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CTB seeks link with private firm
By Nilika de Silva

In what might be the first step towards privatisation of the Central Transport Board, the government is to build a partnership with a local or foreign company. State Transport Minister Upali Piyasoma told The Sunday Times that the move was necessary to inject efficiency into the state bus service.

He said the government was willing to forge a link with a supportive partner who would bring in capital and expertise to improve the transport service and give a better deal to commuters.

"At present the bus service is not efficient. Buses do not run at night. The facilities are insufficient and the buses are dirty. To change this situation for better, we are looking to a partnership," the minister said.

Meanwhile, the cabinet is to take up a proposal to sell 1,000 state-owned buses to bring in revenue in the region of Rs. 250 million. "The money will be used to improve financial position of the eleven transport depots of the CTB. The present situation is really bad.

here is no money to pay salaries," the Minister said. While the country has a fleet of 9,430 buses only 6,900 are in running condition, the minister said adding that the number of good buses are fast declining.

Mr. Piyasoma said neither the ministry nor the CTB had money to repair the buses that were not in operation. But to run the 6,900 buses, there are about 44,000 employees in the CTB, the minister said pointing to the problem of overstaffing.

Bail plea put off; counsel seeks more time
By Laila Nasry
The bail applications filed on behalf of the two Air Force officers convicted of criminal intimidation, trespass and unlawful entry with weapons into the home of The Sunday Times Consultant Editor, were postponed for June 13.

Defence counsel Ranjit Abeysuriya appearing for Sujeewa Kannangara, one of the convicts, requested Colombo High Court Judge Sarath Ambepitiya to grant further time to counter the objections raised by State Counsel P. P. Surasena to the granting of bail.
On the previous occasion, the State Counsel objected to bail on the ground that it could jeopardise the lives of the witnesses who were already under threat.

In support, Mr. Surasena submitted a CID affidavit confirming that there is an on-going investigation with regard to the alleged threat made to Mr. Athas. Such a complaint was lodged with the CID by Mr. Athas, in the wake of a crowd of Army personnel being present in court on February 1, their suspicious behaviour causing much alarm to him. Also both the 1st and 2nd accused were seen at the time, talking to the person who was thought to be the leader of the group of Army personnel.

Further T. G. Gunasekera, junior counsel to Daya Perera who appeared on behalf of the Athas' family had made a statement to the CID saying that an unidentified person on the day prior to the judgment had threatened him over the phone saying that Mr. Athas, his wife and daughter would be killed if the accused in the case were to be convicted.
In the affidavit of CID Officer Wijesekera, it is stated that due to such threats the CID had provided special security to the court house deploying two special teams of police officers attached to the CID.

The applications for bail filed on behalf of Rukman Herath and Sujeewa Kannangara, cite humanitarian reasons. Both Srinath Perera PC, Counsel for the 1st accused Herath, and Ranjit Abeysuriya PC for the 2nd accused Kannangara individually submit that the children of their clients were suffering from trauma and mental instability as a result of their fathers being away from home.

Squadron Leader Herath and Squadron Leader Kannangara were found guilty on two counts, namely for committing the offense of entering the Athas residence on February 12, 1998 and for criminal intimidation towards Mr. Athas by threatening to cause grievous hurt by using a firearm.

Both were sentenced for seven years RI each for the first count and two years RI each for the second count. They were also ordered to pay a fine of Rs. 10,000 in the event of default one year RI. They have appealed against the conviction.

More trackers at Yala
The Wildlife Department is to increase the number of trackers at the Yala National Park during peak periods following a complaint of a VIPs vehicle going off the track to get a closer look at elephants, according to Wildlife Director Dayananda Kariyawasam.
He said the move was being implemented to prevent visitors from violating park regulations.

Commenting on the incident that prompted the department to take this measure, Mr. Dayananda Kariyawasam said a department probe showed that though the vehicles carrying the minister and his family members went off the track, the situation was brought under control after the tracker explained to them the park rules.

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