26th August 2001
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SLMC backs talks with Government

By Nilika de Silva

The Sri Lanka Muslim Congress yesterday welcomed talks involving the PA, the UNP and the JVP, saying they were aimed at achieving common goals of all opposition parties.

SLMC leader Rauf Hakeem, whose dismissal from the cabinet in July set off the unprecedented political turmoil, said the UNP and the JVP were pressing ahead along with other parties in the joint opposition for the cancellation of the referendum and the setting up of five independent commission among other matters, He said he believed their talks with the government would not be detrimental to the SLMC.

However, Mr. Hakeem said his party had some differences with the JVP, especially in relations to that party's poposal for a probationary government.

Interpreting the response the JVP got from the government with regard to its proposals, the SLMC leader said he believed the government had snubbed the JVP and accused the PA of trying to set opposition parties against each other.

Lapsed: emergency and restrictions

The lapsing of emergency regulations is reported to be causing an additional burden on the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB).

CEB sources said with emergency regulations no longer in force consumers had begun to use the main grid power for air conditioners and other additional lighting.

The government imposed certain restrictions on the use of electricity in February under emergency regulations. The restriction covered lighting of carnivals and fair grounds, floodlighting of buildings, signboards, shop windows, fountains and the use of air conditioners.

Meanwhile, company sources said they preferred to use generators as the use of main power turned out to be more expensive.

They said they used generators to power industrial machinery it was more cost effective than paying the 25 per cent surcharge.

A CEB official told The Sunday Times the use of generators was helping them to save national grid power.

He said it was unlikely that the surcharge would be removed since the CEB was still in the process of recovering the huge losses it had incurred.

CEB to deliver more shocks

By Shelani de Silva

The Ceylon Electricity Board is likely to extend the prevailing power cuts and introduce them even during the day.

CEB sources said the board would adopt certain measures to save electricity. However, they said no official decision had been taken on the matter.

A CEB spokesman said in addition to adverse weather conditions, one of its gas turbines was not functioning.

He said the 115 MW gas turbine located at Kelanitissa power station had been out of order since last week and it would take at least three month for its repair.

CEB sources said the board would use smaller gas turbines to generate power.

They said smaller gas turbines were generally used from 6.00 p.m. to 10.00 p.m. for emergencies and for short durations. The turbines cost the CEB more due to fuel charges with a unit costing Rs. 10 for production.

A CEB official said it was uneconomical to use small turbines.

Power cuts hit industries

The one and a half hour power cut which has been in force for the past few months has aggravated the already dwindling economy, business sources said.

They said while the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) was trying to save a trickle of power through the night time power cuts its effect on several industries and the business community was devastating.

A leading industrialist said the country did not have an effective power policy. As a result all the industries were suffering, he said.

He said the lack of rains and the non-implementation of power projects had been attributed to the present power crisis.

Business sources said the CEB should take the blame for the power crisis because the board did not impose any power cuts during the day and night cricket matches.

They said the power crisis had hit both the bigtime and smalltime industrialists.

Printers Association president Sathis Abeywickrema told The Sunday Times most of the printers exported their products affecting their businesses internationally.

He said the regular and unannounced power cuts had an adverse effect on the quality of their products. He also said several small printing companies could not afford to use generators.

Ceylon Tea Traders Association president Mahen Dayananda told The Sunday Times small factories were the worst affected as they could not afford to have stand-by generators.

Meanwhile, the All Island Poultry Association has called on consumers to use only reputed brand products as there storage problems.

The association president D. D. Wanasinghe said large scale production companies had been advised to reduce the price of poultry to help the consumer.

He said the small scale producers were the most affected as they did not have proper storage facilities.

IBA team gets the greenlight

The Government has given permission to a delegation of the International Bar Association to visit Sri Lanka to study the country's rule of law situation, Co-ordinator Desmond Fernando said.

Mr. Fernando, a former president of the IBA, said that after last week's refusal to grant visas for the delegation to visit Colombo, this week the Foreign Ministry had informed him that the visit would be allowed.

Accordingly, the IBA delegation leader, Lord Brennen, and delegation secretary, Justice Kyatt will arrive in Colombo on Wednesday, while Justice Malimath from Karnataka is due on Tuesday.

Mr. Fernando said he was reconfirming appointments with Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, Justice Minister Batty Weerakoon, Constitutional Affairs Minister G.L. Peiris and Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar.

A fresh appointment with Chief Justice Sarath N. Silva was also being sought, he said.

The delegation will also meet members of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka and others.

"We hope that this mission will be useful for the preservation of democracy," Mr. Fernando said.

Meanwhile, the Federation of University Teachers Association in a statement on Friday called on Chief Justice Sarath N. Silva to step down from his post until the impeachment procedure is dealt with.

"In order to safeguard the dignity and the impartiality of the courts, until the impeachment is examined and the judgment is delivered we request the Chief Justice to keep away from his duties," it said.

Ronnie for National govt.

From Neville de Silva in London

Minister Ronnie de Mel who has regularly crossed from the PA to the UNP and vice versa has welcomed talks between the two major parties.

Speaking during his recent visit to London for make-or-break talks with insurance underwriters, Mr. de Mel said the sensitive nature of such talks needed continuous confidentiality if they were to be successful.

"A coalition government will be the best remedy for our country's present ills," minister de Mel told the Sunday Times.

"But delicate negotiations like the ones envisaged cannot be done through the media. They should become public only after an agreement has been reached on critical matters as a common programme, duration of the coalition government, the size of the cabinet, sharing of portfolios and allocation of functions and duties," he said.

The Ports Development minister warmed up to the subject of a national government when asked whether he supported the decision to hold talks.

"To form such a government the first requisite is an agreed common programme for a specific period-say four years- after which time another election can be held to allow the people to decide".

He suggested constitutional changes could be discussed after a national government was formed.

Minister de Mel, a long time "peacenik" who has consistently called for a settlement to the Tamil issue, said that another advantage of a national government was that the chances of successful negotiations with the LTTE were greater.

Referring to his mission to London, he said matters were basically resolved. Otherwise the huge surcharges slapped on ships and cargo entering any port in Sri Lanka and on Sri Lanka's export cargo would have brought the economy to its knees.

He said charges had been brought down by about 75 percent and talks would go on for the total removal after security measures at the ports were tightened to the satisfaction of the underwriters and the international community.

Lankan UN expert wants patients before patents

International economic agreements, including those covering intellectual property rights, should not bar policies ensuring access to medicine at affordable prices, a UN report prepared by two experts, including a Sri Lankan, said.

The report presented to the UN Subcommission on Human Rights by Jurists Deepika Udagama of Sri Lanka and J. Olaka-Onyango of Uganda said current international economic regulations have "dedicated little space or time to human rights and other social values."

"Until recently, there has been a marked reluctance on the part of many institutions that play a significant role in the global economy, such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the WTO (World Trade Organisation) to engage in an extended discussion on the issue." the report said.

The report recommends establishing a unique set of protections for intellectual property rights for pharmaceutical patents, "given their critical relationship to the full enjoyment of human rights." This would ensure that the critical components of a human rights perspective are taken into account, while at the same time moving away from a situation of monopoly rights in such a crucial area of human existence.

Many developing countries say the WTO's Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) protects patent-holding laboratories to the detriment of public health. Unlike other globalization treaties, the TRIPS negotiations were not focused on the liberalization, "rather they were about more protection and tighter control, "the report said.

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