A demonstration by students and people in LTTE-controlled areas of Kokkadicholai was held recently. Placards carrying slogans such as talk to the LTTE, dont make the hands that use the pen to wield weapons and end military operations in the east" were displayed by the demonstrators
With big time and high-level corruption rampant again, the Permanent Commission probing corruption and bribery was thrown into turbulence over the weekend with the resignation of a senior and widely-respected officer amidst speculation that the top most officer is also being forced to quit her post.
The Deputy Director General of the Permanent Commission, Vijaya Hettiarachchi, an officer with 15 years of unblemished service, resigned on Friday in a move that shook this corruption fighting body.
His resignation came two days after the commissions Director General Nelum Gamage, also widely respected for her integrity, was reported to be under pressure to resign with her husband Lal Gamage being grilled for two days by the commissioners.
For the past few weeks, Mr. Gamage has faced accusations relating to improper conduct and abuse of his wifes position as Bribery Chief. The interrogation over the past two days has centred on how he acquired a shop in the Kotte supermarket complex run by the Municipal Council at a time when a prominent officer there also was facing bribery allegations.
Ms. Gamage, kept away from the commission offices while her husband was being grilled and is likely to do so again when he is further questioned on September 29.
Amidst the controversy and charges, Ms. Gamage went to Bangladesh last month for a three week private visit. During her absence, a prominent state prosecutor was appointed as acting director general of the commission.
For the duration of the three weeks when the state prosecutor acted, an electric bell was installed on the bribery chiefs desk to summon minor staff. When Ms, Gamage took over last Friday, she immediately removed the bell.
Customs investigations have revealed that Stassen Exports Ltd., one of Sri Lankas leading business conglomerates allegedly evaded duty to the tune of over 50 million by under-invoicing a variety of food items.
The Customs revelations came after they raided the Sirimavo Bandaranaike Mawatha head offices of Stassens on September 3.
The raid has sparked off charges by some import houses that Customs were adopting double standards in their investigations and fears that high pressure moves were afoot to hush the inquiry. The Sunday Times today reveals the drama behind the Customs raid and the shocking disclosures that followed. See Page 6
Opposition UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe has met NDUNLF leader Srimani Athulathmudali to discuss the stand they should take on the proposed devolution package when it is presented to Parliament.
Mr. Wickremesinghe on Wednesday met Ms.Athulathmudali for talks at her Flower Terrace residence.
Ms.. Athulathmudali said the meeting with the UNP was part of her partys programme to meet all political parties regarding the proposed devolution package.
The NDUNLF earlier met the MEP and will also meet representatives of the JVP, Tamil and other minority parties.
We are not against devolution of power in principle, but we have made certain observations to the Parliament Select Committee. We hope our suggestions are included in the final draft, she said.
Ms. Athulathmudali said her party may not vote in favour of the package if it is presented to Parliament in the present form, without incorporating the NDUNLF suggestions.
On Thursday, at the UNP headquarters, Sirikotha, Ms. Athulathmudali along with MP Ravi Karunanayake took part in a seminar which was attended by Mr. Wicremesinghe and about 30 other UNP MPs.
The seminar was organised by the Friedrich Neumann Foundation of Germany and conducted by representatives of the Liberal Party in Germany.
The governments proposal to raise the salaries of ministers and MPs has run into more opposition from within with the Communist Party joining the LSSP in rejecting the hike.
CP General Secretary Raja Collure told The Sunday Times the party would not support any pay hike for politicians at a time when the country was facing its gravest crisis.
Earlier, the LSSP came out strongly against the proposal, saying now was the time for sacrifice but not for more perks.
LSSP General Secretary Batty Weerakoon said at a time when all people of this country were being called upon to make sacrifices, the example must come from the ministers and MPs who must first practise and then preach. I think MP.s and Ministers should be called upon to set an example.
UNP spokesman Karuna-sena Kodituwakku said they would take a decision once the party was officially informed of the move.
NDUNLF leader Srimani Athulathmudali said they would support the Singaporean system to pay good salaries but the government must come down hard on any corruption.
MPs do have difficulties but whether the salary hike at this time of crisis is opportune is another question, she said.
TULF President M. Sivasithambaram also said he felt the time was not right for ministers and MPs to get pay increases.
President Kumaratunga soon after her return from Malaysia told a meeting at Pelwatte on Friday that Malaysias success story had begun in 1983 with the Prime Minister and the whole cabinet taking a 20 percent paycut to set an example to the country in sacrifice, commitment to hard work and discipline.
Parliamentary sittings scheduled for Tuesday to Friday this week have been postponed without any official reason being given, but political sources say it is because there is nothing important to be discussed.
House leader Ratnasiri Wickremanayake announced the cancellation of the sittings at a party leaders meeting and the UNP did not oppose the move though former minister A. C. S. Hameed appealed that the government should keep to schedule.
Parliamentary observers said such a cancellation of four straight days of sittings had taken place only once before and did not augur well for the vital role that parliament should play.
Parliament will meet again on October 7.
An important special meeting of the Cabinet is to be held tomorrow to discuss issues relating to the proposed devolution package, before it is presented to parliament, a minister said.
Minister and PA General Secretary D. M. Jayaratne told The Sunday Times all Cabinet ministers had been told to turn up for this extraordinary meeting, where several decisions on the package would be taken.
Political analysts said tomorrows session would be the first special Cabinet meeting on the devolution package and some ministers who had differences of opinion on the matter would be able to express their views and sort out issues.
Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister G. L. Peiris, who has been spearheading the parliamentary select committee talks on the package and constitutional reforms, has said the package will be presented to parliament before the budget in November.
But Mr. Jayaratne told The Sunday Times it was never agreed at Cabinet level to present the devolution package before the budget and he did not rule out the possibility of the package coming after November. He said this date might be decided tomorrow.
Mr. Jayaratne said that except for the Srimani Athulathmudali-led NDUNLF, all other coalition parties had pledged support for the package.
Referring to the possibility of support from the opposition UNP, he said that unfortunately there had been no dialogue between UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe and President Chandrika Kumaratunga. The bi-partisan agreement between two leaders has so far yielded little results, he lamented.
Mr. Jayaratne said those in the opposition, who criticized the governments peace proposals, should have come forward to arrange a dialogue with the LTTE. He was alluding to regular UNP suggestions that any peace moves would bring effective results only when the LTTE is brought into the talks.
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