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16th December 2001

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Police pounce on 150 PA politicos and supporters

By Chris Kamalendran
Police have begun a crackdown on some 150 absconding PA politicians and their supporters who are in possession of unauthorised weapons and were allegedly involved in election related violence.

After the arrest of Puttalam district PA Parliamentarian D. M. Dassanayake widely alleged to be the key figure in the hot bed of election violence police are hunting for more than 100 supporters, some of whom are believed to be military deserters or underworld figures linked to the MP.

Anamaduwa Police Inspector R. M. K. B. Ratnayake told The Sunday Times that the Police who found a virtual private armoury in Mr. Dassanayake's residence on Thursday had carried out another raid on the same residence on Friday after the MP was remanded.

Inspector Ratnayake said they had arrested 13 suspects linked to Mr. Dassanayake but at least another 100 were known to have gone underground.

Puttalam district was the worst affected by the election violence with more than 330 incidents and high tension. But Inspector Ratnayake said the tension had been defused with the remanding of the MP.

In other areas, police said they had also carried out a series of raids on the houses of former ministers Anuruddha Ratwatte and Reggie Ranatunga and deputy minister Janaka Bandara Tennakoon.

A special CID team sent from Colombo raided the residence of Gen. Ratwatte and found a part of a damaged windscreen which is believed be of the vehicle involved in the incident at Madwala where 10 Muslim Congress supporters were killed on election day, police said.

They said that in Mr. Tennakoon's residence at Laggala, police had found two revolvers, camouflage uniforms and masks.

Police also searched a guest house owned by North Central Province Chief Minister Berty Premalal Dissanayake and found weapons.

Police sources said that they were on the hunt for some 150 suspects wanted in connection with election violence and the possession of unauthorised weapons but the figure could be much higher. 


Stop fawning: new Media Minister tells Rupavahini

By Dilrukshi Handunnetti
Following complaints that the state media had gone overboard about the newly elected UNF government, Mass Communications Minister Imtiaz Bakeer Markar has instructed state media institutions to abstain from giving excessive publicity to the government.

Minister Bakeer Markar said the UNF was committed to upholding media ethics and having seen the gross abuse of state media which went on the rampage during the past seven years to vilify the opposition UNP, the new government was determined to inject some discipline into them.

Accordingly, The Sunday Times learns that the SLRC and SLBC news bulletins are to be confined to twenty minutes with any coverage on the Prime Minister not to exceed three minutes and on ministers not over one minute. 

Similarly, state radio and television stations have been instructed to refrain from airing a song composed by Rookantha Gunathileke to felicitate the new Prime Minister more than once a day. Mr. Gunathileke had appeared on campaign platforms of the UNF. 

In addition, strict instructions have also been issued to abstain from airing his other songs as some of the state media stations have been allegedly giving overexposure to his compositions. 

The government has also requested PA constituent parties and politicians to seek coverage from state media institutions and pledged fair coverage on them in furtherance of a new media culture. 

Last week, the UNP media unit had requested outgoing media minister Mangala Samaraweera to seek state media patronage when he held a media conference and promised to help opposition politicians in getting fair coverage.


Quit notices to fallen ministers and MPs

By Tania Fernando
Letters have been sent to former ministers and MPs to vacate their official residences, in order to make room for the newly sworn in members, an official of the Ministry of Urban Public Utilities said.

The official said the respective ministers and members have been given two weeks notice to vacate their premises.

She also said so far only one former minister has vacated his residence. Though the newly sworn in MPs have been requesting houses, they will have to wait till the houses are vacated for them to be allocated their houses.

"They are normally given on an availability basis and nothing can be done till those who are occupying the houses at present leave those premises", the official said.

A minister or MP is entitled to an official residence if he has no private residence in his name.



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