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Hundreds of students of Asoka Vidyalaya went in procession to protest against the alleged attack on some students by the neighbouring Ranatunga family members and the household. - pic. by Iresha Waduge

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Bloody brawl over cricket ball

Maradana school principal alleges brutal attack by Ranatunga family and staff

By Chris Kamalendran

Asoka Vidyalaya in Maradana was in shock yesterday after an incident which the principal described as a brutal attack unbecoming of a well-known family.

In this incident, which sparked a protest in the school yesterday, members of the Ranatunga family and security personnel attached to one of them allegedly beat up a group of students severely injuring at least 10 of them on Friday evening.

Four students were seriously injured in the incident which erupted after one student climbed over the wall into the Ranatunga family compound to pick up a cricket ball. The students had come to school for cadet practice in preparation for yesterday's sports meet and they were playing cricket till the cadet master came when the ball went over and all hell broke loose.

"This is a brutal attack on the students. I have seen the students personally in hospital and this behaviour cannot be expected from such a well-known family," school Principal M.D. Gunadasa told The Sunday Times yesterday.

One of the injured students, Chalin Manuranga, 17, said that when the ball went into Ranatunga compound, they had asked an inmate to throw it back. Since there was no response one of the boys had tried to climb the wall and get it. Suddenly someone armed with a 'Manna' knife tried to attack the boy, but he escaped, the student said.

He said two stocky men armed with a revolver and an iron bar then jumped over the school wall and started assaulting the students. "The man armed with the revolver threatened to shoot me. When the neighbours shouted and pleaded not to kill me, he hammered me on my head with the pistol. Then they forced us at gun point to jump over the school wall and we were bundled into the Ranatunga residence. Again a group of men started assaulting us. Then we appealed to Arjuna, Prasanna and their mother to stop hitting us, but we were forced to kneel in front of them," the student alleged.

He said some of the students were bleeding and when police came they appealed to be rushed to hospital. The police did so though some of the officers also were abused by the assailants, he alleged. Maradana Police who took the injured students to hospital, were questioning both parties.

Eyewitnesses said the stocky armed men referred to by the students were apparently bodyguards of Prasanna Ranatunga, who is a provincial councillor. Asoka Vidyalaya teacher W. Gunaseeli said she rushed to the scene when she heard the students screaming. She said some of the students were bleeding and she saw two armed men dragging students to the Ranatunga residence.

"I went in and asked the Ranatunga family why the boys were being attacked. I was abused in filth and told that students were misbehaving because of teachers like us. When I went back to school, I saw Arjuna and Prasanna entering the cadet room and hitting another group of students. I told them to stop it and get out but they too abused me," the teacher alleged.

Giving the other side of the story the mother Nandani Ranatunga told The Sunday Times that they were regularly harassed by the students of the school and no action had been taken despite several complaints to the authorities. She denied that her sons were involved in the assault.

She said the students had entered the garden and annoyed a domestic aide who was dumb. He might have assaulted some of the students but there was nothing more serious. Another serious allegation was made at the National Hospital when the students were taken for treatment there. One doctor claimed that he had come under pressure or threat not to treat the students.

Full Budget debate live on state TV

The entire Budget debate and the Committee stage will be telecast live on state television Rupavahin from Thursday onwards.

The decision to telecast the full debate for the first time was taken at a party leaders meeting.

They get gruesome gifts

Family members of a well-known politician and another city resident on Friday received parcels containing severed frozen hands with a warning letter in what police described as a gruesome twist in the crime scene.

Two of the recipients were the mother and mother-in-law of UNP Parliamentarian Ravi Karunanayake.

His mother, Carmi Karunanayake living at Pagoda Road, Nugegoda received a severed frozen hand with a warning that her son must be told to stay out of politics, especially in the Kotte area. His mother-in-law Bistan Jayawardene living at Kohuwela received a similar parcel and letter.

The third recipient was Kushani Radha (nee Nanayakkara) daughter of Anoma Nanayakkara, proprietor of Greenlanka Shipping. Police believe that while the Karunanayake parcels were political, the other was personal. Mr. Karunanayake told The Sunday Times, "I am aware who is behind this. I have informed the police." Police fingerprinted the parcels and sent the frozen hands to the Colombo's JMO for identification if possible.

SLFP imposes tough discipline

By Chandani Kirinde

On the eve of its massive national convention, the ruling SLFP yesterday adopted resolutions to impose tough discipline among party members and given the General Secretary sweeping powers to deal with errant members.

Any public criticism of the leadership or policies of the SLFP will be taboo, General Secretary S. B. Dissanayake told a news conference yesterday after a meeting of the decision-making Working Committee.

The offences deemed serious enough to remove a person from the party include a member seeking membership of another political party or seeking nomination under another party or organization and directly or indirectly assisting another political party, he said.

Mr. Dissanayake said that except at party meetings, it was forbidden for members to criticise the party leader or the policies or act contrary to the advice or orders of the party.

He said the General Secretary had been empowered to act, without asking for an explanation or holding an inquiry, against any member who he felt had violated party rules and recommend his removal to the Central Committee of the party.

The announcement of the new powers for the General Secretary came soon after Mr. Dissanayake said at a meeting in Kandy that members who did not carry out duties entrusted to them would be sacked.

His comments had been criticised by senior members of the SLFP.

When asked for confirmation of his remarks, Mr. Dissanayake said there was need for discipline within the party and the amendments to the constitution would put an end to long-drawn out inquiries by speeding up action against offenders.

At the party meeting last morning, the SLFP elected a new officials with President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga being elected its leader to succeed her mother who had led the party for almost four decades.

Her name was proposed by Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickramanayake and seconded by former Minister Kingsley Wickramaratne.

On a proposal by the president, the post which she previously held, that of deputy leader, was left vacant. The person who holds the post of deputy leader is the one who usually succeeds as party leader.

Among the other officials elected, all of them unanimously, were S. B . Dissanayake as General Secretary, Anuruddha Ratwatte as national organizer and Mangala Samaraweera as treasurer.

Prime Minister Wickramanayake, D.M.Jayaratne, Mahinda Rajapakse and Kingsley Wickramaratne were elected as senior vice presidents while K.B.Ratnayake, Lakshman Kadirgamar, Lakshman Jayakody, Alavi Moulana and Richard Pathirana were elected as vice presidents.

All together 55 members were elected to the executive committee of the party.

The party also adopted a new crest, a flag and a party song. Mr. Dissanayake explained that the party would change with the changing world and move forward with new vigour under the new leadership.

The party also adopted eleven resolutions which would be presented at the national convention to be held at the Colombo Race Course today.

At least 100,000 members are expected to participate at today's convention. Delegates from several foreign countries including India, China and Malaysia will also attend it.

Lanka leads crusade against Taleban

Sri Lanka yesterday launched a massive worldwide diplomatic campaign against the destrcution of priceless Buddha statues by the Taleban regime in Afghanistan with a presidential advisor calling on the government press for further sanctions against the Afghan regime. Former Cultural Affairs Minister Lakshman Jayakody, now an advisor to President Kumaratunga, told The Sunday Times yesterday he was proposing sanctions against Afghanistan and any country that willfully destroyed world heritage monuments or sites. Amidst reports that the Taleban regime had on Friday started using mortars and cannons to destroy statues including one of the most famous Buddha statues in Bamiyan, Mr. Jayakody said Sri Lanka should move directly with the UN bodies in a global campaign against wanton vandalism of heritage. On Friday, Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar called a news conference to announce Sri Lanka's strategy in getting the international community to stop the vandalism in Afghanistan. Sri Lanka has asked its Islamabad High Commissioner Srilal Weerasooriya to meet diplomats there and work out a joint effort to prevent further destruction of Buddhist monuments in Afghanistan. Sri Lanka's Mahanayakes have also sent a joint appeal to international Buddhist organisations to carry out a worldwide protest.

Dollar boost for foreign reserves

Sri Lanka's deteriorating foreign exchange reserves have been boosted by US $ 50 million received by SriLankan Airlines via Emirates and loan proceeds from the Asian Development Bank (ADB), a senior Central Bank official said.

Central Bank's Economic Research Director A.G. Karunasena said the money came during late January and early February helping to prop up the reserve position. The rupee was floated in January in a bid to halt falling foreign exchange reserves.

The SriLankan Airlines contribution of US $ 25 million was the balance payment from an earlier stake sold to Emirates some years ago. The ADB component is part of a US $100 million loan for a private enterprises development project.


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