The Sunday TimesNews/Comment

11th August 1996




CP wants Workers' Charter implemented

The Communist Party, a partner in the People's Alliance (PA) has asked government to take necessary steps to implement the Workers' Charter which has been shelved due to pressure from various quarters including foreign investors.

In fact the drawing up and the implementation of a Workers' Charter is an important item contained in the election manifesto upon which the PA government came to power, a CP statement said.

"We reject the argument that the implementation of the Workers' Charter would adversely affect industrial and business activity and discourage local and foreign investment in the country.

"On the contrary the implementation of the Workers' Charter coupled with the further augmentation of apparatus for conciliation and resolution of industrial disputes, in our view, will help ensure the maintenance of industrial harmony," it said.

The PA government's successes in promoting industrial harmony during the last two years testifies to this potential. In this respect it is also important that the government maintains continuous consultations with the trade unions," it added.

It will be tragic if the government accedes to the behests of such forces who are also bent on the destabilization of the government in order to attain their own ends. The path to industrial harmony and stability lay in the implementation of the Workers' Charter together with the adoption of other measures referred to earlier, " the statement signed by CP's General Secretary, Raja Collure said.

Two dons in Bosnia group

Two professors of Forensic Medicine, Ravindra Fernando and N. Chandrasiri, have been invited to Bosnia as members of the expert group on exhumations and missing persons.

This expert group was set up under the Dayton Peace Agreement. The two Lankan experts will join a multi-disciplinary team of specialists from different countries.

Hotels slash rates to stay afloat

By Kshalini Nonis

Several resort hotels have slashed prices to stay afloat in view of a steep drop in tourist arrivals after the Central Bank bomb blast this year. Some of the hotels are offering discounted rates to tourists, while others are giving special packages and discounts to locals and expatriates with incentives such as free accommodation for children and excursions.

Keells Hotels Manager, Mani Sugathapala said they were offering special discounts to tourists, if there were big tour groups from any particular country. Special rates were also being given to locals and expatriates with free accommodation for children under 12. According to Mr. Sugathapala tourist arrivals had declined 30-35 percent at the Keells Hotels after the Central Bank bomb blast. There had been a slight improvement this month, but future tends were uncertain.

Serendib Hotels Director, Suresh Murugaser said they were making use of contracts with tour wholesalers to offer attractive packages to tourists from Britain, Germany and other countries. He said they were offering discounts of up to 30 per cent to foreign tourists and 45 per cent to locals.

Jetwing Hotels Sales Manager Indira Hettiarachchi said foreign tourists who stayed for more than two weeks in their hotels, were being given big incentives while locals were given 10-20 per cent discounts.

Between January and June this year, tourist arrivals decreased by 31 per cent. In March for example, arrivals decreased by 34 per cent from 40,074 in 1995 to 26,442 according to figures of the Ceylon Tourist Board. Most markets from Asia also registered declines except Hong Kong, Taiwan and the Philippines.

Editor threatened again

The UNP's Maligawatte West organiser and "Nation Today" Editor Azad Salley, who was recently assaulted allegedly by some supporters of a ex-Minister, has been transferred to a another hospital for security reasons amidst more possible threats to his life.

According to reports some persons who had visited him at the Accident Service were not among those known to him or his family members.

Two days ago an unidentified person had called his mother at 10.30 p.m. and asked her whether her son Azad had already moved into Ward 19.

At this time he was in Ward No. 3 and was to be transferred to Ward 19, but after the call he was transferred to Ward No. 11.

Since the attack on him last Monday he had been transferred to four wards. For security reasons he was transferred out of the Accident Service yesterday.

Meanwhile, some of his opponents are said to be abusing the media for having highlighted the assault on him, sources said.

Mr. Salley 32 was one time Vice-President of the Bahujana Nidahas Pakshaya (BNP) of which President Chandrika Kumaratunga was the leader.

CPC pays Rs. 360m. for excess staff

By M. Ismeth and Chandimal Mendis

A staggering Rs. 360 million is paid yearly by the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) to nearly 3000 appointees to the CPC after the PA came into office.

According to sources this staff of 3000 is over and above the required cadre. It is also revealed that about Rs. 10,000 is being paid inclusive as overtime for the newly recruited staff.

Meanwhile, a CPC spokesman told The Sunday Times that the Ministry of Power and Energy had called for an urgent report on the excess staff and their payments. He also said that the CPC had asked for time till August 12 to submit the report. This report is supposed to be presented to Parliament.

The speculation of a price hike in petrol and diesel shortly can be attributed to the payment of this enormous sum as salary, some analysts said.

The price of petrol is to be increased by Rs. 10 and diesel by Rs. 1 sources who wished to remain unnamed said.

Phone tapping: reply in two weeks

Leader of the House, Ratanasiri Wickramanayake asked for the two weeks to answer a question posed by a UNP member about allegations of phone tapping.

A.H.M. Azwer, UNP National List MP asked the question in the Parliament on Friday from Telecommunications Minister, Mangala Samaraweera but since he was absent Mr. Wickramanayake asked for time.

Mr. Azwer referring to newspaper reports, including our sister paper "Midweek Mirror", asked whether it was the policy of the government to tap phones of those who are opposed to them politically.

He requested Mr. Wickramanayake to table the names of officials/persons responsible for this "unscrupulous and despicable action" as described by Mr. Ravi Karunanayake MP at the last government group meeting. He also asked for a report of the probe conducted by the government on the blatant violation of rights to privacy and democratic freedom.

He asked the minister if the government would take steps to prosecute the offenders under the Telecommunications Ordinance or other applicable law, and if not he asked why. Mr. Wickramanayake said that the Prime Minister Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike had asked him to request for two weeks to answer the question.

Five LTTE men killed

By Ratnapala Gamage

Government troops attacked a group of rebels in the northern Valikamam division and forced them to flee but in the process a (censored) was killed another injured. (The names of the two have been censored).

Government troops meanwhile, continued their major military offensive against terrorists in the areas north of Kilinochchi after consolidating their positions.

At least five LTTE cadres were killed in the battle on Friday while troops continued to fire at LTTE concentrations in the area.

War used for political end - NSSP

The Nava Sama Samaja Party (NSSP) has stated that instead of arriving at peace by conceding autonomy to the Tamils, President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga has followed in the footsteps of JR and Premadasa to escalate the war to dizzy heights.

In a press release, the NSSP says that while misusing the war for political advantage the President is threatening to pass the entire weight of this insane adventure on the working people.

The press release adds that state employees are made the scapegoats for the inefficiency and incapacity of the government and that the President wants the working masses to sacrifice their daily bread for the benefit of racketeers and exploiters.

The NSSP says: "The President threatens us with violence and wants to close down media that criticize her. After coming into power by screaming for peace, welfare and human rights she now stands for war, cuts and privatization."

"We appeal to all mass organizations, trade unions in particular, to come together to defeat her when she attacks the working masses," the press release adds.

Maha Bodhi's 100th meeting

The centenary meeting of the Sri Lanka Sri Maha Bodhi society will be held on August 17 at 4 pm at the Maha Bodhi Mandira hall, Ven. Hikkaduwe Sri Sumangala Thero Mawatha, in Maradana.

The special invitee will be Ven. Kirama Wimalajothi Thero, Director of the Nedimale Buddhist Cultural center in Dehiwela. There will be a special address by Gamani Jayasuriya.

No end to surveyors' strike

The government surveyors' strike, which entered its 70th day last week, is deadlocked with talks failing to bring about a settlement. No negotiations were held over the past few weeks.

The strike, which has so far cost the government Rs. 130 million, was launched when the government surveyors opposed the proposed new field structure which would do away with the present field structure and require surveyors operating in the field to report to centralized offices.

Terrorism and the dilemma of the media

ADAM FEINSTEIN (of Jerusalem News): Do you get the feeling that the Israeli government expects something different from the press at times of tragedies such as the suicide bombings in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv? Is there official pressure on the media to rally round? Is there any suggestion that a paper trying to be objective should "fall into line?"

URI DROMI (Director, Israeli Government Press Office): The government has grown mature enough to be at ease with the idea that the media's job is not to rally round the cause. But the terrorists aim is amoral. Their purpose is to shatter the fiber of society, to undermine resilience and morale. When the media cover terrorist activities, there is a dilemma. What we want is for the media to be sensitive to their impact on public morale. After one of the terror attacks, a paper published a story with the headline, "Murder in Cold Blood," written in big, blood-red letters. Many fellow journalists actually criticized their colleagues for this, saying that there were many different ways to report such tragedies. What happens if - God forbid - something worse happens? You would run out of clichés. Israelis are at war. Does the press have a responsibility or not? But it is important that the media themselves decide, and not the government. And they do, by and large. The coverage of the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin was excellent. In fact, the media even provided comfort after that tragedy.

AF: So there was little sensationalisation of the assassination?

UD: Of course, it was a terrible shock, a tragedy. But the media said the right things.

AF: Israel's press is remarkably free. But do you think that the system of military censorship here always works, or are there times when it could be seen as unjustified?

UD: I don't think that military censorship is applied unnecessarily. And if it were, I would be against it. Over the past few years, censorship has lifted. We are more self-confident, and we can take more risks. But we're still not there. Countries are still at war with us.

We still have terrorism. So we feel we are justified. But we have a constant dialogue with the media, because we know that the system is not perfect. Personally, I feel we should keep censorship - but restrict it to the vital things. And we should be careful to alert the media.

AF: Palestinian journalists have complained that the recent closures of the West Bank and Gaza have prevented them from covering events in Israel, despite the fact that they are officially accredited by the Israeli government. What is your response to this?

UD: They have a point. But you must remember that we do not want the closures. There is terror, and we must do something to stop it. It is not just the journalists who are suffering from the closures - it is hundreds of Palestinians who want to come and work here.

On May 13, Uri Dromi announced that Israel had given 40 Palestinian journalists on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip entry permits to cover the Israeli national elections on May 29, despite the border closure. Mr. Dromi said: "We attach importance to freedom of the press, even when the security situation forces us to impose a closure." Interviewed again by Adam Feinstein after this announcement, Mr. Dromi said: "We hope to work out a system to allow Palestinians to move freely after the elections are over. It is an issue we are working on."

Continue to the News/Comment page 2 - Mahindapala and the muddy rut, Govt. Policy leading to a major financial crisis

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