The Sunday TimesNews/Comment

01st June 1997



Plunder from the poorest

Destitute orphans in a city children's home get only rice with some kiri hodi, though the Colombo Municipal Council has again this year allocated Rs 105 million for public assistance, a councillor had charged.

Lady councillor, Sunetra Wickremasinghe told the CMC meeting there are large-scale frauds in the Dept. which was expected to provide assistance to more than 16,000 people. She alleged that in April alone misappropriation amounted to around Rs 30,000.

Ms Wickremasinghe charged that the plunder of the poor had been going on for many years and in one incident a poor family had been given a meagre funeral allowance 17 years after a family member died.

She said that when she visited a children's home recently and questioned an official as to why the children got only kiri hodi with rice, he had claimed that potatoes were mashed and mixed with the hodi but she found no potatoes in it.

Chilli farmers' hunger strikes and protests pay off

Government on Friday afternoon raised the buying price of chillies, after a stormy week of hunger strikes and protests by farmers whose products were neglected by the government.

Agriculture Minister D.M. Jayaratne in consultation with President Chandrika Kumaratunga at a meeting held on Friday evening decided to increase the buying price of chilli to Rs 70 per kilogram from a fluctuating rate between Rs 50.00 and 60.00.

Many chilli farmers last week burnt stocks of chillies in the Eppawala town and shouted slogans urging the government to immediately to buy their products. Two farmers were arrested after the incident.

Minister Jayaratne said that they promptly acted to prevent any further calamity and on Friday raised the purchase price of chillies.

However, at the peak of the crisis some UNP members bought loads of chillies from the farmers and transported them to Colombo, in a bid to solve the issue.

Sunethra mum on resignation

Former UNP Minister Sunethra Ranasinghe would not say why she resigned from her post as Leader of the Opposition in the Dehiwela-Mount Lavinia Municipal Council on Thursday. All she would say was no particular reason for her resignation.

In a letter to the Mayor, Ms. Ranasinghe said that following her election to the Munipial Council after the March elections, she had decided to resign from her post.

UNP General Secretary Gamini Atukorale confirmed that there was no specific reason for Ms. Ranasinghe's resignation and that she continues to be a member of the party.

Donations for displaced Muslims

The Sri Lanka Muslim Refugee Assistance (SLMRA) -UK, recently donated nearly Rs. 2 million worth of food, clothing, medicines and cash to over 1000 displaced Muslims as Ramazan assistance.

SLMRA, which was formed by a group of Muslims in the UK following several unfortunate incidents to Muslims in the north and east, distributed over one million rupees in cash to 1000 displaced families in Kalawewa, Nachaduwa, Nochiyagama and Crow Island, Colombo.

JVSP to introduce itself

The political bureau of 'Jana Vimukthi Sahayogitha Peramuna' (People's Liberation, Solidarity Front) has decided to launch a country- wide campaign at district level to publicize its policies and establish electoral committees with a view to contesting all future elections, Chairman of the JVSP, Dr. Kamal Karunadasa said.

Four central committee members, JVSP's Secretary, Sarath Devananda, Michael De Silva, Ven. E. Rathanapala and Dr Karunadasa have been appointed to co-ordinate these activities in the Western, North Central, Central, Uva, Southern, Sabaragamuwa and North Western provinces.

The first of the series scheduled for the Polonnaruwa district which started last Thursday will continue for a week covering Kaduruwela, Hingurakgoda, Diyasenapura, Medirigiriya, Dimbulagala and Minneriya.

The second one-week campaign is scheduled to be held in the Badulla district later this month.

'Exciting challenge'

Britain's blind Cabinet Minister David Blunkett has written to the Sri Lanka Council for the Blind saying he much appreciates the local body's support and the exciting challenge facing him.

"This is an exciting and challenging time for all of us who work in the Education and Employment field, and I hope we will be able to make new and lasting improvements for everyone." Mr. Blunkett says in reply to a congratulatory message sent by the council.

Dead beetle found in a soft drink: case filed

A case against a beverages company for manufacturing and marketing a bottle of soda which allegedly contained the body parts of a dead beetle was filed at the Avissawella magistrate court, recently.

The plaint was filed by Kosgama, Public Health Inspector, Upali Dayananda who took the bottle in question into custody, following a complaint. The magistrate Ratnapriya Gurusinghe ordered that the respondents be notified to appear in court and postponed the hearing. He also directed the production to be sent to Government Analyst.

Weli Oya in whirlpool

Move to transfer area to A'pura provokes protest from Tamil Parties

By S.S. Selvanayagam

A proposal to temporarily transfer administrative control of the crisis-ridden Weli Oya (Manal Aaru) area from Vavuniya to the Anuradhapura District has provoked a storm of protests from Tamil parties which described the move as despicable and reprehensible.

The Public Administration Ministry's Additional Secretary, Y. B. Pussedeniya told The Sunday Times the transfer had been proposed by the Govt. Agents for the two districts as a temporary measure for practical purposes, but the Govt. had not given its approval yet. He said the people of Weli Oya were asking for this transfer as the area was not being properly administered by the Vavuniya Secretariat.

Vavuniya Govt. Agent K. Ganesh told The Sunday Times that in view of the present situation, it was not practical to administer this area by Vavuniya. We agreed to a temporary administrative arrangement, he added.

Anuradhapura's, Govt Agent J. P. Hettiarachchi said this arrangement was just for a short period as the Vavuniya GA could not go to Weli Oya and even if he did so he had to go through Anuradhapura.

In an angry reaction the LTTE's clandestine radio 'Voice of the Tigers' said the annexation of Manal Aaru (Weli Oya ) as a separate AGA division of Anuradhapura, was a bid by the government to bifurcate the Tamil homeland.

A TULF delegation which met President Chandrika Kumaratunga last Thursday urged that any such proposal should be abandoned.

TULF leader M.Sivasithamparam told The Sunday Times a former government had settled people in Manal Aaru to weaken the links between the North and East. "We have been protesting since then that thugs and prisoners were settled there after chasing away local Tamil villagers. The annexation of Manal Aaru to Anuradhapura is unjust. In view of the amalgamation of the North and East, Manal Aaru should be under the North-East" he urged.

ACTC leader, Kumar Ponnambalam used stronger words to condemn the proposal. "This move proves all that I have been saying. This government is not interested in the Tamils. At least, now let all Tamils that supported this despicable government open their eyes. Any Tamil in parliament that supports this government hereafter must necessarily be a Tamil traitor," he said.

PLOTE leader D. Siddharthan accused bureaucrats of trying to take a decision which would have serious repercussions, instead of leaving it to be decided at political level. He said the transfar might have a hidden motive of driving a wedge between the North and East. This whole process was reprehensible" he said.

EROS General Secretary K. Sudhakaran said "the Govt. appeared to be encouraging the annexation of Weli Oya and was bluffing in finding a fair solution to the ethnic issue".

He said the move was not a temporary plan for practical purposes but a sinister scheme to achieve some long term objective.

EPRLF General Secretary Suresh Premachandran said, "if the government was sincere in its efforts to solve the ethnic problem, it should halt this move forthwith.

Telecasting tests too much for Rupavahini Corporation

Despite Rupavahini buying the sole rights to telecast the Sri Lanka Vs West Indies cricket series, beginning on June 4, it is unable to telecast the matches live due to financial constraints, a senior corporation official said.

Rupavahini Sports Directorn J. H. Wilson told 'The Sunday Times' that the cost of telecasting the matches was so heavy that they wouldn't want to take a financial risk in telecasting the matches live.

He said that telecasting costs per day would be around US$ 65,000 (Rs. 4 million) and that it is very difficult to find sponsors as the matches will be shown during night time.

Mr. Wilson said that as West Indies is located on the other side of the globe, three satellites would be invovled in a live telecast and that it would be a very expensive affair.

He added that the question of other TV stations telecasting the matches did not arise as the costs were very heavy and in the second place the Rupavahini had bought over rights for a mammoth price of Rs. 3.5 million.

However, the Rupavahini will telecast the highlights of the test matches after each day's play.

The recorded version of the solitary one-day international also will be telecast in full, the next day.

Sri Lanka will play two test matches in the Caribbeans in this tour.

Non academic staff set July 1 deadline

By Chamintha Tilakaratna

The non academic university staff who returned to work after a month-long strike have fixed July 1 as the deadline for the authorities to meet their demands.

President of the Inter University Non-academic Staffers Federation, G.P. Lokugamage told 'The Sunday Times' that they have returned to work on the understanding that six of their demands would be resolved before the deadline given by them.

The demands to be met by July 1 are: a solution in regard to pensions of university staffers; the payment of arrears as agreed in the Additional Secretary's letter dated 97.5.20; that the federation be given the benefits promised by the salary anomalies comittee.

They also want a report on the response of the anomalies comittee be sent to the federation on or before June 23 and the minister takes responsibility to pay the salaries and allowances to casual, rehabilitation, temporary, permanent, contract and trainees for the period during which the strike was continued and not take any disciplinary action.

The non-academic staff also has demanded that the Chairman of the University Grants Commission inform all university staffers that they will re-comence work, and that he will pay the alowances and the salaries as soon as possible and not take any disciplinary action against them.

'If these conditions are not met, the federation might turn to trade union action from the first of July', Mr. Lokugamage said.

"Whether we will continue the strike or not depends solely on the minister. We have stopped the strike because the minister has given us his word that he will meet the demands by the first of July, and we hope that he will stick to his words," Mr. Lokugamage said.

The Inter University Non-academic Staffers' Union blames the University Grants Commission and, officials and the minister for the continuation of the strike for over a month, which they state was due to lack of communication.

Meanwhile , university teachers have called on the govt. to immediately implement a Cabinet decision on payment of pensions for all university staff and the backdating of salary increases to January 1, 1995.

The Colombo University Teachers' Association in a statement on Friday said non-implementation of these decisions had caused disruption such as the recent strike by non-academic staff during which university activities were crippled for more than a month.

The association said the decision should be implemented in respect of all staff of the universities and there should also be a continuing dialouge on various issues or problems.

More power from private sector

Large-scale private sector involvement in diesel turbine and coal power generation is being sought by the Ceylon Electricity Board, Chairman Arjun Deraniyagala said yesterday.

Speaking at a ceremony to launch a 51 Mw power plant at Sapugaskanda by Asia Power (Pvt.) Ltd., the CEB chief said they were considering several deals with private companies for power projects.

Fisticuffs at ACBC meeting over child sex scandal

A committee meeting of the All Ceylon Buddhist Congress (ACBC) ended in an exchange of blows and calling in the police recently when matters related to the child sex scandal at the Beruwala Children's Home came up for discussion unexpectedly.

Chairman of the ACBC Sugath Deva-pura alleged that he was punched by some members when he raised the issue about the mysterious death of Rani Thilakaratne, who was in charge of the Beruwala Children's Home.

Mr.Devapura had alleged that some of the ACBC members have figured in the case of the mysterious death of Ms.Thilakaratne, an internal inquiry conducted by the ACBC has found.

The Cinnamon Gardens police had been summoned to settle the dispute, according to persons present at the meeting.

Mr.Devapura when contacted by 'The Sunday Times' confirmed that the police had to be called in following the incident.

Minister quells fears of Beruwela Muslims

Muslims in Beruwela are up in arms over an alleged move by the Highways Ministry to demolish part of a Muslim shrine, a clocktower and several shops to widen a road, the chief trustee of the mosque said.

Chairman of the board of trustees of the Shaik Hassen Bin Osman-Ul-Maghdoomy (Rali) Dhargah told 'The Sunday Times' that part of this 140-year-old mosque, and a 120-year-old clock tower are to be demolished by the Urban Development Authority, for a road widening project.

Health and Highways Minister A. H. M. Fowzie told 'The Sunday Times' that his ministry had no intention of demolishing a mosque, and that under the road widening project only the parapet wall of the mosque will be demolished.

"As for the clock tower, the road Development Authority will construct a new one shortly," said Mr. Fowzie adding that it is a few shop owners who are running a counter campaign to prevent their shops being pulled down.

The UDA is widening the road between Aluthgama and Matugama and a number of buildings on both sides of the road are being demolished.

Rs 600,000 heist from Lanka's Saudi school

By Mohammed Qassim in Saudi Arabia

Saudi police are on the trail of an Asian who grabbed a large sum of money belonging to the Sri Lankan Embassy in Riyadh.

The school's registrar, K.K. de Silva and his peon, Mahammed Izzadeen were bringing the teachers' monthly pay of Rs 600,000 Saturday (24th) when an Asian-looking man stopped them at gun- point and snatched the money.

The man fired into the air and the fear-struck officials did not resist and the robber fled with the loot.

The Saudi police is making detailed investigations into the robbery and is hopeful of bringing the culprits to book soon.

The distance between the bank and the school is about one and a half kilometres.

The Charge d'affaires of the Sri Lankan Embassy, K. Noon summoned an emergency meeting of the board of management of the school to appraise the committee of the occurrence. The board, on its part, has appointed a three member commitee of inquiry under a prominent lawyer to go into the incident in detail and it has further requested the committee to suggest ways and means of preventing incidents of this nature in the future. Meanwhile, Mr. Noon made immediate arrangements to pay the teachers' salary despite the robbery.

Uncleared Wanni gets its food

After a lapse of three weeks, the transport of food for the displaced civilians in the uncleared Wanni region was resumed yesterday, official sources said.

Kilinochchi District Government Agent S. Thillai-nadarajah told 'The Sunday Times' that eleven lorries load of food items to the displaced people in the Kilinochchi District were sent by the Commissioner General of Essential Services through the Madhu Road route.

Forty lorry loads of provisions are also being sent to both Kilinochchi District and Mullaitivu, twenty lorries for each district, he said.

Meanwhile the Defence Ministry has granted permission to dispatch medicine for a quarter term to the Kilinochchi hosptial and arrangements are being made to convey them within the next two or three days, Government Agent S. Thillainadarajah concluded.

CMC Pola to help sell NCP farmers' chilli

By M. Ismeth

A 'miris pola' (Chilli Fair) will be held tomorrow at the Colombo Municipal Council grounds, where the Noth Central Province,Provincial Council Chief Minister Jayantha Dissanayake will put up for sale 5000 kg. of chilli.

Mr. Dissanayake told the 'Sunday Times' that the pola is held to sell as much as possible the chilli the Raja Rata farmers have in stock. We will sell at Rs. 75 per kilo and he requests all to buy the hot, spicy stuff from the fair to give a break to the farmers, who are now desperate with no buyers for the 25 lakhs kg. of chilli harvested this season.

He appeals to the private sector to give a helping hand in disposing the chilli that they have in stock.

Mayor of Colombo Karu Jayasuriya has consented to give the CMC grounds for the fair, he said.

"The Raja Rata farmers this season have harvested 25 lakhs kilos of chilli in 23,000 hectares and if we do not help these poor farmers at this critical moment, they would not cultivate more than 2300 hectares during the next season and ultimately, in a few years Sri Lanka will have to import its entire needs," he said.

Some farmers told The Sunday Times that puzzled why the authorities are so blind as to allow the import of chilli when the farmers under the most trying conditions have harvested enough and more of the hot stuff for consumers here. The Indian chilli that is in the market is sold at Rs. 35 a kg. but that too is not readily available.

The Minister of Agriculture D. M. Jayaratne has called the NCP Councilllors and some farmers to meet him in the Parliament complex on Tuesday to discuss ways and means to come out of this impasse.

Continue to the News/Comment page 3 - * Lesson a picture taught, * Building a bridge of peace with bricks and books, * The man who ungagged the mighty Pravda

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