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An STF commando inspects the bus that came under LTTE fire at Aranthalawa on Thursday. Pic by Anuruddha Lokuhapuarachchi
Rates charged by the Department of Civil Aviation have been increased by a staggering 500 per cent, producing shock waves and protests from the aviation industry.
Industry sources said AirLanka and other local operators had strongly protested to the Aviation Ministry and the Department saying the new rates were exorbitant.
The new rates, announced in a recent gazette notification, were apparently drawn up by officials who knew little about the aviation industry, the sources said. In response to the protest, the Department has requested airline personnel to compute the rates they would be willing to pay.
They said a comparison of the old and new rates would show the unfairness if not absurdity of what had been done. Some of the old and new rates are as follows: Registration of aircraft - From Rs. 20 to Rs. 5,000; Certificate of airworthiness (annually) Airbus (340) - From Rs. 46,687 to Rs. 4,244,350 and Tri Star - From Rs. 38,350 to Rs. 490,000.
With the government announcing its intention to introduce a new bill to take over ailing privatised enterprises, protests have begun to emerge from the private sector representatives, who fear its negative effects.
The Ceylon Chamber of Commerce in a statement said the proposed bill for the Rehabilitation of Public Enterprises is perceived to be a virtual re-enactment of the now repealed Business Undertakings (Acquisition) Act.
"Having examined the proposed bill, the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce is protesting vehemently on behalf of the business community," the CCC said.
The Chamber said the repeal of the Business Acquisitions Act had "liberated" the private sector from a "draconian" law which had stifled and oppressed it for several years. The Chamber is believed to have submitted a memorandum to the President, voicing their concerns.
The proposed legislation empowers the President to take over mismanaged enterprises. Some enterprises privatized by the previous government had got into severe financial difficulties, under private management. The legislation hopes to prevent the failure of privatised enterprises and possible job losses.
Last week a top official of Ceylon Oxygen expressed concern at the proposed legislation and said the parent company Norsk Hydro had been informed of the new development.
Five Tamil parties which are campaigning for an interim council for the north and east are to decide today whether they are to boycott the newly appointed north-eastern co-ordinating committee.
On Friday at a meeting with President Chandrika Kumaratunga, two of the major Tamil parties represented in Parliament expressed their dissatisfaction over the appointment of the committee which was to be headed by Minister A.H.M. Ashraff.
The five parties campaigning for an interim administrative council are: the PLOTE, EPDP, EROS, TELO and the EPRLF.
The government made last-minute changes to the committee by promoting North-East Governor Gamini Fonseka as co-chairman from his original position of Secretary to the committee after he pointed out that his appointment as the secretary would be undermining the governor's post, in addition to it being unconstitutional.
President Kumaratunga on Friday said only MPs representing the Northern and Eastern provinces would be in the committee, thus excluding other MPs and councillors. EROS leader Shankar Rajee commenting on the committee said it would hardly benefit the people. EPRLF leader Suresh Premachandran said they opposed the committee claiming that even the present Rehabilitation Task Force is controlled by the Army and the new committee would not be able to carry out its work independently.
EPDP leader Douglas Devananda before his meeting with the President told The Sunday Times that the proposals they drafted for the Interim Council had been adopted for the committee.
The Sunday Times learns that dissatisfaction among the Tamil parties about the committee was over the chairmanship which was not entrusted to a Tamil party leader.
Meanwhile, at Friday's meeting with the President, it was announced that a high-powered military-civil team would leave for Vavuniya to sort out issuing passes to civilians arriving from the north. The present pass system gives the impression of civilians visiting another country when they were arriving in Vavuniya. The pass system also causes considerable delays, he said.
The power crisis which was experienced this year, is likely to occur in 1997 too, CEB authorities say.
This statement was made at the Engineers Union meeting, chaired by CEB Head, Arjun Deraniyagala. A spokesman for the union said it had warned the CEB last year of an impending power crisis, but their warning went unheeded.
Health Minister A.H.M.Fowzie has vowed he would resign from his post by this time next year, if his proposals to improve the health services failed.
In an interview with The Sunday Times in the wake of protests by the GMOA once again over his proposal that seeks to prohibit doctors in administrative positions joining the association, Mr.Fowzie said he did not want the GMOA to control the health sector, or dictate terms to the government.
"All my proposals have been for the betterment of the country's health service and not to combat any individual group. I would no longer be fit to handle the Health Ministry if the government fails to consider my suggestions. I would wait for one more year, and by that time I will see that, all my proposals are implemented. If not, I will quit my post," he said.
Mr.Fowzie said he would start implementing his past proposals including a proposal which would impose a ban on doctors in government service from doing private practice.
He said his latest proposal was only to differentiate doctors who are in administrative posts from those who are not.
"For example, the teaching profession has two different trade unions Ñ the teachers" union and the principals union. Similarly there should be two unions in the health sector".
"This way the issues taken up by the respective unions narrow down to their own interests, whereas if all stick together, even a mere issue is blown out of shape, causing much inconveniences to innocent patients. Besides I view the GMOA, as a body which tries to increase its membership by bringing in university students as well," the minister said.
Mr. Fowzie said he would urge all administrative doctors to form their own trade union and if they failed to do so, they would be replaced by the staff of the Sri Lanka Administrative Service.
However, the GMOA said that any sensible government or a democratically elected president would not consider such an arbitrary act, which amounts to a gross violation of the fundamental rights of an employee.
The GMOA has warned that it would take necessary action , if any of their present members were victimised.
President J.R. Jayewardene who will be 90 on Tuesday has said there will be no celebrations as his wife is in hospital.
Mrs. Jayewardene was admitted to hospital last week following a spine injury.
Mr. Jayewardene will however participate in religious ceremonies on his BÕday.
A TULF deputation led by its President M. Sivasithamparam will call on President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga on Thursday to discuss hardships faced by people of Jaffna living in Colombo.
Mr. Sivasithamparam told The Sunday Times, they would request the President to increase flights and ship services, to enable stranded Jaffna people in Colombo to get back home. There are about 1000 people awaiting defence clearance to board the flight back to Jaffna, it is reported.
The UNHCR chief here has urged Presidential Secretary K. Balapatabendi to ensure that food and other basic supplies reach thousands of displaced persons in the Wanni region if the exodus of refugees to India is to be stopped.
After he met Mr. Balapatabendi, Peter.Meijer told The Sunday Times that he explained the gravity of the situation to the presidential secretary and he had been assured the cooperation of the government to stop the refugee exodus.
Mr. Meijer said a highly-organised boat service was operating from Mannar taking refugees to India and already a large number of people had fled.
He said the main reasons for the exodus were lack of security to their lives, lack of food and essential items, and a fear that they might have to go through difficulties and to stay in confinement in Vavuniya if they reached there.
"Hundreds of people are heading towards the Mannar island, with a hope of going to India. I understand that each person is required to pay about Rs.6000 for the trip in fishing trawlers."
Reports from India confirm that hundreds of refugees have crossed over to the Rameswaram coast and all of them are being fed at the Mandapam refugee camp.
Mr.Meijer said his officials at Mannar had received letters from those who were now living at refugee camps in India, and they have encouraged other people to join them. They had also said their situation is better than in Sri Lanka.
Last Tuesday over 250 persons reached the Rameswaram coast in Ramanathapuram district. According to reports these people have come in several batches and reached the coast from different places to avoid police and naval surveillance. However the police seized three fibreglass boats that ferried the refugees.
Meanwhile, Vavuniya's Government Agent K.Ganesh said some 2821 refugees who fled the Wanni area in the wake of Operation Sathjaya, have been sent from Vavuniya to Trincomalee, from where they were expected to reach Jaffna by vessel.
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