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One of the biggest, most colourful and most significant May Day rallies in Colombo was the JVP demonstration and meeting. Here some JVP members are seen having a quick lunch before the meeting at the BRC grounds. Pic By Gemunu Wellage
Reports about the presence of a powerful govt. politician's son at the time of the dawn killing of a Papua New Guinea rugger star in a Colombo casino have put investigations on a fresh trail, detectives said yesterday.
Police officers were tightlipped about the government politico's son's presence at the time of the shooting, but one detective said that his name was in the records and he may be questioned.
Police probing the murder of Joel Pera,( 29) former CR rugger star and now coach of Havelocks said so far there was no major breakthrough and they were keeping an open mind.
Pera, nephew of a former presidential candidate of Papua New Guinea was shot dead at point blank range with a 9 mm pistol outside the Carlton Casino at Kollupitya around 4.30 a.m. on Thursday following a dispute in which the club owner's son was allegedly involved.
The Casino had been closed and placed under heavy police guard while at least six club security guards have been questioned and their statements recorded.
Another Papua New Guinean ruggerite, Gidinban, who was an eyewitness to the shooting has told the Magisterial inquiry that one of the persons present with the casino owner's son Bobby had opened fire at Pera
Pera's wife, Vanessa Selvaratnam told 'The Sunday Times' that she and her friend Uchila Khan, had spent some time at the Carlton Casino a few hours prior to the shooting and left.
"On my way back home I received a call on the cell phone saying my husband had been shot," she said.
According to others at the Casino an argument had taken place between Pera, a regular visitor to the club and the owner's son, Bobby. In what appeared to be a settlement of their dispute they were later seen shaking hands.
But another argument had broken out and Bobby had allegedly told security men to throw Pera out of the Casino while the other two Papua New Guinea ruggerites were beaten up. The shooting took place at a time when the politicos son was present.
Police said they would be recording statements of several more people including Pera's wifeVanessa and her friends..The owners son Bobby is reported to be absconding.
Speculation on an imminent Cabinet reshuffle intensified yesterday as Ministers had not got their routine set of papers and minutes for next week's meeting.
The Cabinet usually sits every Wednesday morning (evening if Parliament is in session), and each Minister receives his or her set of Cabinet papers which include the business at hand by Friday evening.
As of last evening, at least five Cabinet Ministers 'The Sunday Times' spoke to had not received their set of papers fuelling speculation that the long anticipated cabinet re-shuffle was in the offing sometime before next Wednesday.
'The Sunday Times' also learms that at least three current Deputy Ministers due for promotions have been asked not to leave on a scheduled trip overseas.
Work at some of the Ministries has been crippled prompting some of the Ministers to openly complain to President Kumaratunga that due to the speculation work is being held up.
Political circles believe that a possible Cabinet reshuffle has been informally discussed at high levels of the Government.
Transport Minister Srimani Athulathmudali's name was reported to be high on the reshuffle list .
According to reports, Ms.Athulathmudali came under fire at a Cabinet level meeting, after the local polls, following numerous allegations made against her by Industries Minister C.V. Goonaratne on public platforms.
Ms.Athulathmudali refuted these charges as baseless and denied supporting an independent party which stood for the local elections, and also maintained that she was not in the island during the time which Minister Goonaratne was supposed to have made his accusations.
Political sources said Ms.Athulathmudali was defended by another senior Minister at this meeting saying he felt that a sudden decision like this could create serious rifts within the PA.
They confirmed that no other minister's portfolio was questioned nor were any other changes suggested at this Cabinet meeting.
However early this week posters in green sprung up in the Dehiwala - Mt. Lavinia area calling for the removal of Ms. Athulathmudali on allegations that she betrayed the PA at the last local elections.
Health Minister A.H.M. Fowzie whose name has surfaced in reshuffle speculation told the 'The Sunday Times' he was confident that even in the event of a Cabinet reshuffle he would retain his portfolio.
PA General Secretary D.M. Jayaratne told 'The Sunday Times' he knew nothing about a Cabinet reshuffle at the moment. Even if that were really the case it was left to President Kumaratunga to decide on it, he said
Korean industrial giant Daewoo has offered to build a national car for Sri Lanka at an export oriented plant which could produce up to 90,000 cars a year, BOI Chief Thilan Wijesinghe said yesterday.
"National car concept is partly hype in my opinion", Mr. Wijesinghe said. "But it is a mechanism to increase national awareness that Sri Lanka needs to strive for industrial excellence - it is almost a campaign to illustrate a 'can do' attitude. That is what Malaysia succeeded in doing."
Daewoo Chairman Kim Woo Choong who is here to assess the country's capability to supply auto components and discuss several other projects, has undertaken to submit a firm proposal by end of June if a top delegation from the Treasury, BOI and industries ministry visits Korea by May 30 to finalise policy issues affecting the project.
A national car is usually given tariff protection against imports of new and reconditioned vehicles as well as special incentives and privileges.
"Daewoo is mindful of the fact that the domestic market for automobiles is relatively small", he said. In 1996, 31,000 private passenger vehicles including mostly diesel vans were registered in Sri Lanka.
Though rubber based components could be domestically sourced, most other components will have to be imported. Daewoo is expecting source parts mainly from its new Indian plant which will make 300,000 cars a year.
The good relations between Sri Lanka and India would be used to iron out tariff issues, Mr. Wijesinghe said.
The British Conservative Deputy Foreign Minister, Liam Fox, who brokered the recent PA-UNP deal saved his seat in last Thursday's election, though the Foreign Secretary and several top Ministers were thown out in the biggest Tory rout of the century.
Coming from the relatively safe seat of Somerset in the English countryside, Dr. Fox obtained 26,425 or 44.5 per cent of the votes with his nearest rival Nanette Kirsen (LDP) obtaining 16,691 votes. With his Minister Malcom Rifkind defeated in a seat in Scotland, the 33-year-old Dr. Fox is expected to play a major role as Opposition spokesman on Foreign Affairs.
The final report of the Government Analyst's Department (GAD) in connection with the alleged abduction and killing of 21 Tamil youths whose bodies were later found floating in Bolgoda, Alawwa and Diyawannawa lakes, would be handed over to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) shortly, Department sources revealed.
The case filed in this regard against 22 Special Task Force (STF) personnel, was taken off the roll-call of the Colombo Chief Magistrate's Court recently owing to what was described by PA fire-brand Ratnapura District Parliamentarian Vasudeva Nanayakkara as non-cooperation of the Attorney General's Department in the proceedings.
The AG's department maintained that the delay was due to the non-availability of two reports from the Aanalyst's Department and another from the forensic experts of the University of Glasgow.
However, the GAD sources pointed out that the bulk of the relevant reports had been already forwarded to the CID.
In the latter part of 1995, the GAD submitted a report on certain STF vehicles believed to have been used in the commission of the alleged offences and its report on further productions sent by the court for examination, was forwarded in late 1996, the sources added.
It was said that the final report which is on identification of hand-writing of the questioned documents sent in for examination, is nearing completion and would be ready in the course of this week.
The sources argued that the whole process could have been expedited only at the request of the police, the AG's department or the court as the GAD did not generally adopt the 'out of turn' technique.
The MEP has launched a campaign seeking 1 million signatures and all party support for legislation to make national identity cards compulsory for voters at elections.
Party leader Dinesh Gunawardene told The Sunday Times he would meet government, opposition leaders and other groups to discuss this proposal which he hoped would be seen as a national issue and not as a political one.
Mr. Gunawardene said his party had received thousands of complaints of impersonation at the March 21 local elections where it was not necessary for voters to produce their NICs.
Several former Commissioners of Elections had also called for legislation to make NICs compulsory when voting. But no action has been taken.
Polls chief Dayananda Dissanayake told The Sunday Times he hoped such legislation would be passed within the next few months.
The MEP leader said if polls rigging and impersonation were allowed to continue people will lose faith in elections and the whole democratic process would be threatened.
That was why the MEP had launched this mass campaign for urgent legislation regarding NICs.
The Supreme Court which heard 15 petitions against the proposed Broadcasting Bill, has in terms of the Constitution conveyed its decision to the Speaker who will announce it in Parliament on Tuesday.
The petitions were filed by political parties, media groups and others who claim that the Bill violated fundamental rights to the freedom of expression and information.
Meanwhile the Free Media Movement will be conducting a protest campaign tomorrow outside the Media Ministry from 12 noon to 1.30 p.m.
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