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31st August 1997


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Livestock Development and Estate Infrastructure Minister Saumyamoorthy Thondaman who celebrated his 85th birthday yesterday participating at a special pooja at Ginthupitty Sri Sivasubramanya Temple. Pic by Gemunu Wellage


Ministers' trips to be checked

By Our Diplomatic Correspondent

New rules and regulations are to be introduced shortly governing overseas travel of government ministers and officials, The Sunday Times learns.

Government sources say there has been confusion caused by some cabinet ministers and officials using their own channels to arrange overseas trips, sometimes jeopardising Sri Lanka's national interests and placing overseas missions under severe logistical strain.

The measures will also streamline protocol requirements sometimes not adhered to by travelling ministers and officials, although most ministers and officials carefully observe those requirements and practices, sources added.

For instance, Tourism Minister Dharmasiri Senanayake sought and accepted the advice of the Sri Lankan Foreign Office not to embark on a visit to Baghdad to participate in the ruling Baath party celebrations next week.

President Saddam Hussain's Baath party has had long time fraternal relations with the SLFP. Mr. Senanayake was to go to Iraq in his capacity as secretary of the SLFP.

Trade Minister Kingsley Wickramaratna had sought and accepted the advice of the Foreign Office not to go on a tea promotional visit in view of the interpretation of the UN sanctions against Iraq.

Sri Lanka's High Commissioner to Malaysia Dr. Warnasena Rasaputram had advised Constituional Affairs Minister G. L. Peiris to postpone his visit to Malaysia due to the celebration of its 40th year of independence this weekend and the forthcoming visit of President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga to Malaysia.

However, a news item published unusually on page 13 of the state-run Daily News the day after Dr. Peiris emplaned for Kuala Lumpur said he was going to be a guest of the Malaysian government.

Dr. Peiris, who was accompanied by Attorney General Sarath Silva was due to study the Malaysian legal system and have discussions on devolution.

Earlier, the Colombo Foreign Office had indicated that it was unaware of Dr. Peiris' visit to Kuala Lumpur, and that the visit was being arranged through other channels.

A request for a meeting with Malaysian Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohamed had been turned down on grounds of protocol. The Malaysian Foreign Ministry had informed Dr. Rasaputram that Dr. Mahathir met only visiting heads of Government, their special envoys or his personal friends. It was reported that the UNP's economic adviser Milinda Moragoda had on behalf of Dr. Peiris also requested Dr.Mahathir's son, Mirzan, to obtain an appointment with the Prime Minister, but to no avail.

The Sunday Times learns the Malaysian High Commissioner in Sri Lanka and heads of other missions have been now asked not to arrange visits for ministers without consulting the Foreign Office in Colombo .

The Sunday Times also learns from diplomatic sources that Dr. Peiris' Malaysian visit was the subject of discussion between him and President Kumaratunga moments prior to his departure. Having earlier asked him to postpone his visit until after hers, the President is reported to have given the okay this week after Dr. Peiris explained the purpose of his visit.

President Kumaratunga is due to leave for Malaysia herself in mid-September where she will meet Dr. Mahathir and sign investment agreements.

UNP in Mendis mess

By J.A.L. Jayasinha and Dilrukshi Handunnetti

Opposition Chief Whip Wijeyapala Mendis yesterday vowed to stay on and fight, amidst speculations he is under pressure from his party to quit before the government next week moves a resolution in parliament to strip him of his civic rights.

"I lost my son due to politics. I will not be shaken up by these allegations. They can't sack me," a defiant Mr. Mendis said after the government announced it would implement the recommendations of a special presidential commission which had found Mr. Mendis guilty of abuse of power and malpractices relating to big land transaction.

The commission recommended that Mr. Mendis be stripped of his civic rights for seven years and be expelled from parliament. In terms of the constitution, a resolution to this effect requires a two thirds majority in parliament and Media Minister Mangala Samaraweera has said the UNP should prove his bona fides by helping the government to act against corruption by politicians of any party.

Political sources said the UNP is facing a moral dilemma over the issue. If it supports the motion it could mean letting down a senior member. If it opposes the motion the party could be accused of abetting corruption and going against the very laws it introduced and implemented. Thus some UNP leaders believe the course of action would be for Mr. Mendis to quit but he appears unwilling to that.

While Mr. Mendis was sticking to his guns as he attended yesterday's UNP executive committee sessions in Kandy, party's general secretary Gamini Atukorale reiterated that the UNP would stand by its commitment to wipe out corruption among its members and said the working committee would meet soon to take a decision on the Mendis issue.

Significantly Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike will on behalf of the government introduce the motion in parliament on September 9 to strip Mr. Mendis and two former powerful ministry secretaries, Ramalingam Paskaralingam and Ackiel Mohamed, of their civic rights.

Some 15 years ago Ms. Bandaranaike herself became the first victim of this law when the Jayewardene government stripped her of civic rights and expelled her from parliament.

LTTE gets Stinger, SAM 7 missiles

By Our Defence Correspondent

Government's intelligence agencies have confirmed that the LTTE has acquired a fresh quantity of surface-to-air missiles, both the US made Stingers and the Soviet equivalent Sam 7s.

Confirmation about the two acquisitions came early this week, as the Sri Lanka Air Force authorities tried to establish the identity of the reported heat seeking missile fired at the Kfir-C2 on August 19. The Israeli-built interceptor/ground attack fighter was diving to take on a target in Puliyankulam when the pilot in an accompanying Kfir saw what he believed was a missile heading towards it. The pilot who was alerted took evasive action and activated the SPS (Self Protection System).

SLAF officials are yet to confirm suspicions that it was a Stinger missile. Some senior security officials expressed doubts that the attack would have come from a missile.

Intelligence sources told The Sunday Times that almost two months before the Kfir incident, Military Intelligence had received reports that the LTTE had acquired a small quantity of Stingers. They are said to have come from Asian sources.

Since then, Government's Intelligence Services have learnt from foreign sources that the LTTE had acquired a small quantity of Sam 7 missiles from an Eastern European country. They believe this stock too had been smuggled into the north.

Drug prices shoot up

Prices of all drugs produced or imported by the State Pharmaceutical Corporation have been increased with immediate effect, Chairman Colvin Goonaratna announced.

He attributed the hike to an increase in world market prices, freight and insurance charges, unfavourable fluctuations in exchange rates, and the increase in the price of raw materials.

Promotional campaigns, increases in salaries and other overheads such as electricity were also contributory factors, he said. He did not give specific price hikes but indicated that on average it would be a matter of cents or less than a rupee.

Minister tops RDA's compensation list

A cabinet minister, his brothers and sister have been paid millions as compensation by the Road Development Authority. But many families along Baseline-Kirulapone roads who come under the road widening project have yet to be paid, depending on whether their respective claims have been made.

The Sunday Times learns that Housing and Urban Development Minister Indika Gunawardena, his brothers Prasanna, Dinesh, Geethanjana and their sister Lakmali Gunawardena own 60 perches of prime land on the Kirulapone-Polhengoda Road.

Minister Gunawardena owns a major portion of the land which is also one of their ancestral properties.

Officials said Minister Gunawardena was paid compensation to the tune of Rs. 36 million while his brothers got less. His brother Prasanna told The Sunday Times he was paid at the rate of Rs. 375,000 a perch for his ten perches.

The other brother MEP leader Dinesh Gunawardena said he did not want to comment and enter into a controversy on this matter. Minister Gunawardena, in Avissawella for the Thawalama programme, was not available for comment.

RDA Director Gunasena Imaduwa told The Sunday Times around 68 house owners affected by the road widening programme would be paid compensation after they made their claims with estimates. Asked whether the minister was paid Rs. 36 million, he said "it would have been paid if such a claim was made."

Sirima pins hopes on Chinese

Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike is receiving acupuncture treatment from Chinese specialists at their own expense in Nuwara Eliya, an official said.

For the past few years, Ms. Bandaranaike has been suffering from a persisting problem in the foot and she went to China recently for acupuncture treatment. The visit of the specialists is seen as a token of Beijing's appreciation of the close Sino-Lanka ties that began in the Bandaranaike era. The official said she was feeling better after the Chinese acupuncture treatment.

Meanwhile, ministers Richard Pathirana and D. M. Jayaratne are also scheduled to reveive Chinese medical treatment.

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