The Sunday TimesFront Page

27th April 1997



Warm greetings from Sri Lanka: Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar greeting the newly elected Indian Prime Minister Inder Kumar Gujral in New Delhi, this week.


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Salary dispute hits original court Judges

By Shyamal Collure

Original court judges are now protesting against the recent salary revisions and yesterday unanimously decided to call on the government to appoint a separate salary anomalies committee in consultation with the Chief Justice.

The judges, protesting just as the doctors did, claimed their take home pay had been reduced compared to the previous salaries they were drawing.

Judicial Services Association President S.P. Ekaratna told 'The Sunday Times, the Executive Committee which met yesterday decided to ask President Chandrika Kumaratunga to appoint a new salary anomalies committee.

The association, including judges of district courts, magistrate courts and primary courts has suggested that Justice Minister G.L. Peiris should chair the proposed salary anomalies committee.

Mr. Ekaratna said representations had been made on three previous occasions but they had not received a satisfactory reply. He said they had not decided on future action.

The Government Medical Officers Association (GMOA) made a similar protest earlier on the same issue claiming that the take home pay had been reduced following the implementation of the B.C. Perera salaries commission report.

The govt. appointed a cabinet sub-committee to study the issue and as the doctors were not satisfied with the progress of the committee they launched several strikes till the govt. recently granted their demands.

Vasu bombards AG on Bolgoda

By Shyamal Collure and S.S. Selvanayagam

Fiery PA parliamentarian Vasudeva Nanayakkara has asked the Justice Minister G.L. Peiris why the Attorney-General's Department was not cooperating to conduct investigations into the alleged abduction and killing of the 21 Tamil youths whose bodies were later found in Bolgoda, Alawwa and Diyawannawa lakes.

Mr. Nanayakkara raised the issue after the case filed against 22 Special Task Force (STF) personnel, was taken off the roll-call of the Colombo Chief Magistrate's Court.

Mr. Nanayakkara pointed out that this has been removed from the roll-call due to the absence of the Attorney-General or his representative.

In a related development TULF Parliamentary group leader, Joseph Pararajasingham has urged President Chandrika Kumaratunga to appoint a trial-at-bar to investigate this case like that of the Krishanthi rape case to show the genuineness of the government in winning the hearts and minds of the Tamil people.

The Colombo Chief Magistrate Munidasa Nanayakkara has made an order for the removal of the case from the roll-call of the court when the prosecuting CID officials, having been absent on two occasions, failed to appear in court again on March 13.

Senior State Counsel Yasantha Kodagoda told 'The Sunday Times' however that this was not an irremediable step reiterating that there was no attempt on the part of the state to sweep the matter under the carpet.

He said that they were awaiting two reports from the Government Analyst's Department. Alleged offenders would be indicted in the High Court with abduction, wrongful detention and murder.

Mr. Kodagoda added that the removal of a case from the roll-call did not mean that the accused had been exonerated and the contents of the reports awaiting could not decide on the culpability.

The State Counsel further said that they had received a provisional report from the forensic experts of the Glasgow University (sans D.N.A. printing) and accordingly four out of 21 skulls had matched with some of the photographs of suspected victims sent there.

Minister's sister escapes attack

Suspected LTTE men attacked Minister M.H.M. Ashraff's sister's house in Marudamunai in the Ampara district last night killing two home guards and an officer, police said.

The attackers who came in a trishaw opened fire at the house while the inmates, including Mr. Ashraff's sister and her husband M. Abdullah who is also the coordinating secretary to the minister, were inside the house

They were not injured in the attack. But a girl passing by was hit. The attackers removed three T-56 weapons from the guards.

Riding high not dry

With substantial rain in catchment areas over the past few days, the energy situation has improved tremendously and the CEB is confident of avoiding any power cuts this year, engineers said.

"The situation now gives cause for optimism. With a bit more rain we will be riding high," an official said.

AirLanka gives 'all clear' signal to special agent

By Roshan Peiris

An AirLanka agent with high political connections is alleged to owe the national carrier millions of rupees in terms of taxes and interest on credit but officials are throwing a blanket of secrecy over it, sources said.

Airline sources told The Sunday Times the agent allegedly owed some Rs. 2 million in public money to the state owned carrier but was apparently being favoured or covered up because of his political links.

In a recent case the agent had remitted a cheque to AirLanka but it had bounced and little or no action had been taken regarding it, they claimed

One of the most glaring instances of alleged financial wheeler dealing by the agent took place when he chartered two AirLanka planes for special flights recently.

The taxes on these charters, amounting to around Rs. 1 million, have still not been paid.

Airline sources say the concessions and cover-up facilities provided to this agent include credit lines which have not been given to any other agent and are contrary to the airlines financial regulations.

The sources said some top financial officers had opposed the special facilities given to this agent yet he had got them.

To clarify the story The Sunday Times faxed AirLanka's Marketing and Communications Manager Rienzi Perera, but his reply raised more questions than answers. In a terse reply he said:

"This refers to your fax on subject of AirLanka's policy regarding dealings with agents.

"In general AirLanka has laid down procedures to cover all contingencies concerning working arrangements with passengers and cargo sales agents which will apply in the local as well as foreign markets.

Dealings between individual agents and AirLanka are confidential, and where situations in which anomalies arise such situations are resolved within the laid-down framework."

Ashraff gets a freehand for port tender

The President's nod has been given for an estimated Rs, 1,000 million proposal by Ports and Shipping Minister, M.H.M. Ashraff for the purchase of additional container handling equipment for the third berth of the Jaya Container Terminal, outside normal tender procedures.

Cabinet approval had been sought to purchase the additional equipment from funds remaining after the completion of a previous project.

Mr. Ashraff had said that normal tender procedures would consume considerable time and the availability period of the Overseas Economic Co-operation Fund (OECF) loan might expire. The cabinet paper had sought approval for the purchase of feeder cranes and tug boats.

Asked to comment on the hurry to go outside normal tender procedures, Ministery Secretary, M. N. Junaid told 'The Sunday Times' that he could not comment on a cabinet paper which was a confidential document. When told the document was available with the newspaper he said 'cabinet papers are now reduced to the level of toilet papers'.

Police shoot protester to death in Puttalam

A 42-year-old man was killed and ten injured, when Police opened fire on demonstrators who were protesting against the controversial coal power project at the Nuraicholai in Puttalam on Friday evening, a protest group said.

Police said they were compelled to open fire when thousands of demonstrators started pelting stones at the project site soon after surveyors began work there.

Villagers and environmental groups claimed the coal power project will seriously pollute the area in addition to depriving villagers of their land and fishing resources.

As tension gripped the area after the shooting, a local curfew was clamped while a special investigation was also ordered.

Later police arrested ten people who came to hospital to claim the body of J.Somasiri (42), a father of seven who was killed in the shooting.

Islamic nations slam Taleban

By Arshad M. Hadjirin

Missions of Islamic countries in Colombo have spoken out against the fundamentalist Taleban regime's threat to destroy two hallowed Buddha statues in Afghanistan as Sri Lanka mustered more international support to prevent what it sees as a calamity of the worst magnitude.

Palestinian Ambassador A. Asqubia said any damage caused to these 4th century statues in the Bamiyan province of war ravaged Afganistan would cause serious harm to the religious harmony between the Islamic and Buddhist communities here and all over the world.

"Palestinians were opposed to anything that broke inter religious ties," he said.

While worldwide efforts were afoot to save the statues which UNESCO has described as the common heritage of humankind, a spokesman for the Iranian Embassy in Colombo said his country would not tolerate the threat from Taleban or any other move that damaged the unity among religions of the world.

Pakistan's High Commissioner Abdul B. Haqqani said his country had always stood for harmony among all religions, pointing out that the Islamabad regime had provided patronage and protection to several Buddhist sites in the country.

Malaysia's High Commissioner, Shamsudeen Abdullah also stressing the principle of peaceful co-existence among all religions warned the Taleban that any move to destroy the ancient statues would seriously damage its image in the eyes of the world.

Egypt's Ambassador said he had informed his government in Cairo of Sri Lanka's deep concern over the Taleban threat while Libya's envoy here said he was awaiting directions from Tripoli on how to respond to this situation.

Meanwhile Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar summoned envoys of Islamic countries for a meeting where he expressed Sri Lanka's protest in the strongest terms and asked them to do whatever was possible to prevent Taleban from carrying out its threat.

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