Karu, Thonda meeting again on Kotmale
Another meeting between Ministers Karu Jayasuriya and Arumugam Thondaman is expected to take place this week to resolve the dispute over the Upper Kotmale project.

CWC sources said Mr. Thondaman had met Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on Thursday and protested that a committee had given the greenlight for the project merely on assurances given by the Ceylon Electricity Board.

Mr. Thondaman had said the CWC needed concrete proof backed by technical data to assure that the project would not have an adverse impact on the environment or the common people.

The sources said the Premier had promised to appoint another committee including Central Environmental Authority officials to further review the project.

This would be followed by a CWC meeting with Power and Energy Minister Karu Jayasuriya who is due to return from Japan tomorrow.

As the review goes on, an August 15 ceremony for the laying of the foundation for the Kotmale project is likely to be postponed.

Meanwhile, a non-cooperation campaign by estate trade unions is continuing since Wednesday and reports said work on estates was seriously affected.

The unions led by the CWC are demanding that the daily wage be increased to Rs. 151 but management companies insist the maximum they could offer is Rs. 142.

Charged over battery fumes
By Chandani Kirinde
Residents in a village in Mirigama living adjoining an export processing zone, are fuming against what they claim is a serious health hazard caused by the fumes being emitted from a battery recycling plant.

The village most affected is Loluwagoda, in the Mirigama area where many children are suffering from wheeze, cough and other respiratory sickness by inhaling the fumes. Adults too complain of nausea and headaches caused not only by the fumes but also by the pungent smell that lingers in the air long after the fumes have disappeared.

"It has been been happening for almost a year since this factory started and we have complained to relevant authorities but little has been done about it. We are not asking the factory to be closed down but some safeguards be implemented so that they won't pollute our environment and make us sick," said B.Victor Cooray, a senior villager of Loluwagoda.

Mr.Cooray's brother and children, Janith (7) and Vindya (5) have been falling sick regularly since the factory waste began to pollute their once clean environment.

"They have to visit the doctor every week. They are wheezing and coughing and the question that most doctors ask is are they inhaling some kind of smoke," Mr.Cooray said.

Anoma Weerakkody, the post mistress of Loluwagoda whose office faces the factory walls also complained of sickness due to the exposure to fumes and smells.

"We cannot stay in the homes at night as the situation gets worse. We close all the windows but the smell comes through the air vents," she said. The particular factory collects used lead batteries which are then broken down and melted and made into lead blocks and imported to India.

The director of the BOI's Environment management Division Tissa Fernando said the factory was located there only after an environment assessment survey was carried out by the Central Environment Authority (CEA). According to him there had been a small problem at the initial stages but now it had been corrected.

He said that instructions had also been given to minimize any damage to the environment and the BOI was carrying out regular checks. However Mr. Fernando admitted that some of the equipment that purified the gases that were emitted had been out of order for sometime but were now functioning.

Meanwhile the Mirigama MOH Dr.Mrs.R.Siriwardena who visits the village said there was a threat of lead poisoning and the problem needed to be tackled at a higher level, as all that the health authorities could do was to point out the possible health hazzards.

Following complaints by the villagers, members of the Mirigama Pradeshiya sabha, Health Ministry and the CEA had visited the factory last month but villagers complain that the situation remians the same.

Residents said health officials who visited the factory had voiced concern regarding health hazzards and suggested that the employees blood samples be checked for the presence of lead.

When contacted for their comments, a spokesman for the factory insisted there was no problem and they were following the anti-pollution guidelines set out by the BOI. However their claims are of little comfort to villagers in the area whose once clean, green environment is heavy with the odour of battery waste and whose health problems increase steadily.

Stormy August for Parliament
By Harinda Vidanage
While the government is pushing away with plans to rush 36 bills through parliament this month, the Opposition is to fire several no confidence motions.

Among the ministers at the receiving end are John Amaratunga, Tilak Marapana, Ravi Karunanayake and Jayalath Jayawardene.

Opposition sources said the motion against Interior Minister Amaratunga is to be debated from August 21 with the main charges being continued harassment or oppression of Opposition members or supporters and the failure to curb the crime rate.

JVP group leader Vimal Weerawansa said the joint opposition motion against Defence Minister Tilak Marapana would focuss on his alleged mishandling of the crisis in the East and the manner in which the LTTE has been allowed to carry on its operations freely.

Former Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva said the motion against Commerce and Consumer Affairs Minister Ravi Karunanayake was being finalised but it would focuss on the alleged fraud in the recent import of some 40,000 tons of rice by the CWE and other malpractices in that establishment.

Mr. De Silva said the motion against Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Minister Jayalath Jayawardene would focus on charges levelled against him by sections of his own party.

LTTE urges TNA to put more pressure
By Shelani Perera
The LTTE last night called on Tamil National Alliance parliamentarians to bring more pressure on the government and brief diplomatic missions on the need for the speedy implementation of the ceasefire agreement.

The call was made when the TNA parliamentarians met LTTE's political Wing leader S.P. Thamilchelvan in Kilinochchi for four hours of talks.

The LTTE had expressed dissatisfaction about the implementation of the ceasefire agreement and told them to bring pressure on Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe to implement the remaining areas of the ceasefire agreement. They also called on the TNA MPs to carry out a campaign among the Colombo-based diplomats to ensure full implementation of the agreement.

Both sides also agreed that the LTTE's political wing members and TNA parliamentarians should work side by side and cooperate in carrying out work in the northern and eastern provinces.

The discussions also covered rehabilitation work in the northern province.

All TNA MPs, except for TULF MP Mavai Senathiraja were present while two former MPs, A. Vinodhalingam (TELO) and Suresh Premachandran (EPRLF- Suresh Wing), were also in the delegation. From the LTTE, the head of the Administrative Unit, Sudha Master and district political leaders of Jaffna, Mannar and Vavuniya were present.

Prior to the visit to Kilinochchi, the TNA called for a compromise on high security zones, whereby civilians would be able to move around in those areas under some special security arrangements.

The call came after Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe met TNA leaders on Thursday and said that although troops had pulled out from places of worship, schools and public places by Friday, it was not possible to allow civilians to settle down in high security zones.

The Premier said the evacuation of troops from the high security zones was a matter that needed to be discussed extensively at the direct talks with the LTTE.

TULF General Secretary R Sambanthan told The Sunday Times they were awaiting a response from the government on their compromise proposal.

"Our position is that civilians have been living in refugee camps for 15 years. It is a violation of their fundamental right to stop these people from resettling in their homes which are in high security zones. The government has to draw up a special security programme and make some arrangement. There cannot be a blanket restriction," Mr. Sambanthan said.

Of the 47 schools occupied in the Jaffna District, 36 are in the Palaly high security zones. However the Army has suggested that 22 of the 36 schools can function after a negotiated settlement. Of the 11 schools outside the high security zone, two schools are situated in a heavily mined area.

In the Wanni, only nine schools were occupied by the troops and none of these comes within high security zones. However two schools are still being occupied.

Of the eight schools in the Trincomalee District, three schools are in the high security zones. However the Army has said these three schools can reopen after reconstruction.

The four schools occupied in the Batticaloa District do not come within high security zones while only one school was occupied by the troops in the Mannar District.

Battle against illegal weapons misfiring
By Tania Fernando
Senior DIG H. M. G. B Kotakadeniya- involved in a major battle with the IGP and other DIGs-said proper steps had not been taken by the police department to facilitate the surrender of weapons during the amnesty period in January.

He said he believed that if the armed forces had been brought into the operation the efforts to get back the illegal arms would have been more successful.

DIG Kotakadeniya in a circular said there were stringent laws against the possession or use of illegal arms but the police were not doing their job properly.

But Interior Minister John Amaratunga said after the failure of the amnesty, special squads were still conducting random checks.

"We have appealed to the public to give us any information. The squads are conducting random raids and road checks to unearth more weapons," he said.

The minister added that many deserters were also known to be selling weapons for relatively low prices which were attractive to the underworld.
SSP Mahinda Hettiarachchi director in charge of crime busting said the Police and the military were being provided with weapons, and even if a weapon was rented out, there was no possible way to trace to whom it had been issued.

Back to Top
 Back to News  

Copyright © 2001 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd. All rights reserved.