17th February 2002

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Numbers battle at local polls delayed

By Shelani Perera
Frantic calls have been made to the Elections Department by candidates contesting the local polls asking for their preference number to be intimated to them as they have to get their campaign material printed. 

A total of 26, 213 candidates from political parties and independent groups will contest the polls next month. With such a large number of candidates the department has to work round the clock to allocate the numbers. 

The Elections Department commenced allocation of the preference number soon after nominations closed on February 8. However, with such a large number of candidates contesting, the process of allocating the numbers had not been completed even by Friday.

Allocation of the preference number is done by the District Returning Officer which is then intimated to the Elections Department. 

The main reason for the rush to obtain the preference number is the need for it to print posters and other election campaign material.

Meanwhile the Elections Department had rejected 148 nomination papers from political parties and independent groups. 

The Sunday Times learns that several parties and independent groups have challenged the rejections in courts last week. If the courts rule in favour of the petitions, the Elections Department will have to accept the rejected nominations.

One of the main reasons for the rejection of nomination papers was that the party secretaries or group secretaries had not signed the nomination papers. 

Other reasons included nomination papers being handed over by the wrong person and errors in the birth certificates of the candidates.

Oh these Ministers' kids!

By Tania Fernando
Despite a warning from Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe that children of ministers should stay away from trouble, the inevitable has happened once again with sons of two ministers getting involved in a rumpus which called for the intervention of the police.

According to Kollupitiya Police, the sons had stamped on the feet of girls while dancing at a night club at a hotel in Kollupitiya, last Sunday. The girls had made a complaint to the Kollupitiya Police, claiming that the boys had harassed them and stamped on their feet while dancing.

The boys involved in the incident were two sons of Agriculture Minister S.B. Dissanayake and a son of Fisheries Minister Mahinda Wijesekera. 

However, when the three sons of the ministers were summoned to the station, they had apologized to the girls and left. 

"They shook hands with the girls and left the police station", an officer said.

The three of them were involved in an incident on the night of December 31 at a hotel in Colombo, where shots were fired on the dance floor. Following this incident the Premier had warned all ministers that their children should stay away from trouble. 

Interior Minister John Amaratunga had also instructed hotels that body checks should be carried out on all persons entering night clubs, but hotels had declined to carry out the instructions fearing such action would inconvenience those patronising their clubs. 

Law faculty shut down amidst chaos

By Nilika de Silva 
The Colombo University's law faculty, plagued for the past few months by student unrest, was shut down again on Friday amidst charges and counter charges. 

The latest row erupted on Thursday when the university council decided to suspend nine students for involvement in violent incidents that arose out of earlier protest actions.

But the students counter attacked with a death fast with two of them doing it on the top of the roof and threatening to commit suicide if the suspension was not withdrawn.

Apparently under pressure, the Vice Chancellor agreed to the demand, but further problems erupted and the faculty was shut down again on Friday.

As spokesman for the law faculty staff said yesterday they would take a strong stand on what they saw as an attempt by the students to win their demands through suicide threats. He allege the protesting students had acted in a disgraceful way on Thursday, throwing urine and excreta into the rooms of female lecturers.

He said the staff believed expulsion of the nine students had been warranted but it was mitigated to suspension and the staff felt it should not be withdrawn.

The university council is due to meet on Tuesday to discuss the crisis. 

CBK to lead PA polls campaign

President Chandrika Kumaratunga will lead the People's Alliance (PA) local government election campaign but it is yet to be decided when the campaign would be formally launched, party sources said.

The President has met with the party's senior members to discuss election strategy, the sources said.

The PA believes that it will fare better at the local elections than at the last general elections due to the failure of the new government to deliver on most of its promises made in its first 100 days pledge to the people.

"Our campaign will be on par with that of the UNP . This time people will listen to us," a senior party source said.

PA leaders have also brought to the notice of the Prime Minister and relevant authorities that harassment of its party supporters must stop as this would deny them participation in a free and fair election, the sources said.

PSD in President's control

Moves are presently underway to bring the Presidential Security Division (PSD) directly under the control of the President, The Sunday Times learns. 

With the appointment of an Interior Minister, the entire police force was brought under him, and theoretically the PSD was under the control of Minister John Amaratunga. 

This understanding will be formalised and the PSD will by law be a distinct organisation under the control of the President. 

New faces at the top

The Finance Ministry has made several new appointments to the Colombo stock Exchange, Peoples Bank and Sri Lankan Airlines.

The Stassen Group Chairman Harry Jayawardena and George Ondaatjie, the Mercantile and Tangerine Hotels Ltd Chairman, have been reappointed to the Colombo Stock Exchange Board of Directors while Arjuna Mahendran, Director General of the Board Of Investment ,has also been appointed to the board.

Nimal Samarakkody and Jayantha Fernando have been appointed to the board of directors of the Peoples Bank. S.E Captain, the well known businessman, has been reappointed to the board of directors of the SriLankan Air Lines while Chanaka de Silve and Mahinda Haradasa have also been appointed to the board.

Governor Alavi at his old job again

The new Governor of the Western Province, Alavi Moulana is also the co-ordinating secretary for this year's People's Alliance (PA) united May Day celebrations.

The newly appointed governor was present among several trade union leaders and the General Secretary of the SLFP Maithripala Sirisena at a meeting held on Friday where it was decided to have a joint May Day rally to pressurize the government to bring down the cost of living.

A veteran trade unionist, Mr. Moulana was dropped from the PA National List and later appointed Governor by the President, a position that was expected to keep him out of active politics.

Relief awaits PTA suspects

By Laila Nasry
Indictments filed under the Prevention of Terrorism Act against Tamil youths who have failed to provide information about the LTTE are being reviewed on a case-by-case basis for the purpose of withdrawal.

Attorney General K. C. Kamalasabayson has instructed State Counsel to review the indictments and withdraw any as necessary. 

However, if the information obtained from the suspect is of a serious nature then such indictments will not be withdrawn, The Sunday Times learns.

Under Section 5 of the PTA civilians mostly Tamils have been arrested and indicted for failing to provide information about the movements of the LTTE in their areas and are liable for imprisonment for a minimum of five years if found guilty after trial or on pleading guilty. 

A large number of such indictments filed as far back as 1991 are still pending before various High Courts. The suspects in these cases have been languishing in prison for four to five years without a trial. 

AG's Department sources say the non-availability of officers who recorded the confessions and difficulties in translations are among the main reasons for the backlog.

Furthermore, courts cannot grant bail under the PTA, they say.

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