Mangala: A distinguished friend of India

Sri Lanka's High Commissioner in New Delhi Mangala Moonesinghe was awarded 'The Distinguished Friend of India" award last Sunday, in recognition of his services to India.

The All India Conference of Intellectuals in their annual International Intellectuals' Honour list conferred upon Mr. Moonesinghe the award at a ceremony held on January 19 in New Delhi.

Mr. Moonesinghe was called on to make a short speech on acceptance of this honour.

The All India Conference of Intellectuals is a non-political organization. Some of the patrons include former Prime Minister of India, Inder Kumar Gujral, former Elections Commissioner of India G. Krishnamurthy, Chief Justice Ashok Desal and Film Director Ramanand Sagar.

Among other beneficiaries are advocates of the Supreme Court, Governors of Districts and banking officials.

Probe on free ticket

By Tania Fernando
An inquiry is being held to find out how a senior official of SriLankan Airlines boarded a flight to Singapore with his family on free tickets, when more than 20 passengers had been off-loaded from that particular flight.

The Head of Service Delivery, Walter Riggans had boarded the flight to Singapore early this month with his wife and daughter, despite the airline having to off-load 21 passengers who had confirmed bookings on the flight.

The off-loaded passengers were provided with hotel accommodation, a discount voucher from the duty free complex and international calls. Normally the airline would spend approximately US$ 75 per off-loaded passenger.

A source at the airline said that although paying passengers are given priority, in this instance Mr. Riggans had boarded the flight with his free tickets. "Normally if we are issued a free ticket, we can get on the flight only if there are seats on the flight", the source said.

The inquiry commenced after a complaint was made. When contacted SriLankan Airlines were not available for comment.

Tyronne still trying for top job

By Chandani Kirinde
Foreign Minister Tyronne Fernando who is on an official West Asian tour has reiterated his interest in running for the top post of United Nations Secretary General.
However, his spokesman in Colombo said that newspaper reports quoting him as saying he was the country's official candidate for the post were incorrect.

"The minister has the blessings of the Prime Minister and the Cabinet but it is too premature to say he is the official candidate," the minister's media secretary Ranga Kalansooriya said.

He said newspaper reports to this effect were probably misquoting the minister.

A Foreign Ministry statement that quoted a popular AE newspaper confirmed that the minister had spoken of his desire to contest for the top post of the world body stating he was probably the only candidate from Asia to bid for it well ahead of time.

The minister had stated that the next Secretary General should be a politician rather than a bureaucrat considering the problems faced by the UN such as terrorism and poverty.

The election of the next Secretary General is not due till 2005 as the term of the present Secretary General Kofi Annan expires on January 1, 2006.

Heavy lobbying is needed among the UN body's 189- member General Assembly member and more importantly the 15 member Security Council members to gain enough support to win the top job.

It is reported that candidates from at least five other countries will vie for the job including those from Indonesia, Thailand and Singapore.

Only one Asian - Burma's U Thant - has held the post of UN Secretary General since the world body's founding in 1945. Asia's turn to hold the post was scheduled for January this year but with the Ghanaian born Kofi Annan winning a second term - the continent will have to wait a few more years to have a its representative heading the world body.

Traditionally, the post rotates every ten years by region.

But Africa has won an unprecedented 15 years at the helm with one five-year term for Egypt’s Boutros Boutros Ghali and two terms for Mr. Annan.

AG's advice sought on faxed letter

By Tania Fernando
The Criminal Investigation Department (CID) is to seek the Attorney General's advice on how it should proceed with the faxed statement sent by former chairman of Thuru Saviya Rohan Illangaratne, in connection with the alleged fraud at the Rubber Manufacturing Corporation.

The CID was seeking the assistance of Interpol to trace the whereabouts of Mr. Ilangaratna, son of former Minister T. B. Ilangaratne consequent to a statement made by former Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake, on the alleged fraud at the Sri Lanka Rubber Manufacturing and Export Corporation.

A source at the CID said that Mr. Ilangaratne had faxed his statement from Canada.
The CID commenced investigations after it was revealed that money amounting to Rs. 2. 5 million was released to the Corporation, when President Kumaratunga was Finance Minister. These monies were allegedly released for the purchase of lands for constructing factories.

However, the Corporation has no deeds to back up any of the transactions.

The former Chairman of the Rubber Manufacturing Corporation along with the accountant and factory manager were remanded in connection with the massive fraud in the Corporation and later released on bail. Statements of several leading opposition politicians were also recorded in connection with the alleged fraud, along with those of several VIPs and officials in the plantation industry.


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