CWE rice imports in boiling pot
By Chamintha Thilakarathna
Commerce and Consumer Affairs Minister Ravi Karunanayake, the man in the centre of many a PA-UNP battle, is facing opposition charges regarding the import of rice from India and Pakistan.

He is in the boiling pot, the main opposition PA says. But the minister dismissing the charges says that every purchase the CWE or any other institution that comes under his ministry makes has been properly documented and there are no hanky-pankies.

While the opposition and the Minister trade charges, about 10,000 tons of the controversial import are still lying at CWE warehouses.

According to CWE Deputy Chairman Lal Wickrematunga, the sale of rice has been slow and "if we are unable to sell them before August, the remaining stocks won't be good enough for consumption."

The controversy over the rice import arose after President Kumaratunga at a recent cabinet meeting accused Minister Ravi Karunanayake of violating tender procedures in making purchases for the CWE.

The minister, in a subsequent cabinet meeting, is reported to have brought documents to prove that the CWE purchases were in order.

Not content with the minister's explanation, senior PA parliamentarian Anura Bandaranaike has lodged a complaint with the Bribery and Corruption Commission, alleging that the order for 40,000 metric tons of rice was not given to the lowest bidders, violating tender procedures. He also charged that the stocks were sold to traders at a very low price, instead of selling them to people through CWE outlets.

According to the complaint, 16,000 tons of rice have been sold to traders at Rs. 17 when the market price was around Rs. 30. Had the rice been sold at Rs. 19 to the public, the CWE would have earned more, the complaint said.

The tender from Mark Fed, one of the lowest bidders, had been rejected and instead 16,500 metric tons from Nafed India, 2,500 metric tons from Garibson Pakistan and 6,000 metric tons from M&P Limited from Pakistan were imported, incurring a loss of US$ 340 per metric ton, Mr. Bandaranaike alleged.

"These deals and sales have created a loss to the government. Therefore, under the Bribery and Corruption Act, Minister Karunanayake and officials responsible for the import should answer these charges," Mr. Bandaranaike said.

But CWE deputy chairman Wickrematunga said Mark Fed and other lowest bidders had failed to meet the tender requirements including credit.

In response to the charge that the rice was sold at low prices, Mr. Wickrematunga said the CWE had to take that decision because the rice was not fast moving. "This was considered a good option when the rice seems to expire in a few weeks," he said.

With regard to the tender, he said that it was a decision taken by the tender board consisting of officials from the Treasury and the Trade Ministry officials and all bids were evaluated by a technical committee. "It was not a personal decision by the Minister or by CWE officials," he said.

Peace education in schools makes progress
By Nilika de Silva
The UNESCO initiative of interweaving peace education with the school curriculum took another step forward when principals, teachers and educationists met this week to discuss how the subject could be presented to students.

One of the highlights of the meeting was the presentation of a UNESCO publication on peace education.

The participants offered their views on how the subject could best be taken to the students.

First launched in India, "Learning the way of Peace", a teacher's guide to peace education, is aimed at internalising the peace element in the education process, UNESCO regional officer Prithiviraj Perera said.

Educationist A.S. Balasooriya, who was instrumental in producing the publication said, "Peace is the greatest integrating factor".

Mahinda Abeywardena, the secretary general, Sri Lankan National Commission for UNESCO, commenting on the presentation said, "Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defence of peace must be constructed."

Stressing the importance of the teacher in peace education, I.L. Ginige, Assistant Director General of the National Institute of Education said, "Without developing the teachers, if we get the teachers to implement this it will not be a success".

Jaffna University Vice Chancellor Balasunderampillai stressed that there was inbuilt jealousy being created through the education system. "We have to discuss the ground realities that place constraints on teaching peace education."

The participants also acknowledged that Sri Lanka had already introduced peace education as a formal subject which was being taught in grades 7- 9.

Dr. Perera stressed the importance of giving priority to human Rights, media freedom, and peace education in any peace accord.

The UNESCO publication was launched in Sri Lanka in May when UNESCO Director General Koichiro Matsuura visited here.

This publication brought out by UNESCO New Delhi, comes with inputs provided by educationists, intellectuals and resource persons from South Asia. It was based on presentations made at a UNESCO Regional Seminar in Colombo in January last year.

Comprising 20 chapters and running into 240 pages, the teachers guide is divided into four parts dealing with the nature and concept of peace education, peace values in school curricula, developing peace education staff and reducing violence in school. It also discusses thematic models of peace education.

The guide targets the teacher as a peace educator, by way of an integrated and holistic approach in all subjects taught in schools and teacher education institutions.

This initiative is first expected to be tested in South Asian countries that took part in the seminar and then to be introduced among other countries within the context of the International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non Violence for the Children of the World.

CWC to launch strike, demanding wage hike
The Ceylon Workers Congress (CWC) is preparing for a major strike in the estate sector from Thursday demanding a wage increase.

"Talks with the employer's federation have failed. We are turning to trade union action from August 1 until the wage increase demand is met," CWC parliamentarian P Yogarajan said.

The decision comes amidst moves by plantation companies to announce a new agreement that have been rejected by the CWC.

At present, the daily wage of an estate worker is Rs.116. The plantation companies propose a two year agreement with the all-inclusive daily wage being fixed at Rs.142 in the first year and 146 in the second year.

The impact the proposed wage increase on the cost of production of a kilogram of tea in the first year will be about Rs.7.50 on an average and with gratuity provision it could increase to as much as Rs.12, plantation companies said adding that this could increase the price of tea.

However, plantation unions are yet to agree on the proposed agreement.

Plantation Industries Minister Lakshman Kiriella told The Sunday Times that plantation workers did not get any wage increase for the past two years and that the wage increase should be decided by collective agreements between the plantation companies and the trade unions.

He said that earlier collective agreement that had been signed by both parties ended this month and the ministry, which was acting like a mediator, wanted the plantation companies and the trade unions to come amicable settlement. Minister Kiriella said that wages to the plantation workers should be increased and at the same time, the plantation companies too need to be viable to the overall national economy. He stressed the need for the enhancement of relationship between the plantation companies and trade unions like in India.

CEB conducts raids on illicit power tappers
By Sinniah Gurunathan, Trincomalee corr.
A record 755,000 rupees was collected on a single day as fines from 152 residents when they were found illegally using electricity in several areas of Trincomalee.

CEB officials assisted by police swooped down on Tampalakamam, Kinniya, Soorankal and Alankerni at night for lightning raids when the people were watching TV on illicitly tapped electricity.

The chief householders, mainly women, were produced in courts and fined Rs. 5,000 each.

Officials said illicit tapping was growing on a massive scale and at least ten residents were known to have been electrocuted while fixing the illegal connections.

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