22nd July 2001
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Case of criminal trespass, intimidation and unlawful entry

Ms. Athas describes how two intruders came

By Laila Nasry
The two intruders entered their home on the night of the incident by telling aide Marimutthu Subramaniam that they had come to get an article published in The Sunday Times through her husband, Mrs. Anoma Athas, wife of The Sunday Times Consultant Editor and Defence Correspondent Iqbal Athas, told High Court Judge Sarath Ambepitiya last Monday.

She was testifying in the case against two Air Force officers, now under interdiction, for criminal trespass, criminal intimidation and unlawful entry with weapons into their home.

The accused in this case are two Air Force officers Squadron Leader H. M. Rukman Herath the bodyguard of a former Air Force Commander and Squadron Leader D. S. P.Kannangara the officer in charge of the Special Air Borne Force (SABF) 

Questioned about the events of the night of February 12, 1998 Mrs. Athas said her husband had returned home after work at about 8.30 p.m. and had later settled down to watch TV with her and their daughter. 

Having sent their daughter to get ready for bed the two of them continued watching TV when the door had been forced open by two armed men who rushed in. 

She said the two intruders did not knock nor had her husband gone to open the door when they entered the room. Instead the door had been forced open with a loud bang at which point her husband had got up from the bed. 

The first intruder had kept a pistol to her husband's head and told the 2nd intruder to take them out of the room. He had done so with his gun poised in their direction. 

She said she did not remember telling the intruders to go around and look when they had questioned her husband about where the 'badu' were (women). 

"I was scared. I thought they were going to kill all of us," Mrs. Athas told court. 

Mrs. Athas replying a question posed by the defence counsel about adequate light said the room was well illuminated with one 200 watt bulb and four to five other lights of which none had been switched off. 

Having been taken out of the room after about four minutes she said she saw two men going towards her daughter's room. It was for the purpose of locking up her daughter and domestic help. However, at that point their daughter had come running out and clung on to her husband. 

Around five minutes later Mrs. Athas said another intruder had entered and she saw him when he made his way up the staircase. 

Mrs. Athas said he had proposed to the others to leave as they were in the wrong place, adding that after a brief discussion which lasted a few moments they had made their departure. 

She said she remembered that night's events well though she could not recall the statement made to the Mirihana police consequent to the incident as she was in a frightened state of mind. 

She said she could neither remember whether Inspector Asela of the Mirihana police came to their home to record a statement nor the fact that her husband had given a statement to the police as she was with her daughter. 

Asked whether she remembered the statement made to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) Mrs. Athas answered in the affirmative. However, she could not recall being questioned about earlier statements made to the police. 

Mrs. Athas said she had identified the 2nd accused at the identification parade held at the Gangodawila Magistrate's Court. She said she had not seen him before.

Asked whether she had been shown a photocopy of the photograph bearing the person she identified, Mrs. Athas said "no one showed anything at anytime to me."

Asked about the number of persons at the parade and their description Mrs. Athas said there were about 15 persons and they were clad in civilian attire and none sported beards or long hair. 

Having said they had gone to the Magistrate's Court in a hired van accompanied by an officer from the CID whose name she did not know, Mrs. Athas was then questioned about their movements within the Magistrate Court prior to the identification parade. She replied that they, including the CID officer, her husband, their domestic aides and herself, had been kept in a room behind closed doors for around one hour. 

Answering a question posed by counsel Mrs. Athas said they had three mobile phones at the time. However, she was unable to recall taking either one or more for the parade. 

She said she did not know the acting magistrate and denied knowing one Robert Perera stating she was 100 per cent certain of not having made a call to him. 

Drawing Mrs. Athas's attention prior to the February 12 incident, Mr. Silva asked her whether she was aware of the CID vigilance with regard to her husband. 

She said she was aware that there were parties vigilant about her husband's activities but they did not include the CID. 

Mrs. Athas accepted that there were three wheelers frequenting their neighbourhood at the time and conceded a flower wreath being delivered to their home on an earlier occasion. She said she had accompanied her domestic aid who had made a statement in that regard to the police. 

Asked about the mud-slinging campaign carried out against them in the neighbourhood Mrs. Athas said it wasn't their neighbours but those keeping a vigilance on their movements who had spread stories of them running a brothel and having links with the LTTE. 

She further said she was aware of the purported claims levelled at her husband on state television that the LTTE had gathered information by reading his newspaper articles. However, she reiterated that no one had questioned him about it. 

The trial was put off for July 30. Daya Perera PC with T. G. Gunesekera and G. G. Ponnambalam watched the interests of Iqbal and Anoma Athas. Senior State Counsel P. P. Surasena and M. Navavi appeared for the prosecution. Srinath Perera PC with Anil Silva and Ganesh Dharmawardene appeared for the defendants. 

Dental patient slams medical council

A patient who suffered due to alleged medical negligence by an Indian dentist has refused to accept the decision taken by the Sri Lanka Medical Council (SLMC) without a formal hearing of his case.

L. Jayasooriya alleged that his case has been dragged for three years but no formal hearing had been held nor had any witness been summoned to find the Indian dentist guilty. He said the SLMC informed him last year that he could present his evidence - an X-ray depicting medical negligence where an implant done by the surgeon had perforated into his right nasal cavity and a certification by an OMF surgeon to this effect. But he was never called for an inquiry.

The committee which looked into the inquiry in its recommendation to the SLMC said the unavailability of the surgeon in Sri Lanka had resulted in closing the inquiry. However, Dr. F.D.Mirza would not be registered to practise as a dentist at any time in the future, the committee stated. 

The committee also suggested that he be reported to the Indian Medical Council.

Mr. Jayasooriya disputed the decision taken by the SLMC asking on what grounds the council would report Dr. Mirza to the Indian Medical Council as he had not been found guilty nor had a formal inquiry been held in this regard. 

Death of Mrs. Candappa

Mrs. Therese Candappa wife of Grant Group Chairman Reggie Candappa died yesterday at the age of 75.

She was the managing director of Grant Recruitment International and Foremost Travels Lanka Ltd. The funeral takes place tomorrow.

More power cuts after matches

By Shelani de Silva 
Ceylon Electricity Board engineers have warned that power cuts would have to be increased because of the decision to withdraw the cuts during the current day/night cricket matches in the Sri Lanka-New Zealand-India series.

CEB engineers union president Susantha Perera said millions were known to watch the one-day internationals on TV and power consumption was at a peak. With substantial rains not expected till September, the power situation is likely to worsen and the cuts might be extended to two hours or more daily. 

He pointed out that a similar situation had prevailed in 1996 when the world cup had been shown live and daily eight-hour power cuts were imposed after that.

The engineers said that in addition to extended power cuts, they would also have to use more thermal power meaning a huge additional expenditure to the country.

Show of force by People's Alliance

All PA MPs, party organisers and thousands of other members are scheduled to gather in Colombo today for a mini convention where President Chandrika Kumaratunga will launch the party's campaign for next month's referendum.

PA sources said the meeting at the Race Course would also be a strategy session to map out PA plans for the campaign.

Right of Reply

In response to our news story on the UNP leader meeting OPA members at the Mayors' residence on July 7 published in The Sunday Times of July 8 the Organization for Professional Associations of Sri Lanka president Gerald A. Hiddelaarachchi has written to us clarifying the position.

The letter states that none of the OPA representatives attended the particular meeting and many who read the news item would have got the impression that the OPA representatives were taking sides in the current political battle. 

The letter further said the OPA did not endorse the confrontational politics and maintained that the adversarial stances of the two main political parties nearly on all matters of national importance had caused irreparable harm to the nation.

The OPA letter further said it was of the opinion that all political parties together with a select group of strictly apolitical and nonpartisan individuals directly under the leadership of the elected President should proceed to form a 'truly national government' for a specified time, perhaps for a year to address the major issues of the country.

Reporter's note:

The particular meeting was specially organised by the UNP professionals to solicit the opinions of those who were affiliated to the UNP and others who were not involved in politics.

The organisers confirmed that a considerable number of OPA members attended the discussion which sought to address the broad issue of agitating for the preservation of democracy but they did not push the UNP agenda. They also said the professionals who also belonged to the OPA did not attend the meeting officially representing the OPA but as individuals who wished to find out the UNP view point on how to overcome the current political impasse.

Right of reply

With reference to our story last week, SriLankan Airlines says: "Sri Lankan Airlines has not made a decision to change its destinations or remove staff attached to its overseas offices, as your report states.

"Sri Lankan Airlines' staff attached to its offices in Kuwait, Doha, Oman, Abu Dhabi, Saudi Arabia and Paris have not been asked to 'return home' as has been reported.

"The Airlines has also not made a decision to stop flights to Sydney, Doha, Stockholm and Beruit in September as the report states.

"The Airlines is continuously looking for ways of minimising costs and all its routes are constantly under review in terms of profitability."

Treble tragedy for Lankan family in Toronto

By S. S. Selvanayagam
A Sri Lankan born mother living in Toronto reportedly poisoned her two children and tried to commit suicide in an apparent fit of depression after the tragic death of her husband.

The 32-year old Yaso Mehendran was found in semi-conscious state along with the bodies of her two children Shiyami(5) and Sanjeeva(3) in the trunk of a car by the Candadian police.

She is recovering in a Toronto hospital under police watch, but is likely to face charges relating to the killing of her children. According to her relatives, her husband Mahendran Thiyagarajah(42) died in a fatal fall from a shelving rack at the furniture factory where he worked.

She has been distraught since then and her relatives found funeral clothes and formal attire for her children in the bedroom on July 17.

Her signature on three cheques for thousands of dollar made out to the Hospital for Sick Children and a local Tamil community group along with a letter stating that no one was to blame for their deaths were found in her bedroom. She has left about $200,000 in cash and an envelope containing cash marked for funeral expenses. 

Mobile passports in Vavuniya

A mobile passport service held last weekend by the Department of Immigration and Emigration at the Tamil Maha Vidyalaya in Vavuniya town had been very successful. 

Controller of Immigration and Emigration N. Bambaravanage said 932 passport applications were received during the two days, with a total collection of Rs. 1.9 million.

"The mobile passport service, which is the third such service held in Vavuniya, was organised by Vavuniya's Government Agent K. Ganesh," Mr. Bambaravanage said. He said he was among the 12 officers who attended the mobile service. "The Tamil people in the area, especially the womenfolk, were extremely happy about it. They said it was less expensive and convenient for them to obtain passports in Vavuniya. If they were to obtain passports in Colombo they would have to go through so many checkpoints and find lodgings in the city. Some of them said it took them three days to obtain a passport," he said.

Mr. Bambaravanage said the passports would be processed and sent direct to them or to the Vavuniya kachcheri from where they could be collected. He said the GA had suggested having the mobile service once in three months. "We can certainly do so provided there are sufficient applications," Mr. Bamba-ravanage said. 

Mobile unit to sort out census hiccups

By Nilika de Silva and Esther Williams
With complaints pouring in from Colombo, Kandy and suburbs that enumerators had not visited certain households to collect information, the Department of Census and Statistics has set up a mobile unit to resolve this matter. 

"About 200 to 300 households were missed in the census carried out on Tuesday," said Census chief A. G. W. Nana-yakkara. He said the number of complaints from households was negligible. 

He assured that no one would be left uncounted with the mobile team in operation. 

Mr. Nanayakkara said enumerators would be taken to task for any lapse on their part. "It is emba-rassing," he said "because most of the complaints had come from the highly urbanised areas, such as, Kandy and Colombo."

However, the Census chief was optimistic because the overall operation was satisfactory. He said missing a few house in such a large operation was inevitable.

Mr. Nanayakkara said a large number of outdoor enumerators was deployed for the census. Many people had complied with the department's request to stay indoors. However, a large number of people in Wellawatte, Bambalapitiya and Kollupitiya were not at their homes.

The results of the census which cost about Rs. 365 million would be released in stages beginning this week, he said. 

Mr. Nanayakkara said the department would release the population figures districtwise before giving other details such as the gender distribution, children below 18, adults, ethnicity and religion.

He said detailed statistics would be available about one year later. Meanwhile, some residents in Medawa-chchiya said enumerators had asked them to come outdoors to be counted. They said only those who came outdoors were counted. 

Mr. Nanayakkara said the census was successful in Polonnaruwa although there were two complaints about missing persons. 

He said the census was adversely affected in Welikanda, Mediri-giriya and Lankapura grama niladari divisions as they were wild elephant infested border villages. 

Mr. Nanayakkara said the census in Anuradhapura was carried out smoothly. All areas including the camps were covered, he said.

The census chief said Jaffna, Killinochchi, Mullaitivu and part of Mannar could not be covered. However, the entire East and the cleared areas of Vavuniya and Mannar were covered.

Statistical investigator Skanda Raja said the provisional population figures in Vavuniya stood at 1,42,822. 

He said uncleared areas were not covered. 

Death of a scholar

Alfred Gogerly Moragoda, a former civil servant for over 35 years and one time permanent secretary died on Friday.

Mr. Moragoda was the author of "Memories of yesteryear - Facts and Fiction". He was a student of Prof. E. F. C. Ludowyke and A. S. D. Bandaranayake.

He was an alumnus of Galle's Richmond College and a distinguished classics scholar.

The funeral will be held at the Colombo general cemetery today at 1.00 p.m.

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