ONE Year on the Web

The Sunday TimesNews/Comment

02nd, March 1997




Postman knocks again

By Arshad M. Hadjirin

Postal Services are expected to return to normal tomorrow after trade unions ended their work to rule campaign on Friday night following a government assurance to meet their demands.

On Friday a top postal official exchanged two circulars granting the demands of the workers, for a written assurance from union leaders that they would end their trade union action.

The two circulars allowing overtime payment for the employees was issued after back to back meetings the Post Master General, Soma Kotakadeniya held with postal union leaders on Friday.

'The Sunday Times' learns that the postal chief gave into the demands fearing the threat by trade unionists to sabotage the local polls. "If the work to rule action had continued for another two days the polls would have to be postponed," UPTO Secretary N. P. Hettiarachchi said.

The Union of Posts and Telecommunication Officers (UPTO) who relentlessly fought for the OT payment said that the postal workers would return to their normal duties twenty-four hours after midnight on Friday.

The UPTO had demanded that the circulars be brought to their office and be exchanged with a letter of assurance that the work to rule would be called off. Subsequently K. H. Kulasena, Controller Postal Operations was sent with the circulars on the instructions of the PMG.

Mr. Hettiarachchi told 'The Sunday Times' that over one million letters and articles were piled up in the central mail exchange and refuted news reports which said that things were normal. "Many hundred students who sat for the A/L's as private candidates have still not got their results," he said.

"Moreover money orders, cheques, and business transactions were crippled. Also ten container loads of mail are still lying at the harbour and the demurrage would cost the postal department millions of rupees.

Mr. Hettiarchchi said that it would take another four to five days of hectic additional work to clear the massive block created by the five day work to rule, which left almost all the post offices paralysed.

Danes on 'deport or not' mission

By S.S. Selvanayagam

Three top Danish officials are making a first hand assessment of the situation in Sri Lanka apparently to help Denmark decide on what to do about some 7000 Tamils who have sought asylum there.

The team led by Denmark's Immigration Chief on a two week visit has met Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar, Rehabilitation Minister M.H.M. Ashraff, Police Chief W.B. Rajaguru and officials of the UNHCR and other NGOs.

Political sources said the team had no immediate plans to meet Tamil political party leaders to decide on the fate, especially of some 300 Tamils whose asylum applications have been rejected by the Danish government.

The visit comes a few months after a major international controversy when a Tamil girl deported from Denmark was arrested on her arrival here.

The girl Chitra Rajendran later flew back to Denmark after the issue hit world headlines when Sri Lanka deported some Danish journalists who came here to cover Chitra's case.

Lawyers need change to meet new demands

With increasing law's delays and the galloping cost of litigation people may think that recourse to law is a barren exercise and the legal profession is somewhat redundant, President's Counsel Faisz Musthapha cautioned yesterday.

He made this observation when he delivered his address titled 'The Bar: has it attained its objective?', at the National Law Conference's third session. The conference is organised by the Bar Association of Sir Lanka and was held at Hotel Ceylon Inter-continental.

"We must bear in mind that the people come to us with problems they want resolved, not with problems they want litigated. Unfortunately, we seem to assume that a trial is the only way to resolve a case and litigation is the only option offered to the client by us lawyers. We have to change the manner in which we practice law today to meet the new demands of the client, the court and the community", he said.

He added that in the past, the litigator never worried much about backlog or felt any responsibility for ensuring that cases moved efficiently through the court process. But as times have changed the Bar must take a leading role in ensuring not only speedy justice but also that the determination is arrived at without making the litigant a pauper,, he said.

"We must make a conscious effort to assess the client's position and determine what course of action should be taken in the best interest of the client. The client must be advised to consider negotiation and mediation as alternative methods of conflict resolution. By this I don't mean the state aided mediation through the mediation boards", Mr. Musthapha said.

Mr. Musthapha also dealt with the right to legal representation and legal aid, law reform, legal education, independence of the judiciary and problems relating to the junior bar.

Referring to the politicisation of the Bar, Mr. Musthapha observed that the legal profession was the one with the most sizable number of parliamentarians in its midst. "Unfortunately, the political affiliations of these lawyers are reflected in their professional conduct. As a result, the Bar has not been able to speak with a unified voice on any issue which is of common concern to the profession. Instead, the Bar has become polarized between the mainstream political parties on every issue of any significance", he pointed out.

Lankan Tamils told to register

All Sri Lankan Tamils who were residing in various parts of Pudukottai district, India without proper immigration documents have been advised to register their names and provide their profile and that of their family members on or before March 10.

They should bring with them four passport size pictures.Failure to comply with this order would result in deportation, the press release warned, the report said.

We are terrorised complains JVP

By Shyamal A. Collure

Politicos of the ruling People's Alliance carry on a campaign of terror against JVP candidates contesting the now controversial local government elections scheduled for this month through Grama Sevakas and police personnel, a JVP politburo member charged.

JVP's Secretary Publicity and Colombo Mayoral candidate, Wimal Weerawansha told 'The Sunday Times' that this anti-democratic and illegal move had been carefully planned to go hand in hand with the preparing of individual files on all JVP candidates by the police. "Certain Grama Sevakas and police officers are being used to terrorise the family members as well as close relatives of our candidates in order to put pressure on them and make them withdraw from the fray", he alleged.

Mr. Weerawansha said that such incidents had already been reported from Nuwara Eliya, Badulla, Matale and Kamburupitiya.

UNP keeps tabs on the dead

By Dayaseeli Liyanage

The UNP has begun collecting data of all persons who have gone abroad and details of the dead since 1995 in an effort to prevent impersonation in the forthcoming local elections.

UNP General Secretary Gamini Atukorale has directed party organisers to send details as there have already been reports about the possibility of a group planning to make use of the votes of those abroad and those dead after the electoral list was compiled in 1995.

The party organisers have been directed to go from house to house and gather this information.

Mr. Atukorale also has directed his party men to gather information on those planning mass-scale impersonation at the March 21 polls.

'Dirty plot', says former mayor

By Arshad M. Hadjirin

Colombo's former mayor Ratnasiri Rajapakse whose removal from office on corruption charges was declared invalid by the Supreme Court has charged that his ouster in 1994 was a joint UNP, SLFP conspiracy and he would claim a huge amount as compensation.

In an interview, Mr. Rajapakse told The Sunday Times he had been humiliated, defamed and denied his lawful rights and allowances for more than three years.

Mr. Rajapakse had been removed from office after a one man commission found him guilty on some corruption charges relating to the Gam Udawa in Buttala.

His petition to the Court of Appeal was rejected and he then appealed to the Supreme Court which last week, ruled his removal was invalid, but the order came a month after the CMC and other local bodies were dissolved.

The verdict was seen only as a moral victory and vindication of Mr. Rajapakse, with one constitutional lawyer saying it would have little or no practical value now.

Mr. Rajapakse said the political plot against him was an act of revenge by certain elements in both the UNP and the SLFP. He alleged that a former UNP boss now in exile had master-minded the plot while former Mayor K. Ganeshalingam and the then provincial council Minister Ratnasiri Wickramanayake had also played a major role.

''My hands are clean. The highest court has vindicated me. The people will now judge those who tried to malign and throw me into a heap of garbage, Mr. Rajapakse said indicating he would remain in the UNP and probably come forward for a future election.

He outlined what he had done for the city during his term of Mayor and charged that Colombo was a dirty mess today because of the bungling and wheeler dealings that took place in recent years

ST on-line: 300% growth in readership

The Sunday Times Internet edition today celebrates one year on the Worldwide Web. We also hope to link up with other newspapers of international repute.

That is not all. We also have plans to expand the edition to accommodate more sections, including interactive sites, advertisements, forums and competitons.

Readers around the world now regularly check out the news from The Sunday Times.

There had been hits from El Salvador, Lithuania, Romania, Iceland, Malta, Brunei and the US military bases. The readership of The Sunday Times Internet edition has gone up by more than 300 percent 12 months after its launch.

The graphic shows the path of the Internet Edition.

The edition is compiled in Sri Lanka by Information laboratories (Pvt.) Ltd. and is loaded on to LAcNet host server in the USA which is connected to the 'nerve' or the 'backbone' of the Internet web. This makes access to and downloading of The Sunday Times on-line edition quicker than those of other publications hosted in Sri Lankan servers.

(See Plus also)

Doctors strike again on Wednesday

Government Medical Officers Association (GMOA) will go ahead with another token strike on Wednesday, March 5, as the government has ignored their token strike held on Thursday, demanding a fair salary.

A GMOA spokesman said that this decision was inevitable as that seems to be the only way to convince the state of discrepancy in government doctors' salaries.

It is claimed that doctors lose nearly Rs. 6,000 monthly following the recent salary restructuring, now in effect.

Treasury Secretary B.C. Perera who headed the committee which evaluated the salary structures of the public service came under severe criticism after several anomalies were created in the Health Department.

Under Lankan flag

A Singaporean company-owned barge supplying fuel to vessels in the outer harbour of Colombo has been directed by the Ports and Shipping Ministry to operate under the Sri Lankan flag complying with local regulations.

Ceylon Petroleum Corporation Chairman Anil Obeysekara said earlier the services of the barge were suspended on the grounds that it was not operating under the Sri Lankan flag.

In our news item last week headlined 'Clamps on barge supplying oil', we had adduced other reasons for the suspension. We have now been informed that those were not the reasons for the suspension.

The, Deputy Director of the Merchant Shipping Division, Abeyratna Banda, said the agents were making arrangements to operate the barge under the Lankan flag.

CEB fights to stay in power

Water levels in reservoirs dropped at a rapid rate last week leaving the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) engineers wondering how to provide an uninterrupted service.

According to a Mahaweli Project spokesman the water level at Victoria has gone down to 417 feet, which is 21 feet below spill. "The Kotamale dam is 37 feet below the spill level at 666 feet," the spokesman said.

An officer at the Maussakele dam said that present water level is 22 feet below spill level which is 95 feet. Personnel working at other tanks refrained from giving figures, citing the security threat.

However the CEB hopes to cope with the situation even in the case of a severe drought, with some high powered generators hired at colossal rates.

Tillakeratne on Portraits

Mr. Bernard Tillakeratne will be interviewed by Sujatha Jayawardena on his diplomatic career and assignments in India on TV Portraits on Tuesday at 9.15 pm on Rupawahini.

SLMC's first rally

The Sri Lanka Muslim Congress held its first local election rally on Friday night at Dematagoda in support of their candidate contesting under the PA list.

The meeting was presided over by Minister M.H.M. Ashraff.

Among the speakers were M.U. Zuhair, M.U.H. Hisbullah and CMC Candidate T.K. Azoor.

What a valentine!

Everything looked normal at the small boulevard in Negombo famous for its small jobs and restaurants run by a lot of foreign owners, except for the stately Volvo parked outside the bar that others "pol" in the "primitive" zone. A ministerial bodyguard sat in the front while a smartly dressed lass was seated in the back. A little while later, the bodyguard was seen entering the premises with the smart lass accompanied by a well-known Deputy Minister wearing his traditional sarong.

The distinguished and elderly minister whose family is well-known, was seen sitting at the very corner end of the bar-cum-restaurant where no one could see them clearly.

The bodyguard took a seat at the next table (not to ensure that any hanky panky goes on) but to keep an eye on the signs of trouble and to discreetly look the other way in order not to disturb the romantic couple since after all it was Valentine's Day. A bottle of wine was serves and we hear the couple enjoyed a relaxed evening.

One guest was heard to mention "Oh! How sweet, the daughter and father enjoying Valentine's Day, how rare!?" little knowing that the lady being entertained was far from being the elderly deputy minister's daughter.

Continue to the News/Comment page 2 - * Friday deadline for Ahungalla animals, * ICJ elects Weeramantry as its vice president, * Political violence hits mosque, says Azwer, * CMC tackles one problem then another crops up, * President addresses rally by phone, * Workshop on public relations, * Two Tigers killed on way to talks, * Fowzul breaks taboos in Town Hall race, * Jaffna's food bowl hits bottom line, * Journalist harassed by Presidential Security, * We need arms, say Tamil parties, * Newspapers told to start training school

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