The Sunday TimesFront Page

17th November 1996




LTTE ploy in Danish drama

Sri Lankan authorities were studying the circumstances behind the deportation of 18-year-old Chitra Rajendran, a one-time nurse in the LTTE Medical Corp, as the country moved to downplay the expulsion of four Danish journalists this week.

Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar has asked Inspector General, W.B. Rajaguru to give him a detailed report on the dumping of Ms. Rajendran at the Colombo airport last Saturday by Danish immigration authorities and her subsequent arrest.

Mr. Kadirgamar has also instructed Ambassador Alfred David to brief the Danish Foreign Ministry that Sri Lanka was still studying the circumstances behind Ms. Rajendran's sudden arrival at Colombo airport under Danish police escort and whether Sri Lankan authorities had been informed.

Ms. Rajendran had arrived without a passport and with only a birth certificate and a letter from the Danish police. Immigration had allowed her to enter the country but police arrested her at an uncle's home at Dehiwela three days later.

On Friday that uncle and his son were also taken into police custody on a detention order.

Preliminary investigations showed that Ms. Rajendran had been a nurse with the LTTE. Two of her brothers are reported to have been killed in action fighting for the LTTE.

A Deputy Inspector General of Police, investigating the case said that Chitra had been taken into custody on suspicion of "terrorist connection".

Investigations had also revealed several discrepancies in her birth certificate. She is now being held at the Salvation Army Centre.

Government yesterday denied a report in the state-run Daily News, quoting a Lankapuwath story that Ms. Rajendran had been deported back to Denmark.

Meanwhile the Danish authorities have expressed their keenness to negotiate a repatriation programme on the lines of what Sri Lanka has with Switzerland and is negotiating with France.

The Sri Lankan position is that while it must take back its nationals, it will not accept them in great numbers.

The entire episode comes in the background of a massive anti-deportation lobby, mounting in Denmark and other Western countries orchestrated by a pro-Eelam lobby.

Meanwhile the Danish government was on Tuesday on the verge of sending one of its government representatives with legal assistance for the four journalists after the publicity there and in other European nations over the Chitra case and the detention of the journalists. The four media institutions to which the journalists were attached to had made representations to their Foreign Ministry.

Soren Sorensen, the Deputy Editor of one of the four newspapers concerned - the "Berlingske Tidende" who arrived in Sri Lanka on Wednesday met officials of the Foreign Ministry and discussed the issue.

Shell out of Gas?

Shell strike

The suspension of nine Shell Gas Company employees sparked off this fiery demonstration outside Orugodawatte oil storage tanks on Friday. This led to disruption in gas distribution islandwide.

Pic. by Gemunu Wellage

The multi-national, Shell Gas Lanka Ltd., which jacked up the price of domestic gas twice in one year, may be taken over by the government under the newly enacted Rehabilitation of Public Enterprises Act, PERC sources said.

The law applies to enterprises privatised before the establishment of PERC. However at the time the Shell privatisation agreement was signed in December 1995, the PERC Bill had not been passed by Parliament.

With industrial action halting gas distribution, it is believed that there are valid grounds to takeover Shell Gas and hand over the company to another private gas distributor.

Already two companies have expressed interest in taking over the running of the gas business in Sri Lanka, sources said. The two firms had been outbid by Shell during the negotiations for the sale of the Gas Company last year.

Shell Gas had raised the price of gas by 10 percent twice in one year through alleged shortcomings in the privatisation agreement, despite objections from PERC, which maintains that the company was given a monopoly on the condition that prices would only be raised by 10 per cent.

Meanwhile, Shell Gas in a statement said the industrial action came in the wake of a suspension of nine empoyees following a breach of safety regulations at the Colombo Port when LP Gas was being off- loaded.

While the All Ceylon Commercial and Industrial Workers Union supported the action, the Sri Lanka Nidahas Sevaka Sangamaya did not not support it, Shell Gas said.

"Arrangements are being made to continue supplies to essential services such as hospitals and the Armed Forces," the company said.

Pal-kavi lawyers disrupt Bar meeting

Pro-grovernment lawyers yesterday disrupted a Bar Council meeting by singing Pal-kavi (folk songs) after losing a vote by 97 to 2 discuss the recent appointment of Prof. Shirance Bandaranayake to the Supreme Court.

Bar Association President N.R.N. Daluwatte walked out of the meeting when he was unable to bring the meeting to order. The singing went on for nearly 20 minutes.

The Bar Council met yesterday to discuss four resolutions regarding the appointment of Prof. Bandaranayke. The meeting had been called by Attorneys Ajantha Coorey, Neelanthie Peiris and Anoma Gunatillake.

At the outset "Bacon" Abeykoone and Aloy Ratn-ayake, both recently appointed PCs, B. Manawadu and Dr. Jayampathy Wickremaratne, Adviser to the Minister of Justice opposed the meeting on the grounds that it was unconstitutional to discuss a presidential appointment to the Supreme Court.

Attorneys Elmo Perera, Senior Partner of F.J. & G. de Sarams, B. Mahenkanda, K. Indatissa and J.E.D. Gooneratne brother of Industries Minister C.V. Gooneratne, spoke in favour of holding the meeting and argued that the independence of the Bar was synonymous with the independence of the judiciary.

The opponents urged the matter be resolved by the chair (Mr. Daluwatte) but it was instead put to the House which voted 97 - 2 by a show of hands, in favour of continuing with the meeting.

At this stage the singing started amidst sharp retort and slang words being exchanged by some of the lawyers.

Former Bar Association Presidents Eardly Perera, PC, Ranjith Abeysuriya, PC, Desmond Fernando, PC (President of the International Bar Association, L. C. Seneviratne, PC, Faiz Mustapha, PC, Romesh de Silva, PC and Ananda Wijesekera, PC, were also present at the meeting.

The four resolutions were: (I) Unreservedly condemning the appointment of Shiranee Bandaranayake; (2) the Bar not welcoming Ms. Bandaranayake; (3) calling upon Ms. Bandaranayake to resign, and (4) calling upon the Chief Justice not to constitute a bench comprising Ms. Bandaranayake were formally moved by Siri A. Perera and seconded by K.S. Ratnavel. The meeting was then abandoned due to unruly conduct by a section of the Bar Council members.

On Thursday night pro government lawyers were hosted to dinner at Lanka Oberoi where PresidentÕs Secretary K. Balapatabendi, PC had been present. The strategy to be adopted at yesterdayÕs Bar Council meeting had been discussed at the dinner by several of those present, it is claimed.

Meanwhile the SLFP Lawyers Association issued a statement on Thursday supporting Ms. BandaranayakeÕs appointment saying it was not irregular or illegal.

Prof. Bandaranayake was a Law Professor at the Colombo University. She took her oaths as an Attorney- at-Law 13 years ago and is the youngest appointee in the history of the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka.

Meanwhile the Matugama Branch of the Bar Association on Wednesday passed a resolution by 15 votes to 5 with 2 abstentions protesting Ms. Bandaranayake's appointment.

Justice delayed: gown not ready

Ms. Shiranee Bandaranayake, recently appointed to the Supreme Court will take a little more time to mount the bench. Reasons: her robes are not yet ready.

The 38-year-old former law professor was appointed to the countryÕs highest Court in what has turned out to be a controversial appointment.

She was earlier scheduled to sit on a bench of three judges on November 18, but it has now been postponed.

The Registrar of the Supreme Court M.A. Cyril said that no new date had been fixed for Justice Bandaranayake to sit nor any new bench been constituted including her on it.

"The Sunday Times" learns that one reason, though not necessarily the main reason for Ms. Bandaranayake J. being unable to hear cases is because her gown (or robes) which judges must wear is still with the tailor.

Meanwhile, the Bar Council met, on Saturday to discuss Ms. Bandaranayake J.Õs appointment. Four resolutions condemning her appointment are before the Council.

UN agencies row over food distribution

By Shelani de Silva

Two leading United Nations humanitarian organisations have clashed over the issue of food distribution in northern Sri Lanka.

The controversy arose after the UNHCR representative Peter Meijer suggested to Presidential Secretary K. Balapatabendi that the World Food Programme should distribute food in the uncleared areas.

However Mr. Joseph Scalise Country Director WFP, in a letter to the UNHCR representative said that issues of this nature should not be discussed with a Government official on behalf of the World Food Programme.

ÔThe Sunday TimesÕ exclusively reported details of the meeting between Mr. Meijer and Mr. Balapatabendi in its September 15th issue.

Mr. Scalise has stressed that any discussions undertaken at the UN Emergency Task Force should be confidential, and a UN agency should not speak or make a request on behalf of another.

Reacting to the allegation that food is not distributed in the Wanni region, the Country Director said that the reports are incorrect. Mr. Scalise stated that the government has delivered enough food to the troubled areas to feed nearly 500,000 persons in June and July and to feed a 328,000 in August. Further- more around 600,000 people would be assisted with the September supply.

He has told the UNHCR not to arrive at any conclusions without examining the correct facts.

Mr. Scalise admitted that there maybe lapses in the distribution of food in the North, mainly due to the displacement of people and also the "displacement" of the infrastructure designed to deliver the food, the MPCS system.

However Mr. Scalise has pointed out that the government has no intention to reduce food shipments to the conflict areas. He stressed that while the food distribution situation is relatively stable for the moment, the WFP will carry out the monitoring with the assistance of the government and international NGOs.

The Country Director pointed out that when the food security situation deteriorate they will inform the UNHCR, but according to their latest information the situation is under control. He added that there were no reports of malnutrition, according to NGOs operating there.

Trouble brewing for SEC chief

Moves are afoot to send Securities and Exchange Director General Arittha Wikramanayake on compulsory leave, prior to his resignation taking effect on January 1, The Sunday Times learns.

Last week, a member of the Commission had brought allegations against him, resulting in his walking out of the meeting asking for a formal charge sheet to be served, sources said.

Mr. Wikramanayake declined to comment.

Earlier Mr. Wikramanayake had said he was resigning to go into private law practice and did not indicate that he had differences with a member of the Commission.

Another shot in Toronto

A Sri Lankan Tamil living in Toronto was shot and stabbed, by a group of men who broke into his shop, last week.

According to "The Toronto Sun" the police are unable to carry out investigations as Perinpanayagam Nadaraja is in a serious condition. However it is reported that before losing consciousness he told a friend that it was the LTTE. A Canadian High Commission official here told "The Sunday Times" they were awaiting reports on the incident.

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