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18th March 2001
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Jayaratne fires first salvo against Ratwatte

By Ashoka Jayatunga
Agriculture Minister D. M. Jayaratne who was ousted from the post of president Kandy district SLFP branch by Minister Anuruddha Ratwatte and his supporters is insisting that three retired judges should be appointed to probe malpractices committed during the last general elections.

Mr. Jayaratne in an interview said people in the Kandy district were awaiting an opportunity to lead evidence about events which took place during the October parliamentary elections in Kandy.

The minister suggested that three retired judges from the three communities of Sinhalese, Tamil and Muslim should be named to investigate the complaint made by Mr. Jayaratne.

Minister Jayaratne during the elections complained that Minister Ratwatte was involved in election malpractices.

Excerpts:

Q: There seems to be no relief for the farmer in the Budget, any comments?

A: The Budget has allocated monies for the development of seed paddy and fertilizer and such items. Rs. 2,000 million has been allocated for that. The Agriculture Ministry has been allocated Rs. 4,200 million. However, for the development of agriculture sector, there is only Rs. 180 million. There have been other proposals to develop agriculture insurance sector and to provide facilities for the sale of agricultural products.

Q: Though the agriculture sector needs special incentives. It appears there is none. Did you not propose any such incentives ?

A: Why not? I have asked for incentives to develop agriculture based products. Though the President agreed for it, appears that in the Budget there aren't any. I have proposed the setting up of agricultural companies which seems to have been dropped from the Budget.

Q: Do you hold anyone responsible for that?

A: I am not sure as to who is responsible for it.

Q: The Opposition's idea is that the government has not brought any relief to the average citizen. What do you have to say on that?

A: I agree on that. But mind you we have managed to come somewhere, in spite of heavy odds. The government has to face many faceted challenges. We are spending as much as Rs. 63,000 million on the war alone, while another Rs. 90,000 million we have to spend on settling debts. We also spend Rs. 21,000 million on Samurdhi and related relief work, and another Rs. 73,000 million as salaries for the public servants. Besides all these burdens, we have made sure that the average man is not made to bear any constraints.

Q: What is the reason that Rs. 33,000 million was spent on purchase of military hardware suddenly, when we have already been spending an average of Rs. 50,000 million for it for the last six years? What happened to these monies?

A: I am not sure of that, but various people have made various comments on that, including the President herself.

Q: You complained against Minister Anuruddha Ratwatte and have any action been taken against him on your complaints ?

A: No.

Q: Any comments on Mr. Ratwatte's request for a disciplinary inquiry, while at a time that you yourself, have asked for one ?

A: During the last general election, many acts have been allegedly made that did affect the preferential votes of candidates. I did not like that happening in Kandy. Since I was the PA general secretary and the district leader, such incidents created a major upset damaging the image of the President and the party. We don't tolerate anyone who brings disrepute to the party to gain personal benefits. Can one or two violate the directions given by the President ? 

Q: You were displaced from the position of secretary of SLFP in the Kandy district. Any comments on that?

A: I am not sure about that meeting where that decision was arrived at. I take decisions about the Kandy district meetings. However, that particular meeting has been a secret one.

Q: In that case who is the Kandy district SLFP president now?

A: You cannot remove a president like that since it is illegal. One has to consult the party constitution on such matters. This 'illegal' organisation has been created for their convenience. I am one of the oldest SLFP members. It is I who enlisted Mr. Ratwatte to our party.. But that is another story.

Q: But could you explain ?

A: It was Ms. Kobbe-kaduwa, Malcolm Panabokke, Monty Gopallawa and I who were instrumental in enlisting Mr. Ratwatte. I have not made this statement in public before. At that time Mr. Ratwatte was a staunch UNPer. He was a big wig in the UNP's youth league. That was in the late '60s. The UNP won 13 seats in the Kandy Municipal elections, while we won 12. We had secret discussions at Gampola's Heartfield estate to win power to the SLFP. Mr. Panabokke and Mr. Ratwatte were great friends and this helped us to win Mr. Ratwatte over to our side. One of the members known as Mr. Mawilmada objected to this saying that he was from an aristocratic family. However, he left the SLFP after Mr. Ratwatte joined us. He seems to have forgotten the fact that it was I who sent him the attire to be worn as a Nilame at the Kandy perahera. He seems to have forgotten the past.

Q: Do you mean to say that there are moves to oust you from Kandy?

A: There is always objections for dedicated people. These come from those who are not dedicated. As for me, I have gone through difficult periods for the sake of the party even to the extent of being shot at and served in prison. The statement that the SLFP had its beginnings at the Colombo Town hall are untrue. The SLFP had its origin at one Mr. Godamunne's house in Kandy. I too went when Mr. Bandaranaike visited and helped in the arrangements where Sri Nissanka was also present. Mr. Bandaranaike addressed the crowd standing on a chair kept on a table which I held. Such is my affiliations with the party. My father was a UNPer and he objected to my membership in the SLFP and I had to decamp from home for six months. I started my campaign way back in 1993 from the south and I got shot at Suriyawewa injuring my left eye which is still being treated. 

I have sent three letters to the President complaining that the Kandy meeting was illegal. I want this inquired into by three judges, a Sinhala, Muslim and a Tamil, as the people in Kandy are waiting to make representations about the happenings in Kandy. 

Q: Now that you all have won, what is needed is to serve the people.

A: Exactly. But when those who committed crimes accuse me of the same crimes, can I keep quiet? 

Q: To whom was the remark made by the general secretary that members who don't work beware of the public?

A: I think it fits Mr. Ratwatte because the voters say he is the one who has not faced them during the last six years.


Stop shadow boxing: Moragoda

The time had come for the House to decide whether to continue with the live broadcasting of proceeding, said the UNP's national list parliamentarian Milinda Moragoda making a personal statement in Parliament yesterday.

"The time has come to stop shadow boxing and the House must decide what to show the people," he said.

He made the statement in response to a remark made by the Leader of the House Richard Pathirana on Friday. Mr. Moragoda had delayed in submitting a report in connection with the motion on the live broadcast of parliamentary proceedings moved on January 12.

Mr. Moragoda said if all parties wished to proceed with the matter they should reach a consensus, set a clear timetable and action plan and move this initiative forward.

However, the government is of the view that it would be too expensive to telecast all proceedings live. 

A comprehensive report would be submitted to the House on March30 after the Parliamentary Business Committee reviewed the experiment on live broadcast at the conclusion of the second reading on March 19.

The UNP Kalutara district MP Mahinda Samarasinghe moved in the House on Friday as a matter of privilege that the two state run television stations were telecasting only opinions expressed by government legislators while giving a poor coverage to opposition members.

Speaker Anura Bandaranaike said both parties should expedite the matter and let the people see for themselves the proceedings of the House.


Snippets

S. B. in a party mood

Minister S. B. Dissanayake is definitely in a party mood. It was just two weeks back that the minister had a sumptuous barbecue at his residence, with hundreds of guests partying till dawn. 

Last Tuesday it was another gala night down Stanmore Crescent. This time around it was no barbecue but the hundred odd guests were treated not only to a sumptuous spread, but also live entertainment with popular local artistes to provide the music.

Popular singers such as Nirosha Virajini, Rohana Beddage and Athula Adikari were among the performers. It was a mega sing song at the minister's house. The guests were able to make requests. This included even Minister Dissanayake requesting for his favourite song from the songstress. The garden was lit up by many torch lights ("pandam") to add a cosy and romantic touch.

This time too the roads leading up to the minister's house was blocked with VIP vehicles and neighbours were once again under house arrest as late as 2 am. 

Temple Trees with no aides

Two weeks back the chief cook at Temple Trees was fired by the Prime Minister.

This has left Temple Trees with two housekeepers and one cook. However, last week the aides who felt somewhat insecure had approached the Premier and informed him that they wanted to leave.

With no hesitation the premier had asked the domestic aides to leave Temple Trees. So, last week three aides were seen leaving with their bag and baggage after serving the premier for many years.

It is said that now the premier is left without any domestic aides at Temple Trees.

Former MP dumbfounded 

During a live political debate on a private TV channel last week, where the former PA parliamentarian Kesera Lal Gunesekera, JVP parliamentarian Wimal Weerawansa and UNP parliamentarian Jonstan Fernando participated in a discussion on the current economic situation and the COL. 

The participants gave vent to their views on the current economic situation. While the former MP was turning the pages of the World Bank report and other documents to show the positive side of the economy, a viewer called in to ask a question. 

Describing it as a simple question, the caller told Mr. Gunasekera that he had no idea about the World Bank report and what he was talking about. He also told Mr. Gunasekera that last month he had to pay Rs. 300 for his electricity bill, but since the charges had increased he had to pay Rs. 365 this month. He asked Mr. Gunasekera to explain how he was going to pay the additional Rs. 65 this month. Mr. Gunasekera was dumbfounded.

Speaker's wry comments

On Friday while the SLMC leader Rauf Hakeem was speaking during the budget debate, parliamentarian Haniffa was fast asleep. 

The UNP MP M. Azwer was quick enough to bring the matter to the notice of the Speaker. He said the SLMC MP was fast asleep while its leader was waxing eloquent.

The Speaker wryly commented, "if you sleep the chair will have less problems!"

Sleeping beauties in Parliament

The ongoing budget debate in Parliament has proved to be very interesting to many MPs so much so that they have allocated the time to get a nap during the sessions.

With the commencement of the budget debate last week, many government and Opposition MPs were seen snoozing throughout the debate visibly undisturbed by screaming and shouting parliamentarians. 

While most of the MPs were seen snoozing after lunch, there were some others who were fast asleep. The JVP's Anjun Umma, the SLMC's U. N. M. Haniffa, Trincomalee MP T. K. Gunerwardene were some of them. 


CEB not consulted

The budget had a reference to a developing Liquid Gas as a means of generating electricity, but certainly this is not on the advice of the CEB, which does not propose such expensive methods of electricity generation , said Dr. Tilak Siyambalapitiya , a Senior Manager of the Ceylon electricity Board, speaking at the Law and Economy Conference of the Law and Society Trust on Friday.

" I do not know how this got into the budget, but it is certainly not on the advice of the CEB which has proposed much cheaper methods of power generation in its plans." These plans were detailed by Dr. Siyambalapitiya, by way of power source and percentage of power to be generated by each source. 

Dr. Siyambalapitya also said that in Sri Lanka the state is the regulator, the financier, the Manager and then, "when there is a power crisis, the chairman goes.''

It is very easy to predict a power crisis in Sri Lanka, and the next will be in 2002 and it will definitely come, he added.


Prabhath's funeral today

Senior Assistant Secretary (Media) of the Finance and Planning Ministry Prabhath Manavasinghe, 55, died last Thursday after a brief illness.

A veteran journalist, Mr. Manavasinghe initially was appointed Director (Publicity) of the Ministry of Finance in 1978. Later he was promoted as Senior Secretary (Media) in 1988 which post he held until the time of his death.

He was the father of three daughters. He was the eldest son of the late lyricist and journalist Sri Chandraratne Manavasinghe.

His remains lie at his residence at No. 60, G. H. Perera Mawatha, Rattanapitiya, Boralesgamuwa. Funeral will take place today at 3.30 p.m. at the Boralesgamuwa General Cemetary. 


CJ wants FR case to be expedited

The Chief Justice has directed the State Counsel to expedite a fundamental rights application involving an entire family spanning three generations kept in remand for the past 12 months on suspicion of being the immediate family of the Town Hall suicide bomber.

The family members who were tested for DNA evidence to see whether they had any connection with the woman suicide bomber who attempted to assassinate President Kumaratunga proved to be negative. 

Court further granted time till March 26 to consider the possibility of total discharge. Especially in the case of the 70-year-old mother, Kandappan Marimuttu who is feeble is given frequent saline treatment at the prison hospital. 

The CID is unable to record any statement from her as she is senile with constant memory lapses.

Her daughter, the petitioner, 25-year-old Manikem Geneswary of Batticaloa who is currently in the Welikada prison with her two- year-old daughter has stated in her petition that on December 29, 1999 she was arrested together with her mother and two brothers by the CID without giving any reasons for the arrest. 

While in custody she had been told that her arrest was in connection with the Town Hall bomb and she was suspected of being the sister of the suicide bomber who attempted to assassinate the President on December 18, 1999. 

She had denied the charges and the DNA reports on the blood samples were negative. However, she was interrogated, allegedly assaulted and forced to sign papers typed in Sinhala which were neither read out nor explained to her. 

On April 28 the petitioner together with the rest of her family were produced before the Chief Magistrate in Colombo who remanded them under the Prevention of Terrorism Act. 

The petitioner has submitted that though the DNA report was negative she and her family are being unnecessarily kept in remand awaiting instructions from the Attorney General. The petitioner has alleged that her right with regard to unlawful arrest and detention have been violated and that the prolonged course of action has resulted in a denial to a fair trial. 


SC grants leave for rights case against CEB

By Laila Nasry
The Supreme Court has granted leave to proceed in a fundamental rights case filed by a Ceylon Electricity Board official who claimed his promotion was blocked and he was victimised largely because he opposed the board's move to invest Rs. 1 billion in private finance companies without Treasury approval.

Sivapragasam Rajakulendran, the CEB's additional finance manager, in his petition alleged the infringement of his right to equality stating that though second in line and possessing the necessary requirements, he was overlooked for the post of Finance Manager. 

The Bench comprised Justices A. R. B. Amerasinghe, Ameer Ismail and P. Edussuriya. 

He said when the then finance manager was about to resign he applied for the post as he was then holding the additional finance manager post. But CEB General Manager A. P. P. Seneviratne informed the chairman that until a new finance manager was selected and recruited the post would be filled by Sunil Perera, an additional finance manager, the petitioner alleged.

He said that when the outgoing finance manager was asked to gradually hand over the charge to Mr. Perera, he protested against the temporary arrangement, because Mr. Perera was a junior officer. 

He claimed the temporary appointment of Mr. Perera also drew wide protests from the CEB's Engineers Union, CEB's Accountants' Association and CEB's Staff Officers Association. However, the management did not change its position and later placed advertisements to fill the vacancy, he said.

Mr. Rajakulendran also said that amidst protests from unions, the outgoing finance manager was told to hand over operations to chief internal auditor W. Piyadasa in spite of the conflict of interest that would arise by his appointment.

He claimed that as additional finance manager he had blocked attempts at misappropriating funds. One such attempt was made by the general manager, being the head of the department of the government electrical undertakings claimed Rs. 2,500 for heading the department even after its closure. He said he spotted this irregularity and later the general manager was asked to repay the amount claimed. 

The petitioner said this had given rise to hostility between the manager and him and attempts were made to transfer him to the Kelanitissa power station. 

The petitioner alleged the decision to advertise the post and change the post qualification experience from five years to eight was directed at him and such acts violated his right to equality as guaranteed by Article 12(1) in the Constitution. The court fixed hearing for July 3.

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