18th March 2001
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CEB saving only a trickle

Despite emergency regulations, the Ceylon Electricity Board could save only one twentieth of its daily target, The Sunday Times learns.

Seven weeks after the regulations aimed at restricting the consumption of power came into effect, the CEB has been saving only one million units per day, far below the estimated 20 million units a day target.

The emergency regulations promulgated in February imposed restrictions on the lighting of carnival grounds, fair grounds, floodlighting of buildings, the lighting of sign boards, shop windows or fountains and the operation of air conditioners. Violators of the regulations were warned that their electricity supply would be temporarily disconnected.

One of the biggest offenders was the ruling SLFP which made use of the main grid supplies to decorate roundabouts during its annual convention two weeks ago.

CEB spokesman Gamunu Abeysekera told The Sunday Times he believed the one million unit reduction in power consumption was not solely due to the emergency regulations.

"Not only emergency regulations, but other factors such as the increase in electricity charges and public awareness on the crisis also contributed towards the reduction," he said.

He said that had the CEB put into operation an effective scheme to crack down on offenders, the saving could have been more. Mr. Abeysekera also ruled out power cuts in the near future.

"We are expecting inter-monsoon rains, and we also have about 50% of the required water level. So at the moment the need to enforce power cuts will not arise," he said. 

Tiger HQ in Norway, says Ven. Sobhitha

Buddhist and Sinhala groups are mounting pressure on European countries to ban the LTTE after the British parliament enacted the British Terrorism Act 2000.

The Jathika Sangha Sabha president Ven. Maduluwawe Sobhitha Thera said there were reports that the LTTE had set up its head office in Norway. Although Norway was regarded as a facilitator in the peace process, it should ban the LTTE in their own country, he said.

Sihala Urumaya president Tilak Karunaratne said it was important that all organisations should keep a close tab on the LTTE ban.

CBK praises Solheim's peace work

President Chandrika Kumaratunga has praised the work Norway's special envoy, Erik Solheim has done to bring the LTTE and the government back to the negotiating table. 

"Solheim and our other Norwegian friends are doing a tremendous job in their effort to prepare the ground for a solution for peace that the whole people of Sri Lanka is wishing for, President Kumaratunga said during her trip to Germany," The Norway Post' reported.

President Kumaratunga said Solheim had made important contributions to the peace process.

"For the first time I'm optimistic," President Kamar-atunga said during her visit.

World Bank team goes to Batticaloa

A world Bank team has visited the LTTE controlled areas in the Batticaloa to make an on the spot assessment of world bank funded projects officials said

The team comprised Mariyana Todorova, the World Bank's country director for Sri Lanka, Nihal Fernando, project director (Sri Lanka) and Batticaloa's GA.

Mr. Monagurusamy told The Sunday Times that they were able to make an assessment of the situation of the projects in the uncleared areas during their visit.

He said the progress of the project had been slow due to restrictions by the government on taking cement, iron rods and other construction material and machines.

The Sunday Times learns that The World Bank team had informal discussions with members of the LTTE at Karadiyan Aaru.

Customs get tough on banks' software imports

By Tania Fernando
Customs authorities are alleging that three private banks have deprived them of duties on computer software amounting to Rs. 400 million.

According to Customs sources, the banks have been importing these software programmes which are sent in diskettes and CD ROMs. 

These items which are couriered are declared as diskettes and have been imported under this declaration since 1992, it is alleged.

After investigations were carried out, the Customs authorities had sealed the software belonging to Commercial Bank of Ceylon, and have sent them a letter calling them for an inquiry on Tuesday.

However, Commercial Bank has filed a stay order against the Customs restraining them from asking the bank to produce the sealed files at the Customs hearing.

Meanwhile, lawyer Faisz Musthapha representing Commercial Bank said the Bank does not have to pay taxes as this is considered an intangible item. However, Customs authorities claim that importing diskettes for banks use is a tangible item and is liable for taxes.

A further dispute has arisen as to whether payment for the diskettes could be on the basis of a fee to the company providing the software.

CJ wants senior police officer in court

By Laila Nasry
The Chief Justice Sarath N. Silva in an attempt to streamline court procedures in fundamental rights cases involving the Police Department, requested the presence of a senior police officer in court to facilitate matters. 

The Chief Justice made these observations during a fundamental rights case hearing. He told SSP Bandula Wickremasinghe who was present in court that a Superintendent of Police (SP) or an Assistant Superintendent of Police(ASP) should be present in court with the relevant files,to co-ordinate matters with the respective state counsels enabling the speedy expedition of such cases, especially those involving torture and illegal arrest and detention. 

SSP Wickremasinghe gave a personal undertaking to look into the matter

Begin direct talks, says PSG

The Peace Support Group (PSG) has called on the government and the LTTE to begin direct talks utilizing the good offices of Norway as a facilitator. 

"The government and the LTTE must now move towards negotiations adopting an open-minded and sensitive attitude to each other's concerns," the PSG has stated.

The PSG also said the LTTE faced the challenge of evolving democratic structures if it wished to legitimise its claim to be the authentic political representative of the Tamil people of Sri Lanka. 


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