West Asian workers safety assured, says minister
By Nilika Kasturisinghe
All arrangements have been made to protect our migrant workers in the event a war breaks out in the Gulf, Minister of Labour Welfare Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena told The Sunday Times.

Minister Abeywardena who visited the West Asian countries which may be affected if a war breaks out said an assurance has been received from the Kuwaiti Government that it would extend to migrant workers whatever assistance it gives its own people.
Forty persons comprising Embassy staff, agents, businessmen and representatives of Sri Lankan associations in Kuwait will assist in the evacuation of the migrant workers to safety.

The Embassy would make available food, water and medicines required for one month and if necessary for a longer duration. In Jordan rented houses have been arranged for the approximately 35,000 Sri Lankan workers.

The minister said the UAE is completely safe because its airport will not be closed in the event of a war. Saud Arabia will also not close its borders with the border between Kuwait and Saudi Arabia being open.

The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) will meet the expenses of charter flights to bring back our workers, in the event a war breaks out, the minister said.
Meanwhile, Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment Chairman Susantha Fernando told The Sunday Times "Strict instructions have been issued to our ambassadors in West Asian countries to give whatever relief necessary to Sri Lankan workers".

Medical students fire at new film
A student action group of the Colombo University's medical faculty yesterday came out against the award-winning film Thani Thatuwen Piyambanna (Flying with one wing), asking whether it had a promotional agenda for the tobacco industry behind the screen.

"This film is based on a woman who tries to live like a man. This "Man" has to struggle against various social norms, definitions and socio-cultural expectations of manhood and masculinity. Running parallel to the effort of becoming a man, is a woman's struggle against the social injustice i.e. women's freedom. Since efforts to define masculinity and women's freedom are two key themes in this film, any claims that are made regarding masculinity, man-hood and women's freedom are invariably important.

"The film is full of scenes where smoking is glorified as a symbol of masculinity. We find in several occasions that cigarettes are been pushed between the lips of the characters in a very unnatural and artificial manner. It is interesting to notice that all characters are smoking a particular brand of cigarettes from the beginning to the end of the film," said a statement issued by Novil Wijesekera, chairman of the medical faculty's Students Involved in Rational Health Action (SIRA).

"We would like to discuss two scenes from the film. In the first one "the man" goes to pick up a girl who returns home late night. When "he" sees the girl, "he" throws away the cigarette. Then the girl asks "Why did you throw it away? You are so nice when you are smoking". In the next scene, at the climax of the film, the wife of the "man" clearly describes what a woman in general expects from a man. Amongst her items in the list, with so much stress and emphasis, she says that smoking in front of a woman is what a woman expects from a man," the action group said.

Big anti-war demo in Colombo
Following up on the massive anti-war protests by about 30 million people all over the world last month, the peace action groups including several in Sri Lanka are planning another world-wide protest next Saturday. The demonstration in Sri Lanka to protest against the US-British threats to wage war on Iraq will be co-ordinated by the Alliance For The Protection of Natural Resources and Human rights.

Convenor Sarath Fernando said the anti-war groups would gather opposite the Fort Railway Station, at 2 p.m. next Saturday, International Womens' Day to demonstrate and distribute leaflets bringing about awareness on the "blood for oil" issues involved in the Bush administration's plan to attack Iraq.

He said scores of groups ranging from civic action movements and trade unions to farmer organisations were being invited to take part in the anti war protest. The Ven. Mahamankadawela Piyarathana Nayake Thera better known as Eppawela hamuduruwo is the chief organiser of the protest campaign and more details could be obtained by calling on telephone no. 074-407663.

Not honoured in death, says disappointed father
A father of the pilot who was killed in the helicopter crash with Minister A.H.M. Ashraff on September 16, 2000 at Aranayake is disappointed his son has not been promoted to the next rank.

Mr. Nalin Sri Perera (65) the father of late flight lieutenant Shiran Wasantha Perera told The Sunday Times that his son who was the pilot of the helicopter in which Minister Ashraff travelled, has not been promoted to the next rank of squadron leader even when he really deserved it.

He said that he is requesting his son's promotion on the convention that an officer is promoted if he dies in action. Mr. Perera states his son died in action because he was directed by Minister Ashraff to be the pilot of the helicopter in which he travelled.
"My son was specifically brought down from Anuradhapura by Mr. Ashraff because he wanted my son to be his pilot", he said.

Mr. Perera said he had appealed to President Kumaratunga to grant the promotion to his dead son, after Air Force authorities had failed to do so. The President had replied that the promotion cannot be given because he did not die in action.

" Shiran was a very devoted officer, loyal to the Air Force. It is really unfortunate that he is not given the due respect even when he is entitled to it", Mr. Perera said.
He added that he received a compensation of about one lakh of rupees for his son's death and is also receiving a monthly compensation but said that it is not money that measures his son's service to the country but a due promotion that is granted in appreciation of his service.

Navy top brass withdraw case

By Ayesha R. Rafiq
The Sri Lanka Navy's number two, Rear Admiral Mohan Wijewickrema and three other senior officers have withdrawn action against their commander and Secretary, Ministry of Defence in the Court of Appeal.

This follows an assurance from Defence Secretary Austin Fernando that no disciplinary action will be taken against them, despite recommendations made by their Commander, Vice Admiral Daya Sandagiri.

The Secretary had informed the Navy Commander of this decision on the instructions of the Defence Minister. Rear Admiral Wijewickrema and the other officers had petitioned the Court of Appeal seeking to quash the Navy Commander's recommendation that disciplinary action be taken against them.

The Navy Commander had earlier written to the Defence Secretary criticising the findings of a committee which had inquired into the conduct of the officers and found them free of fault. He had recommended disciplinary action against them.

The committee had investigated allegations made by the Navy Commander that the officers had unnecessarily committed the government to pay a high price for gunboats with an electronics weapons system, whereas the Navy Commander had recommended another type of craft from Ceylon Dockyards.

Rear Admiral Wijewickrema and his colleagues had looked into an offer made by the Chinese government and made their recommendations to then Navy Commander Cecil Tissera. The former Commander had decided to purchase the equipment but this move had been stopped when the present Commander assumed office.

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