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Minister and CWC leader Arumugam Thondaman reportedly 
clashed with Minister S. B. Dissanayake during the talk to 
settle the estate crisis, but they eventually sat together 
to announce a settlement on Thursday.
Pic. by Athula Devapriya.

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Safety net for Lanka's animals

British and European visitors to be screened under new preventive measures; 
infected areas to be cordoned off 

With thousands of British fans being here to cheer England in the current series against Sri Lanka, serious concern has arisen over the danger of this country also being affected by an animal disease raging across Britain and Europe.

As part of the precautions to prevent the spread of the foot-and-mouth disease which has led to the slaughter of millions of cattle and other animals in Europe, any area where the virus is reported in Sri Lanka would be cordoned off by police, while garbage from British or European airlines flights is to be incinerated, Livestock Director Dr. S. K. R. Amarasekera said. According to medical experts, the foot-and-mouth disease is very infectious to animals. A tiny quantity of virus can infect an animal. The virus present in blisters, salvia, exhaled air, milk and dung could be carried by contact with infected animal, foodstuffs, or any vector material, including dogs, cats or horses, or human clothing and also by air in appropriate conditions.

Dr. Amarasekera said there were reports that leftover food from flights was being smuggled out of the airport in large quantities mainly to be sold as food for pigs. Livestock Ministry officials held extensive talks with Airport officials to work out other preventive measures, including the vaccination of thousands of pigs in areas around the airport. 

As precautions were put into force, food importers here said they were concerned about the animal disease crisis in Europe.

Cargills Quality Food General Manager Mahinda Gonapola said their meet imports were mainly from Australia but they were taking all precautions and were concerned about a possible spread of the disease.

The Livestock Ministry said all foreigners entering the country from Europe would be put under surveillance to ensure they were not carrying the foot-and-mouth virus, However, no health checks were being conducted till yesterday.

Dr. Amarasekera said if any visitors were found to have been in contact with an infected farm in Britain, they would be subjected to a process where the clothes and shoes would be disinfected. This would be necessary, if they were due to visit wildlife areas or farms. 

Ministry officials said precautions would be also taken at the wild life parks, but Wildlife Conservation Director A.P.A Gunasekera said he was not aware of such measures to disinfect British or European visitors to wild life parks.

Meanwhile an outbreak of hoof-and-mouth disease similar to the foot-and-mouth disease has been reported in the North Central Province.

Livestock Development Instructor A. Thoradeniya said around 300 cases of HMD had been reported in Mihintale, about 100 in Horowpathana, and several in Nochchiyagama.


Lanka wants to rebuild Bamiyan statue

By Shelani de Silva
Sri Lanka is to make a formal request to Afghanistan's Taleban rulers to hand over the rubble or remnants of what used to be the Buddha statues in Bamiyan, Presidential Advisor Lakshman Jayakody said.

He said Sri Lanka was willing to buy the damaged statue or even the debris and erect a similar statue from it in Sri Lanka and a formal request to Taleban rulers would be made after President Chandrika Kumaratunga returned from her European tour.

"We have the expertise and experience in erecting such monuments," Mr. Jayakody, a former cultural and Buddha Sasana minister, said. 

He said Sri Lanka would raise the funds necessary for this operation through international organisations such as UNESCO.


Canada to tighten screws on the LTTE

Hard on the heels of British Parliament voting to ban the LTTE, the Canadian Government has proposed legislation to prevent terrorist fund raising.

A spokesman for the Colombo Foreign Office told The Sunday Times that the government felt this move was the first step towards the Canada joining a worldwide ban on the LTTE.

The proposed legislation was introduced by the Federal Government in the form of a Charities Registration (Security Information) Act. The new law will be a major blow to the LTTE's fund-raising campaigns in Canada which is reportedly carried out through front organisations, most of them charities supposedly aimed at helping refugees displaced as a result of the fighting in the north Sri Lanka.

The Act once passed will also prevent groups with terrorist affiliations from obtaining registered charity status in Canada.

A Sri Lankan Government press release issued last night quoted Canadian Solicitor General Lawrence MacAulay and Minister of National Revenue Martin Cauchon as saying that proposed legislation introduced in the Canadian parliament on Friday will close one path of terrorist fund-raising and help preserve the integrity of Canada's charities registration system by preventing groups with terrorist affiliations from obtaining registered charity status.

The Act will facilitate the use of classified information in determining whether any organization is eligible for registration as a charity by promoting that information during judicial review.

Intelligence and security information that would inform decision makers about organizations operating in support of terrorism generally is classified for national security purposes. 

At present, all information on which the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency (CCRA) bases its decisions to deny or revoke charitable status is subject to full disclosure in open court. The CCRA cannot base its decisions on security information, because disclosure of that information would undermine national security, third party confidentiality and source protection.

In reviewing new applications and assessing registered charities' compliance with the Income Tax Act, the CCRA would have access to information provided by the Canadian intelligence agency CSIS and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to identify organizations that raise security concerns, under the proposed Act.

If the CSIS or the RCMP possessed strong and credible evidence that an organization operates in support of terrorist organizations, that information would be referred to the Minister of National Revenue and the Solicitor General for their consideration, according to the proposed Act.

If the Minister after reviewing the information had reasonable grounds to believe that the organization makes or will make resources available to terrorism, they would sign a certificate, after which the applicant would be provided with notice of the certificate and the matter would be automatically referred to the Federal Court for judicial review. The applicant could have its identity protected during the judicial review process.

The Federal Court would provide the applicant with an opportunity to introduce evidence, call witnesses and cross examine in a public forum, and after review of the information in camera, the judge would provide the organization with a summary of the information in question in order for them to respond. 

The CCRA cannot deny or revoke the organisation's charitable status unless a Federal court judge confirmed the certificate and if confirmed, the certificate would be valid for three years, subject to review if there has been a change in material circumstances of the organisation.


Stassens vs Customs: lid on the case?

By Laila Nasry and Chandani Kirinde
A much-delayed customs probe into an alleged multi-million rupee import fraud by the Stassen's Group of companies will be taken up once again next week in the Court of Appeal. 

The writ application filed by Harry Stassen Jayawardene challenging the Customs raid on Stassens' almost three years ago, will come up on Wednesday. 

In July 1998 the Stassens Group obtained a stay order that stalled a Customs inquiry into alleged defrauding of duty on millions of rupees worth of food items. The Appeal Court case has dragged on for almost three years with constant postponements due to different State Counsel and Judges taking over at various stages of the proceedings. 

The stay order issued by the Court of Appeal brought the inquiry to a halt. This order has been varied from time to time enabling the Customs Department, to lead the evidence of some witnesses who conducted the raid. However the inquiry is now in abeyance with evidence of a number of other witnesses to be led. 

The case was a direct result of a Customs raid of Stassen House a conglomerate headed by Harry Jayawardene in September 1997. Customs seized more than 40 files alleged to contain incriminating evidence of heavy underinvoicing of imported goods including cooking chocolate, sausages, cheese and other food stuffs.

The petitioners in the case are Chairman of Stassen House, Harry Jayawardene, V.P. Vittachi, C.R.Jansz, K. Ramanathan, J.V.M. Dabrera and Raja Mendis. Among other relief, they prayed for a writ against the investigating officer who led the raid being prosecuting officer in the inquiry against Stassens, as it effectively stops defence lawyers from cross examining him. However it is reliably learnt that the said officer is now not prosecuting the case, the Customs having decided to appoint another prosecuting officer in his place.

In an unprecedented move the government ordered an inquiry against the officers who conducted the raid, to ascertain its legality, following a complaint by Stassens Group. This resulted in most of the officers involved in the case, going into hiding. 

S.M.J. Senaratne, Director General of the Customs at the time of the raid, has been moved out of the Department. But it was not clear whether the transfer had any links to the case.

Stassens moved for a settlement. These overtures were turned down by Customs whose officers insist on completing their investigations into what they allege is a multi-million rupee defrauding of Customs Duties by the food importers.


President to meet Tony Blair

By Iqbal Athas in London
President Chandrika Kumaratunga is due in London for a meeting with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, hot on the heels of a vote by the House of Common's endorsing the ban on the LTTE.

President Kumaratunga who is on a ten day official visit to three European nations and the European Union headquarters will make a one-day stop over in London. The Kumaratunga-Blair talks earlier scheduled for December last year never materialized despite the President spending more than a month in London.

Neither Colombo nor London made an official statement at the time on the reasons why President Kumaratunga could not meet the British Prime Minister.

The Sri Lankan government officially urged Britain to ban the LTTE and went further to state that it would consider the non-banning of the LTTE as an "un-friendly act".

Immediately after Britain placed the LTTE as a banned organization last month, media reports that Sri Lanka's Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar was going to thank the British Government were dismissed as "nonsensical" by the Minister who said the Blair government was merely doing its job.

Mr. Kadirgamar will also be accompanying President Kumaratunga on the visit to London next week, which is the only official business for the Sri Lankan presidential party. Despite the LTTE being banned in Britain, the ban will become legally effective only after any appeals have been rejected and the House of Lords has voted in favour of the ban. Earlier this week the House of Commons approved the ban by a vote of 396 to 17.

The President is also due to brief Mr. Blair on the Norwegian moves to initiate talks between the government and the LTTE. 

Britain's Foreign Office Minister Brian Wilson in an exclusive interview with The Sunday Times has reiterated his government's support for the Norwegian role in bringing about a negotiated settlement to Sri Lanka's northern insurgency.

Mr. Wilson says that Britain "stand ready to help if asked" and adds that the implementation of the UK Terrorism Act under which the LTTE was banned "is a matter for the police and prosecuting authorities". (See interview on page 9)

Meanwhile, the President is due to visit the International Court of Justice in the Hague, during a two-day visit to the Netherlands, starting today.

She will declare open a bronze plaque depicting Lord Buddha's visit to Mahiyanganaya where he had intervened to settle a clash between two groups.

The plaque was done by sculptor Tissa Ranasinghe at the request of former ICJ Vice President C G Weeramanthri. The plaque is funded by the Sri Lankan government.

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