27th January 2002

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This patient, a labourer from Padukka, borrowed money and hired a van to come for treatment at the National Hospital where he learned that doctors' self-interest was more important than patients' health care. He was forced to leave hospital without treatment. Pic by J. Weerasekara.
Strike ends after doc-nurse ceasefire

On Government Service

Free food, free sex for MPs' catchers
By Tania Fernando
Early last week men believed to be supporters of a government MP, G.N. Punchinilame were arrested for having not paid a bill at a restaurant after having dinner while two drivers of a minister of non-Cabinet rank were arrested for assaulting and trying to intimidate a prostitute.

While the MPs and the ministers are most often unaware of how their staff use their names to further their ends, the staff take the upper hand using their bosses' names and even resort to using weapons to have their way.

This week about 13 people had entered a Japanese restaurant in Kollupitiya claiming that their boss, who is a supporter of an MP of the present government and also a regular visitor to this restaurant, had requested them to have dinner, the bill for which would be settled by him. 

When the owner of the restaurant had checked with him, he had been told that no such instructions had been given.

However, the 13 persons had said that they would have dinner and settle the bill. But after having eaten and also consumed alcohol running up a bill of Rs. 13,000, they had walked out of the restaurant without paying.

Two days later four persons who had arrived in a white van had entered the same restaurant and ordered food and drinks and run up a bill of almost Rs. 4000. 

After a while another four persons had come on foot and pointed a revolver at the four who were at the table, hustled them into the van and fled with the bill unpaid.

The restaurant management had complained to the Kollupitiya Police who had sent a radio message to other police stations to be on the look out for the van. 

The van was apprehended at Kirulapone and the driver taken into custody. 

Police had eventually caught the eight who had fled in the van from the restaurant and they had agreed to settle the bill which has, however, not been done as yet.

An employee at the restaurant said the people concerned belonged to one group as the van in which the eight had fled belonged to the same person who had promised the bill run up by the 13 persons two days before, would be settled.

"The person concerned is a supporter of a ruling party MP", the employee alleged.

In another incident last week, two drivers of a minister of non-Cabinet rank, P. Chandrasekeran were arrested and remanded. 

According to OIC Weerasinghe of Kollupitiya Police, the two men had dropped off the minister and driven around the Kollupitiya area in his Prado jeep.

Around 1 a.m. they had tried to secure the services of a prostitute. 

When she had requested money, they had turned violent, pulled out a weapon and subsequently assaulted the woman injuring her, the inspector said. 

A passing police jeep had gone to the assistance of the woman and the two drivers taken into custody.

The OIC further said the drivers were using a weapon which was given to the minister's security personnel, who in turn had lent it to the drivers.

He said it was up to the MSD to take action against the security personnel for having lent the weapon to the drivers.

Police-MPs at check-points as inquiry continues

By Shane Seneviratne
Over 60 soldiers involved in clashes with the police in Kandy have been placed under detention as police and military investigations continue into the incident, Deputy Inspector General of Police Nimal Mediwaka said yesterday.

Mr. Mediwaka told The Sunday Times that police had recorded the statements of those under detention, but they will be held by the Military Police until the investigations are over. The detention came as the Military Police were moved to the Kandy town and its outskirts following the clash between soldiers and policemen within the sacred area of the Dalada Maligawa which left at least a dozen men injured, several vehicles damaged and scared the citizens and foreigners in the town.

All Army personnel jointly manning check-points with the Police in Kandy town and the main approach roads to the town have been replaced with Military Police personnel while Army personnel have been directed to remain in barracks until the tension between the two sides is defused. The incident had been sparked off over a dispute after the Police instructed a soldier driver to take his vehicle away from a no parking zone close to a bank. 

The soldier had parked his vehicle which had arrived in the town to collect a payroll. The dispute had been sorted out, but later over 50 soldiers in civvies had arrived in a bus and started assaulting the policemen who were on duty in the town. The incident had taken place after what appeared to be over a row over the parking issue, but senior police officers said they believe that it was also linked to the raid carried out by the police on an Army safe house in Athurugiriya early this month.

The Army personnel arrested there had been given degrading treatment by the Police officer who had led the raid.

Eyewitnesses said that soldiers in civvies involved in the attack had made references to the raid and the detention of their officers.

Prima deal under scrutiny: rice, cooking oil to be imported

By Nilika de Silva 
The government has referred the multi-million rupee Prima privatisation agreement to the Attorney General to ascertain what action could be taken for the alleged violation of the agreement by the company, K.H.J. Wijayadasa, Chairman of the committee to control the imports of foodstuffs to the country, said.

He said the AG would advise on actions to be taken with regard to the alleged violation of the agreement signed between Prima and the government late last year to privatize the milling of wheat and flour distribution.

Mr. Wijayadasa said he believed the company had violated the agreement by not maintaining sufficient buffer stocks of flour.

"The situation is ship to mouth," Mr. Wijayadasa said adding that "this was the problem with monopolies."

Last week the government accused Prima, of violating its contractual obligations by exporting flour to the Maldives without keeping a sufficient buffer stock in Sri Lanka. 

Prima however denied these charges, saying new agreement which came into effect in September, stating it permitted exports. 

Meanwhile, Co-operatives Minister A.R.M. Abdul Cader said his ministry was considering the import of flour to meet an emergency. 

At present 2,000 tons of wheat are milled into flour daily. 

Mr. Wijedasa said large stocks of rice, expected to arrive in the country in early February, would help bring down prices upto Rs 30 per kilo. 

On Wednesday a decision was taken to ensure that 20,000 metric tons of edible vegetable oil would be imported as a substitute for coconut oil. A flat specific duty of Rs. 20 per kilo is to be levied on the product in place of the earlier 35 percent Customs duty and 40 percent surcharge. 

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