22nd April 2001
Front Page
Editorial/Opinion| Plus|
Business| Sports
Mirror Magazine
The Sunday Times on the Web
Contents Index Page
Front Page
Mirrror Magazine

Solheim, Bishops prop up peace bid

Norway's Peace Envoy Erik Solheim is scheduled to visit Sri Lanka on Wednesday while ten Catholic Bishops are preparing for an unprecedented peace mission to the Wanni on Tuesday.

Mr. Solheim is expected to brief government leaders and others on his extensive talks with LTTE's chief negotiator Anton Balasingham in London. Mr. Balasingham is reported to have reiterated the LTTE's demand for a lifting of the ban on the group, a two-way ceasefire and a total lifting of the economic embargo.

Mr. Solheim also met Opposition UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe in Oslo for wide-ranging talks.

In another significant development, ten Catholic Bishops are to go to the Wanni on Tuesday for a peace mission including visits to refugee camps and possibly talks with LTTE representatives.

The Bishops will go to the Wanni after a meeting tomorrow with leaders of all Tamil political parties.

Ratnapura's Bishop Malcolm Ranjith, Secretary General of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Sri Lanka, said the visit to the Wanni was a follow up to the new peace mission which was initiated recently with the 'visitation' of the statue of Our Lady of Madhu to southern areas to foster peace and unity.

Bishop Malcolm said they hoped to visit and pray at refugee camps in the Wanni. While talks with LTTE representatives were not on the cards, the Bishops would respond positively if the situation arose. He said the LTTE had been informed of the visit by the Bishops just as Government clearance also had been obtained. 

Collision over commissions

The government and the main opposition UNP appear to be heading for a collision on the appointment of four independent commissions to run the public service, elections, the police and the judicial service.

Responding to persistent opposition demands, the government has decided to table a motion for the appointment of a parliamentary select committee to examine reforms in law and order, the public service and elections. A motion to this effect in the name of Leader of the House Richard Pathirana is on the Order Paper and is likely to be taken up when parliament resumes sittings on May 10 after the New Year vacation.

But UNP Deputy Leader Karu Jayasuriya has described the government move as a delaying tactic and pledged his party would go ahead with a private member's motion, calling for the setting up of fully-fledged commissions to tackle the four vital areas.

He asked why the government motion referred only to 'law and order' without specifically referring to the police and the judicial service.

Meanwhile in a statement issued on Wednesday, the UNP quoted its leader Ranil Wickremesinghe as saying the party would have no choice but to reconsider its support for the Government's peace initiatives if it deliberately failed to take necessary steps to appoint the four independent commissions.

"The UNP has displayed its bona fide by fully supporting a consensus between the Government and the LTTE. The government must reciprocate by establishing the four independent commissions to strengthen and protect democracy in the country," the statement quoted Mr. Wickremesinghe as saying during his recent visit to Norway.


Human cargo charge on UNPer

A PA politician has alleged that a UNP politico is involved in the smuggling of human cargo. He said two weeks ago, 30 persons were sent off to Italy while the politician had collected up to Rs.18 million from those who had been promised a safe passage to Italy, he said.

No more free calls

Last week a ministry secretary was so apologetic that he was unable to give his mobile phone number as he would have to foot the bill. This comes in the wake of the government's tough new measures to curtail expenditure incurred by officials. At least now the telephones will be free for official use.

Silence is golden

The UNP secretary Senarath Kapukotuwa addressing a media briefing in the central province announced that the party would hold a New Year celebration next week. But when a scribe asked him why the party wanted to hold celebrations when the cost of living, he remained silent.

Ministers' personal staff slashed

By Shelani de Silva
About thousand officers recruited largely on a political basis have been thrown out of jobs following a government decision to slash the personal staff of ministers and deputy ministers.

In keeping with the cost-cutting measures, a minister's personal staff has been reduced from 34 to 20, and a deputy minister's staff reduced to 10. 

The number of ministerial coordinating officers has been cut from six to three. Clerical staff has been reduced from six to three, stenographers from six to four and drivers from nine to five.

An organisation representing personal staff of ministers has protested against the move and asked for alternative jobs.

Traders assess diesel price hike impact

After a ritual spending spree during the New Year season, people received a rude shock with the diesel price hike.

The diesel price hike has hit them hard with skyrocketing commodity prices.

With spiralling transport charges the prices of almost all food items have reached dizzy heights. Although the diesel price hike came three days after the New Year festivities, traders have yet to assess the impact it would have on food items.

The Old Moor Street Traders Association (OMSTA) president K. P. Sundaram said traders could not increase the prices of commodities everytime the government hiked the diesel price. "Our association has decided not to increase the prices of essential commodities," he said.

He said when fuel price went up last time, lorry drivers asked for a Rs. 500 raise. With the present hike they would ask for a 100% increase, he said.

However, a price increase of vegetable was witnessed last week.

The kerosene price hike has hit the rural population who use it for cooking purposes and agriculture. The hike has stirred protests by rural folk, especially fishermen.

Meanwhile, the Private Bus Operators Association (PBOA) said it was not pressing for a fare hike but a diesel subsidy. Its treasurer Gamunu Wijeratne said if they failed to get a diesel subsidy they would press for a 15% increase in bus fares.

The Lanka Sama Samaja Party and the Communist Party of Sri Lanka in a joint statement said they were gravely perturbed by the diesel and kerosene price hike. 

The Ceylon Petroleum Corporation defending its price hike said it was a measure taken to recoup its accumulated losses suffered through subsidising the consumer. 

Windfall for strikers

As a May Day bonanza the government is likely to pay Rs. 200,000 to each July striker in the private sector. 

The July Strikers Association (JSK) has been agitating for compensation for many years. The association received a positive response only last month, said the JSK president P. Amaradivakara.

However, he said the JSK would take a decision next week on the amount offered as compensation. July strikers in the private sector numbering 1,695 received only Rs. 25,000 as compensation, he said. Mr. Amaradivakara said the government would heed the July strikers' demand before May Day. Meanwhile, despite government assurances the JSK would hold a black May Day. 

FM clears conscience on HR violations

By Chandani Kirinde
The UN special rapporteur on torture has referred 52 alleged torture cases to the government for investigation.

The CID has investigated 21 cases and referred them to the Attorney General's department, according to last year's Foreign ministry administrative report .

In most of the other cases referred, the victims were either living abroad or were unable to be traced. Some of them had refused to make statements to police, the report said.

It said the Ministry had responded to queries raised by the UN special rapporteur on the Bindunuwewa killings of 26 detainees last year. 

The permanent inter-ministerial standing committee and a working group on human rights issues was established soon after the incident last year to review legislation that hampered human rights as well as to better fulfil the country's obligations as a signatory to international human rights conventions, the report said.

One of the recommendations is an amendment to section 19 of the Emergency Regulations to produce suspects before a magistrate within 14 days after arrest. The amendment is presently awaiting the President's approval.

Another recommendation is the creation of a central registry of suspects arrested under the Emergency Regulations and the Prevention of Terrorism Act to enable the notification of an arrest made in a particular police area to the police headquarters. Arrangements had been made to buy equipment to create such a system, the report added.

FMM seeking free access to war zone

The Free Media Movement (FMM) has accused the government of trying to frighten local and foreign journalists from reporting events in the rebel-held areas in the north.

The FMM has appealed for steps to be taken for the conflict to be reported free of unacceptable restrictions imposed more for "political considerations than for security reasons."

In a statement issued after the Marie Colvin tragedy the FMM said the strict controls imposed by the government banning local and foreign journalists from reporting events in rebel-held areas of Sri Lanka had forced journalists to do so by visiting these areas without government approval. 

The FMM said Ms.Colvin's alleged illegal visit to Wanni was not an illegal act but was a bold step taken following the highest traditions of journalism. If the government had allowed journalists to report the conflict freely limiting restrictions on security considerations only and not for political advantage, an internationally recognized journalist like Ms. Marie Colvin would not have suffered the unfortunate experience," the statement said.

It added that the FMM viewed with concern the government's attempt to accuse Ms. Colvin of carrying out "a secret mission on behalf of the rebels" instead of re-considering the restrictions imposed on reporting the on-going conflict.

SriLankan looks for crisis team

SriLankan Airlines, whose fleet has experienced a series of technical mishaps is looking for a professional or a team to counter adverse publicity in the event of an incident.

The airlines management has for sometime been trying to secure the services of a crash damage control person/team consisting of experienced people who could wield tough news conference questions from the likes of CNN, BBC and others of the foreign and local media, sources said.

Though any airline has a contingency plan, and SriLankn Airlines too has been having one, the redoubled and invigorated efforts to form a crash management plan seem to stem from the airlines' increasing lack of confidence in its ability to remain technically a safe airline.

The move came with a report of yet another incident on Wednesday in which a technical fault in a Colombo bound flight from Frankfurt was reported.

According to SriLankan Airlines spokesperson Manuela Motha, on arrival at Frankfurt on the 18th night (Frankfurt time) they found the weather radar unservicable. 

Passengers who had to travel from Frankfurt to Colombo were transfered to the flight which leaves for Colombo from Berlin.

"It took time to find the spares and the flight left Frankfurt on Friday afternoon", she said.

The flight UL 558 from Frankfurt is an A330 which usually carries upto 281 passenges in total.

Other recent episodes included a return of a London bound aircraft after jettisoning fuel in the Indian ocean (twice now, and as recently as the 18th), the recent cabin-smoke incident which resulted in a hurried evacuation in which one Indian passenger died, and other incidents such as malfunctioning equipment, which once forced passengers to alight on the tarmac with the aid of ropes. 

SriLankan Airlines hopes that a tough post-mishap spokesperson would at least be able to assuage some of the damage to the airlines' image in the eventuality of a mishap.

Cutting-spree by Telecom

By Shane Senevirante 
Telephone lines of about 3,000 Telecom subscribers have been disconnected in Kandy town alone for non payment of bills, an official said.

He said the total amount due from these subscribers was Rs. 12 million.

Customs case mystery deepens

The alleged mastermind responsible for the assassination of customs officer Sujith Perera and the gunman involved in it are still at large, top police sources said.

Senior police officers said they were investigating reports about the main suspect Anura Weerawansa fleeing the country by sea through Puttalam.

He is alleged to have been helped by a police officer serving in the area.The gunman who is believed to have been responsible for the killing also has not been arrested so far.

On Thursday an Army deserter who is connected with the murder surrendered to the Senior Superintendent of Police, Gampaha .

Meanwhile, an armed gang looking for Mr. Weerawansa had combed Alawatte, and Matale allegedly abducted his brother Ravindra Weerawansa and a 16- year-old school boy Ajith Priyadarshana.

The armed gang travelling in a hi-ace van bearing no. 253/4461 had blindfolded the school boy and abducted him, having chased away his parents who obstructed them.

the boy's father Himbutagodage Karunadasa who went to Rattota police to make a complaint said his complaint was not recorded.

However, later the DIG's intelligence division at Matale recorded the complaint. Meanwhile the boy who had been taken to Gampaha for questioning had been given Rs. 100 and asked to return home.


More News/Comment

Return to News/Comment Contents


News/Comment Archives

Front Page| News/Comment| Editorial/Opinion| Plus| Business|Sports| Mirror Magazine

Please send your comments and suggestions on this web site to 

The Sunday Times or to Information Laboratories (Pvt.) Ltd.

Presented on the World Wide Web by Infomation Laboratories (Pvt.) Ltd.
Hosted By LAcNet