30th December 2001

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Rights group seeks legal remedy

By Faraza Farook
The Institute of Human Rights (IHR) has decided to seek legal action compelling the Bribery Commission to probe the alleged abuse of public resources during the last general elections.

The IHR, an organisation formed to prevent the misuse of state property and monitor the misuse of these properties, will apply for a writ of mandamus from the Court of Appeal against the Bribery Commission compelling them to probe the allegations, a spokesman said.

The Bribery Commission earlier turned down an appeal by the IHR to probe the misuse of state property during the polls period.

Meanwhile, the Programme for Protection of Public Property (PPP), a project by the IHR, said he was determined to take action against the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption which rejected to probe reports on the abuse of state resources during elections. 

PPP/IHR project coordinator J.C. Weliamuna said the Bribery Commission initially agreed to probe the misuse of public property during the recently concluded general elections. However, the Commission had later refused to do so stating that the material in the reports submitted by the PPP/IHR 'did not come within the purview of the Act on Bribery or Corruption'.

PPP/IHR's attorney Charuka Samarasekera said they were awaiting the culmination of court vacation to proceed with legal action. 

He said more than 400 vehicles belonging to state institutions had been used for election work. "We have evidence that the vehicles have been used and investigations by the Bribery Commission can give more evidence such as internal documents," Mr. Samarasekera said.

However, ministries listed in the PPP/IHR report had vehemently refuted the charges and denied having released vehicles for election work. The Health Ministry spokesman said that it released vehicles only for the Suwa Udana programme and they were not used for election work.

State Pharmaceutical Corporation's managing director K. U. Kamalgoda said vehicles had been released for a Suwa Udana programme in Haputale. He said the Health Ministry had queried on the release of vehicles for election work and was informed that the institution had not released a single vehicle.

Last week, state institutions were engaged in assessing the loss for damages caused to vehicles during elections. With new appointments still in progress some ministries and government institutions were still to discuss on the course of action to be taken on the release of vehicles.

JVP sticks to its man

With fresh moves being taken to set the constitution council in motion, the JVP has decided not to withdraw the name of S. S. Wijeratne amidst a controversy over his political affiliation.

JVP propaganda secretary Wimal Weerawansa said Mr. Wijeratne's name was proposed by the party as a member representing minor parties and it had been accepted and legally passed.

He said therefore it would not withdraw his name though a protest had been lodged later, alleging that Mr. Wijeratne was a member of the SLFP lawyers' association.

Brutal killing by the Diyawanna Oya

By Tania Fernando and Nilika de Silva 
A body of a man who had gone fishing in the Diyawanna Oya was found with multiple stab injuries on the banks of the river last morning, police said.

The victim, Priyashantha Batugahage (48), was found by a search party comprising family members.

Priyashantha, who had worked as a tour guide, returned to Sri Lanka two years ago after working in Oman and Japan for 15 years, his family said.

He was the father of a 15-year-old daughter and a son aged 22 who left for Saudi Arabia two weeks ago.

The victim had left his residence on Friday afternoon and when he failed to return by nightfall his family had organised a search party.

The victim's van in which he had travelled to the river was later found abandoned in a playground in Minuwangoda, family members said. 

Thus they expressed the view that the motive for the killing was not robbery.

According to initial investigations, the victim had given a person Rs. 3 lakhs to make arrangements to send his brother's 22-year-old son to Italy. However, when that person had failed to fulfil his obligations the victim had requested a refund. 

The victim had allegedly been warned by the agent not to persist with his demand for a refund since he had forged close relations with Nawala Nihal Priyashantha, the victim's family said.

OIC Ranjith Maligaspe of the Welikada Police said investigations were continuing.

Bone marrow transplant in Lanka 

A private hospital in Sri Lanka has successfully conducted two Peripheral Blood Stem Cell Transplants (PBSCT) - a form of bone marrow transplant - at half the cost had it been performed in India.

This is the first time the transplant was performed in Sri Lanka by a private hospital.

Three transplants have been performed at the Cancer Institute Maharagama in early 1999 successfully.

The five patients have responded well and are now leading normal lives, said Dr. R.S. Jayatilake who headed the team of doctors.

The PBSCT is a bone marrow transplant performed on patients afflicted with haematological conditions such as multiple myeloma (bone cancer).

Back to the ball with a bang

By Tania Fernando
The cessation of hostilities, the lifting of security barriers and overall prospects for peace with the change of government appear to have added to the 31st night hype with hotels claiming that ticket sales for end of year dances were higher in comparison to last year.

Ishani who is in charge of the Galadari Special Events Desk said they were 90% sold out for the dance and that this was the best response they have had in the past three years.

It was a similar story at Taj Samudra and Colombo Hilton. At the Taj 400 tickets had been sold for the annual dance where the Gypsies were billed to play." Now that the roads are open people have easy access," said Sean at the Taj Samudra Events Desk. With five events being lined up for the 31st night at Colombo Hilton, a hotelier said they were 80% sold out.

Even the hotels down South which were affected by a decline in the tourism industry in the aftermath of the BIA attack in July, were hopeful of a bright New Year.

Assistant Manager of Bentota Beach Hotel Sanjeeva said they were fully booked for 31st night.

Meanwhile, a hotelier at Kandalama Hotel said they were fully booked for the season."Even last year we were quite full up but this year we are fully booked till January 1," she said.

However, a hotelier at Grand Hotel in Nuwara Eliya said that in comparison to last year the sale of tickets for 31st night was less. He said since New Year dawned on a weekday there were less people coming from Colombo. "Last year we had an occupancy of 80% and lots of outsiders purchased tickets, however, this year we have an occupancy 60% and no outsiders have purchased tickets so far," he said.

Meanwhile up in the hills of Kandy, Le Kandyan has organised two dinner dances as there was a better response than last year. The manager said last year all the tickets had been sold just two days before the event but this year there have been many advance bookings.

While many people get ready to kick off the New Year, by dancing the night away, over 200 police personnel will be deployed in the city to ensure security and traffic control. Colombo DIG Gerard Ignatius said they were expecting a lot of vehicles to be parked at the Galle Face, as most of the car parks in the hotels would be full up.

Local govt. polls

Batty back in PA fold

The LSSP has decided to contest the local government polls under the PA, party leader Batty Weerakoon said. 

Mr. Weerakoon who was not appointed as an MP under the PA national list has filed a case against the decision. 

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