fishermen further claimed the minister had rejected their plea for the purchase of high-powered boats due to security reasons.

They had threatened to launch a mass protest if the government failed to grant them relief.

Fishermen from Negombo, Marawila, Chilaw and Kalpitiya took to the streets last week in protest over the fuel price hike.


ISHI walk next Saturday

To bring light upon differently-abled children

All roads will lead to Ratmalana on January 27 when a charity walk is held to raise funds for the Institute for the Sight and Hearing Impaired (ISHI). The theme of the project is "Walk an extra mile for a differently abled child'. National cricketers, stage and TV stars, more than thousand students from 37 schools, and employees of the corporate sector had come forward to lend their support to this worthy cause, organisers said.

The walk begins at 8.30 a.m. at the school premises at Golu Madama and ends with a trade fair and exhibition at the sports grounds of the school. A fleet of decorated three-wheelers will add colour to the event.

The project also aims to raise awareness among school children on the needs of the differently abled. The organisers' message is that children should be aware that there are others just like them, with the same anxieties and emotions, studying for the same exams, only trying so much harder because of their handicap.

The ISHI, formerly known as the Ceylon School for the Deaf and Blind is a residential institution that provides general education as well as vocational training to more than 600 children who are sight or hearing impaired. The school has provided an invaluable service over the past 88 years and is urgently in need of funds for various repairs to improve living conditions and facilities for its students. The school receives some support from the government but runs largely on donations from the public.

Donations of meals are also welcome. For as little as Rs. 1,755 breakfast can be provided for 200 children. About Rs. 2,500 will enable a simple lunch or dinner for the same number. Those wishing to give a meal could call on the hotline 072 340355 or the head office on 611338. The school is proud that many of its students with just a little help and support have completed their basic education and taken their place as useful members of society.


Lakshman J gets a post

Former Minister Lakshman Jayakody who was refused a seat in Parliament through the PA National list has been appointed as Deputy Chairman, National Development Council, the post previously held by Dr. Lal Jayawardene.

Mr. Jayakody assumed duties a few weeks back at the NDC of which President Chandrika Kumaratunga is the chairperson.

Mr. Jayakody's duties are to study economic projects and make recommendations to the President regarding their implementation.

A senior SLFP member Mr. Jayakody did not contest the election but instead campaigned in his Divulapitiya electorate after he was promised a seat through the national list.

However the Government offered him a diplomatic post which Mr. Jayakody refused.


PoW families turn to Solheim

Families of 11 civilian seamen still being held captive by the LTTE have now turned to Norwegian peace envoy Erik Solheim to get them released.

The seamen were taken from Irish Moana in 1995, M.V. Missen in 1996 and M. V. Princess Kash in 1998.

Feroze Noordeen who wrote to Mr. Solheim on behalf of the families said that it appeared the government and others were not too interested in pushing for the release.


AG asks IGP to probe journalist's killing

The Attorney General has asked the IGP to probe the assassination of Jaffna -based journalist Mylvahanam Nimalarajan, The Sunday Times learns.

Mr. Nimalarajan, an independent journalist, was shot dead on October 19 last year while he was at his residence in Jaffna.

He was a contributor to the BBC's Sandeshaya and Thamil Osai services and was a correspondent of the Veerakesari and Ravaya newspapers.

It was alleged the EPDP had a hand in his killing.


US envoy on Batti mission

US Ambassador Ashley Wills will visit the Batticaloa district soon on a fact-finding mission.

Mr. Wills will meet senior security force personnel, the Government Agent, NGO representatives and Journalists.

The Ambassador earlier visited the Vavuniya and Trincomalee areas.

At Trincomalee he told Journalists that he would be submitting a report about the situation in the North and East to the US government.

During his visit in Trincomalee he also raised matters related to the human rights situation.


Bonus seats proposed for local councils

The provision of bonus seats as done in Parliamentary and Provincial Council elections has been recommended for local bodies as well.

The recomendation has been made by the special committee appointed by President Kumaratunga to review the local government election system. But Local government minister Alavi Moulana a member of the committee said the bonus seats intended to give more stability to local councils would not be introduced at the local elections in April.

He said the proposal would be studied fully and implemented at later elections.


Racket in vehicle permits bared

By Chandani Kirinde

The Fraud Bureau has uncovered a racket involving the forgery of duty free vehicle permits by several employees of the Treasury, according to Police sources.

The racket came to light recently when the duty free vehicle permit belonging to a lady doctor from Kegalle was fraudulently sold to an unsuspecting buyer by an employee of the Treasury, they said.

The man had brought the permit for Rs. 120,000 and imported a car. The agents handling the shipment had written to the addressee given in the permit saying her vehicle would arrive in Colombo on a particular date.

The lady doctor had been astonished to receive the letter and had informed the Police immediately that let alone importing a vehicle, she was yet to receive her car permit from the Treasury.

The case was referred to the Fraud Bureau in Colombo which started its investigation at the Port and soon discovered that copies of permits posted to those eligible for this concession were being intercepted by some employees of the Department, duplicated and sold mainly to those in the car imports business.

It is believed that up to 85 such permits were sold by those involved in this case and these are under investigation now.

Four persons were arrested in this connection and produced in court recently.

The Fraud Bureau has sought the advice of the Attorney General's Department on how to proceed with the prosecution of those involved in this case.


Editor appeals to SC

The Sunday Times Editor has filed an application for special leave to appeal to the Supreme Court challenging his conviction of criminally defaming President Chandrika Kumaratunga.

The Editor has filed his petition against the order of the Court of Appeal which last month upheld the 1997 Colombo High Court order finding him guilty .

The Petition seeks to invoke the Jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, inter alia that the decision of the Court of Appeal is contrary to law and against the weight of the evidence in the case. The petition says there was no evidence to support the contention that the petitioner was the writer who made or published the alleged defamatory article or that he did so with such intention or knowledge to constitute a charge of Defamation as set out in Section 479 of the Penal Code.

In as much as the Petitioner had given evidence that he honestly believed the said article to be harmless and non defamatory and for that reason he would have no knowledge of the commission of an offence by the publication thereof in the newspaper of which he was the Editor, the Learned Trial Judge had failed to give him the benefit set out in the Proviso to Section 14 of the Press Councils Law, the Editor said.

The Petition states that the Court of Appeal has failed to consider adequately the submissions made on behalf of the Petitioner on the above grounds and that the aforesaid matters constitute a question of law and/or matters fit for review by Supreme Court and /or involves questions to be decided which are of public or general importance.

The petitioner further states that with the start of the Defence evidence the High Court Judge expressed his desire to continue the trial on a day to day basis. This was done despite being informed that the Petitioner's Senior Counsel and many of the other Counsel appearing for them had already undertaken work in other Courts and would therefore be unable to attend this Court uninterrupted on a day to day basis. The trial Judge however proceeded with the trial on a day to day basis from November 8, 1996.

The Editor contends that as a result he was deprived of the services of his Senior Counsel and many of the other Counsel on several dates of trial constituting a denial of his right to legal representation.

The Editor also states that the trial started on 8.3.1996 as at which date or soon thereafter there was a vacancy in the Court of Appeal . This vacancy in the ordinary course of events could have been filled by the appointment of the High Court Judge who was hearing this trial, he being the most senior of the High Court Judges. This vacancy remained unfilled until the conclusion of the case thereby creating a public perception that the question of the selection of the appointee would depend on the outcome of this case where he was accused of Criminally Defaming the President who under the Constitution appoints Judges to the Court of Appeal.

The Editor contends that the appearance of bias has failed to ensure that justice should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done and therefore question the legitimacy of the decision making process.


Disciplinary warning to ministers

Following an appeal by Speaker Anura Bandaranaike for more discipline and commitment in Parliament, the Leader of the House has asked all ministers to ensure they are present to answer oral questions pertaining to their ministries.

In a letter, House Leader Richard Pathirana said it was difficult for him and the Chief Whip to answer questions of various ministers and the ministers themselves should be present to give comprehensive answers.


Water Board drowning

The National Water Supply and Drainage Board (NWSDB) is facing a financial crisis due to the non payment of bills amounting to 200 million rupees by state and local government bodies, an official said.

Among those neck deep in debt are Army Headquarters, various army camps, hospitals, police stations and the Prisons Department. The official said the Army owed a staggering Rs. 93 million , the Police Rs. 35 million and hospitals Rs. 15 million.

The Water Board has now written to the Treasury asking whether the huge bills could be deducted from the allocations to those institutions and credited directly to the Board.

The official said the Treasury had responded positively.


PA readies for local polls

The People's Alliance has formed its nomination board to choose candidates for the forthcoming local government elections scheduled for April.

The Board which is headed by PA General Secretary D M Jayaratne was appointed last week at the PA Executive Committee meeting.

The board will include leaders of the constituent parties. Nominations will be received within the next few days.


Disgruntled officers write to Premier

A group of the Army Voluntary Force officers have protested to Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickramanayake about the inordinate delay in granting due promotions a cause for much dissatisfaction among officers who have faithfully remained in the service for a long time.

In a letter to the Premier, they have alleged that those who joined the regular force along with them have been duly promoted, thereby further disheartening them. They have also claimed that at a time when the forces are waging a fierce war with the LTTE and need to be fortified in every sense, this type of action dampened their spirit.

They have also urged the holding of written and oral examinations immediately to ascertain the suitability of candidates for promotions.


The dangers of losing your NIC

People who have lost their national identity cards should beware their documents might be used by some gang or individual to purchase a vehicle and then let the police charge you for a fraudulent act.

The latest modus operandi had come to light after an employee of a publishing company who had lost his identity card was questioned recently by police whether he had bought a bus worth Rs 15 lakhs and sold it to someone else before the finance on it was settled.

Fortunately the employee (name withheld) had complained to the police about his lost identity card and has in his possession the copy of his complaint. The operation had taken place in Avissawella in November last year. A person had bought a bus and sold it to a woman who in turn sold it to someone else .

The Avissawella Police has reported that the bus was no more to be found. The last person who had bought the bus had slightly resembled the employee who had lost the identity card.

It is on this premise that the last person in the drama had bought the bus, police sources said.

Meanwhile, there has been a death threat to the employee warning him not to give any details to the police.

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