P.A. parliamentarian for the Kurunegala district Attorney-at - Law Jayasena Rajakaruna has been outspoken in respect of his stance on the governments proposed devolution package. Charged with having uttered certain remarks against the package and thereby contravening party discipline, he was summoned before the SLEP Disciplinary Committee last week.
Mr. Rajakaruna (70), whose political career runs back to the late Premier S.W.R.D .Bandaranaikes days, was the Chairman of the Bingiriya Village Council from 1952 to 1960. His attempt to enter parliament from Bingiriya electorate at the 1960 March General Election as an independent candidate was proved unsuccessful but he succeeded 29 years later. He was able to retain his seat at the August 1994 election.
The following are excerpts from the interview given by Mr. Rajakaruna immediately after he faced the disciplinary inquiry.
Q. Can you outline briefly the areas of the proposed political package with which you are not in agreement?
A. To begin with, I am in agreement with the package. However the first Schedule of the draft constitution which deals with the demarcation of regions is not disclosed as yet. I am concerned about these regions that is, how they will be established because I am opposed to the amalgamation of the Northern province with the Eastern province. I also oppose the linking of a portion of the Eastern province with the North. I am not opposed to this devolution package. What I say is that more power should be given to the peripheries.
Whatever be the unit of devolution under the proposed constitution, aspirations of the Tamil people will be hundred per cent fulfilled as they will be given the right to govern the North. Why should they ask to extend this to the Eastern province where there are Sinhalese and Muslims in addition to Tamils. Let these people in the East get together and decide on their governing body.
The danger in annexing a portion of the East with the North on the basis of ethnicity is that by doing so we will create a new problem. I am opposed to this.
Q. When you criticise the basis of devolution of power, arent you attacking the very roots of the package?
A. So far there has been no suggestion as to how the regions are to be established. The position of the Constitutional Affairs Minister is that the manner in which these regions are to be created will be discussed at the Parliamentary Select Committee and a decision will be arrived at. Whether we will agree with the outcome of the deliberations on this matter is to be decided later.
If the North and East are going to be merged and if the regions are re-demarcated on the ethnic basis, then I will oppose such a move. The consent of the people has to be obtained at a referendum in this connection.
Q. Didnt you appear before the Sinhala Commission on the same issue?
A. Yes I told the Commission that I do not accept the notion that the Northern and Eastern provinces are the traditional homeland of the Tamil speaking people.
Q. What counter-proposals do you suggest instead?
A. My position is that the regions should not be re-demarcated on an ethnic basis. There cant be separate regions for Sinhalase, Tamils and Muslims. Why cant we go on with the present basis. We will have a lot of problems if the country is going to be divided along ethnic lines.
Q. Do you suggest that the 13th Amendment is still an adequate solution to the problem.?
A. Under the 13th Amendment there were conflicts between the centre and provinces because certain powers or functions were expressly concurrent. However,the draft constitution has done away with this concurrent list. The First List in the Second Schedule of the draft constitution deals with the power to be vested in the centre while the Second List lays down those of the provinces. As a result, there will be no conflict when it comes to the question of administration.
Q. You said you are against any kind of merger of North and East and re-demarcation of regions on ethnic lines. Wasnt there a forum for you to articulate these views within the party or on a broader plane, within the Peoples Alliance?
A. No, not so far.
Q. At a symposium held in Kalutara last Monday and Thursday Parliamentarians and organisers of the SLFP passed a resolution unanimously endorsing the draft constitution. What have you got to say to this?
A. I too was present there. We accepted the draft constitution subject to the condition that the manner of electing members to Parliament should not be on the ethnic basis and the east or any part thereof should not be merged with the north.
Q. Have you submitted your proposals to the Parliamentary Select Committee?
A. No, I am not a member of that committee. We also can send in our views but we dont know what is happening.
Q. What took place at the disciplinary inquiry held against you?
A. I submitted my explanations stating that I had not spoken a word against devolution. In fact I am for it. But I am opposed to the forming of regions on the ethnic basis.
Q. If you say that you have not spoken against the package, isnt it unfair to hold a disciplinary inquiry against you on such a charge?
A. Yes. When I had tendered my explanations in writing beforehand which I did on June 14 there was no need to hold a disciplinary inquiry. I am a little hurt about it. The inquiry is totally unwarranted.
Q. Have other M.P.s of your party asked you to retract your views on the package?
A. No, because they know my attitude towards the issue.
Q. As a person who has worked closely with the late Mr. S.W.R.D. Bandaranike what main contradictions do you see between his policies and the present approach to settle the ethnic conflict?
A. At that time the ethnic issue did not exist as it does today. Mr. Bandaranaike accepted more or less a solution similar to the Federal System. However, there again there was no proper indication as to how the areas will be carved out.
The Sri Lanka Ekeeya Sanvidhanaya has said its views with contempt and horror the decision of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party to take disciplinary action against Jayasena Rajakaruna, M. P., for having publicly opposed the division of our Country by means of the Devolution Package in his evidence given before the Sinhala Commission. A Sanvidhanaya statement says: Jayasena Rajakaruna, M.P., who is one of the most senior members of the SLFP in Parliament, is indeed unique in that he has chosen to follow the dictates of his conscience while his colleagues appear to be at one with King Richard III to whom:-
conscience is a word that cowards use.
One remembers vividly how the SLFP under the leadership of the present Prime Minister, Mrs Sirimavo Bandaranaike stridently and uncompromisingly opposed not only the 13th Amendment but even the District Development Councils Act on the ground that they would destroy the unitary character of our Constitution and divide the Country.
Disastrous though the 13th Amendment is, it is as nothing compared to the Devolution Package which is immeasurably more disastrous.
How then can the very party which opposed the 13th Amendment take disciplinary action against Jayasena Rajakaruna, M.P., for opposing the Devolution Package, the statement asks.
A plain reading of the manifesto of the SLFP led Peoples Alliance will make manifest the fact that nowhere in it was any mention made of destroying the unitary character of our Constitution and promulgating a federal Constitution. Jayasena Rajakaruna, M.P., has not, therefore, violated in any way whatsoever, the mandate of the People on which he was returned to Parliament.
His only crime is that he refused to be a soulless, mindless, puppet or yes man of the Party leadership and put country before self.
In conclusion the Sri Lanka Ekeeya Sanvidhanaya salutes Jayasena Rajakaruna, M. P., concludes the statement.
The Bribery Commissioners Department is investigating an allegation of bribery against OIC Laggala, IP Lalith Weerasinghe and Sergeant Indrawansa. They are alleged to have received a bribe of Rs. 5000 from a gem pit owner, to help him in the issue of a permit for gemming. The two were arrested by officials of the Bribery Commissioners Dept.
Alleged frauds including abuse of some 35 vehicles, and over-expenditure running into millions have been revealed at the Ports Ministry, an official said.
He said an internal probe had revealed that these funds were used to maintain buildings not within its purview. One particular unit of the ministry had allegedly misused more than Rs. 10 million.
Sri Lankan rice farmers are breeding fish in their paddy fields in an effort to boost food production, the United National Development Programme (UNDP) said on Friday. UNDP spokesman Frederick Abeyratne said the fish-farming, a UNDP-funded experiment, involved the release of thousands of two cm-long (0.8 inch) fish fry into paddy fields across the Indian Ocean island.
The fish, supplied free by the government, were fed on rice bran and lived in the paddy fields for eight weeks until they were about five cm (two inches) long. The government then bought them at one rupee (1.7 cents) each. Abeyratne said the UNDP hoped the scheme could eventually be adopted by about a third of Sri Lankas 1.8 million farming families.
It is designed to increase farmers income and the populations protein intake, Abeyratne told Reuters. Rearing fish in paddy fields could earn an extra 20,000 rupees per acre (8,100 rupees per hectare) each year, equivalent to around 80 percent of an average farmers income per acre.
It could also help reduce mosquito larvae, cutting the countrys spending on treatment for malaria, he said. Abeyratne said fish-farming would reduce rice production by about 10 percent per acre on land used for breeding because farmers needed to dig ditches as a retreat for the fish in case of drought.
He said the UNDP was concerned about malnutrition in Sri Lanka, where fishing has declined over the past two decades, partly because of the long-running ethnic war affecting large stretches of the islands coastline. The Sri Lankan government is fighting a 13-year battle with Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam rebels, who demand a homeland for the minority Tamil population in the east and north of the country.
TULF President Murugesu Sivasithamparam celebrates his 75th birthday today.
Mr.Sivasithamparam, an eminent lawyer by profession, won the Nallur seat at the 1977 General Election with a record majority .
Special police teams have been sent to Borella, Wellampitiya and Kotikawatte to apprehend several suspects who are alleged to have been involved in Thursdays torching to death of four men including an underworld leader in Attidiya, the Mt. Lavinia HQI, Prasanna Ginige said.
It was revealed at the Magisterial inquiry held yesterday, that Ajith Dhammika alias Kalu Ajith and three others were shot in the head and set on fire subsequently.
A senior police official said that they were also investigating to ascertain whether this was the work of a gang which enjoyed political patronage as the style of killing was different from that commonly resorted to by underworld groups in disposing of members of rival groups.
A bogus ticketing agency in Paris run by some Sri Lankans came to light a few weeks back when a Lankan family along with a group of foreign students booked a passage to Sri Lanka for holiday
The holiday was planned to celebrate the event of the famous pianist Shani Abeyguneratnes selection to the Paris musical competition Conservative National Superiors of Music.
Shani was among the first four chosen to compete with 380 musicians from the world. She was the first Asian to take part in this highly competitive musical event. After coming among the first four Shani along with ten of her friends and family decided to visit Sri Lanka for ten days. It had been during a Sinhala New Year day festival organised by the cultural attache in Paris that the Abeyguneratnes first met the Lankan group who were conducting this racket.
Once the family explained that they were planning to visit their homeland the group had volunteered to give them a discounted package. They offered the ten students the air fare for 48,600 francs which was a very good price.
The students were then asked to mail their cheques in favour of the agency which was known as World Vision Voyage. The group was scheduled to leave Paris on July 6th. The cheques were posted on June 22. They were told that once the agency receives the money the tickets will be sent by post to each child.
The problems started when the tickets did not come as planned. Shanis mother had constantly phoned the agency but they gave her various excuses, even until the day before the departure.
By this time Shanis father Mr. Gilbert Abeyguneratne a banker in MonAco intervened. He was later informed by a partner in the ticketing agency that the agency had gone bankrupt and the account has been closed. However they will be covered by insurance.
But this did not happen upto date. Finally it was Mr. Abeyguneratne who pocketed out the money for his daughters friends to spend a few days in Sri Lanka.
Mr. Abeyguneratne told The Sunday Times that the agency had assured them that the group was booked on the flight to Sri Lanka, and that the tickets will be handed over to them at the airport counter.
We were to leave on Sunday the last time I spoke to the agency they said that the tickets will be provided. We were even given a cellular number to contact him if there was any problem. But we were in for a rude shock.
It was the saddest scene I have ever witnessed. All the children were there with their bags and when the airport official said that the tickets were not there. It broke my heart. One girl got into a frenzy finally I could not bear to see them so upset. I managed to write a cheque. Generally they do not take cheques on holidays but they made an exception, he said.
Mr. Abeyguneratne had then asked for the receipts instead he was given only photocopies. I told them that they might have fooled many people but this time they were tapping the wrong tree, because I am going all out to expose this racket and the injustice caused to some innocent students. Even if we are paid insurance it will take another eight months for me to get the money he said.
The Abeyguneratnes have already informed their lawyers and also each girl had lodged a complaint at the police station. They have also written to the Sri Lankan consulate in Paris to take immediate action. Although the foreigners went through hell to spend ten days in Sri Lanka the group was taken around the country and given grand welcome. They are scheduled to leave on July 28.
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