28th September 1997


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Army raises 56 Division

The Sri Lanka Army has raised a 56 Division and placed Brigadier Susil Chandrapala as the officiating General Officer Commanding.

His post as Principal Staff Officer in the Ministry of Defence will go to Brigadier Jayantha Ranaweera, currently the Army's Director of Personnel Administration (DPA).

Brigadier Parami Kulatunga, currently Director Training has been named as the Deputy GOC of the new 56 Division.

Taking over his position is Brigadier M. B. Thibottumuwe, currently commanding officer of the Artillery Regiment.

Army Commander, Lt. Gen. Rohan de S. Daluwatte, has also effected a series of other changes in terms of an order issued on Friday. All changes are to take effect from October 1.

'Kalabala' over Thawalama

By Chamintha Thilakarathna

School principals and parents are perturbed that children by the hundreds are being dragged out during the crucial third term to participate in the Thawalama campaign — but the Education Ministry is justifying the move on the basis it is in the national interest.

Extra curricular activities even within the school are generally reduced during the third term so that students could concentrate fully on their final examinations. But the Thawalama programme has disrupted the study schedule, according to reports reaching The Sunday Times.

One angry parent said, ''I thought using school children in state propaganda would not be done by this government as was done by earlier regimes, but it seems that all are the same.''

It is pointed out that a circular had been sent to school principals by the Education Ministry directing that participation of students in any outside events must be with the approval of the Ministry and that provision would be given only for national events such as Independence Day celebrations.

The Education Ministry's Co-ordinating Secretary M.D.Dayaratna defending the participation of students in Thawalama said the Peace Caravan programme must be regarded as a national event as it touches on important issues such as racial harmony.

However, many principals said although they have nothing against the participation of students in occasion like the Independence Day they did not feel that the 'Thawalama' programme was so important as to justify the disruption of studies.

The UNP controlled north western provincial council's Education Minister, K.M.A. Kulatunga said no permission had been sought from the provincial council to get the participation of school children in Thawalama.

He said usually no extra curricular activities were organized during the third term because of the exams, but the students this year had been taken out of schools.

Teachers too seem to be involved in co-ordinating student participation and much of the school work was being ignored, according to students. As a result, students who will be sitting for examinations are facing serious problems, he said.

Project delays cause concern

Some of Sri Lanka's main aid donors have decided to be more cautious in funding projects in future due to delay in project implementation often leading to over expenditure on their part.

The delays according to the donors are due to the long procedures of getting the approval of the cabinet and then of the implementation agencies and of other contributing personnel.

"Once the project finally seems to be getting implemented an environmentalist goes on protest, like that in the case of the Katunayake expressway,'' an official of the Overseas Economic Co-operation Fund, who did not want to be named, said.

The OECF official, the main Japanese donor to Sri Lanka, stated that in certain instances, they have funded projects which never got off the ground due to protests and security reasons.

''These things should have been looked into beforehand,'' he said.

"For example, the OECF spent a total of Yen 25,025 million on a Mahaweli project which was abandoned due to security reasons, and Yen 607 million was allocated for the Katunayake expressway which was never implemented.

A World Bank representative in Colombo said that due to delays in completing the projects that total expenditure have risen. A project to which US $4 million has been allocated will end up costing around US $8 million.

''Under-performance and lack of government ownership has been the cause for many delays,'' said the WB spokesperson.

Some donors stated they have had to cancel their loans and that they will make sure that implementation process is not in any way delayed.

Swindle at Sigiriya?

By Bandula Jayasekara

Sigiriya one of Sri Lanka's main tourist attractions, appears to be dominated by thugs and rogues allegedly in the pay of some Cultural Triangle officials in a racket that makes innocent people suffer while millions in public revenue are robbed.

A group of local tourists who visited Sigiriya last weekend were insulted, assaulted for questioning some officials at Sigiriya after a dispute over entry tickets.

A member of this group of five said they had asked for five full tickets at Rs. 10 each and one half ticket. A man at the counter had issued only one full and one half ticket saying they could all go in with those. But a security officer at the gate had demanded six tickets. They then complained to a manager who gave them a note enabling all to enter.

After viewing the sight some members of the group felt they should question what they saw as on obvious racket in ticket sales But when they raised the matter with an official at the ticket counter he hit back in raw Sinhala fifth. Then things got worse with some thugs moving in to assault the tourists with wooden poles and bricks, he charged.

Some members of the group were injured and taken to hospital while a complaint was made to the police, but the tourists alleged that some policemen were covering up for the racketeers.

Public revenue by the thousands is robbed daily, especially in the sale of tickets to foreigners who have to pay Rs. 800 per person. If a group of 10 is allowed on one ticket the government gets Rs. 800 and the racketeers Rs. 7200.

This is real peopolising, one tourist wryly observed.

Navy Chief cancels tender

Navy Commander Cecil Tissera has cancelled a tender for the supply of 50,000 metres of white synthetic material and instead ordered 10,000 metres from Salu Sala to meet the immediate demand of the navy.

The Navy Commander told 'The Sunday Times' he was holding an inquiry into the tender which had been forwarded by a firm to supply the required material at Rs. 160 a metre and another firm quoting Rs. 330 a metre.

The Navy Commander smelling something fishy in the tender procedure, had decided to buy the material at Rs. 112.50 a metre from the Salu Sala and to cancel the tender and hold an inquiry, it is learnt.

The Sunday Times in its August 24 issue reported the alleged malpractice in the tender.

It's a partnership not takeover

Following changes to Pan Asia Bank's directorate last week, the bank said in a statement it was looking to play a major role in the banking sector with Vanik as a partner, and denied it had been taken over by Vanik.

"While acknowledging a strategic alliance with Vanik, which undoubtedly would have a synergetic effect on the bank's operations, the management opines it would also strengthen the management expertise and enable the bank to play a major role in the banking sector." the statement said.

"There was no question of Vanik taking over Pan Asia," the bank said. "In fact on the date of the AGM Vanik did not hold a single share in Pan Asia."

Since then Vanik has bought a 10 per cent stake in the bank. The new board of the bank comprised, Dr. W. M. Tilakaratna (Chairman), M. H. Omar (Deputy Chairman), K. L. G. Rienzie Pintoe, A. W. Hathiramani, M. S. M. Mukthar Marikkar, J. C. P. Jayasinghe and D. Justin Meegoda. R. M. S. Fernando has not yet responded to the invitation to become a director.

The bank said it was hoping to introduce innovative banking products, open a branch in Kollupitiya and convert the collection centre in Pettah to a branch and install automatic teller machines. Later branches would also be opened in Negegoda and Gampaha.

CMC brings help for glaucoma sufferers

By Kumaradasa Wagista

Colombo Municipal Council's health curative department will launch a campaign to seek out glaucoma sufferers in time for treatment and save them from going blind.

Glaucoma can strike anyone over 40 years and if not treated immediately would lead to blindness. Glaucoma or eye pressure is widely prevalent in developing countries like Sri Lanka.

"More than 100 million in developing countries are glaucoma suspects and about 20 million suffer from this affliction while 5 million have gone blind," Dr. Habiba Rawoof of the CMC said at a media conference recently.

By timely tests glaucoma can be detected and treated early to avoid the risk of blindness. CMC will arrange with a private nursing home to check eye pressure for a nominal fee.

This facility is for people who draw relief assistance from the Charity Commissioner, CMOH Dr. Tissa Seneviratne said.

House-to-house surveys will be carried out by Lions Clubs International 306 B District and All Ceylon YMMA. The project is funded by NARESA.

Ampara killings: 160 police officers transferred

One hundred and sixty police officers including the OIC of the Central camp in Ampara were transferred yesterday out of the division following Tuesday's incident in which five civilians were killed and 45 houses were set ablaze.

A Muslim homeguard reportedly involved in the incidents was also arrested and produced before a magistrate. He was remanded until October 9.

The entire police team in charge of the station at the time of the incident was being replaced while STF commandos took over security in the area.

Over 430 families uprooted from the 4th Colony Central Camp in the aftermath of the incidents have now taken shelter in the Henekudirippu area.

TULF appealing to President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga for a full inquiry stated: "Some police personnel on September 23, stormed the colony. They assaulted and fired shots. While this attack went on, STF men asked the police officers to stop these attacks. When they persisted, people who witnessed this incident say that the STF shot at the police and two police officers were killed. It was then that the attack stopped."

EPDP Parliamentarian A. Rasamanickam in a letter to the President, seeking STF protection to the Tamil people in that area stated, "On Monday night at about 8.30 p.m., a home-guard was shot dead by the rebels and in retaliation, the police and home guards let loose their wrath on innocent Tamils of the 4th Colony.

NCPC's Housing Statute inconsistent, SC rules

By K. M. Weeraratne

The Supreme Court has ruled that, a Local Authorities Housing Statute which was passsed by the North Central Provincial Council is inconsistent with the Constitution.

Acting Chief Justice Mark Fernando delivered his determination with Justices Somawansa Wijetunge and Ananda Coomaraswamy agreeing.

The judgement stated that the long title and Sections 4 (1) and (2) of the Statute are inconsistent with the Constitution.

Aussie prelates give ear to Batticaloa's peace cry

Top Christian prelates from Australia after a fact finding mission to the war ravaged Batticaloa have pledged to do everything possible in their country to bring about a peace.

The delegation led by the Catholic Archbishop of Brisbane and the Anglican Bishop of Perth spoke to the clergy and lay people of the area at a meeting presided over by Batticaloa's Bishop Kingsley Swampillai. TULF MP Joseph Parajasingham told the Australian prelates he felt negotiations would be successful only if the LTTE was brought into the process along with third party mediation.

Sunshine Home offers cradle of life

In memory of Princess Diana Sri Lanka will soon have a home for destitute and abandoned children — where cradles will be kept, so that mothers who wish to remain anonymous could leave their babies.

"It may sound new in Sri Lanka but in India you find this in homes and convents. We will take in children and feed and educate them from their infancy till they reach eighteen years of age, where they can be independent,' Sunshine Home President Punyakanthi Dissanayake said.

Ms. Dissanayake said the number of unwanted children was increasing and the need for such homes was urgent. ''Sunshine would open its door to babies who otherwise might have been aborted, thrown away, neglected or transacted to be sold'', she said.

The home which will open soon has already registered ten infants and ten children between the ages of two and three years.

Tamil parties ask why double standards

By S.S. Selvanayagam

Tamil political parties have requested the government to annul the Samurdhi appointments made in Jaffna and called for fresh appointments as has been done in other parts of the country.

They called for the annulment at a high level meeting at the Presidential Secretariat held to scrutinize the proceedings of the rehabilitation and reconstruction programme in the North-East.

The representatives of the Tamil political parties in Parliament stressed that these appointments should be made in the North-East Province too on the basis as has been implemented in other provinces. EPDP General Secretary Douglas Devanada told The Sunday Times that they intend to take up this issue with President Kumaratunga.

He added that Samurdhi appointments had been made in Vadamaratchi on the recommendation of the army officers whereas these appointments in the other parts of the country have been done on the recommendation of the politicians.

As the government claims that civil administration has been restored in the Jaffna peninsula, there could be no justification for these appointments made on the recommendation of the army officers, he maintained.

At the Secretariat meeting, co-chaired by President's Secretary K. Balapatabendi and the North-East Governor Gamini Fonseka, the Tamil political parties sought simplification of the procedure in issuing passes to the refugees who are being kept in the welfare centres.

Governor Gamini Fonseka suggested that the Tamil political party representations too be included in the committee that devises the system to be implemented whereas the present three-member committee comprises only Superintendent of Police, Brigadier and the GA. This suggestion was adopted.

Bhikshu Front hits out at Samaraweera

The Dakshina Lanka Tharuna Bhikshu Peramuna has condemned Media Minister Mangala Samaraweera's statement criticising the recent Sinhala Commission report.

The statement signed by the Anusasaka of the Front Maithri Gunaratne said:

"A minister making a statement like this is not only a complete insult to the Sinhalese but also is calculated to bring the Sinhala community into contempt and ridicule among other communities.

"The Sinhala Commission was composed of men of the highest legal integrity. It was not only the Sinhalese and Buddhists who gave evidence but also the Catholic and the Christian clergy and Muslim leaders. This Government which is condoning corruption and discrimination against the Sinhala people must be condemned by all right thinking persons. Today those who are seeking to protect the sovereignty of this country are 3LABELled traitors and those who are doing everything to divide it are the saviours.

"Would Mr. Samaraweera have made a similar statement to a report from any other community? We condemn Mr. Samaraweera and his crude and contemptible statement. We assure him that people of the South have the fullest confidence in the Sinhala Commission and its report."

Anti-liquor group baffled over Buttala brew

By Chamintha Tilakarathna

An anti-liquor NGO has written to the President protesting against her opening of a Rs. 500 million distillery project in Buttala recently while assuring them of supporting their campaign for an alcohol-free society.

"The President has appointed a task force to reduce the use of drugs and alcohol but she goes and opens a distillery company in Buttala," said a member of the NGO.

The members stated that while the President has agreed to help them with their campaign to reduce the number of alcohol users and the Samurdhi movement also co-operating with them on their surveys and activities, it is not the done thing to open such a large project which has the capacity to produce 33,000 litres of silent spirits a day, for blending of whisky, gin and vodka.

The President and Samurdhi movement are also promoting the seminars and campaigns that the NGO will be holding to celebrate the World Alcohol Day, according to them.

In their letter to the President they have stated that it is against the assurances that have been given to the NGO and request her not to encourage such industries any further.

SirimavoIn spite of her obvious physical frailty, a determined Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike pays homage to her late husbond S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike at Horagolla. Pic. by Laksman Gunatilake

S.Africa rejects pressure, stands by Lanka

By Minna Thaheer

South Africa is convinced that Sri Lanka is not involved in a civil war and that there is only a military campaign against an armed and militant group which has rejected a peaceful negotiated settlement, High Commissioner for Sri Lanka Jerry Matsila said.

Mr. Matsila who is based in New Delhi told The Sunday Times that in view of the recognition that the fighting was against a militant group, South Africa was willing to sell more infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs) and other military ware to Sri Lanka.

Although a lobby in South Africa has opposed supply of weapons to Sri Lanka, the lobby is not strong to influence the govt's decisions, Mr. Matsila said.

He said there was an Indian Tamil population of nearly 900,000 in South Africa and there were no street campaigns in support of Sri Lankan Tamil rebels.

However, he said, "Our country favours a peaceful negotiated settlement so that Sri Lanka could make a positive contribution to the proposed economic front of Indian Ocean Rim countries from South Africa to Australia."

Mr. Matsila's comments came in the wake of a recent campaign by the LTTE calling on the Nelson Mandela regime to stop selling militaryware to Sri Lanka.

The Defence and Military adviser of the South African Mission Captain Dennis Forrest who accompanied the High Commissioner said Pretoria was looking into reports that the Tamil rebel group which allegedly hijacked an arms shipment to Colombo from Zimbabwe had started their operation in South Africa.

Mr. Forrest conceded there were instances of militants purchasing South African arms forging names of different Fronts and organisations.

Crucial meeting tomorrow

Ministers get chance to say 'for' or 'against ' package

By Arshad M.Hadjirin

The government will seek consensus on the proposed devolution package from its ministers at a special cabinet meeting to be held tomorrow amidst reports of a fresh row over the presence of PA General Secretary D. M. Jayaratne at a Sinhala Commission anti-package ceremony.

Tomorrow's meeting is seen as a last chance for the ministers to voice their opinion before it is presented to parliament late next month.

Opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe at a meeting in Galle said yesterday the PA parties would have to reach consensus among themselves before taking the package to Parliament.

Mr.Wickremesinghe said the Media Minister's attitude towards the Sinhala Commission was unacceptable as the commission findings could not be ignored.

Meanwhile the NDUNLF is stepping up its campaign to get its proposals included in the new constitution. It has held talks with several minority parties.

"We have all agreed on several policies with regard to the package. We will certainly not support the Alliance if they are to introduce the package in the present form," NDUNLF spokesman Ravi Karunanayake said stressing his party would insist especially on a unitary status for the country.

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