The Sunday TimesNews/Comment

2nd June 1996




70 more institutions to be privatised

By M. Ismeth

The privatization of over 70 state institutions are under consideration and the plans to divest the shares of these organisation have already been completed, according to official sources.

In February the Chairman of the Public Enterprises Reform Commission of Sri Lanka (PERC) sent a report to the Director General of the Department of External Resources about the present status of the divesting of the shares.

The details were to be conveyed to the Vice President of the South Asian region of the World Bank Joseph D. Wood.

The 'Sunday Times' learns that according to a letter dated February 8,1996 written by Chairman of PERC R. N. Asirwatham to Mr. S. L. Seneviratne, Director General, Department of External Resources, Ministry of Finance, he states, "As authorised by the Public Enterprises Reform Commission of Sri Lanka Act No. of 1996, the Public Enterprises Reform Commission of Sri Lanka (PERC) plans to undertake the reform of public enterprises as specified in the Operational Plan."

According to the PERC Operational Plan 1996-98 attached to the letter the shares of the following institutions were to be divested:

Bogala Graphite Ltd., Ceylon Agro Industries Ltd., Colombo, International Schools (Sri Lanka), Lanka Ceramics Ltd., Tea Smallholder Factories Ltd., Air Lanka Ltd., Ceylon Electricity Board, Ceylon Petroleum Corporation:, Ceylon Shipping Corporation, Ceylon Fertilizer Co., Ceylon Steel Corporation, Ceylon Foundation, Lanka Electricity Co. Ltd., Hotel Developers Lanka Ltd., Taj Lanka Hotels Ltd., State Mortgage and Investment Bank, Building Materials Corporation, Ceylon Port Services, Ceylon Fisheries Corporation, Independent Television Network (ITN) and the National Film Corporation.

The above are only a few in a longer list of enterprises earmarked for divestment of shares.

Elite move into hotels

By Kshalini Nonis

The island wide blackout was a blessing in disguise for the city's top hotels with some of them being sold out to Lankan and expatriate residents who booked rooms for the night to escape the power cuts.

Most of the hotels had over 85% occupancy and operated round-the-clock on stand-by generators, with adequate supplies of water while some obtained water with the aid of bowsers.

The Colombo Hilton offered a "Power break package" for its regular elients and resident expatriates. Public Relations Chief Yasmin Cader said this package included accommodation, as well as discounts on food and beverages and laundry. She said the hotel was "sold out" on Thursday and Friday.

Sunil Peiris, Financial Controller of Trans Asia Hotel said that the occupancy rates at the hotel had increased since Wednesday evening and of the 85% occupancy rate on Thursday about 50% were Sri Lankans and resident expatriates. He said a special rate was offered to these people.

The Taj Samudra Hotel had almost 100% occupancy according to General Manager M. Narang. "We have offered special rates to locals and expatriates to enable them to tide over this difficult period", he said.

Lal Liyanage, Manager of the Hotel Ceylon InterContinental said, "Group rates" have been offered to locals and expatriates and that the hotel was full up. "About 35%-37% of the guests are locals and expatriates", he added.

An official of the Lanka Oberoi said bookings had increased tremendously over the past few days. There was a continuous flow of guests and he was unable to give numbers, he said.

Tragic hospital victims of a wildcat strike

By Shelani de Silva

Badly injured Jude Max was seated on the pavement outside the National hospital with his wife. Two weeks ago he had met with a serious accident and underwent three operations. Still suffering from the after effects of the third operation on his head, Jude was forced to leave the hospital because there were no water or electricity. He was one of the thousands of innocent victims of a wild cat strike.

His tragic story was told by Nishanthi his wife. "My husband met with an accident two weeks back. A few days ago he was transferred from the Ragama hospital. He underwent three operations. It was only three days back that they operated on his head. It was after this that he lost his memory. But today we were asked to take him home saying that due to the power and water cut they could not do anything. We were asked to buy the medicine from the pharmacy she said.

When we met them outside the hospital his wife was waiting to obtain a certificate from the doctor to get a Samurdhi contribution of 500/=. "I was told that I can get such an amount. Being in this situation it is a god sent," added Nishanthi who has three children aged six, three and eleven months.

Patients in hospitals who were made to suffer more by the doctors' strike last month have again been thrown into agony by the power and water cuts as a result of the CEB strike.

Several wards of the Sri Lanka National hospital were deserted on Thursday and Friday, with most operations being put off. Except for the ICU and the Accident service all other wards and officers were without water and electricity.

Most of the wards which have twenty eight beds, had less than ten occupants. The nurse in-charge of one ward said that in a few days the ward would be empty if the supplies were not restored. "Without water and power there is no purpose in keeping the patients. Their sickness might get worse. Most of them decided to leave and return for treatment once things get back to normal" the nurse said.

Water being the most essential need for the patients, they were provided with it by their home folks. Fifty two year old Zakia Farood, was admitted to the National hospital on May 25 for an ear operation. She was to be operated on Saturday. " As I am a diabetic patient I was given injections and the final dose was to be given today. But since this problem came up the operation was put off and I decided to go home. Water is the biggest problem, fortunately for me my family brought a jug of water for the day. That too has to be used sparingly; said the patient who is from Pasyala.

Water for patients is carried up to the wards by the attendants. This too has proved to be a tedious task as the lifts are not operating. "Although it is difficult we carry about two to three barrels of water to the wards. This is for the toilet. A basin of water is kept in the pantry from which the patients are requested to wash their hands," one attendant said.

Though the patients are given the usual meal, the hospital labourers' lunch has been cut down to bread and dhal. Reports say that many labourers have stopped work.

Little Dharshi with head injuries is yet another patient leaving the hospital. The child was wrapped in a towel and was being carried by her father. "We have no choice but to take her home. We were given a letter by the doctors stating that if she gets worse then to admit her," he said.

Meanwhile all drugs at the storing rooms which require cooling have been sent to the Medical Supplies Division.

The Lady Ridgeway hospital at the moment have a supply of water and have obtained generators. The Administrative officer of the hospital told The Sunday Times the hospital tank had water and they were promised three bousers by the water board. "At the moment we are surviving with the limited supplies we have. None of the patients was sent home. Only the routine operations were put off," he said.

Lankan businessman sues Sears

From Lakshmi Pieris in Los Angeles

A Sri Lankan businessman living in Costa Mesa in Southern California has filed a lawsuit against Sears in South Coast Plaza for biased treatment which led to his arrest by the police.

Businessman Kown Shabdeen who tried to pay a bill with $5000 in cash was stalled while an employee of the store summoned the police claiming about a "Drug Dealer" trying to pay a big cash bill, the lawsuit claimed.

Mr. Shabdeen in his suit filed last week in Orange County Superior Court, claimed that he was surrounded by three police units, who questioned, searched and then advised him not to go to that store again. The suit alleged that this incident happened since he is dark skinned and speaks with an accent. This incident had occurred in May last year when he tried to pay his Discover credit card debt at Sears with $ 5,000 in cash and a cheque for $ 4,789 the full total he owed the credit company, the suit claimed.

According to his attorney this seems to be a normal transaction in an affluent area like South Coast Plaza. Nevertheless employees feigned a computer glitch to delay Shabdeen, at the store until the arrival of law officers, the suit claimed.

His attorney John H. Kays said, "the store employees should have been acting on common sense, but the only thing they acted was the colour of his skin."

Some employees of many big departmental stores have been advised by the management to exercise utmost caution when certain customers try to pay their bills with large amounts of cash.

Unions close ranks to fight

By Arshad M. Hadjirin

Nine strong trade unions have banded together and called for an urgent meeting with President Chandrika Kumaratunga to discuss the crucial issue of privatising public enterprises.

This joint trade union front known as the anti-privatisation movement will continue their picketing on Monday and have warned of serious consequences if their request is not heeded.

The nine trade unions in this Front are the Ceylon Bank Employees Union, the Petroleum Corporation Union, the All Ceylon Oil Workers Union, the Railways Trade Union Front, the Electricity Board Trade Union Front, the Insurance Employees Union, the Telecom Trade Union Front, the Steel Corporation Trade Union Front and Water Supplies Trade Union Front.

The anti-privatisation movement has invited other leading unions like the CMU the CFTU and GMOA, to co-operate with it. The joint Front will meet again today.

Continue to the News/Comment page 2 - Doctors say no sabotage by CEB men, Struck in the dark, Born to humbly serve Buddhism, country

Go to the Gossip Column - The general's knot in the dark

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