31th August 1997


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Five more with ex-GA in alleged Jaffna rip-off

Alleged malpractices by Jaffna's former Government Agent Chelliah Pathmanathan and five kachcheri officials in food distribution caused shortages, high prices and other severe problems for thousands of civilians, Tamil party sources said yestrerday.

They were responding to Friday's bombshell announcement by the CID that Mr. Pathmanathan was being taken into custody from his Colombo residence following investigations into alleged LTTE links and the siphoning of millions of rupees in state funds.

As Mr. Pathmanathan was being grilled, detectives said, five kachcheri officers in Jaffna were also detained regarding allegations that funds meant for refugee rehabilitation were channelled into personal pockets or to the LTTE through various ruses.

The CID arrested Mr. Pathmanathan under the Prevention of Terrorism Act after keeping him and other officials under surveillance for more than three months, detectives said.

They said the probe was sparked off after some four million rupees had been found in the possession of one officer, while some Tamil parties in Jaffna provided further information on how supplies meant for refugees and cooperatives were diverted to racketeering businessmen and big profits earned.

Airwoman run over by plane

By Shelani de Silva

Grieving & Pix: Gammunu WallegePiyaseeli: dedicated to her work

Last week, the Sri Lanka Air Force was hit by a tragedy at its Ratmalana air base. An airwoman was run over by an Air Force plane while it was being towed from the hangar to the runway.

The Air Force plane was scheduled to leave in the early hours of Thursday. Airwoman Piyaseeli Kotalawala had been on duty controlling air traffic when she had slipped and fallen near the wheel of the aircraft which was being towed by a tractor for fuelling. The wheel of the plane went over her chest killing her on the spot. Piyaseeli 23 was attached to the engineering and maintenance section of the Air Force.

Piyaseeli, the eldest of three children joined the Air Force once she completed her A/L exam. Having successfully completed the exam she had been determined to join the forces. Despite protest from her parents Piyaseeli applied to the Air Force. She was selected the first time and from then on there was no looking back. After a three-month training in Diyatalawa she was posted to the Ekala Air Force camp and later transferred to the Ratmalana Air Base.

With time her parents came to accept their daughter's chosen profession specially because she was based in Colombo and not in the war torn areas. But little did they expect that such a tragedy would befall their eldest daughter. She was the only person to have been run over by an aircraft.

'Every time we asked her about the job she said she enjoyed it and she had no regrets. We thought she would pursue her education since she did well in her Advance Level. But she was determined to join the forces. Being the eldest we did not want to stop her, but we should have done that,' said William Kotalawela, looking back in sorrow.

In fact Piyaseeli was so dedicated to her job that whenever she came home on vacation she never stayed an extra day. So much so that at times she left early saying that there was a lot of work to do," said William.

Once Piyaseeli joined the Air Force her younger brother followed her and joined the Sri Lanka Army. He too excelled in his job and is at present following a course in Bangladesh.

'It is she who encouraged the brother to join the army. But the tragedy is that we are unable to inform him. He left for Bangladesh a few weeks back. He used to say how difficult it is there so we decided to wait till he comes home, said Somawathi, Piyaseeli's mother.

The family was informed of the tragedy a few hours after the incident. 'Around 4.30 am an Air Force vehicle came home and said that my daughter had a fall while on duty. I immediately sensed that there was something wrong. I kept asking them but they said that she is at the Ratmalana air force hospital. We got the true picture only when we went to the hospital. We still can't imagine what happened to her," wailed Somawathi.

UNP Ex-Co and Youth wing meet in Kandy

By Dilrukshi Handunnetti

UNP's Executive Committee sessions got underway yesterday at the Getambe Public Esplanade, Kandy with party leader Ranil Wickremesinghe presiding.

A resolution was passed by the party members at the outset thanking all voters who braved PA-orchestrated thuggery, intimidation and harassment to continue to support the UNP during the recent local elections.

It further stated that the UNP was committed to uphold and protect the people's right of franchise and their fundamental rights.

The UNP strongly condemns the PA's handling of the recent elections and sought to urge the government to take meaningful steps to restore the free and fair electoral process.

The party has appointed seven committees to discuss and make interim reports to the party hierarchy today. These reports will be subsequently discussed by the party top rung and shall become part of the party's policy.

IP wins fundamental rights case

The Supreme Court on Friday ordered the state to pay Rs. 25,000 compensation and Rs.15,000 costs to a former intelligence chief of the Special Task Force (STF) after ruling that his fundamental rights had been violated by his unlawful detention.

The petition had been filed on behalf of the former officer in charge of the intelligence unit of the STF, Inspector of Police, Saman Srimal Bandara Madakumbura, who was detained at the CID in connection with the case of the discovery of bodies floating in lakes and canals in 1995.

Four of the five judges held that his detention is not in compliance with emergency regulations 17 (1) and was therefore not 'according to procedure established by law'. The dissenting judge stated the petition should be dismissed.

The bench comprised Justices Mark Fernando, S.W.B. Wadugodapitiya Somawansa Wijetunge, Ananda Coomaraswamy and Dr. Asoka de Z Gunawardena.

Information shift stirs protest

The proposed shifting of the Information Department to Narahenpita has met with opposition from the staff.

The Sunday Times learns that about 85 employees have handed over a letter to the Information Director to be handed over to the Information Minister Mangala Samaraweera asking him not to shift the department from Kollupitiya.

However, sources said the director had still not handed over their letter to the minister. Staff in charge of information at the department said at least they could be stationed at the front office which the minister hopes to set up in Fort.

Apology winds up assault case

Three airmen charged with assaulting a top businessman, Devinda Senanayake, at Ananda Coomaraswamy Mawatha in Colombo early last year tendered an apology to the him in open court on a directive of the Colombo Chief Magistrate Munidasa Nanayakkara.

When the case was taken up recently the senior counsel for the airmen submitted that his clients regretted the incident and wanted to apologise to Mr. Senanayake.

The three accused were Indigoda Gamage Gamini, Ekpola Pathiranalage Priyantha and Mahagamage Ranjit. The magistrate warned the three accused to refrain from harassing the public while performing their duties.

Daya Perera P.C. with Angelo Robert Benedict appeared for the complainant.

UDA loans repayment: outstations default

By Chamintha Thilakarathna

Eighty five per cent of persons from outstations who have taken loans from the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development have not paid back the loans nor the interest, according to Senior Officials at the UDA.

"The repayment of loans from the Colombo region is around 90% while it is as low as 15% in the outstation areas," UDA officials said. The amount adds to about Rs. 4000 million.

The reasons for this according to the UDA, are that the residents are not prepared to divest themselves from the property by handing them over to the UDA because they prefer to sell these properties for higher amounts.

Referendum: LSSP flashing redlight

A constituent party of the ruling People's Alliance party yesterday distanced itself from what it saw as attempts by certain Govt. leaders to undermine the constitution and bypass Parliament.

LSSP General Secretary Batty Weerakoon in a strongly-worded statement said his party would not agree with claims by some Govt. leaders that the constitution could be changed by getting a simple majority at a referendum without obtaining a two-thirds majority in Parliament

The LSSP said such claims could be seen as attempts to mislead the people and it would be counter-productive to assume there were two different ways of amending the constitution. Mr. Weerakoon, himself a leading lawyer, was responding to a statement made by the Media Minister Mangala Samaraweera at the post-cabinet news briefing where he said the Govt. would go directly to the people if the UNP did not support the new constitution and provide a two-thirds majority.

Mr. Weerakoon described the minister's comments as only an interpretation of what President Kumaratunga had said at the Thawalama launch in Anuradhapura last Monday.

"Some outlandish views deny Parliament of its responsibility, specially on the ethnic issue.

It is the responsibility of all parties in parliament to cooperate on the issue with a view to solving it," the LSSP said.

Impeachment skeletons to be unearthed

By Dilrukshi Handunneti

A motion aiming at bringing into light behind-the-scene explosive political events during the impeachment drama of September 1991 is to be tabled in Parliament soon, political sources said.

The motion to be presented by the PA, envisages the appointment of a select committee to probe the issue and a full day's debate on the controversy which rocked the Premadasa administration.

The motion was originally submitted as a private member's motion in the name of LSSP General Secretary Batty Weerakoon but it has now been recognised as a government motion as PA leaders feel it is an important issue that should be brought to light, the sources said.

The Select Committee will probe the authenticity of the signatures on the impeachment motion and whether the required number of signatures were on the petition as required by the Constitution.

Ranil before Batalanda Commission on Wednesday

Opposition and UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe will appear before the Batalanda Commission on September 3 to give evidence.

Mr. Wickremesinghe will be the last witness to give evidence before this commission that probed for the last one and a half years the alleged tortures and killings during the insurgency from 1988 to 1989 purportedly at Batalanda Housing Scheme. The two-member Presidential Commission headed by the High Court Judge C. Jayawickrema last week recorded the evidences of the former UNP ministers John Amaratunge and Joseph Michael Perera.

Fund for migrant workers

Sri Lankan ambassadors from 12 Middle Eastern countries will hold discussions with President Chandrika Kumaratunga in Colombo today to implement welfare schemes for Lankan migrant workers.

Last week, the ambassadors discussed with Labour Minister John Seneviratne the problems faced by the workers and called for implementation of welfare schemes.

Minister Seneviratne told The Sunday Times that this discussion was conducted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

"Ambassadors from the Middle East and Singapore arrived for this meeting. We decided to implement welfare funds at the relevant embassies for women," he said.

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