18th March 2001
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President's Fund: they get millions

Payments have been made from the President's Fund to meet the medical and funeral expenses of Government and Opposition parliamentarians, it was revealed in parliament.

The President's Fund which was initially set up to help the deserving public had disbursed funds amounting to nearly Rs. 15 million since the PA government came into office in 1994 and among the beneficiaries were parliamentarians, according to documents tabled by Government Chief Whip Richard Pathrana in response to a question raised by UNP Assistant Leader Gamini Athukorale.

Among the leading parliamentarians who had benefited from the fund under the PA regime were Ministers Douglas Devananda, A.H.M. Fowzie and Janaka Bandara Tennakoon. The late Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike and late Deputy Minister Y.P. de Silva were also recipients of the President's Fund. 

The document spelling out the details of the medical and funeral expenditure of the parliamentarians showed that some of their bills exceeded one million with Minister Devananda standing out having received more than two million for medical treatment from the President's Fund.

Though no withdrawal of funds has been made this year, large amounts have been withdrawn in 1998 with last year also showing a similar trend. 

Among the government members who have benefited from the Fund are Jayasena Rajakaruna, H.M. Weerasinghe, Dallas Alahapperuma, A.W. Sriyani Malkanthi, Maithripala Sirisena, W. Kuruppuarachchi, H.M.A. Lokubanda, D.B.S. Dissanayake (father of Salinda Dissanayake), H.B. Semasinghe, Sumedha Jayasena, Richard Pathirana, Wishwa Warnapala. Alavi Moulana, S.M.M. Abu Bakir and Felix Perera. UNP beneficiaries include Rupa Karunatillake, H.M.A. Lokubanda and Sriyani Malkanthi (wife of R.A.D. Sirisena MP).

High-riding woman

By Shane Seneviratne
A woman who allegedly led a robber gang involved mainly in vehicle thefts has been arrested by Kandy Police.

Police said the woman who had worked in Italy was known to be linked to a politician. Other gang members have also been arrested along with the members of the gang, Police said. They were produced in court and remanded till Tuesday.

What's latest in medicine?

Bringing out the latest medical researches, the Sri Lanka Medical Association will hold its 114th anniversary academic sessions from Wednesday to Saturday at the Hotel Lanka Oberoi.

Alasdair M. Geddes, Professor of Infections from the University of Birmingham will deliver the S.C. Paul Oration on Infections in the 21st century. 

Thilan Wijesinghe faces probe

Board of Investment Chairman Thilan Wijesinghe will appear before the Bribery and Corruption Commission, The Sunday Times learns.

Mr. Wijesinghe has been summoned before the commission following a complaint made against him. He was due to appear last week, but sought a postponement.

Mr. Wijesinghe told The Sunday Times said he would fully co-operate with investigations, but declined further comment.

According to the Bribery and Corruption Act, investigations of the Commission are done in camera, until any indictments are filed in the High Courts.

Ferial calls for commission on Ashraff's death

By Nilika de Silva
Minister Ferial Ashraff is demanding that an independent commission be set up to probe the air crash which killed her husband and SLMC leader M. H. M. Ashraff in September last year.

The crash which is said to have occurred with the helicopter flying into the Uragala mountain was due to a "very serious lapse on the part of the control room," Ms. Ashraff's attorney Nizam Kariyappar said. 

The helicopter which crashed 15 k.m. from Kandy claiming the life of Minister Ashraff and eleven others took place six months ago but still remains a mystery with the black box missing.

There was no evidence of communication between the pilot and the control room from 9.23 a.m. to 9.30 a.m., he said. 

The Bindunuwewa tragedy happened in October and already an independent commission had been appointed to probe the incident, but no such action had been taken regarding the aircrash, Nizam Kariyappar claimed. 

Raising a charge of negligence, Mr. Kariyappar said even the measuring of the mountain's height had taken place after the crash. He said the altitude of the Uragala mountain was not known till then. So the pilot could not be guided as to what altitude he should fly even though there was "zero vision".

The evidence submitted at the Magisterial inquiry included sealed cassettes containing the recordings from the control tower and transcripts of the recordings which could be played at any future date, he said.

Meanwhile, the mother of the Air Force pilot who died in the crash wept when she participated in the inquest held at the Aranayake Magistrate's courts on Wednesday. The Magistrate delivered a verdict of multiple injury followed by burn injuries

Woman visitor faces rape horror at Welikada prison

By Chirs Kamalendran
A murder convict allegedly tried to rape a woman who visited the Welikada Prison to see her son, Prison officials said yesterday.

The incident took place on Friday evening when the woman was leaving the prisons after meeting her son who was being detained under the Prevention of Terrorism Act, according to officials. 

They said the convict forcibly took the woman to the Chief jailor's house and attempted to rape her, but the woman struggled with him and managed to free herself. 

With her clothes torn she ran till she met a prison official to whom she told the horror.

Prison officials later sent the woman to the Borella Police to lodge a complaint while the convict was arrested.

The convict from Marawila had been assigned to carry out domestic work at the Chief Jailor's house while the officer was on duty and nobody else was at home.

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