31st August 1997


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Rights going wrong again, UNP tells UN

By Kshalini Nonis

Mr. Ndiaye: "more disappearances,less killings"

Mr. Ndiaye: "more disappearances,less killings"

The UNP has complained to the United Nations of a deterioration in the human rights situation here, listing a number of political murders, disappearances and intimidation of people and their elected representatives.

The formal complaint with related documentary evidence was lodged with a visiting UN envoy Bacre Waly Ndiaye by a UNP team headed by former Information Minister Tyronne Fernando who heads the party's human rights committee

Mr. Ndiaye, the UN special rapoteur on probing extra-judicial summary or arbitrary executions is on a 12-day visit to Sri Lanka at the invitation of the government.

The UNP delegation referred to the escalation of the armed conflict in the North-East, the huge increase in the number of refugees and the deplorable conditions in refugee camps where sanitation was poor and little or no access to health care or education was available.

The party also referred to incidents involving a criminalisation of politics and to the allegedly large scale intimidation that took place before and after the local elections in March.

A UNP official said Mr. Ndiaye had assured he would discuss all these matters with the Foreign Minister.

The UN envoy who also visited Jaffna said his discussions with various groups had been open and frank. He pointed out that among the countries where his UN group had held investigations, Iraq had the highest rate of 14,000 disappearances while Sri Lanka came second with 10,000 since the 1980s. But some human rights groups in Sri Lanka have alleged that some 50.000 youths were killed during the 1988-89 reign of terror.

After the PA came to office in 1994 there had been a general improvement in the human rights situation here. But the latest Amnesty International report spoke of some 600 disappearances during the past year. Mr. Ndiaye said he also had found that disappearances were extensive, though extra-judicial killings were few.

EPDP rebels to brief Ndiaye

EPDP rebel Parliamentarians Rajendram Ramamoorthy and Rajendram Rameshwaran are scheduled to meet the visiting UN Civil Rights investigator Bacre Waly Ndiaye at Hotel Oberoi tomorrow evening.

They are expected to brief him on Jaffna Human Rights violations, indiscriminate arrests of Tamils in the Colombo metropolis and the refugee problems as well as the travails of the refugees confined in the Vavuniya welfare centres.

Old boys move to stop S. Thomas' new warden

By Shyamal A. Collure

The Colombo District Court has issued two enjoining orders in a suit filed by five members of the Old Boys' Association of S. Thomas College, Mt. Lavinia against the school's Board of Governors contesting the appointment of a warden designate.

The plaintiffs , Vijitha Fernando, Lakshman Siriwardena , E. B. Wickramanayake, Ghefari Dulapandan and Romesh Dias alleged , among other things, that the appointment of Eksith Fernando as warden designate was ultra vires the powers of the Board of Governors, contravening the Assisted Schools and Unaided Schools Regulations of 1983. These regulations provide that the principals of all schools which come within their ambit , should be graduates with at least 10 years of teaching experience. The Old Boys said though Mr. Fernando was a university graduate he lacked the required teaching experience. In terms of the Education Ordinance No. 31 of 1931 (as amended ), S. Thomas College is an ' unaided school '

Moreover, it was said that subsequent to the OBA's represenations made in this connection, Education Minister Richard Pathirana had confirmed by a letter dated 10.07.1997 the aplicability of the criteria set out in the 1983 regulations to S. Thomas College.

Though it was tabled at a meeting of the Board of Governors held on July 21 , the Board held that it was not bound by such letter on the basis that it constituted private correspondence with the Ministry, the plaintiffs said.

They said the Board had no power to appoint a "warden designate" under the S. Thomas Board of Governors Ordinance No. 7 of 1930 and rules made thereunder to share power, responsibility and duties with the incumbent warden.

The plaintiffs said they wanted that the present Warden Neville de Alwis to continue as the head of the school until 31.12.1998 and pointed out the alleged plan of the Board of Governors to gradually transfer his powers, functions and duties to the warden designate would lead to chaos, confusion and breakdown in the smooth running of the college.

The court granted the enjoining orders restraining and preventing Mr. Fernando from assuming office, acting as or exercising in any manner any power and function as warden designate pending the final determination of the application for an injunction and also preventing the Board of Governors, its members, servants and agents from in any manner implementing the decision to appoint Mr. Fernando as warden designate.

President's Counsel Shibly Aziz with Ronald Perera instructed by Paul Ratnayake Associates appeared for the plaintiffs.

GMOA pressure to oust SPC bigwigs

By Arshad M. Hadjirin

The hierarchy of the State Pharmaceuticals Corporation (SPC) was under immense pressure yesterday as the GMOA and other medical organisations wanted them ousted on charges of corrupt activities.

The GMOA on Friday wrote to President Chandrika Kumaratunga requesting disciplinary action against Professor Colvin Goonaratne and the Management Board of the SPC. An independent one-man committee appointed by the Health Secretary, to inquire into irregularities at the SPC found several officials as deviating from government regulations.

W.A. Wijewardene in his report found sufficient evidence for a prima facie case against the SPC Chairman, Professor Colvin Goonaratne over the importation of an alleged substandard quality Triple Vaccine, questioning the standards of the state-owned corporation. Professor Goonaratne who was embroiled in a major controversy over the import of an alleged inferior quality triple vaccine, addressing a press conference, denied charges of corrupt activities made against him by the GMOA.

Clarifying his trips to some Indian drug companies, Professor Goonaratne said he went through the proper channels and that it was purely for the benefit of the SPC.

He said that undue adverse publicity was given in the media during the past few weeks about SPC officials involving themselves in corrupt activities. "I do not blame the media because they were misinformed by other interested parties", and accused the GMOA. As for the resurgence of the 'Whooping Cough' Professor Goonaratne said that this year's reported cases is nothing to be surprised at. "Once every four years there is peak in the incidence", he said.

But doctors at the College of Paediatricians and the GMOA firstly charging that Professor Goonaratne has very little knowledge about whooping cough, said that "'Whooping Cough' was clinically diagnosed after nearly ten years".

He further said that Sri Lanka would lose thirty per cent of its medicines every year if drug companies were to register with the government, and adhere to the sometimes cumbersome procedures. He said that some companies simply don't bother to register themselves.

"Certain unregistered drugs are so important that the government at times does not think twice about registrations but simply import them", he said, justifying his own importation of the notorious triple vaccine .

Skin-care producer warned

By Shelani de Silva

Registrar of Pesticides has issued a warning to a beautician to stop the sale of a skin protecting product claiming that it was not registered under the Pesticides Control Act.

The product, which claims to be mosquito repellent has to be withdrawn from the market on the advice of the acting registrar. He has requested the beautician to give a detailed report of the product to confirm that it is not a pesticide.

Acting Registrar Gamini Munaweera told The Sunday Times that citronella milk was advertised as an effective repellent against mosquitoes but the move does not conform to section 18 of the Act.

"I informed the beautician withdraw all stocks from the market immediately and refrain from advertising until the product meets the legal requirements," he said.

He added the product should be tested for its claim and for local standards before registration which involves evaluation of the product data for safety and other factors.

The beauticians claim that citronella milk is not a pesticide, and that it does not kill mosquitoes or any other insect pest.

"It does not have any sedating or restricting effects on the behavior patterns of mosquitoes or any other insects. It is merely a skin protection treatment with many beneficial properties to the skin one of which constitutes the creation of the protective barrier on the skin surface, which in turn protects the skin surface on contact with external elements, including mosquitoes and other insects," a spokesman explained.

Dr. Attygalle passes away

Dr. D. J. Attygalle, the well-known physician passed away on Friday evening at a private hospital after a brief illness.

A son of the late Mr. and Mrs. D. A. Attygalle, he was born in Galle on May 22, 1916. Receiving his early education at Visakha Vidyalaya and at the Royal College, Colombo he entered the Medical College and obtained his LMS. Serving as a Government Medical Officer in different parts of the island, he was Chief Physician of the General Hospital, Colombo until his retirement a few years ago. He was an MD. of Ceylon and a F.R.C.P. of London and of Edinburgh. He practised after retirement for a few years until his death.

In 1951 he married Dr. Daphne Kanakaratne who later successively became Professor of Pathology, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, and acting Vice-Chancellor of the University of Colombo. She predeceased him in 1989. Dr. Attygalle was a devout Buddhist and took a keen interest in Buddhist activities and charities.

He leaves behind two sisters, Somi Attygalle and Mrs. Seetha Vitharane, and a nephew, Devaka, son of the late Mr. and Mrs. Lucien Attygalle. The Governor of the Southern Province, Deshamanya Neville Kanakaratne is a brother of his deceased wife. The cremation takes place this evening at the General Cemetery, Kanatte. The cortege leaving his residence, 50, Castle Street, Colombo 8 at 5 p.m.

'Publish those reports on media'

A new media freedom group has requested the government to make public the reports of the four committees appointed to examine various aspects of Media Freedom in Sri Lanka.

This request has been made, by Lucien Rajakarunanayake, as convenor of 'Praja-thanthra' a newly formed foundation for the freedom of expression.

While welcoming the Parliamentary Select Committee appointed by unanimous decision of Parliament to report on many and far reaching aspects of Media Freedom and the Freedom of Expression, it is the view of "Praja-thanthara" that it is now essential that the government make public the reports of the four committees appointed earlier. The committees examined the status and broadbasing the ownership of Lake House; improvement of the income structures and earnings of journalists; the establishment of a Media Training Institute; and Reforms to all legislation governing, affecting and inhibiting media freedom in Sri Lanka. The publication of these reports will greatly help the public and citizens' organizations in preparing evidence to be presented to the Select Committee, it said.

"Prajathanthra" is aware that the bipartisan agreement between government and opposition to the setting up of this Select Committee, is an agreement between a party which deliberately targeted and harassed both journalists and the media during 17 years of power, and a government which in its three years in office has also had several serious and unwanted confrontations with the media, involving both harassment and intimidation," the group said.

"In these circumstances it is essential that while welcoming the Select Committee process for media reform, constant vigilance is maintained by all individuals and organizations concerned with the role of a free media as a vital aspect of democracy, to ensure that the Parliamentary Select Committee process is not used to produce any legislation or recommendations that will negate the Right to Free Expression, with bipartisan consent having the veneer of acceptability of a Parliamentary Select Committee," 'Prajathanthra' said.

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