7th October 2001
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A group of Buddhist monks held an 
alms giving for the devotees who
flocked to Kandy to worship the sacred
tooth relic during the special 
exposition at the Sri Dalada Maligawa
that ends today. Here Buddhist monks
serve the devotees as they wait 
in the long queue.
Pic By Shane Seneviratne

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Withdrawal of perks a long way off

By Tania Fernando and Faraza Farook
Despite the JVP signing an MoU with the PA under which funds spent on ministers and MPs have to be cut down, the government has so far failed to give instructions on the withdrawal of certain perks enjoyed by them, while former deputy ministers who have lost their posts still continue to make use of privileges given to them while in office.

While some ministers have returned a few vehicles from their original allocation of nine, others have retained both vehicles and drivers.

Ministers demoted as deputies have managed to accommodate their entourage in various capacities under their respective ministries, while some former ministers are still occupying their previous offices even though they are not holding any position. Officials at the Ministry of Ethnic Affairs and National Integration confirmed that former Deputy Minister S. Ganeshamoorthy still frequents his office and also uses one of the several vehicles previously allocated to him.

Some who were employed previously as ministers' secretaries have been promised new positions and are still awaiting word on their new appointments.

Former Information Secretary of the now defunct Land Development Ministry H.M.S.K. Herath said, "I have been promised the same post under the Samurdhi Ministry but I still haven't received the appointment letter".

Very few of the former ministers and deputies who lost their posts have vacated their official residences. The members of the former jumbo Cabinet, contrary to what the JVP expected, are still enjoying the privileges of plush residencies at state expense.

"We MPs are entitled to these perks. However, if I am asked to vacate my residence to accommodate a minister or a deputy, then I will do so. But I haven't received any instructions yet," former Minister of Co-operative Development H.B. Semasinghe still occupying his ministerial residence said.

Private secretaries of former deputy ministers who have been given official telephones said they had not received any instructions regarding them and were continuing to use them.

Meanwhile, a senior official at the Ministry of Public Administration, Home Affairs and Administrative Reforms, in charge of allocating residences to ministers said no instructions have been received from the Government to ask former ministers or deputy ministers to vacate their present homes.

Accordingly, around 75 houses had been allocated to ministers, deputy ministers and MPs, the official said adding that there was no difference between the houses given to ministers and deputies which are given on availability.

"We haven't received any instructions to send letters to those who have lost their portfolios asking them to vacate their residences," the official said. Many vehicles are being used for personal work by the one-time ministers and deputies. 

Former Deputy Minister of Industrial Development Piyasena Gamage is alleged to be using two to three vehicles of the five allocated to him. Despite having lost his post, former Deputy Minister of Cultural Affairs T.B. Ekanayake is also said to be using an official vehicle.

Hospital strike called off

Work at public hospital was returning to normal by yesterday after medial technicians and pharmacists called off their three-day trade union action.

Union spokesman M.I.M. Jabir said 3,000 radiographers, laboratory technicians, physiotherapists, occupational therapists and pharmacists had decided to call off their strike after successful talks with Deputy Health Minister John Seneviratne.

He said agreement had been reached to meet seven of the 14 demands relating to special allowances, more recognition and other facilities.

The two-day sick note campaign and Friday's strike by these employees had thrown public hospitals into chaos.

Disaster fund proposed

Minister of Environment Dinesh Gunawardena has suggested that a fund be established by countries in the South Asian region to cope with natural disasters, which is a topical environmental issue.

At the recently concluded eighth Governing Council Committee Meeting of the South Asian Cooperative Environment Programme held in Colombo, Mr. Gunawardena called for an effective disaster communication system and a comprehensive disaster management programme.

JP flood cause for concern

By Faraza Farook
With an average of over 50 Justices of the Peace (JPs) being sworn in every week, and with little or no monitoring in force, abuse of powers by JPs is said to be a cause of concern.

The Justice Ministry churns out an average of 200 JPs every month, while the country is already burdened with over 60,000 JPs.

Secretary of the JPs Association of Sri Lanka A.C.M. Rauf said obtaining appointments as JPs has now become a business with most of them abusing their powers.

"We are supposed to render our services free of charge to the public. However, if one visits the passport office, more than one JP can be seen offering their services to witness any document on payment of a minimal fee," Mr. Rauf lDisaster fundamented.

According to Justice Ministry Secretary M.S. Jayasinghe, applications for appointment as JPs are referred to the police and the relevant grama niladhari through the Divisional Secretariat for report. The Ministry approves the appointments on receiving favourable reports from them.

Appointments are also made on recommendations by ministers and MPs, he said. Mr. Jayasinghe said that though there was no monitoring done, the Ministry refers complaints received against JPs to the Divisional Secretary for a complete report. If the individual is found guilty, his or her appointment is cancelled. Last year, during Mr. G.L. Peiris' tenure in office, around 5000 JPs had been appointed. However, this year, despite nearly 6000 applications being received, less than 2000 appointments have been made so far.

"We have introduced some rules and regulations to be observed in approving JP appointments," said the Coordinating Secretary Keerthi Kariyawasam of the Justice Ministry.

He said, unlike earlier, an applicant must now have passed at least the GCE O/Level Exam and be above 40 years of age, while public servants and pensioners also receive priority in receiving appointments. These new rules, he said, have greatly reduced the number of appointments being made. 

Go ahead for probe on vehicle rackets

By Tania Fernando
Guidelines on the import of duty free vehicles for use in the tourism trade have been issued this week enabling the Customs Department to go ahead with inquiries relating to more than 150 cases of alleged illegal imports, which were put on hold.

The guidelines from the Tourism Ministry and the Treasury were received by the Customs Department on Thursday, a senior Customs official said. The guidelines state that all vehicles should be registered in the name of the relevant organization (i.e., the permit holder) and comprehensive insurance cover should also be made in the same name. The name or logo of the organization should also be printed on the vehicle.

The new clause in the guidelines states that vehicles can be used to transport tourists or the staff of the organization. This clause was not included previously and hence they were able to seize vehicles being used by staff, the official said. Customs officials also said the decision to order the former cricketer's wife to pay rupees four million as import duty on a vehicle will now be implemented.

"If the amount is not paid the vehicle will have to be forfeited," he said.


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