The Sunday TimesFront Page

1st September 1996




Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadiragamar greeting the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs of the United Kingdom Malcolm Rifkind, when the latter called him yesterday at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Pic by Kumara Dayawansa

ALFEA wants maids circular withdrawn

By Arshad M. Hadjirin

The Association of Licensed Foreign Employment Agencies (ALFEA) has asked the labour minister to withdraw a circular concerning housemaids which had a serious error in the Arabic translation.

An ALFEA spokesman said that the new circular known as “Employment Contract” (EC) has been wrongly translated by the officials at the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment (SLBFE). “It amounts to a breach of understanding between the employer and employee,” he said.

According to the new circular any person who wishes to go abroad as a housemaid should sign the employment contract, and pay a levy of US$ 20. ALFEA wants to extend the EC to all Mid-Eastern countries and to all job categories, if it is to be introduced at all.

ALFEA which has in its membership all licensed foreign employment agencies in the country, has requested the labour minister to suspend the contract, and rectify the mistakes. The Chairman of the SLBFE is expected to invite all ALFEA members and explain the implementation and operations of the EC.

A labour ministry spokesman confirmed that there was some confusion regarding the translation because different dialects are used in Saudi and Kuwait.

He said that the matter has been referred to a Jordanian lawyer for study and until then only the English text will be valid.

The signing of contracts would benefit job agents as well as the workers, he said.

Meanwhile, ALFEA members have resolved to stop recruiting migrant workers from the 5th of this month, if Chairman of the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment (SLBFE) is not removed for a statement he made calling the Lankan housemaids “sex slaves”.

ALFEA president W.P.M. Aponso told “The Sunday Times” that unless the Chairman apologises for his statement, they wouldn’t reverse their decision. Currently ALFEA has a membership of more than 450 agencies and are responsible for a greater share of the Sri LankaÕs foreign currency earnings, which last year topped Rs. 40 billion.

Beauty queen tells of Healy episode

Amidst wide spread rumours and wild allegations about a late night rendezvous between a Sri Lankan beauty queen and Australian cricket captain Ian Healy, the visibly shaken girl visited The Sunday Times yesterday to tell her story.

According to her, Ian Healy had been a family friend for the past four years and recently she had even faxed him a message, through the Australian Cricket Board, telling Healy that the Australian team should not be deterred by terrorist threats and that Sri Lankan fans would be very disappointed if the team did not come here. It was a fine public relations job for the government.

No sooner after the Aussie team arrived here, the beauty queen said she telephoned Healy at the Oberoi to greet him. She inquired whether he had received the fax. He thanked her for it and invited her along with her parents to meet him that night at the hotel.

The beauty queen who requested that her name be not mentioned, said she went with her parents to meet the Australian captain that night and they had a long chat at the hotel lounge.

On August 22, she went to see Healy again at the hotel but there was very tight security and she was stopped at the elevator by a sleuth of the Ministerial Security Division (MSD). She then telephoned Healy and he also had spoken to the security men asking that she be allowed to come up. Healy had also pointed out that sports official Tita Nathanielz was already with him in his room and he saw no reason why the girl should not be allowed. But the security men refused and finally Healy came down to meet her at the lounge. After an argument with the MSD officers who stood their ground that the beauty queen can’t go up Healy and Tita Nathanielz went out for dinner with her, the beauty queen said.

On August 23, the next day, she and her parents went again to the hotel to meet Healy. The team had in the meantime gone out to the Hilton for dinner, and happened to meet Healy again, when the team returned. They had a short chat at the lobby and then went home.

On August 24, she visited the Chapter One disco at the Oberoi with some of her friends. Some of the Australian cricketers including Healy were also there watching the Australia-South Africa rugby match on TV. Healy had played for the rest of the World Eleven in the rain washed match against Sri Lanka at the R. Premadasa stadium that day and on Monday there was the match between Australia and Zimbabwe.

It was on Tuesday August 27, that the nightmare encounter took place. According to the beauty queen, Healy had telephoned her and complained about the team being confined to the hotel due to tight security. He said the team would be here for more than two weeks playing just three or four matches and nowhere to go on other days. He invited her to come for a chat over a drink.

Accordingly she arrived at the hotel about 9 that night. Due to problems she had encountered earlier with the security, she had arranged with Healy to go to the eighth floor in the old block of the hotel. She called Healy from the lobby and he came down.

Describing herself as a “girl of the 90s”, the beauty queen said she offered to buy a bottle of wine to celebrate Healy’s appointment as acting captain of Australia and her success in a Sri Lanka beauty pageant. While she went to buy the wine, she gave her handbag to Healy to take it to the eighth floor executive lounge and wait for her there. The executive lounge is public area, she says. Her handbag contained her passport within which there was Rs. 510, the beauty queen said, scotching rumours about why she had given her passport and why there was money in it.

While she was going to the elevator to join Healy on the eighth floor, she was stopped again by the security men who were under strict orders to maintain tight checks on all visitors. She first pleaded, then argued with the security men but they insisted that no one could be allowed to go up after 10 p.m. She then went to the lobby to take a telephone call to Healy who was upstairs, but the manger there sensing possible problems with the security, astonishingly told her to go to the nearby Taj Samudra Hotel and get the call.

She agreed but at that point other problems arose since her handbag was with Healy on the eighth floor. Her van key was with the Oberoi valet according to hotel regulations. But the key tag was in her handbag with Healy. So she called a scooter taxi and went to the Taj from where she telephoned Healy to tell what had happened. She told him to send her the handbag but keep the passport as it might be risky to send it through a third party. Healy looked in the handbag and passport and said there was Rs. 510 in it. She had said “keep it” meaning that money be kept in the handbag. But Healy had kept the money in the passport and sent the handbag to her at the Taj, she says.

After getting her handbag she came back to the Oberoi in a scooter cab to get into her van and go home. But all hell broke loose. The beauty queen said two cars loaded with security men, some in civvis came towards her in a threatening manner. She alleged that some of the security men had questioned her in an abusive way.

They demanded her national identity card and she told them what had happened and that her passport was with the Australian captain. The security men then telephoned Healy to confirm this. Then two security men got into the van with her and told her to drive to the Kollupitiya Police station. The time was now past midnight.

She explained the whole affair in a statement she recorded there and the passport with the cash inside was sent to her at the station. After collecting the passport the Policeman at the station who were sympathetic to her, allowed her to go back home, at the end of a terrible ordeal.

Healy was not available for comment upto last night.

According to other reports, the Australian captain had told a Senior Cricket Board official that security at the hotel provide by the STF was too tight and the cricketers were deprived of “out of the playfield opportunities.” The board official had replied, “ You wanted the tightest security, don’t blame us now.”

No moves to ban LTTE in London-Rifkind

By M. Ismeth

The visiting British Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Malcolm Rifkind said yesterday that there were no moves to ban the LTTE operating in London and added that the Sri Lankan government had not taken up the issue during his visit.

The State Secretary, on a two-day visit to Sri Lanka addressing a Press conference said that, on the issue of LTTE fund raising clear evidence was needed to show that the money would be used to help a terrorist organisation.

Mr. Rifkind was reported to have been keen on meeting Constitutional Affairs Minister G. L. Peiris and Deputy Defence Minister, Gen. Anuruddha Ratwatte to study about the devolution package and the security situation, apart from meeting President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar, and Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe.

Asked if he considers the LTTE a terrorist organisation, he said, “Clearly they have indulged in terrorist acts and we unreservedly condemn terrorist acts that have been carried out by that organisation, just as we would condemn terrorist acts committed by any organisation. They may have other activities as well, they may have political activities, that one has to be aware of.”

Asked why the British government allows the LTTE to carry out terrorist activities if they consider LTTE a terrorist organisation, he said that if any individual in Britain, whether he be LTTE or from any other organisation commits a terrorist act or encourages terrorism or directly supports terrorism, breaking British law, action is taken.

PA imposes censorship on MPs

The People’s Alliance hit by differences within the party has cautioned all its members not to act in a manner which destabilised the government.

The PA General Secretary and Agriculture Minister D.M. Jayaratne in a letter to all its parliamentarians has urged the members not to raise issues in parliament before getting matters clarified from the relevant Ministry.

The move came as the PA-DUNLF battle continued with the PA General Secretary saying they were not satisfied with a reply given by DUNLF regarding a statement made by Ravi Karunanayake.

DUNLF Leader, Srimani Athulathmudali told “The Sunday Times” she had taken note of the PA General Secretary’s letter and would be responding to it. The Sunday Times learns that the DUNLF would be standing by its original response in which it strongly defended. Mr. Karunanayake.

Mr. Karunanayake’s statement and subsequent reply were taken up at the PA Executive Committee meeting earlier this week during which Mr. Karunanayake strongly defended his position.

The decision to write to all PA MP’s not to act in a manner which harms the Alliance was taken at this Executive Committee meeting presided over by President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga.

The President had insisted that steps be taken to prevent any statements similar to that made by Mr. Karunanayake.

Take-over of Puttalam beefs investor faith

The successful take-over of Puttalam Cement Company by Holderbank of Switzerland is a clear signal that the Sri Lankan legal system gives adequate protection for foreign investors, legal experts say.

Certain foreign investors who had bought into the cement company after it was sold to the Tawakkal Group, later alleged that company was mismanaged.

They managed to oust the Tawakkals from the Board of Puttalam Cement having convened an extraordinary general meeting, despite many objections.

The take-over was completed in a few months, which is said to have impressed foreign investors.

It is pointed out that the foreign funds invested were taken out of the country, using the country’s existing legal system.

This, it is hoped, will show foreign investors that their investments will be safe in this country, experts say.

Commision on Wijeweera killing

President Chandrika Kumaratunga at a meeting with the Sri Lanka Progressive Front (SLPF) leadership on Thursday undertook to appoint a commission of inquiry to probe the killing of former Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) leader, Rohana Wijeweera.

Leader of the SLPF Ariya Bulegoda told “The Sunday Times” that President Kumaratunga agreed to set up this commission once reports of the on going commissions, inquiring into the assassination of certain political leaders, were submitted to her. He added that no timeframe for the constitution of the Wijeweera Commission was outlined at the discussion.

Rohana Wijeweera was killed in November, 1989.

The President said that widowed Chithrangani Wijeweera and her children were being kept under naval protection in Trincomalee at their request and if Mrs. Wijeweera expressed her willingness to live elsewhere in Sri Lanka or abroad, that the necessary steps would be taken after assessing the security situation, Mr. Bulegoda said.

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