4th March 2001

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Commissions through 17th Amendment

By Dilrukshi Handunnetti and Shelani De Silva

The UNP is to shortly move for the establishment of the four independent commissions through the presentation of a 17th Amendment to the 1978 Constitution.

Chapter VI A is proposed to be inserted immediately after Chapter VI of the Constitution.

According to the draft, provision 29A (1) seeks to establish a constitutional council consisting of the Prime Minister, Speaker, Leader of the Opposition and five other members of eminence and integrity. The five appointments are to be made by the Speaker upon the joint nomination of the Prime Minister and the opposition leader, including two members representing minority interests.

The speaker is to be the chairman of the council while each appointed member would hold office for three years and are eligible for re-appointment.

Section 29 B (1) specifically states that no person shall be appointed as chairman or member of the commissions by the President, except upon the recommendations made by the council, and the council will recommend persons for appointment to the various institutions and officers specified in schedule to the President.

The draft's schedule A includes the election, public service, national police, human rights, delimitation, finance, bribery and corruption commissions, the attorney general, secretary general of parliament, ombudsman, commissioner general of elections and the director general of the commission investigating bribery and corruption.

Meanwhile, the JVP is to put forward a new set of proposals to be included in the formation of the four commissions, following discussions with the main opposition UNP.

The JVP will call for provisions to be implemented to abolish the executive presidency. The party is to propose that an election should be held under a caretaker government and for the appointment of an independent commission to monitor the state media, the commission to have officials from opposition parties and personnel from the field.

Press council boss, tax defaulter

The Sri Lanka Press Council chairman Wijayadasa Rajapakse has been declared a tax defaulter by the Department of Inland Revenue.

He has been fined Rs. 60,000, according to the Administrative Report of the Commissioner General of the Inland Revenue Department. The report lists Mr. Rajapakse's address as 140/23, Nawala Road, Nugegoda.

Mr. Rajapakse confirmed the Nawala address contained in the administrative report was his residence until five months ago. He had however moved from there.

"It is strange that I was not informed about the fine, "Mr. Rajapakse said. "Not even my tax consultants have informed about this. I will have to check up the matter," he said.

Mr. Rajapakse's name surfaces among 66 other names of those who have been imposed penalties over Rs 25,000 in 1999.

The highest fine of Rs. 3 million had been imposed on businessman Y. Kasthuriarachchi of Yasodha Enterprises.

Other fines imposed included Rs. 400,000 on S. P. Tilekeratne of Dehiwela, Rs. 240,000 on Ms. Mallika Silva of Kurunegala, Rs. 235,000 on M. W. Rajasingham of Colombo 12, Rs. 180,000 on Dias Ratnapala of Mangala Electronics and Rs.150,000 on Ameer Mohamed of Nugegoda.

Right of Reply

The Chairman of The Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) in response to the story in The Sunday Times of 18th February with regard to the construction of the Rs. 45 million Samanalawewa Circuit Bungalow says:

The Samanalawewa Hydropower Project was originally funded by the Japanese and British Governments. Due to leakage of water past the dam, the full capacity of the reservoir could not be used. The Japanese government provided the equivalent of Rs. 2.5 billion for rectification work. Only about Rs. 1.3 billion was used or this project, which now enables the dam and reservoir to function at full capacity. out of this sum spent, about Rs. 400 million was for machinery, which became the property of the CEB on completion of the project. The unexpected money amounting to well over Rs. 1 billion could not be used for any other project and was to be returned to Japan as per Japanese government procedures.

The contract for Samanalawewa rectification work provided for the construction of circuit bungalow. This was built in 1998 close to the dam and reservoir, with minimal disturbance to the natural foliage and trees. Site cutting was kept to a minimum, and the designer used concrete columns to support the bungalow. The designer also specified a concrete roof, as tiles or asbestos would not have withstood the high seasonal winds in this area. These features considerably increased the cost of construction of the bungalow which includes neither tennis courts nor a swimming pool.

Circuit bungalows are an integral part of projects of this nature. For example, when the Castlereigh dam was built, a circuit bungalow of similar capacity was a part of the project. The Kukule Hydropower Project also includes a circuit bungalow, which again will be constructed as a part of the project using Japanese funds.

CEB's Chairman, Mr. Arjun Deraniyagala says "The primary function of the Samanalawewa circuit bungalow at present is to provide fitting accommodation for foreign and local dignitaries involved in CEB projects and measures to improve the catchment and downstream areas. The project enabled the reservoir to function at full capacity for the first time, and supply water for hydropower worth over a billion Rupees every year. This will ensure early recovery of the money spent. The circuit bungalow symbolises the economical completion of the Samanalawewa rectification project".

Reporter's Note: The question as to why another bungalow costing Rs. 45 million had been constructed when three bungalows were already in existence has not been answered by the Chairman. He also does not state as to how Rs. 45 million was spent on a 4500 sq ft bungalow when the initial estimate was only Rs. 4 million.

The Sunday Times made repeated attempts to contact the Chairman before the article was written, but there was no response. The reply given by the CEB came two weeks after the article was written.


Temple Trees cook fired

The official cook at Temple Trees who excelled not only in the culinary field but also an all rounder in housekeeping was sent home last week, without reason.

The chef was in for a rude shock on Wednesday morning when the PM summoned him and asked him to immediately leave Temple Trees.

The cook who in a short period of one month proved his culinary talents was hired for a salary of Rs. 15,000 a month.

With no reason given for his services being terminated, the cook had pleaded for a grace period of another month until he finds a new job, but it has been turned down.

BOI discloses regional award after 8 months

The Board of Investment (BOI) was awarded the runner-up Top Investment Agency in Asia at the 10th Corporate Location Investment Promotion Agency (IPA) awards held in June 2000 in Lisbon.

The BOI wanted to have a big bash with the head of state as chief guest and to make the announcement sometime back. However, for some reason or the other it was put off for the last eight months.

Eventually on Friday the BOI decided to make the announcement about the award through a press release.

After sending the press release the BOI started giving frantic calls to newspaper offices pleading them to hold it back. Another press release followed with the words "Very important from BOI, stop release..." in bold letters.

It has now been revealed that a function is being organised with Minister G. L. Peiris as the chief guest.

Minister Peiris on Friday had praised the BOI chairman.

Jack Straw: home or foreign

The socalled liberator of all communities, the person who talks of peace all through but still couldn't get into Parliament and the leader of the New Left Front did not know who Jack Straw was.

The New Left Front in its media release on the British ban on the LTTE says, " LTTE believed that western imperialism will help them in their struggle for Tamil Liberation. This is proved wrong again by the ban on them proposed by the British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw."

For the information of the NLF leader Jack Straw is the Home Secretary.

S. B. throws dinner party

Minister S. B. Dissanayake threw a gala barbecue dinner party on Sunday night for more than 100 guests at his home at Stanmore Crescent.

The spacious house and garden were packed to capacity and with the barbecue cooking, the guests at one point were nearly suffocated by the smoke.

But things cooled off later in the night with most of the guests singing in high spirits.

The neighbours found themselves under house arrest as the road was chock-a-block with glistening BMW's.

The party followed into the wee hours of the morning with VIP's crawling to their vehicles.

Those who attended the party expanded their waistlines while the government was calling the people to tighten their belts.

At the restaurant

What high ranking officials are we admiring and respecting in the forces? A very senior ranking official on the day Elephant Pass fell and when the whole of Sri Lanka was just stunned at the debacle found it fit to go out for dinner to a restaurant and enjoy the food served.

Leave alone the sumptuous meal he enjoyed that night, he also thought it fit to write in the Customers' Book, the comments, "Good dinner, good atmosphere".

No wonder, so much of desertions are taking place even when a maverick has been authorised to recruit.

CWC protest on email

Minister and CWC leader S. A. R. Thondaman who has threatened a fast unto death if the Rs. 400. allowance is not given to the plantation workers has seen to it that he is contactable on stage at any given time.

The first time ever on a stage where a satyagraha is held the young Thondaman has got two telephone lines fixed on stage and even email facilities to enable the media to contact him or the others on stage.

Those of you folks who want to get the latest situation report on the CWC satyagraha could contact Thondaman on 051 23916 or 051 22387 and the email address is as follows sart@

Did only Sanath wear the black band?

The day the great Donald Bradman died our erstwhile Sinhala commentator on the TV channel expressing the sad news of the great Don's death, said as a mark of respect Sri Lanka's captain would be wearing the black band.

The commentator did not realise that it was not only Sanath Jayasuriya who wore the black band but both teams in general wore them when they went down to the grounds to observe two minutes' silence.

In Brief

Closing date extended

In view of numerous requests from print media journalists in Jaffna and other provincial cities, the Editors Guild of Sri Lanka has decided to extend the closing date for entries for the Journalism Awards of Excellence 2000 programme to March 15, 2001.

The Guild has also decided that there will be no extensions beyond March 15, 2001, as the awards ceremony has been scheduled for a date in May 2001, a press release said.

All entries must be posted or delivered to Amal Jayasinghe, Bureau Chief, Agence France-Presse (AFP), Convenor of the independent panel of judges at No. 100, Barnes Place, Colombo 7.

Book launch postponed

The launching of "Surveying Stories" by T. Somasekaran fixed for today at the OPA has been postponed to March 18 at the same venue and time.

New appointment

Rear Admiral Mohan Wijewickrema has assumed duties as the Chief of Staff of the Sri Lanka Navy with effect from March 1.

He succeeds Rear Admiral A. H. M. Razeek who retired on February 28.

Rear Admiral Wijewickrema was earlier Commander, Eastern Naval Area.

UNP to attack again

The main opposition UNP is planning to launch a two pronged attack on the PA government by holding a satyakriya before the Kirivehera in Kataragama on March 6 followed by a protest on March 8 before the Presidential palace under construction, minutes before the Budget is presented.

Southern organisers have been briefed to display the people's power by getting their participation, while parliamentarians and provincial council members are also expected to participate.

House change for SLFP

The SLFP- the main constituent party of the ruling PA coalition- is ready to put up a fully-equipped new headquarters on a marshy land in Battaramulla, a party source said.


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