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15th April 2001
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New Year gifts to CWC, NUA

By Nilika de Silva 
The National Unity Alliance (NUA) and the Ceylon Workers Congress (CWC) clinched what appeared to be a new year gift during talks with President Chandrika Kumaratunga less than 24 hours before the final vote for the budget was taken.

In addition to a Deputy Minister's post each for the two parties President Kumaratunga agreed on a series of demands put forward by the NUA and the CWC at these meetings.

An assurance to the NUA that they would be made a party at the talks during the next meeting with Norway's peace envoy Erik Solheim, to assign the subject of the Oluvil harbour development project to an NUA Minister, to bring up the matter of the costal administrative district of Kalmunai in Parliament shortly and assigning a number of officials named by the NUA for administrative posts in provinces, were among the requests the President had agreed, a spokesman for NUA claimed.

For the CWC the President had agreed to remove an Army Camp from Talawakele which was set up after the clashes in the upcountry late last year and to expedite the appointment of a CWC member to Jordan as the Ambassador.

The meeting with the CWC which lasted from 2 p.m to 4 p.m on Tuesday afternoon at the President's house was followed by a 2 1/2 hour meeting with the SLMC in the parliament premises. This went on from 6.30 to 9. pm.

The NUA deputy Ministership is likely to be offered to U.L.M Mohideen, party sources said.


Call for fewer calls

By Shelani de Silva
The government has imposed severe cost-cutting measures on Ministries and departments and Provincial institutions. 

According to a circular all officers ranging from Ministry Secretaries and Heads of Departments to other grades will have to follow a strict procedure on the use of wireline phones and cellular phones and fuel and other facilities.

The number of phones available to them and the payment of bills have been restricted. Ministries, departments and other state institutions have also been given strict new guidelines on the use of water, electricity, photo copiers, fax and stationery .


No Temple Trees banquet for Chinese PM

A Temple Trees banquet for Chinese Prime Minister Zhu Rong Ji who will be visiting Sri Lanka in May has been shifted to a five-star hotel on the advice of Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake after he learnt about the prohibitive cost of the renovations to his official residence. 

Temple Trees was to get a facelift for the occasion, with Air conditioning, colour washing, interior decors and even several toilets to be done up, but plans were abandoned when the estimated cost reached a nearly million rupees. It is learnt that the PM has refused to spend such a large sum for the two hour function. 

The banquet on May 16 will most probably be held at a five-star hotel.


Software case put off

By Tania Fernando
The Commercial Bank's case against Customs over the import of software has been postponed to May 2 at the request of the bank's lawyer.

When the case was taken up on April 06 before a district court, Faisz Musthapha appearing for Commercial Bank moved that he was not ready to argue the case on that day and requested for a date.

The Customs raided the bank and sealed the software package alleging that it was imported without paying the duty. The Customs alleged the bank acquired the software in a diskette through a courier service. The bank was asked to produce the sealed package in a Customs inquiry.

The Commercial Bank went to courts against the Customs inquiry and obtained a stay order. 

Minister Dinesh Gunawardena referring to last week's Page one picture caption says,'The person on the left of the Minister is not his bodyguard or a member of his entourage'.


Officer fired on sex charge

The services of an Army Major General, at the centre of an alleged sex scandal, were terminated on Friday. The move is said to follow a directive from the Ministry of Defence. 

The Major General in question is alleged to have made improper suggestions to a married lady in Kiribathgoda. A CID investigation into the matter was called after he denied allegations and said he had only met with an accident. 

The CID is learnt to have reported that he could be indicted for sexual harassment and added that there was no evidence to confirm claims that the Major General met with an accident. 

A leading politician who raised issue over the Major General's termination with senior PA leaders had argued that the action was unfair and reflected double standards. 

He had pointed out that this officer, who had served for over 20 years had been unceremoniously dismissed merely on the grounds that he had made an improper suggestion to a woman. 

However, there was the case of another senior officer of the same rank who had allegedly hugged and kissed a female driver when he was on an assignment abroad. 

The Colombo Embassy of the country concerned had forwarded a report on this case of sexual harassment. 

However, no action was taken. 

Instead, he has pointed out, that the Major General concerned was allowed to go on a European trip and later attended an annual course in a foreign military establishment.


NJC says Govt. under pressure to hold peace talks

A pro-Sinhala umbrella group has claimed that the government was forced to pursue peace talks with the LTTE owing to pressure from the United States and European powers which it said sought to dominate the world through white racism and Judoeo-Christian civilisation.

The National Joint Committee incorporating more than 40 Sinhala organisations said in a statement that the overwhelming majority of the people of this country would never agree to partition this country on the lines designed by foreign powers and backed by foreign funded NGOs.

"If however President Kumaratunga insists on going ahead with it, she may have to bear the total responsibility of giving rise to a situation which may, perhaps, be reminiscent of the partition of India in 1946," it said.

The NJC called on the government to first complete the unfinished task of defeating terrorism before starting peace talks.

"The vast amounts of money spent on arms and sophisticated military equipment have shown little or no result. There is wide spread talk of massive corruption and incompetence in high places. The nation including the Mahanayaka Theras have called for the state to act with resolution and leaders to give the necessary leadership so that the country will be free from lawlessness and that the writ of the Government can run effectively to the utmost limits within the confines of our national boundary," the statement added.

The NJC also claimed that the country had been forced to go begging to the very institutions and countries which were "plotting our downfall."

"But must we also meekly divide and sell this country and be a party to the destruction of this ancient nation and its unique civilisation without a stir and response? What is the specific problem that the proposed peace talks are meant to address? Neither the Government nor the LTTE and Tamil politicians have told us."

The NJC said the Sangha and the leaders of the civil society had publicly and repeatedly questioned the Tamils to spell out any grievances they are made to suffer on account of their being Tamils. That no one had so far responded to that call suggested that they had no grievances peculiar to themselves, it said. 

Commenting on the proposed constitutional reforms and the role of foreign powers, the NJC said Norway's invitation to Ranil Wickremesinghe to visit that country was to ensure that the amendment would go though Parliament without a hitch.


PSD men injured in pre-dawn collision

Seven PSD officers were seriously injured when their vehicle on a security mission ahead of President Kumaratunga's departure to London collided with a container truck on Thursday early morning at Grandpass.

According to Grandpass Police, the accident occurred when the container truck was turning towards the Ports road and the Dolphin van carrying 12 PSD officers were heading towards Katunayake.

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