The Sunday TimesNews/Comment

31st March 1996




Men on war path at 'Bhoys'

More than 400 workers of Hebtulabhoy, a leading tea exporting company in Colombo kept the newly appointed Directors hostage on Friday night in protest over attempts to retrench staff.

The workers had prevented the Directors leaving office until late in the night.

The labour unrest was sparked off after the Managing Director of the firm had resigned following a Boardroom dispute the previous day. His proposal to get Vanik to bail the ailing company out of the woods had been rejected by other Directors.

On Friday the new owners had informed the workers to keep away from work.

The workers told The Sunday Times that despite the new management's claim of suffering losses, they had purchased about 90,000 kilograms of tea from last week's tea auction. "For whom was this tea purchased if they want to close us down," they asked.

Air Force ignores Police request for guard to surrender

By Shelani de Silva

A leading company chairman who is alleged to have been attacked by the Air Force Commander's security men has called for a full investigation into the incident.

The attack took place last Wednesday around 5.30 p.m. when the chairman who was traveling down Green Path was stopped by a pillion rider and attacked.

The chairman who wished not to be identified, told The Sunday Times that he was traveling on the centre of the road, while two cars with civilian number plates were traveling on the other side.

"There were three lanes. The two civilian cars were on the first, and the second was free and I was going on the third lane. Nearing the roundabout a pillion rider wearing an ordinary shirt started going zig-zag on the road. At first I thought it was a youngster trying to annoy me. The two cars had stopped due to the traffic congestion and as I was traveling on the third lane I overtook the pillion rider and turned on to the left. The moment I overtook him he cut across my vehicle and forced me to stop," he explained.

"The officer had then pulled out a revolver. Within minutes some one had called out to the businessman and the moment he turned back, he had got a shot on his right cheek. "I don't know whether it was with the gun but my left eye was bleeding. He then asked me for my driving licence and identity card. I told him that I have no intention of giving my personal belongings to third grade people. Again he hit me with the hand. All this while I did not know who they were and why I was being attacked."

According to the victim, they had asked him whether he knew who they were and who was traveling in the car. When he had answered in the negative they had not bothered to reply. While the shouting was going on, a traffic constable who had been watching the entire episode had come to the scene. "The police officer asked me for my driving licence and ID which I gave to him. Then one rider grabbed it from the cop and began to scribble something which was then passed to the other rider but the police officer managed to get it back. Meanwhile another officer came close to us. The pillion riders went away and it was then that I got to know that they belonged to the Air Force Commander's escort," he said.

The businessman pointed out that the reason for him to insist on an investigation was because things like this could happen to anyone. No one has the right to treat me or any person in this manner. "I insisted that I be given an assurance by the Air Force Chief that such an incident should not be repeated. If I was traveling in the same lane or even the second lane they could accuse me of trying to overtake the vehicle. Even here they don't have the right because no one knows who is traveling in the vehicle. In this instance I was in the far side and did not give any thought as to who was going in the cars," he said.

He explained that if they were providing security then it should be done the correct way. "There should be some indication that a high ranking officer was traveling. Or they could stop the traffic until they pass and not just attack a moving vehicle. It is such a disgrace the way these officers behaved. It would be the same even if Prabhakaran was traveling."

The businessman suffering from his eye injury and a cut on his nose and lip had not been able to go to the police station. He had first gone home to Borella and then with a friend had gone to the police station to lodge a complaint."

"Before I lodged my complaint the two officers had made a complaint saying that I had tried to speed past the Air Force Chief. If I was speeding I would have knocked the rider," he said.

He added that if the police do not bring the officers to justice he would go to Court. "I have already consulted my lawyers," he said.

Meanwhile, the Cinnamon Gardens Police told 'The Sunday Times' that they had already informed the Air Force asking the particular officer to surrender. The Air Force had informed the police that the officer was on duty and once he was free from his work he would be brought to police. However by Friday evening he had not come to the police station, the police said.

Hit first then talk

A Sri Lanka Insurance Corporation driver, S.P. Heenkenda, who was allegedly shot and wounded by a member of the security guard of Deputy Defense Minister, Anuruddha Ratwatte has expressed fears that his family would be harmed following the shooting incident.

The brother of the victim, N. Wijetunga, told 'The Sunday Times' that the family members had left Weligalla, Gampaha for Colombo in fear..

"My brother was trying to approach the main road when some people in a vehicle on his right hand side had blocked his way and abused him in bad language. They were dressed in uniform. They had asked my brother, 'Didn't you know that the minister just passed this 'way' and then opened fire," he claimed.

The security men had opened fire twice and then sped away.

The injured driver was rushed to the Colombo General Hospital where he was kept under heavy police guard.

The driver who underwent emergency surgery, was discharged from hospital on Thursday.

The Slave Island police said they were investigating the incident.

UNP queries Vijaya Commission

The UNP is of the view that the Commission which probed the Vijaya Kumaratunga assassination has ignored and disregarded crucial and vital information pointing to the actual motive of the assassination.

Instead the Commission has tried desperately to point a finger at President Ranasinghe Premadasa and Ranjan Wijeratne; a UNP statement said.

The UNP said it was reacting to reports published about the Commission's conclusions.

Apart from casting doubts and aspersions, the only recommendation the Commission is making is the appointment of a Quasi-judicial, independent commission to inquire into complaints and partiality on the part of the police. The responsibility is being passed from one commission to another.

The UNP looks forward to issuing a further statement analysing the Report for the benefit of the public, upon it being published by the Government.

Asgiriya Mahanayake slams Minister G.L. Peiris

The Mahanayake Thera of the Asgiriya Chapter, Venerable Palipane Sri Chandananda Thera has told the Parliamentary Select Committee that Buddhism should be accepted as the foremost religion not be merely given priority.

The Mahanayake Thera in a letter to the Select Committee, has proposed that the Republic of Sri Lanka accepts the priority given to Buddhism. One needs to be a Buddhist to be Head of State in Sri Lanka. This was the stance adopted by Sinhala kings in respect of preserving Buddhism up to 2nd March 1815.

The Mahanayake says what is important is the acceptance of the place of priority Buddhism has received, not the bestowing of priority that Minister G. L. Peiris mouths so often.

EPDP responds

Responding to President Kumaratunga's charge that while she was sticking her neck out in the ethnic conflict, the Tamil parties were not doing so, EPDP leader Douglas Devananda said, "we feel the President has made the statement under the present situation."

"But we state that in the past whatever proposals that were presented be it the Bandaranaike- Chelvanayagam Pact, the Dudley-Chelvanayagam Pact or even the Indo-Lanka Pact to find a solution to the ethnic problem it was right along opposed from the South. All obstacles to any proposals to solve the ethnic crisis came from the South.

Continue to the News/Comment page 2 - 'We didn't kill': An interview with the JVP Gen. Secy.

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