The Sunday TimesNews/Comment

5th January 1997



Veteran media man dead

Eamon Kariyakarawana a former chairman of SLBC passed away on Friday at the Jayewardenepura hospital. He was 67.

Mr. Kariyakarawana's career as a journalist began in the early 1950s when he joined the weekly Catholic journal, "Gnanartha Pradeepaya." In 1951, he joined Lake House and served as news editor on the "Janatha" till 1968 when he left Lake House and joined the "UdayaÓ newspaper published by late Mr. Esmond Wickremesinghe.

In 1971, he left the "UdayaÓ and in 1978 was appointed chairman of the SLBC. It was during this time that most of the regional broadcasting services were introduced and recorded the highest revenues. In 1984, he left SLBC.

He leaves his wife, Felicia, son Varuna, and daugther Varuni. The body will be kept at 7c Isipathana mw, Colombo 5 till Monday morning, from where it will be taken to 108, Sri Wickrama Mw, Negombo, his home town. Funeral will take place tomorrow at the Bolawalana cemetery.

Mediators proposed

A Canadian peace group has written to President Kumaratunga saying a team of three eminent people is ready to mediate in bringing about a dialogue to end Sri Lanka's ethnic conflict.

The Canadian Relief Organization for Peace in Sri Lanka (CROPSL) has said it believed the LTTE was ready for talks and all parties could first sit at the negotiating table without setting preconditions.

Terms for further dialogue could then be worked out by the mediators. The group has named the mediators; Bill Graham MP and Chairman of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs International Trade; Max Bergel, barrister and solicitor and John Sola, Croatian ambassador to the United States.

This appears to be the most opportune moment to push through a peace deal. One decade of political turmoil and tribulations, which are far too much to endure have to be brought to a halt," the group has said.

Monks form front

"Sangha Samuluwa" dedicated to foster the country's religious and cultural values will set up next Sunday with a ceremony in Kandy's Dalada Maligawa.

The organization will comprise monks from all three Nikayas who will take an oath before the sacred tooth relic to fulfill their commitment.

The convenors of this organization are the Ven. Niyangoda Vijithasiri Thera, the Registrar of the Malwathu Chapter and the Venerable Palipana Siri Niwasa, Keppitiyagoda Sirivimala.

"Military probe a cover-up"

By S.S. Selvanayagam

Sending the President another list of people who have disappeared in the north, a Tamil MP has accused the Defence Ministry of trying to cover up the crime and asked that a commission headed by a judge be appointed to probe the cases.

TULF parliamentarian Joseph Pararajasingham in a letter has told President Kumaratunga that it was absurd to get military officers to probe alleged misdeeds of their own men.

Adding 27 names to a list of 64 names already given, Mr. Pararajasingham has asked President Kumaratunga to intervene in doing justice to the innocent civilians in the north.

Unions allege minister is bluffing

By Arshad M. Hadjirin

The row over alleged plans to award a Colombo port development contract to a P&O Company continues with unions accusing Minister M.H.M. Ashraff of bluffing and trying to mislead the people.

In the face of strike action in the port last week Minister of Ports and Shipping insisted that no concrete deal had been entered into with P&O for the development of the Queen Elizabeth Quay.

He pledged to resign if unions proved there was such a deal.

But union leaders have challenged Mr. Ashraff's denial and say some firm undertaking has been given to P&O through a letter of intent or a so-called letter of comfort.

An official of the UNP controlled JSS in the port said P&O had already invited other foreign investors to join in the QEQ project and the company would not have done that unless some greenlight had been given.

Rejecting Mr. Ashraff's claim that any documents on the deal were yet non-binding, the unions vowed they could continue their agitation until the Minister stopped playing with words and give assurances that the project would be dropped.

Meanwhile Mr. Ashraff met port executive staff on Friday and assured them he would produce all documents relating to talks with P&O and nothing would be kept secret.

Union leaders meet to iron out differences

By Shyamal Collure

Leaders of the Sri Lanka Nidahas Sewaka Sangamaya (SLNSS) of the National Paper Company Ltd. will tomorrow meet the Labour Commissioner to further discuss their demands.

The employees' demands for a 25% pay hike and the appointment of a commission to probe malpractice's and corruption alleged to have taken place in the company during the previous regime have not been met to date, a spokesman for the Union's Embilipitiya branch said.

"The salary increment given in January 1995 was discriminatory in that the salaries of the non-executive sector were raised only by 2.5 to 10% while those of executives were increased by 40% to 78%Ó, he clamed.

Workers of the Embilipitiya Paper Mills have been on strike since December 27 crippling this thriving industry. According to informed sources, the strike inflicts a huge loss of over Rs. 2.5 million a day.

Secretary of the SLNSS, Leslie Devendra said the Minister of Industrial Development C. V. Gooneratne had asked them for two weeks" time to forward a Cabinet paper in this connection. "A section of the union was not prepared to wait for two weeks and they thought it fit to go on strike", he explained.

However, the employees of the Valachchenai Mills have not yet decided whether to join in the strike or not.

What Thangathurai said

TULF Parliamentarian, A. Thangathurai has protested to the President about emergency regulations being allegedly used to safeguard some vested interests.

Mr. Thangathurai drawing reference to a decision to cancel the award of a tender by the Trincomalee Urban Council has written to the President that cancelling the tender is a flagrant and totally unjustified misuse of emergency powers, to snatch away the legitimate powers of local bodies.

The letter also said:

"The award of the tender was done lawfully and correctly. Enough notice was given, adequate publicity was given in all three languages. In fact, the time for tenders was extended at the request of the Co-ordinating Officer. The award by the Chairman was done openly and in strict accordance with procedure.

"I protest strongly that emergency regulations said to ensure security are being used capriciously to illegally safeguard the vested interests of a few Mudalalis.

"I urge that the Brigadier be directed to withdraw the order of cancellation of the award and to allow the Chairman to perform his legal and legitimate duties. The Co-ordinating Officer has no right to give any directions to the Chairman. He must act properly and legally in carrying out his functions."

Last week "The Sunday Times" had inadvertently misquoted Mr. Thangathurai.

"Referendum will be a costly affair"

Amidst widespread speculation about a referendum on constitutional reforms, the Elections Dept. says it is ready for the so-called non-binding poll - but the cost would be a staggering Rs. 300 million.

Elections Commissioner Dayananda Dissanayake said though the referendum ballot paper would be smaller, the cost would be the same as for a general election. Government leaders in recent weeks have suggested that the non-binding referendum could include both the abolition of the executive presidency and the devolution package. The President has indicated that if Parliament does not give a two-thirds majority for the devolution package envisaging autonomous regions, she would seek a mandate directly from the people through a referendum.

Reacting to this, MEP leader Dinesh Gunawardena accused the govt. of breaking promises and acting in a manner that was totally contrary to its avowed principles. He pointed out that in 1987 SLFP leader Sirimavo Bandaranaike had said even with a two-third majority and approval at a referendum, the unitary status of the country could not be changed. But now she and her party were singing a different tune.

Stop this sellout, protest 36 unions

Thirty six trade unions have petitioned President Kumaratunga demanding that the sellout of national assets to foreign capitalists through privatisation be stopped immediately.

In a joint letter the unions have referred particularly to plan for privatisation of the Ceylon Steel Corporation and part of the Colombo Port, warning that tough action would be taken by them if the plans were not reviewed. The unions have also called for the appointment of a body comprising top professionals and labour leaders.

Gampola Zahira reunion

Gampola Zahira College Past Pupils' Association will hold their annual get together today at the Mahmud Hall.

Drug smuggling: planes give way to fishing boats

With the detection of massive hauls of hashish and heroin in the north western coastal belt, the Police Narcotics Bureau (PNB) has bared a massive drug trafficking racket, giving credence to a claim that Sri Lanka has become one of the world's main drug distribution centres.

The Narcotics Bureau has also found that the drug traffickers are being backed by some of the wealthiest businessmen and have been operating undercover for many years without being detected.

On Friday, a special team assigned by the Bureau was sent to Negombo to assist police investigators who are probing the heroin detection in which 18 kilograms of heroin with a street value of Rs. 270 million was found.

The detection came within two weeks after a large amount of hashish was detected from various locations with an estimated street value of more than Rs. 600 million.

According to a senior police officer, the racket has been in operation for several years with the blessings of certain politicians. With a number of persons now in custody, the investigations are now centered on international links.

The routing system of smuggling drugs through international airports seems to be gradually changing with the unsuspecting fishing boats, trawlers and ships getting more involved in the trafficking business, according to investigators.

The investigations have revealed that the boats sail out of Sri Lanka collect the contraband and return to the country. Some of the boats operate in the guise of fishing boats with the smugglers disguising themselves as fishermen.

Lack of personnel in PNB and the insufficient training of police are the main problems hampering drug detection. A senior PNB officer admitted that owing to the non-availability of personnel they were unable to carry out raids and handle investigations.

"We are mainly concerned about the security situation in the country. We cannot deploy sufficient men to investigate narcotics, smuggling, a senior police officer said.

- CK

Security for orphans as sex probe continues

By Christopher Kamalendran and Marcus Joseph

More details of the sordid and shameful child sex scandal at a Beruwala orphanage are being revealed as child care authorities, the police and service groups conduct parallel investigations.

The Commissioner of Child Care and Probation has directed the All Ceylon Buddhist Congress (ACBC) to provide more security to the Children's home at Beruwala where orphan girls, some of them under 15 years are reported to have been used in a sex scandal.

Commissioner Sugath Rannuge told The Sunday Times the directive was given to the ACBC amidst reported threats to the lives of the children as investigations continue.

Following the directive, some changes have taken place and a new matron has been appointed to the children's home managed by the ACBC, he said.

Police continuing investigations arrested two more close associates of two former matrons of the home who are already in custody. The two suspects K. Dayaratna de Silva and K. Thushara Sampath were produced before the Kalutara Additional District Judge, P.W.D.C. Jayathilaka and remanded till Wednesday.

The Lions Club has also begun its own probe to find out whether any of its members were involved in the scandal.

The Beruwala Lions is one of the main organisations helping to maintain the orphanage, though it has no involvement in the administration.

Lions District Governor Neil Seneviratne in a letter to The Sunday Times said: "As a responsible service organisation the Lions are very thankful to you for investigating and publishing the sordid events that have taken place, so that society can take action against the perpetrators of this heinous crime against innocent children".

He said the Lions were alarmed and concerned about other newspaper reports that Lions too were involved "in this shameful activity".

"We are alarmed and very concerned about these statements and I as District Governor overlooking the Beruwala area have already appointed a senior Lion from outside the area to investigate and report on the Lions involvement in this orphanage. If any Lions are connected to this activity the least we can do is to take action to remove them from the movement," Mr. Seneviratne said.

Senior Superintendent M. Sivaratnam, leading the police investigations, told The Sunday Times he had summoned ACBC officials and their statements have been recorded.

Meanwhile, it is now revealed that the original inquiry into the child sex scandal had been carried out a year ago by the former head of the ACBC National Childcare Committee, Rani Thilakaratna, who was found dead last month as the sex-scandal came to light.

Ms. Thilakaratna's was found dead with her throat slashed and had reportedly consumed a disinfectant.

An open verdict had been returned on her death.

"About one year ago on information received that there was some scandal going on in the particular orphanage, my wife, Rani held a summary inquiry and removed its matron. Thereafter she ordered a further inquiry to be held by the president of the local committee of management of the orphanage, who informed her later that no such incident had taken place," Ms. thilakaratna's husband said in a statement.

"Subsequently she reported the matter to the Department of Probation and Child Care and an inquiry was conducted. But not being satisfied she contacted the former President of the local committee and two women constables from the Beruwala police were sent to investigate the alleged scandal," he added.

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