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The Sunday TimesNews/Comment

02nd, March 1997



Friday deadline for Ahungalla animals

By Chamintha Thilakaratne

The controversial Ahungalla private zoo, in the news again after the death of a school boy who was killed by a so- called pet lion, has been ordered by the Director of the Zoological Gardens to return the two lions and three leopards before Friday.

National Zoo Director K.D.R.M. Wijesinghe said yesterday the five animals had been loaned to Ahungalla and he had ordered they be returned this week.

He said he was making this order under discretionary powers vested in him.

The order came ten days after15-year-old Polgahawela school boy, Damith Anuruddha, on a pleasure trip with his class mate,was killed when a lion clawed him after zoo workers persuaded him to pose for a photograph with the animal.

Ahungalla zoo owner Mazahim Mohammed has obtained an order from the Colombo District Court restraining the Wildlife Director N.W. Dissanayake from taking any action against the zoo. In terms of the court order the wildlife director cannot remove any animal from the zoo till March 14.

But wildlife groups told The Sunday Times yesterday the restraining order was only on the wildlife director and not on the director of the national zoo. Thus the latter had the right to order the return of the animals.

Meanwhile the Wildlife Department's Deputy Director Nandana Attapattu who went to the Ahungalla zoo last Wednesday in the aftermath of the tragedy was allegedly prevented by zoo workers from entering the premises.

Officials of the department said preventing a state officer from entering the zoo was high handed and illegal.

Jagath Gunawardena a spokesman for the Environmental Foundation said yesterday the government was pussy footing on this lion issue while the Ahungalla zoo officials were acting brazenly or illegally.

ICJ elects Weeramantry as its vice president

Christopher G. Weeramantry (71) broke his own record of attaining the highest judicial postion for a Sri Lankan when he was elected by the fifteen-member International Court of Justice (ICJ) to its second highest position as Vice President.

The ICJ elected Stephen M. Schwebel of the USA as its president. The elections were held on February 6, 1997 at the Hague. In 1991 he set the first record for a Sri Lankan when the UN elected him to represent Asia at the ICJ. His elevation to the position of Vice-President is a signal honour to Sri Lanka. President Ranasinghe Premadasa sponsored him as the Asian candidate.

Among the other distinguished Sri Lankans who had reached similar prestigious positions in international fora are Dr. Gamani Corea, Secretary-General of UNCTAD and Mr. Shirly Amerasinghe, Chairman of the UN Law of the Sea Commission.

The road to the Hague began in 1948 when Mr. Weeramantry joined the Supreme Court as an Advocate. In 1967 he was appointed to the Supreme Court of Sri Lanla. In 1972 he was appointed Professor of Law at the Monash University.

Since then he has held many visiting professorships in international universities. He has been a prolific writer and his books on law range from of Law of Contracts which was a comparative study of the Roman-Dutch, English and Customary Laws of Contracts in Ceylon (2 volumes) to the Impact of Technology on Human Rights.

He also headed the Commission which inquired into the international responsibility for phosphate mining on Nauru (1987-88) which resulted in a ten volume report.

He also holds memberships of prestigious international organisations ranging from the Club of Rome (Austria) to the World Association of Law Professors. As a leading human rights activist he has written extensively on this subject and participated in leading international movements against apartheid and the education of human rights.

Political violence hits mosque, says Azwer

By. M. Ismeth

An incident in a mosque in the Puttalam district allegedly involving a PA MP member and a gang of thugs has been brought to the notice of President Chandrika Kumaratunga by UNP Parliamentarian A.H.M. Azwer.

In his letter dated February 27, he had stated that people of the village had alleged that the PA member and his gang had entered the mosque armed with T-56 guns and other weapons and shot at green lights in the mosque.

They had alleged that the gang had threatened them not to vote for the UNP.

They had also threatened the Muslim UNP candidate contesting Anamaduwa Pradeshiya Sabha election saying that he would be in danger if he did not withdraw.

Mr. Azwer had said that this dastardly act by the member would bring disrepute to the government.

He had posed the question as why the Police were not instructed to check the member who has about a dozen weapons in his vehicles.

A dangerous situation has been created in the Puttalam district due to these acts of violence, hooliganism and threats, Mr. Azwer stated.

He had said there could not be a peaceful election in the Puttalam district.

He had also alleged that about 2000 guns were distributed among PA supporters during the past two weeks, while disarming UNPers.

Mr. Azwer had called for an immediate inquiry into these complaints.

CMC tackles one problem then another crops up

By Chamintha Tilakaratna

Some Colombo Municipal Council workers have won their demand for 80 hours overtime but others are fighing for it.

The refusal of OT led to a work-to-rule campaign resulting in closure of public parks on weekends.

The minor staff including garbage collectors and others whose service after working hours has been considered important had earlier been allowed to work overtime.

With the granting of overtime to some staffers, others who do not get it are in protest. "They are not doing any work now as a result", said A. Somaweera of the Municipality Workers' Association.

Work of clerks and other staffers has come to a stop, an official said.

The main reason for the campaign, according to certain officials was that they used to catch up on the work with overtime which brought them extra pay - so they opposed the limitation of overtime.

These OT-less workers feel that it is unfair to grant extra hours for some and not to them since the service they render is as important.

The public meanwhile complain that they have been caught in a cross-fire between workers and the authorities, amidst immense problems in getting their work done by the municipality.

President addresses rally by phone

President Chandrika Kumaratunga in an unusual move yesterday addressed a public rally in Welimada over the telephone.

The President's message over the telephone was recorded and played for the public. She excused herself for not attending the meeting due to bad weather condition.

Badulla District MP Dilan Perera who contacted the President over the phone said the people were awaiting her arrival. The President said she had been told of the bad weather conditioning there and had to postpone the visit

A Govt. official said due to the heavy overcast skies and poor visibility flights were not possible.

Workshop on public relations

Sri Lanka Institute of Development of Administration (SLIDA) has organised a two-day workshop on 'Public Relations' at the SLIDA auditorium on Monday and Tuesday.

This workshop for administrative officials of Divisional Secretariats will highlight, among other things, the importance of maintaining public relations effectively.

Two Tigers killed on way to talks

Two LTTE cadres accompanying one of their area leaders for a meeting arranged by the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) in the Batticaloa distirct were killed in an army ambush on Thursday.

Two soldiers were also killed in the ambush which took place at Nawaladi in Valachchenai.

The LTTE team was coming for the meeting at Illupattichenai area in Chenkaladi to sort out a dispute between Tamils and Muslims in the area following recent incidents in which more than seven persons have been killed.

The meeting took place between the Muslims and the LTTE delegation led by Keethan, the Batticaloa-Ampara political wing leader.

At the talks the LTTE had agreed to take steps to prevent attacks on Muslim civilians while the Muslim party consisting of M. Adam Bawa a businessman and former SLMC member, Haniffa had promissed to protect Tamil civilians. See Also Muslim-LTTE pow-vow for co-existence

Fowzul breaks taboos in Town Hall race

By Shelani de Silva

Breaking with tradition and creating history 27-year-old Fowzul Iraya Nazardeen has emerged as a young star among stars and the only Muslim woman contesting the local elections next month.

Significantly, the enterprising Fowzul, whose mother and brother were killed in the October 1994 Gamini Dissanayake bomb explosion is coming forward not on the UNP ticket but as an MEP candidate because she sees Dinesh Gunawardena as the best of Sri Lanka's leaders.

Taking a bold step into the Colombo Municipal Council election Fowzul says most people are stunned to see a Muslim woman tapping at their doors and canvassing for votes. But their reservations are overcome when she explains her goals and she is hopeful of getting a lot of support.

"My family was involved in politics, but I was not interested. But that attitude changed when my mother and brother were killed along with Gamini Dissanayake. My mother was very much involved in politics and I felt duty bound to continue her work. Fowzul said explaining how and why she got into the hurly burly of the hustings despite an orthodox upbringing.

Why did she then go to the MEP instead of the UNP? "I was disappointed and even disgusted when the UNP did little if anything in getting a commission to probe the Thotalanga killings. We got little or no assistance from the UNP".

"It was during this time that I attended a youth meeting and met Dinesh Gunawardena. Speaking to him I found he was a man of principles with fine leadership qualities and his party had a vision that was linked to the highest national interest. I found Mr. Gunawardena was a man of respect who also respected others without indulging in the politics of personal attacks. So I decided to join the MEP.

Outlining the problem she faced from the social and religious taboos of her community Fowzul said, "although woman is subjected by traditional limitations such as domestic work, I decided to break free. I feel the time has come for all women including Muslims to come forward and unite to build a better Sri Lanka. I must admit sometimes when I go on house to house campaigning many are surprised because I am a Muslim. But things have changed now and I am confident that Muslim women will help me," she said.

Outlining some practical political ideas she has in mind Fowzul said she would like to provide a better water supply system and toilets to poor city dwellers and also upgrade educational standards. She is keen that children should learn more English.

Jaffna's food bowl hits bottom line

By Arshad M. Hadjirin

A food crisis is brewing in northern conflict areas as hundreds of lorry owners are refusing to transport essential goods claiming the government has failed to pay their full hiring charges, NGO officials said.

They said more than 100 Colombo based lorries transporting food commodities daily had stopped their trips to Jaffna for the past three weeks and food distribution to the war ravaged area was severely disrupted.

With the latest military offensive in Vavuniya all other entry points have also blocked and thousands of people might have no food at all they warned.

Lorry owners in Colombo said that they were promised upto Rs. 10,000 a journey but the Commissioner of Essential Services had not paid up their dues.

NGO officials also said that even the transportation of refugees from Trincomalee to Jaffna had ceased after the contract with four vessels had ended.

They said more than 5000 refugees were stranded in Trincomalee town as the government had also increased the passenger fare from Rs.100 to Rs. 750.

The officials said these problems would aggravate the refugee problem and the government should make immediate alternative arrangements to transport them to Jaffna while reducing the fare.

Meanwhile The Sunday Times learns that the military is planning to set up a big refugee camp in Chettikulam, Vavuniya to accommodate around 11,000 civilians displaced by the recent military operation.

NGO officials however said most of the civilians might be reluctant to come southwards to take shelter in an army controlled camp where they fear harassment.

Journalist harassed by Presidential Security

Presidential security guards harassed, insulted and prevented a journalist from entering the Municipal grounds at Gatambe where President Kumaratunga was addressing a PA election rally, reporters said.

They said they had produced Press and National Identity Cards but the security had refused to budge.

They recalled how during the 1994 election campaign, journalists were received with open arms at PA meetings.

"But now it was a different story," they said.

We need arms, say Tamil parties

By S. S. Selvanayagam

Tamil political parties have appealed to the Defence Ministry not to disarm their cadres as they face threats from the LTTE.

The Tamil parties, most of which are former militant groups and now back the government, say their case be treated as exception and it cannot be connected to political violence in the South.

The Sunday Times learns that these parties have decided to retain their weapons until a decision is taken by the Defence Ministry which has agreed to review their case.

Special security forces squads visited offices of Tamil parties this week, but they could recover only a few weapons.

EROS General Secretary K. Suthakaran said they handed over a pistol to a special squad which came to their office on Monday.

EPDP sources said they told the security personnel that they had no unauthorised weapons with them and the security personnel left the place.

PLOTE officials said they told the security personnel that their party hierarchy had to decide on the issue of surrendering the weapons.

EPRLF General Secretary Suresh Premachandran said he showed the special squad the licence for the weapons. He said he also directed the squad to recover a gun given to a former partyman who has joined the TELO.

Wanni District UNP Parliamentarian R.M. Pulendran's Vavuniya residence was searched for weapons and the MP who was in Colombo at that time, was later asked to surrender her revolver, sources said.

Newspapers told to start training school

The setting up of a national Journalism Centre to train media people who could meet the urgent needs of the profession has been proposed to newspaper publishers by two experts.

The experts have pointed out that mass communication graduates from the country's universities have tended to be too academic in their approach and that may be the reason why few if any of them have emerged as top newspaper people.

This recommendation has been made to the Society of Newspaper Publishers which had assigned veteran editor Mervyn de Silva and English Scholar A.J. Gunawardena to study and report on ways of improving professional standards in journalism.

Their report said the current campus courses did not meet the increasingly urgent needs of the Sri Lankan media.

The general objective of the training programme which the Journalism Centre plans to undertake would have clearly identified target groups and the focus would be on news presentation, reporting and feature writing. The three language streams could be addressed in different stages.

The report handed over to the Society's President Seevali Ratwatte came after a long study based on some recommendations made by Dr. Gamani Corea after a media seminar organised by the Marga Institute.

A complimentary copy of the new Computing magazine of the Wijaya Newspapers Ltd., the 'PC Quest' was presented to the Science and Technology Minister Bernard Soyza recently.

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