The Sunday TimesNews/Comment

17th March 1996



Minister assures action against corruption

President Kumaratunga will take stern action anyone including ministers found to be involved in bribery corruption, a minister has assured.

Health Minister A.H.M. Fowzie gave the assurance during a visit to the Panadura Hospital when a Provincial Minister spoke of the need for political leaders to set a good example.

During Mr. Fowzie's visit, a scanning machine and an X-ray machine were presented to the Panadura Women's Hospital.

Shocking details in Rajapakse's petition

By K.M. Weeraratne

In a sensational Customs case involving several VIPs and detections amounting to hundreds of millions of rupees, the Supreme Court on Friday suspended the interdiction order on former Customs Director Gamini Rajapakse as interim relief in a new petition filed by him.

Mr. Rajapakse who joined the Customs in 1965 said he had made more detections than any other officer in the department.

His detections brought in a staggering revenue of more than Rs. 687 million - an all time record.

He said he was highly commended on no less than 32 occasions by all the former Customs chiefs.

Mr. Rajapakse said in his petition that in May 1993 - soon after the assassination of President Premadasa - he was conducting investigations into massive duty frauds involving textiles, garment accessories and powerloom machines to the value of about Rs. 3500 million. A powerful Minister of the D. B. Wijetunga government summoned him to his Ministry on three occasions and pressurized him to release these goods to various businessmen on payment of a meagre Rs. 75 million. Mr. Rajapakse said he refused to do this and his services were terminated that month.

After that, he alleged, the Customs withdrew penalties he had imposed on several racketeers, released seized goods and shelved investigations. After a new government came to office in 1994, Mr. Rajapakse said he wrote letters to the President, the Prime Minister and others in this regard.

In October 1995, the Supreme Court delivered a judgment ordering the Public Service Commission to reinstate him with back wages and promote him as Director of Customs. In the same judgment the Director General of Customs was ordered to pay him the reward monies due to him.

Mr. Rajapakse said that in November 1995 while he was returning home after work, a gang of hired thugs stopped his vehicle and assaulted him with clubs causing him severe injuries. He said he had credible information that this was done with the connivance of a VIP in the Customs.

Thereafter, Mr. Rajapakse reported back for duty after medical treatment on January 4, 1996. But a charge sheet containing five violations was handed over to him and the next day 16th February 1996 he was interdicted by the Director General of Customs.

The Supreme Court bench comprising Justices Rajith Amerasinghe, S. W. B. Wadugodapitiya and P. Ramanathan granted Mr. Rajapakse leave to proceed with his petition and suspended his interdiction order till the case is determined.

President's Counsel Romesh de Silva appeared for the petitioner with attorneys Palitha Kumarasinghe, S. D. Yogendra, Geethaka Goonawardene and Hiran de Alwis.

Nature will say this is a man

Vedda chief Tisahamy, old and ailing now, is spending the last lap of his adventurous though marginalised life in a hut at Dambana in Mahiyangana.

Every day hundreds of Vedda people - original inhabitants of Sri Lanka - come to visit him. In deeply rooted tradition he treats all of them as his children.

Though his speech is halting and his memory fading, the Vedda chief still upholds the traditions and lifestyle of his people despite massive assaults by the forces of so-called modern development.

Symbolic of his determination to maintain the identity, culture and history of his people is the axe that old Tissahamy still keeps with him.

Like the native people of America who had clung to their identity through centuries of oppression, Tisahamy and his people have and will always be very close to nature. If none else, nature would stand before Tisahamy and say - this is a man.

School girl missing, police quiz NGO

Police are probing the disappearance of a 14-year-old Panadura schoolgirl who told her mother she was leaving for Canada through an NGO last Sunday.

According to a complaint made by A.M. Somawathi of Panadura to the Police, her daughter Dilusha of Sri Sumangala Balika Vidyalaya had left home last Sunday saying she was going to Canada. She had promised she would phone the mother from the NGO office before leaving.

As the call did not come a desperate mother rushed to the NGO office that night. But the head of the organisation told her he knew nothing about such a matter, the mother said.

When the Police questioned the head of the NGO he again denied knowledge of any such matter. But a lecturer attached to the NGO has told Police that a girl carrying bags had come to the NGO office that night and asked for him. When security officers told her he was not in she had left a message for the lecturer to contact her at Moratumulla.

The Principal of the school has told Police the girl had told her about the proposed trip to Canada and she had given Dilusha some money for the trip.

Highway project runs into trouble

Environmentalists are protesting vehemently against the proposed construction of the Colombo-Matara super highway which according to them has allegedly been implemented without any Environmental Impact Assessment.

This superhighway which is 134 km will have six lanes. According to environmentalists any project which is over 10 km and causes the relocation of over 100 families requires an EIA.

In a letter to President Chandrika Kumaratunga, the Environmental Foundation states, "The entire exercise is illegal, and we regret that a minister of your government has allegedly been a party to an illegal exercise.

An official of the Road Development Authority (RDA) said a service road was being built parallel to the highway and the entire project would cost about Rs. 20 billion. Compensation would be paid to all those affected.

Meanwhile persons who would lose their properties due to this project have formed an association. Its assistant M.D. Gunasekera said 16,000 families would be affected by this superhighway project. He said procedures had been ignored and the whole process was illegal.

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