30th December 2001

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LG platform for defeated candidates

Having faced a gruelling election campaign and failing to enjoy the fruits of success some of the defeated candidates are flexing their muscles to face the local government polls in March next year.

UNP's Samson Silva who carried on a relentless poster campaign during the December 5 polls told The Sunday Times he spent a staggering Rs. 20 million for the elections and lost.

Mr. Silva said he was ready for the local government elections with added vigour.

UNP's former Health Minister Renuka Herath who lost the elections by a thin margin of 76 votes told the Sunday Times she had not bid goodbye to politics.

She said she was busy harnessing all her resources for the forthcoming mini battle.

Ms. Herath said she had spent about Rs.1.8 million on her campaign. She said she had filed an election petition calling for a recount.

PA's former parliamentarian Bennet Cooray said he had spent about R.2.5 million on his campaign. He said he would not give up politics and social work.

"Now I have more time to serve the people," he added.

Looking forward to re-organising the SLFP, Mr. Cooray said he would hold talks with party supporters to achieve that end.

Sihala Urumaya spokesman Udaya Gammanpila said the party would adopt new strategies for the local government polls.

The party suffered a crushing blow in the December 5 elections by losing its single member in the House.

He said the SU would concentrate on rebuilding the party than indulging in "reactionary politics."

Though there is an allocation made by the Elections Commissioner to registered political parties for campaign purposes, there is no celing imposed on funds spent by candidates for campaigning.

Resettlement move runs into snag

By S. S. Selvanayagam

A move to resettle displaced residents of Valigamam North in the Jaffna peninsula in their own houses has run into a snag, the All Ceylon Tamil Congress said.

Rehabilitation, Resettlement and Refugees Minister Jayalath Jayawardene has reportedly told an ACTC deputation that the Commissioner General of Essential Services Department was still under the purview of President Kumaratunga while the Rehabilitation and Resettlement Authority for North was in financial straits.

The ACTC deputation comprising Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam MP, A. Vinayagamoorthy MP and its general secretary N. Kumaraguruparan appealed to the minister to resettle the displaced residents of Vali-North in their own houses. An ACTC spokesman told the Sunday Times Minister Jayawardene agreed that there was no security problem in resettling them in their own houses but resettlement alone could not help them. He said basic amenities had to be provided to them.

The minister is reported to have told the deputation that as the Commissioner General of Essential Services Department was under the purview of President Kumaratunga, he would ask for funds from the Treasury. When the deputation requested that Jaffna fishermen be allowed to do deep sea fishing, Dr. Jayawardene had reportedly told them that he would take up the matter with Defence Minister Tilak Marapana.

The deputation also told the minister that most of the schools in the peninsula were being occupied by security force personnel forcing teachers to hold classes in temporary sheds.

Contigencies fund comes to the rescue

By Shelani Perera

The Elections Department is planning to use about Rs. 600 million from the contingencies fund for the local government elections in March, an official said.

With the government planning to present the Budget in February next year money for the elections would not be passed before March and the Elections Department would have to make use of funds from the contingencies fund, he said.

Money for the general elections was drawn from the contingencies fund as the elections were not scheduled to be held this year and no allocations had been made.

An Elections Department official told The Sunday Times that they were yet to be informed of the local government elections.

"We are ready for an election but we have not begun any work.

The department has to be informed in a few weeks to begin the printing of polling cards," he said.

Last week the government announced that the local government elections would be held before April 15 the stipulated time period according to the Constitution.

Although a date is yet to be fixed the government has announced that the elections will not be postponed.

The Sunday Times learns that the government is to bring in changes to the election system before the polls.

The changes which are yet to be identified will be discussed next week with the Elections Commissioner.

Changes to the electoral system were discussed last year with representations being made by political parties.

Although the representations were accepted they were referred to a parliamentary select committee which has not taken a final decision.

Information Chief gives up new post

Information Director Ariya Rubesinghe who was appointed as President Kumaratunga's Director General (Publicity) a few months ago has resigned from his post.

Mr. Rubesinghe told The Sunday Times although he gave up his new post he would continue to be the Information Director.

Prior to December 5 elections Mr. Rubesinghe was also appointed as Additional Secretary to the Presidential Secretariat.

The appointment was made on November 15 and gazetted. However, even that appointment would be automatically cancelled as it had been made after the nominations, he said.

The Cabinet last week decided to cancel all appointments given after the nominations were called on October 20.

Along with Mr. Rubesinghe's appointment as an Additional Secretary several other appointments also had been made at the Presidential Secretariat immediately before the elections. Informed sources said even those appointments were likely to be cancelled.

Among those appointed as Additional Secretaries to the Presidential Secretariat were Piyadasa Dissanayake, W. B. Ganegala, M. D. W. Ariyawansa, S. B. Gonagala and W. J. S. Karunaratne

Meanwhile, PA sources said a media unit headed by former Minister Mangala Samaraweera would be set up early next month when President Kumaratunga returns from the SAARC summit.

Former SLBC Chief Janadasa Peiris told The Sunday Times there was a possibility of setting up such a media unit but the President had not finalised the arrangements.

The PA had set up a polls watch media unit prior to the elections opposite the President's House. Party sources said the new media unit was likely to be housed there.

Ravi raps CWE officials

By Sunil Jayatillake

The government-managed Cooperative Wholesale Establishment (CWE) has incurred a staggering Rs. 8,300 million loss during the PA's seven year rule.

Commerce and Consumer Affairs Minister Ravi Karunanayake said the colossal loss was due to political bungling and official apathy. He said the CWE had earned a name for corruption and become a white elephant.

Mr. Karunanayake said the CWE had paid exorbitant prices for big onions, chillies and potatoes and sold them to consumers at lower rates. Rotting of items like onions and potatoes had aggravated the losses, he said.

He blamed CWE officials for collecting the commission by selling over 3,000 tons of imported sugar at a lower price than the buying rate to private traders. The CWE also had bought sub standard paddy during the previous regime incurring heavy losses, the minister said.

Cash-strapped CWE also had over 2,000 excess staff. The minister said he would probe the situation before taking action against those who were responsible for recruiting such a large number of persons.

Mr. Karunanayake, however, said he would turn the CWE into a profit-making institution within two years.

Meanwhile, CWE sources said there was a shortage of important consumer items required for the festive season.

The CWE had failed to cater to the Christmas season as it ran short of essential items, they said. White rice, brown sugar, cake ingredients, noodles, toothpaste, dates and dried fish were in short supply.

A bigtime businessman who used to buy his requirements from the CWE said most of the officials were indifferent and lacked enthusiasm.

He said though orders for goods had been placed in time the CWE failed to deliver them in time for the Christmas season.

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