Seven Tamil political parties that met on Friday evening in Colombo agreed to insist on the government for a negotiating forum with the Tamil parties before arriving at any constitutional reforms.
EPRLF General Secretary Suresh Premachandran pointed out that even though Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister G. L. Peiris who heads the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) was claiming that PSC had arrived at decisions on all issues, the actuality is in contrary.
As the Tamil parties are in the dark on most of the issues as to the manner the government intends to draft the Constitution, there should be a negotiating forum for the draft between the government and the Tamil parties, Mr.Premachandran insisted at the confab and all parties agreed to the proposal.
Premachandran also told the parley that areas to be discussed with the government must be identified before the proposed negotiating forum. He cautioned that no worthwhile compromise could be found without the negotiating forum, otherwise it would create more and more problems instead of resolutions.
Ceylon Workers' Congress (CWC) Vice President P. P. Devaraj told The Sunday Times that it was a sort of familiarization rendezvous to arrive at a common understanding. The CWC had acted as a co-ordinator for the cordial discussion.
The representatives of TULF, EPDP, PLOTE, CWC, TELO, EROS and EPRLF participated at this parley and fourth one is to be convened tomorrow (Monday).
The Civil Rights Movement of Sri Lanka has said the reported decision to close down the Human Rights Task Force when the new Human Rights Commission is not geared to take over its functions is "as perplexing as it is appalling."
Special laws relating to arrest and detention such as those under the Prevention of Terrorism Act and the emergency regulations need, as a basic minimum, both certain safeguards and a specific mechanism by which they are monitored. Many of the legal safeguards, and the only currently effective monitoring mechanism, are now provided by the emergency regulations creating the Human Rights Task Force and the Presidential Directions made thereunder.
It is by virtue of these provisions, for instance, that a person making an arrest may be required to identify himself by name and rank, that the person arrested must be afforded a reasonable means of communicating with a friend or relative, and that when a child under 12 years of age or a woman is arrested a person of their choice should be allowed to accompany them, the CRM points out.
It is also by virtue of these provisions that the HRTF has been set up with its nine regional offices in addition to its Colombo office and its staff of over 80.
The services it provides include, by way of example:
* Monitoring arrests and detentions under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) and the emergency regulations through regular visits to police stations, army camps and prisons; this is done by nine regional centres and the Head Office staff, with the latter covering 136 police stations on 13 routes every month. In the course of this round of visits "missing persons" are sometimes located and their families informed. This work requires familiarity with police procedures and practices as the registers have to be examined to check on persons detained and the legality of their detention.
The rescinding, with effect from June 30 of the emergency regulations creating the HRTF, will dismantle this specialised service which has been built up over the years, leaving a most grievous gap in the mechanism available for the protection of the life, liberty and security of our people.
The CRM says it is aware that some of the functions discharged by the HRTF have also been written into the Act establishing the Human Rights Commission. The discharge of these functions will therefore ultimately become the responsibility of the Commission. However, to the best of CRM's knowledge, the Commission has not yet become operative and has not built up the institutional capacity for this purpose.
"Sri Lanka has had more than its share of "disappearances", extrajudicial executions and torture in custody. We must not ignore the lessons of experience. We just cannot afford any gap in the protection of the life and liberty of persons liable to arrest and detention. There is also the question of fair and proper treatment of its staff. It is not too late for the government to rescind the regulation which would make the HRTF disappear in a few days time, or take other remedial action to ensure its services continue uninterrupted and undiminished," the CRM says.
Internationally acclaimed black singing sensations, 'The Supremes' and 'Three Degrees' are scheduled to perform at Sugathadasa Indoor Stadium next Sunday in one of the biggest showbiz extravaganzas in Sri Lanka.
Formed in 1962, with the original Trio of Diana Ross, Florence Ballard, and Mary Wilson, 'The Supremes' went on to become the biggest selling female act ever. The new look Supremes with new faces, retain the same magical quality and have adapted their music to suit the nineties.
'Three Degrees', enjoy worldwide popularity and they are best known in Sri Lanka for their hit single 'When will I see you again'.
The two groups which arrive on Friday will also perform at a Dinner Concert at Lanka Oberoi on Saturday. This will be the maiden effort of the newest entertainment company called, 'Excalibur Productions'.
"This will be something like checking our capabilities on local entertainment scene. If this project goes off successfully, there are many more on the cards", said Nissanka Ediriweera, the brain behind this project.
According to him, some of the best singers and groups like Rita Coolage, Bob Geldorf, Cliff Richards, Driffers, Shakatak etc, are on the cards for shows here.
The winding up of the HRTF would definitely create a vacuum in the monitoring of Human Rights aspects while driving the Tamil people in to the hands of human rights violators, a TULF Parliamentarian told President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga.
TULF Parliamentary group leader Joseph Pararajasingham - pointing out that this vacuum would thereby create more room for the disappearances of the Tamils taken into custody by the security forces - has implored the President to allow the HRTF set up to, function for a further period of six months until the Human Rights Commission (HTC) functions fully.
He said that there had been large scale human rights violations by the security forces in the Eastern Province from 1990 to 1991 with the registered cases of violations totalling around 10,000 with 5,200 cases in Batticaloa alone.
After the establishment of HRTF since 1991 following the agitation by the international and local Human Rights organisations, there was a decline in the human rights violations by the security forces although the HRTF had no legal teeth to punish the perpetrators, he added.
While commending the government for the initiative to set up an HRC, he pointed out that it would take at least six months for the HRC to establish itself to meet fully the challenging demands of human rights aspects.
He added that the Gazette notification ordering the HRTF to cease functioning with effect from June 30 has created much confusion and worry among the Tamil people as well as the Human Rights activists.
Amnesty International has expressed concern for the welfare of detainees in Sri Lanka during the transition from one human rights panel to a new outfit.
The London-based rights watchdog said Sri Lanka's Human Rights Task Force (HRTF) will cease its functions on Monday, potentially jeopardising the welfare of those in 374 detention centres.
The HRTF is to be replaced by the newly established National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) which will have wider powers to investigate allegations of human rights abuses.
However Amnesty said the government should make use of the experience of the HRTF officials in the new organisation and there should be no vacuum during the transition.
"We fear that the NHRC has not as yet become operational and may not be in a position to take on the vital task of monitoring the welfare of detainees," the Amnesty statement said.
Ground floor apartment owners of many flats have used the common ground area as car parks, gardens, playgrounds and some have even built extra rooms on this land, complain apartment owners.
Apartment owners told The Sunday Times that they are unable to use the common areas as the ground floor residents have fenced them for their uses.
"When we complained to the NHDA, they merely washed their hands of it. These have been built without the approval of the Municipality," members of the Manning House Management Committee said.
Some apartment owners accused the NHDA and the local authorities of taking bribes and allowing people known to them to do what they want and of turning a blind eye, although they have made several appeals. The NHDA stated that they do not wish to interfere in these problems.
According to the Apartment Ownership Act, the common elements in a condominium property includes the land in which the building stands, including the roads and accesses, drains and ditches, lanes, gardens and parks, playgrounds and other open spaces appurtenant to the condominium property and every other property in the area, except for the house which has been sold.
This is an area where all the apartment owners have a right to the property and own a percentage of the property.
"In condominium flats it is illegal to put up any kind of construction, without the approval of the Municipality," said Anton Fernando, a lawyer.
Those living in the ground floor tend to abuse the land of the area restricting other owners of using this property.
The Chairman of the NHDA said that many of the people who have done these things are those who are supposed to enforce law and order in the country.
He said that a policeman was reported to have built extra rooms to his flat and the management committee or the NHDA reported the incidents to the local authorities but nothing happened.
The Chairman of the NHDA, K. A. L. Premaratna said that although the land and the buildings are owned by the NHDA and that it is illegal to put up any kind of fence or obstruction, unless the local authorities have given approval for such constructions.
"The NHDA in order to prevent such acts has organized a management committee in all the apartment flats that they have put up, and the committee has been given full authority to object to any such act and to take the offenders to Court," Mr. Premaratna said.
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