The Sunday TimesFront Page

10th November 1996




Struggling for their lives: the conjoined female twins now lie at the Lady Ridgeway Hospital, awaiting assistance for surgery abroad. Doctors have said the surgery must be done in three weeks to save their lives. Pic. by Gemunu Wellage.


Speaker’s nod not needed to arrest an MP

Order following Ranil’s interview

Speaker K. B. Ratnayake is learnt to have informed the Police that his permission is not required henceforth to arrest or question a Member of Parliament.

This order comes in the wake of this week’s CID questioning of Leader of the Opposition, UNP leader and former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe regarding his knowledge of events connected to the Batalanda detention camp which is the subject of a Special Presidential Commission of Inquiry.

The CID recorded a statement from Mr. Wickremesinghe at his Cambridge Place office for over five hours on Thursday. He was asked several questions among which was whether the UNP had given money to Superintendent of Police Douglas Peiris who is wanted by the Commission and is reported to have fled the country to Switzerland.

Government sources said the Speaker’s instructions to the Police were not connected to the CID questioning of the UNP leader. They said Police had indicated they wanted to investigate government group members as well.

The Speaker has also told Police that though he was waiving the need to obtain his prior permission to arrest or question an MP, that he wants to be informed of the progress of investigations.

After the questioning of Mr. Wickremesinghe, the CID team will submit a report to the Commission within the next few days.

The CID team is reported to have questioned Mr. Wickremesinghe on certain evidence which had been given by witnesses.

A brief statement signed by the Secretary to the Opposition Leader, said: “The Commission of Inquiry into Batalanda had directed its investigating officers to record a statement from Mr. Wickremesinghe, regarding matters known to him pertaining to the terms of reference of the Commission. Mr. Wickremesinghe made a statement on matters known to him.”

Senior Supdt. S. C. Pathirana and Supdt. H. Premaratne of the CID questioned Mr. Wickremesinghe at his official residence in Cambridge Terrace.

Chopping the chips

Government budget proposals to regulate and allow casinos to operate only in big hotels have run into strong opposition from existing casino owners.

Deputy Finance Minister G.L. Peiris said the Ceylon Tourist Board could regulate the casinos in big hotels on the payment of an annual licence fee of Rs. 5 million through which the government hoped to earn Rs. 450 million.

Top casino operator D.C. Abeywardene said the budget proposals were unacceptable and unrealistic. “I feel the Minister should have met casino operators to get our side of the story. There are other ways to curb corruption rather than by closing down institutions which give jobs to about 5000 people”, he said.

Mahagama Sekera stamp withdrawn

The Ministry of Posts has postponed at the last moment the issue of a new stamp in honour of poet, lyricist and artist Mahagama Sekera following protests by his wife that part of the name printed on the stamp was not used by him.

The authorities were forced to postpone the event after some 5000 stamps were printed bearing the name “Shantha Kumara Mahagamasekera.”

The director of the Philatelic Bureau told “The Sunday Times” that they are investigating the matter, and would be taking a decision on the matter after the probe.

The late artist, Mahagama Sekera’s wife has claimed that the name “Shantha Kumara” was never used and it was a great embarrassment to the family.

Justice Shiranee takes SC seat amidst protest

The newly appointed Supreme Court Judge, Shiranee Bandaranayake is scheduled to sit on the Bench of the court for the first time on November 18 amidst intense protest over her appointment by sections of the Bar Association and two days after the Bar Council is to meet over her appointment.

Ms. Bandaranayake has already visited her chambers on the 5th floor of the Supreme Courts Complex and is familiarising herself with the work of a Supreme Court Judge.

The Bench will also comprise Justice Mark Fernando, a senior judge of the Supreme Court who was recently dropped from the Judicial Services Commission in a controversial move by the government.

Professor Bandaranayake when contacted by The Sunday Times declined to comment on the basis that her appointment as a member of the judiciary precluded her from talking to the press.

Meanwhile, the Bar Council of the Bar Association will be taking up the matter of Professor Bandaranayake’s appointment to the Supreme Court on November 16 after its executive committee decided last week that the Bar Council should be summoned for this purpose.

Four resolutions have been submitted for approval. Proposed by Siri A. Perera and seconded by K. S. Ratnavel, the resolutions read the Bar Council (1) unreservedly condemn the appointment of Shiranee Bandaranayake (2) the Bar does not welcome Ms. Bandaranayake (3) calls upon Ms. Bandaranayake to submit her resignation forthwith and (4) calls upon the Chief Justice not to constitute a Bench of the Supreme Court of which Ms. Bandaranayake is a member.

Soldiers’ shortcut misfires: 19 injured

By Vishaka Jayasekera

An army officer, four soldiers and fourteen civilians were injured when a bus in which they were travelling was “accidentally” ambushed by the security forces in the Batticaloa district on Friday night.

The army personnel who were returning to the Kaluwankenni camp from Sittandy got into a bus carrying civilians from Valachchenai to Batticaloa, and told the driver to reroute the bus towards the camp.

The soldiers at the camp felt suspicious about the bus as usually the route is not used for public transport and opened fire.

The fourteen civilians who were injured were evacuated to the Batticaloa Base Hospital while the soldiers and the officer were taken to the Polonnaruwa Hospital..

Meanwhile, on Friday evening, an army officer was killed in an LTTE Rocket Propelled Grenade (RPG) attack at Manipay in Jaffna.

The officer was identified as Major M.A.C. Perera. The security forces were on a clearing operation, when the attack took place, military sources said

Police baton charge protesting graduates

Hundreds of policemen on Friday night stormed a government building at Battaramulla and baton charged a group of graduate Administrative & Development Assistants involved in a protest and fast unto death demanding they be made permanent.

Police dispersed the group by Friday night from the “Sethsiripaya” premises, which houses the Ministry of Policy Planning, but the protesters refused to leave and were seen opposite the building yesterday morning.

More than 6000 graduate trainees recruited by the Ministry of Policy Planning during the past regime, have not been made permanent.

The protesters were earlier promised by the government that if they called off their protest, their demands would be considered within the next twelve days.

The protesters yesterday said that as the government has forced them to put an end to their strike they would look forward to a solution within the next twelve days, otherwise they would resort to strong trade union action.

Three of the graduate trainees injured while police dispersed them were admitted to the National Hospital.

UNP joins world wide internet

The United National Party (UNP) has become the first political party to enter the worldwide web of the internet.

People across the globe will have instant access to the UNP’s policy on various issues and it will also serve as the party’s voice in the absence of media freedom, a party statement said.

The decision to join internet was based on a recommendation made by Leader of the Opposition and party leader Ranil Wickremesinghe.

The UNP which has completed its 50 years is being revitalised and re-structured to face the challenges of the 21st century and the aspirations of Sri Lanka’s 18 million people, the Party said.

The Website will be WWW.UNP.ORG

Rs. 3m worth unused drugs destroyed

By Arshad M. Hadjirin

Over Rs. 3 million worth of drugs to be used in state hospitals in the North Central Province have been destroyed because they have not been distributed before the expiry date.

Health Minister A. H. M. Fowzie told “The Sunday Times” that he had ordered a top level inquiry into this lapse which had deprived thousands of poor patients getting their free supply of medicine.

Mr. Fowzie said that stern action would be taken against those guilty.

Dr. W. M. T. B. Wijekoon, Provincial Director of Health, North Central Province, said that he has yet to begin the inquiry, and that he believes that institutional heads might be involved in the racket.

“To begin with there had been no drug reviewing committee to assess the excess stocks of drugs in the stores nor had there been a proper drug management, and suddenly last Sunday they destroyed more than 15 million drug components,” he said.

Dr. Wijekoon said that these medicines could have been used in many rural areas to treat thousands of patients, if it had been returned well before the expiry date.

Any excess stocks should be identified at least three months before the expiry date and sent back to the Medical Supplies Division (MSD) at Colombo, from where it should be sent to other needy areas, before expiry time, he said

Aspirin tablets, ampicilin, Malaria drugs and various other medicines were destroyed without any warning or notice to the MSD.

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