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TNL News Director Ishini Wickremesinghe Perera, niece of Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe and wife of MP Asitha Perera, hauled up before the CID anxiously waiting at the Colombo Magistrate's Court this week before her case was taken up. She is charged under the Prevention of Terrorism Act over a TNL news item about an alleged attack on the Vellaveli STF camp. Pic. by Lakruwan Wanniarachchi
In one of the biggest administrative shake-ups, SLAS officers are to be appointed to key posts in the public health sector and other spheres, replacing doctors or other professionals, government sources said yesterday.
The move, which has been agreed to by President Chandrika Kumaratunga, seeks to replace doctors who are holding key administrative positions in the Health Ministry, public hospitals and state medical institutions with Sri Lanka Administrative Service officers. The doctors will revert to their normal medical duties.
Similar changes will be made in the Irrigation Department where engineers holding administrative positions will be replaced by SLAS officers. Professionals including architects holding administrative posts in other state institutions are also to be replaced.
The Sunday Times learns that one of the main reasons for this change is a feeling in the government that due to trade union pressure on some professionals, the state is unable to tap the best in these administrators, and subsequently they are manipulated to serve the interests of trade unions to which they belong, rather than the national interest.
The decision to replace the health sector doctor-administrators with experienced officers from the SLAS was worked out at a discussion presided over by the President, to formulate a new health policy for this year.
According to the new system, SLAS administrators will be given a short but intensive training in matters pertaining to the department to which they are to be posted.
A government source who did not wish to be named said it had been noted that doctors holding administrative positions were partial towards the powerful trade union of doctors, the GMOA, as they were all members of it. So the government has decided that professionals who might be influenced by trade union obligations be replaced with SLAS staff who are not affiliated to any trade unions in a particular institution.
Paramedics involved in a two-month old work-to-rule campaign crippling the medical services in public hospitals, will make a final decision on Tuesday whether they would continue the trade union action.
At a meeting with the paramedics on Thursday, President Chandrika Kumaratunga withdrew the controversial B.C. Perera report on salaries and promised that a new committee would be appointed to propose new scales. The paramedics have protested there were anomalies in the B.C. Perera Committee report. The paramedics yesterday resumed normal work but on Tuesday will take a final decision on trade union action.
Health Minister A.H.M. Fowzie on Thursday turned away paramedics who were waiting outside the ministry for over two hours, requesting for a letter about the various developments which took place after the meeting with the President.
"I am not prepared to deliver any letters or assurances to the paramedics who virtually crippled the country's health service at the expense of poor patients," said Mr. Fowzie.
A spokesman for the paramedics told "The Sunday Times" yesterday that seventy five per cent of their members have strongly urged that the trade union action be continued.
But Mr. Fowzie warned, "There cannot be any more trade union action and the paramedics should start their normal work immediately, otherwise severe action will be taken".
Mr. Fowzie said they looked into the welfare of the employees and worked out a salary scale for fifteen categories in the health sector.
"But in return we got opposition from trade unions who sought for prestige among the categories of the health sector. So we have decided to suspend all salary increases and get back to square one," said Mr. Fowzie.
The paramedics earlier said any new salary structure should stipulate atleast the current standings where, the nurses and paramedics are on a similar salary scale. According to the B.C. Perera report the paramedics were granted an increase that was less than the amount given to nurses.
Secretary Treasury B.C. Perera who drafted the report said any new report pertaining to this matter would be compiled in consultation with all trade unions. The President on Thursday appointed another four members to re-draft the report.
"Now that the report is suspended, both the paramedics and the nurses are on the same level and I see no reason why they should continue with any more trade union action," Mr. Fowzie said.
The Editors' Guild of Sri Lanka has condemned the use of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) to intimidate and harass TNL News Director Ishini Wickremesinghe Perera adding that "using sledgehammers to kill gnats is hardly the way of doing this".
If there was an error in the reporting of the Vellaveli camp incident as has been claimed, the duty of the authorities was to forthwith issue a correction. We have no doubt that TNL would have carried that statement as it had, in fact, offered to do no sooner the unfortunate and unnecessary train of events had been launched following the TNL news bulletin of Dec. 26; the statement said.
"No fair minded person would agree that the impugned report would have unleashed communal violence in the country. The military spokesman is on public record saying that there was no such danger. The high-handed manner in which the police acted using unacceptable methods such as late night visits to news organisations, expressed and/or implied threats of detention against the young woman journalist who was questioned and other intimidatory tactics must be roundly condemned.
"Central to the issue is the use of the PTA in this case. As we understand it, the PTA is not concerned with the accuracy or otherwise of the impugned report. It is a special law intended to deal with terrorism and by no flight of fancy would anybody be convinced that any kind of terror was involved in this matter. We note that the Magistrate before whom Ms. Ishini Wickremesinghe appeared has directed the police to consult the Attorney-General with regard to this investigation. The A-G is best qualified to properly advice the investigators in this matter.
"The People's Alliance in its election manifesto pledged to remove what it described as "major constraints" on the media arising from the provisions of the Constitution and other laws including the Public Security Act. What we wish to stress is that extraordinary laws must not be lightly resorted to by the authorities as appears to be the case in this instance.
"We also deplore the attack on an ITN crew, allegedly by the security staff of a deputy minister, in the presence of a m politician. Published reports of this incident, which do no credit to anybody, remained uncontradicted upto the time of this writing. If these are correct, this is yet another assault on the free media of this country.
"The Editors" Guild will be happy to engage in a dialogue with the concerned authorities to find ways and means of avoiding such unfortunate incidents in the future. The people of this country wish the media to responsibly play its proper role in ensuring good governance, transparency and accountability. The government is pledged to provide the necessary climate in which the media can function effectively. Using sledgehammers to kill gnats is hardly the way of doing this," said the statement.
Two Indian women carrying six kilograms of heroin in their extra large busts along with a man were arrested with their nine million rupees dope cargo at the BIA yesterday, Customs officials said.
The two women who almost passed through the Customs were stopped when one of the officials noted the extra large busts, prompting him to get them checked.
Three kilos each were found hidden in the brassiers of the women.
The man who accompanied the two women from India was also detained.
They had come on an Indian Airlines flight. Customs Deputy Director S. W. S. Munidasa who made the detection said the three drug smugglers would be handed over to the Narcotics Bureau for further investigations.
Yesterday's detection came as police were investigating another major racket involving drugs to the value of some Rs. 500 million detected off the north western coast.
President Kumaratunga has granted permission for the family of the slain JVP leader Rohana Wijeweera to migrate to Britain, family sources said.
Chitrangani Wijeweera who is now living with her six children in Trincomalee under Navy protection had written to the President seeking approval for the family to migrate. The President had replied saying they were free to go and asked them to inform her if they faced any problems.
Major changes in the police service are in the offing with Inspector General W. B. Rajaguru, seven DIGs and 15 SSPs reaching their retirement age early this year, police sources said.
Some of the DIGs facing retirement are DIG (Colombo Range), T.M.D.D. Dissanayake, Senior DIG (Intelligence Security) Mithra Ariyasena, DIG (Support Service) Thilak Iddamalgoda, DIG (Field Force Headquarters) A.G.A. Gafoor, DIG (Operations Command Ampara) U.R.K. Silva and DIG (Welfare) Ignatius Kanagaratnam.
President Kumaratunga has extended the term of DIG (Criminal Investigations Department) T.V. Sumanasekera as he is involved in the investigations of important cases. It is also learnt that one senior DIG is under investigation for allegedly using his influence to prevent an LTTE suspect returning from Australia from being detained
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