The Sunday TimesNews/Comment

10th, November 1996



Detainees threaten to go on death fast

By S.S. Selvanayagam

More than 300 Tamil detainees, languishing in the Kalutara and Magazine Prisons for around four years, will begin another fast unto death next week unless concrete steps are taken to file charges or release them, before November 15, an MP has warned.

TULF Batticaloa District member Joseph Pararajasingham said these detainees had launched an earlier fast in June this year and the government had promised that action would be taken within four months to file a case or free them.

But four months had passed now and little or nothing had been done to implement that promise, the MP said.

They had been kept under the 18 months detention order but even at the lapse of this period, they had not been released nor legal action instituted against them, they said.

They said that they were taken in on suspicion and subjected to severe torture for obtaining confession.

Some of the detainees under the purview of the Justice Ministry have already been released or legal actions have been taken against them, but in the case of those who come under the purview of Defense Ministry no legal action nor release had been effected, they claimed.

Call for low key Deepavali

All Ceylon Hindu Congress (ACHC) in Deepavali message has appealed to Hindus to cut down on celebrations.

Kandiah Neelakandan General Secretary of ACHC in his message has pointed out that many Tamils were undergoing hardships including rape, murder and robbery.

"Our people have lost their homes and they are suffering without adequate clothing, food and medicine The ACHC therefore appeals to Hindus to pray and help the suffering people on this day, " the message said.

LTTE men held, contraband seized

MADURAI.- Customs officials arrested two LTTE militants, along with four of their accomplices, in Ramanathapuram district on Wednesday. Contraband meant to be smuggled out to Sri Lanka including, gold biscuits and a pistol have been seized from them.

On a tip-off, customs officials attached to the Ramanathapuram Divisional Preventive Unit did a check of vehicles at Vattanam near S.P. Pattinam in which a mini lorry was intercepted.

Interrogation of the occupants of the vehicle revealed that two of them - S. Sathiyamurthy of Kokkuvil in Jaffna and S. Karuppiah of Vannarpannai in Jaffna - belonged to the LTTE. They confessed that the articles were meant to be smuggled out to Sri Lanka. The accomplices of the LTTE cadre have been identified as R. Jayakumar and K.S. Balasingh of Athikulam and R. Ponnusamy and S. Rajendran of Keeraithurai, all residents of Madurai. - The Hindu

Pension scheme for self-employed

By Arshad M. Hadjirin

A pension scheme for self-employed persons will be introduced on November 25 by the Ministry of Social Welfare.

Minister of Social Welfare A.H.M. Fowzie told 'The Sunday Times' that this is the first time that such a scheme is to be introduced in Asia.

"Any self-employed person in the age group 18-59 whose income is below Rs. 5,000 a month, is eligible to take part in this scheme," said the Minister.

According to the rules of this scheme an individual will pay monthly Rs. 50 to the government and in return the government will pay back Rs. 3,000 monthly when the individual reaches the age of 60.

Mr. Fowzie said that this project would bring in additional revenue to the government and more money could be generated from it. "I am very confident that this scheme wouldn't die off," he said.

Govt. Returns the Vada Bhoomi

The Govt. has decided to hand over the historical debating ground to the Panadura Buddha Maha Sangamaya thus putting an end to a 16 year-tug-o-war.

The land known as Vada Bhoomi was gifted to the Maha Sangamaya in 1954 by Ms. Roslin Rodrigo. daughter of philathrophist Jeramias Dias. The govt. took over the 40 perch land in 1980 by a gazette notification.

Consumer watchdog gets new teeth

Vowing he would no longer allow traders to plunder innocent people, Trade Minister Kingsley Wickramaratne has announced that the Consumer Protection Act is to be given fresh teeth to control prices, ensure quality of goods and black list or prosecute profiteers.

The new thrust will be spearheaded by an independent and wide-powered body known as the Federation of Consumer Associations of Sri Lanka (FOCAS). This new consumer watch dog team is headed by former civil servant Leel Gunasekera and includes representatives from several NGO's.

Minister Wickramaratne said that FOCAS was introduced in line with the free market economy of this country and would be closely linked to 'Consumer International', a world organization fighting for the rights of the consumers.

FOCAS will be an association similar to what is found in the United States, or Singapore, and will act as a forum to the consumers. Mr. Wickramaratne under heavy fire for not being able to control the sky-rocketing cost of living, said he would not allow traders to trample the consumer.

FOCAS will educate the people to get together and fight malpractice's by traders," Mr. Wickramaratne said.

Mr. Wickramaratne said FOCAS would have powers to investigate irregularities by traders or companies. FOCAS President Leel Gunasekera, told 'The Sunday Times' that this was a vital move by the government to restore the rights of consumers and prevent any tyranny by traders.

Mr. Gunasekera said FOCAS would get involved in areas such as ensuring the safety and quality of food items and other consumer products.

Protest in Denmark over Chitra's arrest

By S. Selvanayagam

A controversy has arisen in Denmark over the case of teenage girl Chitra Rajendran who was arrested in Dehiwela this week two days after she was deported by the Danish authorities.

The students and teachers of the school that Chitra studied in have launched a campaign on her behalf while nine journalists from Denmark are now here to report on her case.

Police detectives say they arrested the girl on a tip off from Interpol that she had allegedly been a fund raiser for the LTTE in Denmark.

But two lawyers retained on Chitra's behalf by her school in Denmark say the charge is unfounded and based only on some reports that the girl's brothers are linked to the LTTE.

The lawyers K.V. Thavarasha and T. Gowry Shangary contacted D.I.G. Indra de Silva who allowed one Danish journalist to meet Chitra who has been remanded.

Troels Aagaard of the Danish Broadcasting Corporation's foreign desk interviewed Chitra while the other journalists are closely monitoring the situation.

Chitra was deported after Danish authorities rejected her asylum application on the basis that it was not unsafe for her to return to Sri Lanka.

But her school, the Danish media and other human rights groups - when they learnt of Chitra's arrest are protesting strongly against Denmark's decision.

Meanwhile Chitra was produced before the Mount Lavinia Magistrate Sarath Abrew by the police, on Friday.

The police wanted the girl to be remanded. Attorney K.V. Thavarasha said the girl's arrest had drawn LTTE attention and remanding her further might mar the image of the country. He asked the judge to release her on bail.

As no relatives were present in court to stand personal bail the girl was handed over to the custody of the Salvation Army.

Magistrate ordered that the girl be produced before court on November 21.

Continue to the News/Comment page 3 - * Motor licenses: new rules , * NCC clarifies , * Prabha ordered Paris job , * JR to Ravi: Failures are the sons of success

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