Unfit drivers main cause of accidents
By Faraza Farook
With the number of motor vehicle accidents on the road increasing, an official analysis has exposed a shocking and disturbing factor- almost 80% of these accidents are due to human error by unfit drivers and only 20% due to mechanical faults.

In this backdrop, the National Transport Medical Institute's Gamini Karunanayake said that the Ministry of Interior has acceded to a request made by him to make it compulsory for police to produce drivers before a medical board immediately after they have been involved in accidents.

According to Dr. Karunanayake the average number of accidents reported each day in 1997 was five and it has increased to six this year. Hence he said it is now imperative that preventive measures should be taken immediately.

Dr. Karunanayake said the NTMI is prepared to conduct the proposed medical examinations free of charge. He added that even train drivers who have been involved in accidents should be subject to medical examinations.

Statistics show an increasing trend in the number of accidents, which according to Dr. Karunanayake is mostly due to human error. "An analysis has revealed that 80% of accidents were due to human error while 20% were due to mechanical defects."

He said that after an accident, in most instances, the vehicle is examined to ascertain whether there are mechanical defects while the driver is not subject to a medical test.

Although police have attributed the chief cause of accidents to negligent driving, Dr. Karunanayake said the recruitment of drivers with serious ailments is also a major factor.

According to Dr. Karunanayake the World Health Organisation has recommended that driving licences should not be issued to anyone who suffers from 45 stipulated ailments.

He said that fatigue is another cause of accidents. Bus drivers often put over 10 hours of continuous driving contrary to WHO-ILO recommendations which stipulate eight hours of rest before each spell of driving in addition to half an hour breaks after every four hours of continuous driving.

Stiff competition between bus operators has also led to accidents. According to Gemunu Wijeratne, President of the Sri Lanka Private Bus Owners' Association, finding adequate funds to repay vehicle loans has led to fierce rivalry on the roads and this has led to a spate of accidents.

A study has also revealed that drivers in the age group 35-45 are more accident prone compared to drivers in the age groups 25-35 and 50-60, Dr. Karunanayake said.

Alleged torture victim gets leave to appeal
A teenager who was allegedly tortured by the Kandana police and was unconscious for about 10 days has been given leave to proceed in a fundamental rights case before the Supreme Court.

The petition on behalf of the alleged victim Lalith Rajapakse was filed by his lawyer W. R. Sanjeewa.

The lawyer said Lalith Rajapakse was taken to hospital in an unconscious state from the Kandana police station by police officers on April 20, this year, after being arrested two days earlier and allegedly tortured on April 18 and 19.

The lawyer alleged Mr. Rajapakse had been kicked on his forehead, beaten with the wooden handle of an axe and dragged into a jeep.

He was then taken to the Kandana police station and put inside a cell.
On the evening and night of April 19, the lawyer alleged that several police officers hit the victim all over his body after he was put on a bench. He was severely hit on his soles with blunt instruments. In addition, books were placed on his head, and these books were vigorously hit with blunt instruments, the lawyer alleged.

The victim was then bathed to make the pain more agonising. On April 20 at about 10 a.m. the grandfather of Lalith Rajapakse found his grandson lying on the floor of the cell in the Kandana police station and he appeared to be dead. He immediately sought the help of a local politician (Member of Parliament Jayalath Jayawardene) who made inquiries. When he returned to the police station, was told that his grandson had been taken to Ragama Hospital.

At the hospital, the grandfather had found Lalith unconscious and lying on a stretcher.

The lawyer said the victim was totally unconscious for 15 days.
The lawyer said that the police then fabricated three charges including robbery against the victim, went to an acting magistrate and got a remand order without producing the victim in court.

Later the magistrate had released the victim on bail saying that the original order, made without producing the suspect, was illegal.

Editors hail repeal of defamation law
The Editors Guild of Sri Lanka has thanked Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and all MPs who voted last Tuesday to enhance media freedom by repealing the archaic and draconian criminal defamation laws.

The Guild in a statement said:

The Editors Guild of Sri Lanka warmly congratulates the Government and Parliament for the repeal of criminal defamation laws on Tuesday. The recent campaign for the repeal of this archaic and draconian piece of 18th century legislation began in 1995 when the then Government used these laws as a political weapon to suppress the free press by serial indictments against editors and publishers who were otherwise critical of the administration.

Together with other fraternal organisations locally viz.the Newspaper Society of Sri Lanka and the Free Media Movement, and internationally, viz., the Commonwealth Press Union, the World Association of Newspapers, the International Press Institute, the Committee to Protect Journalists, and Article 19, the Editors Guild has been campaigning for the world-wide repeal of these laws and the introduction especially in Sri Lanka, of a liberal media policy aimed at media freedom and social responsibility as is found in most advanced democracies.

Towards this end, The Guild and other local media organisations have set the stage for the establishment of a Sri Lanka Press Complaints Commission that will ensure quick and inexpensive remedial measures and redress for aggrieved citizens, including public servants and public figures, for acts of commission and/or omission on the part of the press.

A Code of Professional Practice (Code of Ethics) is already in place to govern and guide the practicing journalists in Sri Lanka, who will require to be answerable to the Press Complaints Commission.

The civil laws of defamation will still be in force, and the courts of law will continue to hear disputes relating to civil defamation actions.

The Guild and other fraternal organisations however campaigned to have the laws of criminal defamation repealed, because of the abuse of the law enforcement and legal process that it entailed given the partisanship of the police, certain members of the Attorney General's Department and some members of the Judiciary who were subjected to favours such as promotions by the virtual complainants.

These laws attributed unfair motives on editors and publishers, criminalising journalism, and ensuring penal punishments that included custodial sentences for essentially civil wrongs. The move to repeal these un-democratic laws began with a Committee appointed in 1994 by then Media Minister Dharmasiri Senanayake, which recommended in 1995, the repeal or the amendment of criminal defamation laws.

Mr. Senanayake was replaced as Media Minister and the recommendations were not heeded by the then government.

This was followed in 1998 by the appointment of an All-Party Parliamentary Select Committee to study media law reforms. Despite the then Speaker formally requesting the then Media Minister Mangala Samaraweera to quicken the long-drawn out proceedings, no recommendations whatsoever were made.

It was in 2000 that the then Leader of the Opposition Ranil Wickremesinghe together with Vasudeva Nanayakkara, moved a Statement of Intent in the Legislature requesting the then Parliament to consider the repeal of these laws.

The Guild wishes to particularly take note of the support given for the repeal of criminal defamation laws by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and salutes his government and all Members of Parliament who acted progressively in enhancing press freedom in Sri Lanka by voting for the repeal of this archaic legislation.

Cover up of high flyer's crash?
By Sunil Tilakasiri
The circumstances under which the official vehicle of a high ranking Air Force officer met with an accident on the night of June 14 has raised concerns in security circles.
Senior Police officials say the officer concerned was in a highly intoxicated state when his vehicle met with an accident at 4 a.m. He had been in the company of a widowed female Air Force officer.

He is said to have been returning from a discotheque in a five star hotel when his vehicle had crashed into a vegetable lorry in the Borella police area. A police vehicle had rushed to the scene and taken the injured female to hospital.

The lorry assistant had been badly injured and had undergone six hours of surgery at the Colombo National Hospital. Despite the seriousness of the accident there has been no proper inquiry.

Police sources say that a wheeler-dealer businessman who boasts of strong connections with UNF leaders is in the forefront to hush up the matter. He is said to have approached police officials and several media personnel in this connection.

It is alleged an Air Force driver had been asked to claim he was at the wheel at the time of the accident. However he had not sustained any injury. The car is said to be a total wreck.

Until yesterday no official inquiry of any sort had been instituted. There are also allegations that the original police records had been tampered with.

Poson road tax in Mihintale, A'pura
By Chamintha Thilakarathna.
For the first time pilgrims travelling by vehicle to sacred areas of Anuradhapura and Mihintale for the Poson season would have to pay a tax for entering the city as the councils in the two areas need money to provide services and clean up the areas after the season is over.

The move taken jointly by the Mihintale Pradeshiya Sabha and the Anuradhapura Municipal Council is the first time that a fee will be charged from pilgrims. The scheme will be effective for tomorrow and Tuesday.

"A fee of Rs. 100 from heavy vehicles such as lorries and buses, and Rs. 50 from cars and vans will be charged before permitting vehicles to enter the city," Anuradhapura Municipal Commissioner, Sarath Wijeysinghe said.

Mihintale Pradeshiya Sabha officials said that they will charge a sum of Rs. 50 from heavy vehicles and Rs. 30 from vans and cars.

"We don't receive any assistance from the government for maintenance of sacred areas. The income of the Pradeshiya Sabha does not exceed a million rupees. Therefore, such a move is essential," Mihintale PS officials said.

130 blocks of temporary toilets (each block with five toilets) and over a hundred permanent toilets have been built, 27 bowsers of drinking water and 200 water tanks have been provided for the benefit of the pilgrims, in addition to other facilities.

A total of 20,000 vehicles in Anuradhapura and a similar amount in Mihintale is expected. Yet, available parking can accommodate only about 10,000 vehicles according to the Municipal Commissioner.

He said that pilgrims on foot will not be charged any fee.

Details such as number plates of vehicles, names of passengers, their National Identity Card numbers and purpose of visit will also being collected at the barricades bordering Anuradhapura city.

Commissioner Wijesinghe said that they are going ahead with previous security procedures as a routine. A record breaking 2.5 million people are expected to arrive due to the cessation of hostilities.

Grills to whet appetites of MPs' gourmets
By Dilrukshi Handunnetti
While an inquiry is to be launched to probe certain activities in the Parliament kitchen, Parliament has discovered a way to whet the appetites of the legislators who often complain about the inferior quality of food provided to them. A wok and a barbecue grill along with other equipment required for open-air cooking costing approximately Rs. 700,000 is to be provided.

It is learned that a group of government legislators have often been requesting for barbecued food items, Italian omelettes and the like following the poor quality of the food provided at the members' dining room.

However, with increasing complaints against the kitchen, the authorities have decided to fix the cooking apparatus at high cost to satisfy their gastronomic needs.

S C awards Rs. 30,000 to wronged woman soldier
The Supreme Court has awarded Rs. 25,000 as compensation and Rs. 5,000 as costs payable by the State to the woman lance corporal who was subject to cruel and degrading treatment by other Army officers as she had refused to make a statement falsely implicating Lt. Col. K.K. Dias of the Women's Corps.

Justice Dr. Shirani A. Bandaranayake in her judgment (with which Chief Justice Sarath N. Silva and Justice Ameer Ismail agreed) held that the fundamental rights of lance corporal W.A.D. Nilusha Hemali guaranteed under Article 11 of the Constitution had been infringed by executive or administrative action. Justice Bandaranayake directed the State to pay the compensation and cost totalling Rs 30,000 to Nilusha Hemali, who was attached to the 2nd Battalion of Sri Lanka Army Women's Corps, Anuradhapura, within three months. The FR application was filed by the mother of the lance corporal.

Vavuniya Military Police Commanding Officer Upali Jayanetti, Anuradhapura Women's Corps 2nd Lt. Nilanthi Gunasinghe, Medawachchiya Women's Corps Sergeant Nanthanie Menike, Corporals Weeratunga, Basnayake and Sriyalatha of the Women's Corps and Maj. Gen. K.R. Egodawela, Vavuniya Security Force Commanding Officer Maj. Gen. Sarath Fonseka, the Army Commander and the Attorney General were cited as respondents.

Torana gets another injunction against Bhathiya & Santhush
A pioneer recording company, the Torana Music Box successfully obtained an injunction on Friday against the famous singing duo Bhathiya and Santhush from distributing or marketing the audio cassettes and compact discs titled " Tharunyaye" containing the song " Oba Ne Ada" sung by the duo.

The proprietor of Torana, Sarath Kotalawela petitioned the Appeal Court seeking to restrain singers Bhathiya Jayakody and Santhush Weeraman, Maharajah Entertainment (Pvt) Ltd. and Sony Music Co. of India from producing, manufacturing, distributing, marketing, selling or advertising for sale the audio cassettes and compact discs titled "Tharunyaye".

In his petition Mr. Kotalawela has stated that his rights to exclusive production, manufacturing, marketing, sale and distribution of the songs contained in their first two cassettes titled "Vasanthaye' and "Life', produced and launched under the Torana label were violated. " Oba Ne Ada" was included in a third album produced by M. Entertainment (Pvt) Ltd. for Sony Music Co., India.

M. Ikram Mohamed PC supported the petition along with Mrs. A.T. Shyama Fernando, A.M. Faiz and M.S.A. Wadood instructed by A.C. Abdul Latheef.

The Commercial High Court earlier this month dismissed the action filed by the proprietor of the Torana Music Box, against Bhathiya and Santhush.

Court held that the Commercial High Court has no jurisdiction to entertain the plaint and dismissed the plaintiff's action with costs.


Back to Top
 Back to News  

Copyright © 2001 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd. All rights reserved.