The Sunday TimesNews/Comment
18th August 1996




PLOTE says it is unhappy over Government's stand on ethnic issue

By Ajith Galapaththi

PLOTE leader Dharmalingam Siddharthan said his party was not satisfied with the way the government was handling the ethnic issue.

Mr. Siddharthan in an interview with The Sunday Times said more prominence should be given to the devolution package and not to the war.

"As a party representing the Tamils, we still have hopes on the PA's devolution proposals. We have made the government take note that we are dissatisfied with the way the Tamils in Colombo are questioned and arrested. This is different from what the UNP did on such occasions. When we made representations about arrests of Tamils, the UNP listened to us and took action.

"It is not happening under the present government. Police tell us that those arrested are connected to the LTTE. Those who are released tell us a different story that they were released after bribes," Mr. Siddharthan said.

He said this was one reason why the party did not vote with the government to extend the Emergency.

But he said the PLOTE believed the devolution package would hold hopes for the Tamils.

"If the government insists that the ongoing war is for peace, we reiterate that peace can come only through devolution of power. It has to show the people of the North and East that it really means peace through means other than war. This is the only way we can restore peace," Mr. Siddharthan said.

Alive from Mullaitivu

It was more than a mere surprise for the parents in Polonnaruwa to see their son alive, exactly when they were offering Pinkama for their son who they believed was killed during the Mullaitivu attack.

The other villagers who visited the Pinkama were surprised to see the soldier himself participating in the ceremony.

CMC to fight crime

By Kumaradasa Wagista

The Colombo Municipal Council is alarmed at the increased rate of crime in the city.

A resolution requesting the President to take effective steps to curb the increasing crime wave was unanimously adopted at the general meeting of the Council last Thursday.

UNP's Omar Z Kamil moving the resolution said the rate of murder, theft, pilferages and rape have increased to such an extent that law abiding rate payers were not safe even in their own homes. He also said law officers do not enforce the law and law procedure in courts is such that it results in delay. Justice delayed is justice denied.

Opposition Leader Ananda Premasinghe agreed the crime rate of the country has increased. He asked the UNP to mention any country in the world where crimes do not take place. He said one of the reasons for the crime rate to increase was due to the misrule of the previous regime.

He said the only way to prevent crime was to punish the wrong doers and rehabilitate them.

PA's W. Ariyaratne, and UNP's Anton Wijesekera also spoke. UNP's Siripala Gintota Kapuge walked out of the chamber protesting as Mayor K. Ganeshalingam did not allow him to speak on the resolution due to the time factor.

Firms to be held accountable to Parliament

Any institution incorporated under any specific Act of Parliament such as Statutory Boards, Commercial corporations should be made accountable to Parliament, DUNLF leader Ravi Karunanayake said.

He said that Statutory Boards, Commercial corporations fully owned government companies where more than 50 percent of the investment had been from the government or Public corporation should be made accountable to Parliament through the Committee on Public Enterprises, the Auditor General and the Minister in Charge.

He also said that such accounts be presented to Parliament by the relevant Minister within ten months and that the Minister in Charge and the Secretary to the Ministry be held responsible for non- compliance of any of the above.

Mr. Karunanayake's proposal is to be presented in Parliament as a motion.

Journalists' pension scheme taking shape

Media Minister, Dharmasiri Senanayake told a group of Journalists that the proposal to work out a pension scheme for journalists has been accepted by the Government in principle. Only modalities have to be worked out, he added.

Mr. Senanayake told a Sri Lankan Press Association delegation that he would support the Media Trust Fund to make its work meaningful and be of service to media men.

He also told the delegation that he would provide accommodation for the Fund's office and arrange for the Rs. 500,000 pledged by the Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Ltd., to be released immediately.

The delegation which included members of the Media Trust Fund told the Minister that the Fund proposed to make grants to destitute journalists according to the number of years they had worked, on lines similar to the Tower Hall Trust Fund for artists.

The Chairman of the Media Trust Fund, Lakshman Jayawardena said they had prepared plans for a housing scheme for journalists and negotiated with the Banks for an easy repayment loan scheme. The Minister who lauded this said he would provide the land required for the housing scheme.

The Minister explained Government's plans to set up a Media Institute which he said, would be inaugurated next January, initially under the Press Council Act and later incorporated as an autonomous body by an Act of Parliament. It will be a National Institution with no interference from Government and with no political hues.

Holiday cuts: Hindu Congress protests

The All Ceylon Hindu Congress has written to President Chandrika Kumaratunga protesting against the government's decision to deprive Hindus and Muslims of two of their religious holidays in 1997.

These two holidays enjoyed up to date have been dropped out of next year's list of government holidays.

In a letter to the President, the All Ceylon Hindu Congress (ACHC) says that Maha Sivarathri is the most important religious day for the Hindus of this country and that they are also aware of the importance of the Hadji festival to Muslims of this country.

"At a time when it is essential to resolve the ethnic problem to satisfy the aspirations of the minorities, the government has unfortunately taken this step which hurts the feelings of the minorities and make them feel that there is no hope for them to live as citizens with equal rights in this country," the letter adds.

The importance of appropriate power sharing and devolution of power, giving equal rights to all citizens, irrespective of their religion, race and language has been undermined by government's decision to deprive the Hindus of the opportunity of observing the Maha Sivarathri.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Public Administration, said that the government had decided to review the holidays next year and the decision was not taken by the Ministry. He also said that he was aware that representations were being made by the two ethnic groups, protesting against this decision, and he was sure that the government will give them a fair hearing.

Tyronne writes off national government

By Chandimal Mendis

"People will have no faith in democracy if the UNP joins a National Government with the People's Alliance which has not kept its promises, UNP MP Tyronne Fernando said.

It can therefore lead to a resurgence of undemocratic forces, like the JVP he warned.

He said the two-party system had always worked very well in Sri Lanka. and an effective opposition was necessary to expose bad governance, corruption and misdeeds of the government. "Forming a national government will only give blanket cover for all the misdeeds of the government", he added.

The government should resign and call for fresh elections because the government comprises ineffective, inactive and unprofessional people. The UNP will celebrate 50 years in politics on September 6. "We were in power for around 35 years; we learned and groomed a lot of competent people during that period. Are we then going to form a government with an inexperienced PA" Tyronne Fernando asked.

"We are ready to co-operate on the ethnic issue, but we do not want to exploit this for political ends. We will also support coalition with the smaller parties but not in the framework of a national government," Mr. Fernando said.

When the UNP on Tuesday took up the question of a national government at a working committee meeting of the parties it was rejected by a majority of the members present. Anura Bandaranaike was not present at the meeting.

Liquor dealers say they are harassed

By Shyamal Collure

The Excise Commissioner General who was earlier taken to courts over violation of Fundamental Rights involving refusal to renew liquor licenses on political grounds is making sinister moves to harass those who lawfully challenged and defeated him, the All Island Licensed Liquor Dealers Associations alleged.

A spokesman for the association told 'The Sunday Times' that the harassment came by way of unnecessary raids and various fines imposed through officers of the Special Operations Unit of the Department.

"Now we hear that our applications for the renewal of licenses for 1997 is going to be refused on the strength of these fines. Some licensees backing the government too have been fined to show that there was no discrimination, have been secretly advised to apply for renewal of the licenses for the coming year in the names of their spouses. We can't do so for we would then be considered as new applicants and so would lose our 'fighting ground', he explained.

The spokesman added that a new set of guide-lines and conditions was soon to be drawn up to facilitate this process.

"Liquor licensees fall into two categories, FL 4 (Retailers) and FL 11 (Liquor Restaurants). Under the former, a 'Wine Shop' should be at least 100 meters away from a school or a place of worship and the limitation extends to 500 metros with regard to the latter. In flagrant violation of these rules a restaurant in Kandy was issued a license last Thursday. It is only 120 meters away from Pushpadhana Balika Vidyalaya and some 200 odd meters away from a church. Here, the owner is a relative of a cabinet minister", he said.

Excise Commissioner General, W.N.F. Chandraratne who dismissed the charges outright stated that wherever there had been malpractices, the guilty licensees had been detected and dealt with according to the law.

Continue to the News/Comment page 2 - The doyen of national culture First woman soldier to die in action, World body honors Uvais, Wickremabahu takes oaths as municipal councilor, Disputes bill delay irks trade unions, Jalberry in Mulberry, Luxury vehicles: why not, says MP, Jane says thank you, CID probes drug capers in school

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