26th October 1997


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JVP ready to help draw up new Constitution

By Shyamal A. Collure

The JVP is prepared to extend its support to the government in drafting a new Constitution if the present proposals are totally dropped thereby paving way for fresh deliberations, the General Secretary Tilvin Silva announced last week.

Mr. Silva told The Sunday Times the government’s proposed Devolution Package was not a solution to the North-East issue and instead of building a united nation it would lead to further bloodshed and disintegration of the country along ethnic lines.

The party secretary charged that the government had not taken into consideration the JVP’s views expressed at the Parliamentary Select Committee meetings in this regard.

“Since independence, no government had ensured equal rights for all communities and all classes of people. Due to the short-sightedness and opportunism of politicians, the party in power had often granted privileges to one community or another as an inducement with elections in mind, thereby creating an imbalance Mr. Silva said adding that the problem was destined to continue as long as equality and true democracy were denied.

Currently, the JVP is conducting a series of seminars and meetings islandwide with a view to creating awareness and also warning the public of the inherent dangers of the government’s devolution proposals.

Meanwhile, the National Salvation Front MP., Nihal Galappatthi in a hard-hitting statement, has alleged that the Constitutional Affairs Minister Dr. G.L. Peiris had attempted to hoodwink the general public and media personnel by distorting the truth at a press conference held on the eve of presenting the package in Parliament.

He said that Minister Peiris made an effort at the conference to misrepresent facts to the advantage of the government by allegedly stating that all the parties represented in the Parliamentary Select Committee had agreed to present the proposals in Parliament and that the views of all these parties had been taken into account when formulating them.

Mr. Galappatthi said when it was announced that these proposals were going to be presented in Parliament he said clearly that as they would push the country into a catastrophe if given effect to, the present proposals were not even worth forwarding to the legislature, if the government really wanted it should have placed them directly before the people.

“I wish to emphasise that neither my suggestions nor those of some other political parties which were conflicting with the government’s ~separatist objective are not contained in these proposals”, Mr Galappatthi stressed.

NJC split over suspension move

By Shelani de Silva

The National Joint Committee which appointed the controversial Sinhala Commission appears to be split amidst moves to suspend an outspoken member.

The NJC, comprising a number of leading Buddhist and Sinhala organisations will meet on November 4 to consider disciplinary action against the Secretary of the Federation of Buddhist Organisations which accused the Sinhala Commission of betraying the nation in its interim report, NJC Secretary, P. Dissanayake said.

He said a vote would be taken by the NJC on what action is to be taken against FBO Secretary Gallage Punyawardene for his outburst which was considered unfounded, false and negative.

Mr. Punyawardene, in comments recently said the Sinhala Commission had given a politically motivated report and had not consulted members of the NJC before submitting the interim report. The NJC Secretary in response said that though the Commission was appointed by the NJC, it was not obliged to consult all members before issuing the report.

Mr. Punyawardene was unmoved. He reiterated that the Commission had acted unfairly and said the NJC was split over moves to suspend him for his comments.

Funeral of Brig. Rodrigo

RodrigoThe death occurred of Brigadier B.K.V.J.E (Justus) Rodrigo (VSV) on Wednesday after a brief illness. He was 67. Brigadier Rodrigo, who served the Sri Lanka Army for over 30 years was a former Commandant of the Volunteer Forces, which carried much responsibility.

He was in the first batch of Cadets who were trained in Sandhurst at the formation the Sri Lanka Army in 1949.

Brigadier Rodrigo served in many parts of the country including Jaffna and Galle before he was appointed Commandant of Volunteer Forces. He also served as the Defence Advisor to the Sri Lankan High Commission in London.

As a Brigadier he proceeded to the National Defence College in Delhi where he was awarded a Masters degree in Defence Studies. In 1981 he was awarded the Vishista Seva Vibushnaya (VSV) by the then government for his unblemished military record which spanned for over thirty years.

After retirement Brigadier Rodrigo held several key government positions as Government Agent of Gampaha, Director of the National Cadet Corp. He was also the founder of the National Armed Reserve of which he served as the Director General for several years.

Brigadier Rodrigo also served as the Chairman of the Ex-Serviceman’s Institute until the end of last year. His funeral took place at Pamunugama yesterday.

Moving out of Fort

Following the bomb blast near the Twin Towers in the Fort, many companies are moving their offices to areas such as Kollupitiya and Bambalapitiya, a property developer said.

He said the demand for and sale of office space had boomed after the blast.

10,000 refugees in Holland will be sent back

More than 10,000 Sri Lanka asylum seekers in the Netherlands will be repatriated under the new agreement between the two governments signed last week.

Last week, the Netherlands government signed an agreement with the Sri Lankan government to repatriate the Lankans. The repatriation will be phased out initially in limited numbers.

Michiel Bierkens, Second Secretary, told ‘The Sunday Times’ the decision to repatriate was taken after the Netherlands court ordered the asylum seekers to be sent since the situation in Sri Lanka has improved.

“The court has already told refugees that Sri Lanka is safe for them to come back. We are keen that the repatriation is done immediately.

“Legal work is now being drawn up” he said. Mr. Bierkens added that an officer from Holland had arrived in Sri Lanka to monitor and speed up the repatriation work. “In the past the government has repatriated asylum seekers but it has been in small numbers. The agreement means that the competent authorities of the two countries will jointly work out the necessary practical modalities within the framework of the arrangement for its implementation,” he said.

US hails PA proposals

Washington - The United States is throwing its full weight behind the Sri Lankan government’s proposal for the devolution of power, describing them as a solid basis for a peaceful solution to the ethnic conflict.

Assistant Secretary of State Carl Inderfurth told the US House of Representatives Sub-Committee on South Asian Affairs that last week’s bomb attack in Colombo only underlined the importance of ending the fighting and moving towards a negotiated settlement.

He said the US, which recently designated the LTTE as a terrorist group was again calling on the group to stop its indiscriminate attacks and begin talks for a peaceful settlement.

‘We have the right to do it’

A diplomatic dispute has arisen between Germany and Sri Lanka with the embassy here and the Colombo foreign office exchanging words over an article published recently.

The German Embassy in Colombo has expressed shock over the Sri Lanka Foreign Ministry’s decision to publicize an article which appeared in a German magazine on the LTTE fund raising in Germany but the Colombo foreign office is defending its action.

Andreas Berg, spokesman of the German Embassy, described as unusual the foreign ministry move to translate the article from German to English and get it published in the media. “We feel the Foreign Ministry should have consulted us to verify the accuracy of the article,” he said.

The spokesman said the embassy was awaiting a reply from Germany on the accuracy of the article. “We faxed all the details on this matter. We feel it is misleading on the approach taken by the German government to fight terrorism. However, we are awaiting verification on this,” he said.

Meanwhile the Sri Lanka Foreign Ministry responding to the Embassy said no one could question the move taken by the ministry.

Publicity Director Ravinath Aryasinghe said the ministry gave the article to the media as it felt it was a matter of public interest.

“Just because the Foreign Ministry released the article that does not mean we have to take the responsibility for the contents. It is not our responsibility to verify the facts. What’s more, there are other ways the media and the public would have got the magazine. We must also point out that the media in Britain, Australia and other countries have regularly published articles on the fund raising of the LTTE,” he said.

SL heading for 22,000 HIV cases in year 2000

If proper awareness is not created and preventive measures not taken, Sri Lanka will have an AIDS crisis on its hands by the turn of the century with some 22,000 people carrying the HIV positive virus and around 1000 of them dying from full blown AIDS, an NGO has warned.

The child protecting NGO named PEACE in a state of AIDS report says that Sri Lanka may be having between 6000 and 8000 HIV positive cases though only some 240 have been officially detected with 70 full blown cases of whom some 60 have died. Worldwide the figures are staggering.

Two females get infected with HIV every minute and one female is estimated to die of AIDS every two minutes.

It is estimated that 30 to 40 million people will be HIV positive and of them 50% will be females by the turn of the century, according to officials of PEACE (Protecting Environment and Children Everywhere).

Every day upto 1000 infected children die from AIDS and in 1996 alone, the disease took the lives of 1,5 million people.

To educate people on the seriousness of the AIDS problem, PLAN international and PEACE are jointly organizing a half day seminar in connection with World AIDS Day on the theme “Children and AIDS” on Saturday November 29 at the BMICH.

Samurdhi wheels for personal deals

By Chamintha Thilakaratna

The Samurdhi development project has come to a standstill in several areas because of a lack of vehicles with the few available being used by top officials for personal purposes, a project officer told The Sunday Times.

He said out of the 15 vehicles allocated for Samurdhi work, some were garaged while others were running mainly on private work utilising the Rs. 7500 allocated monthly for petrol and diesel.

Blast for some, boom for others

While the affected hotels struggle out of the rubble, those unaffected prosper

By M. Ismeth and Kshalini Nonis

The mid-October city bomb explosion has paradoxically triggered off a rise in room occupancy in Colombo’s unaffected five star hotels, tourism sources said.

With damage to Hotel Galadari, Hilton and Inter-Continental together making over 1000 beds unavailable from room capacity in city hotels, the unaffected five star hotels are having a boom.

At the 494 roomed Hotel Lanka Oberoi, occupancy rose from 50 to 90 percent. General Manager Stefan Pfeifer told The Sunday Times. The room charges per day, we learnt, had increased from US dollars 80 to 140.

The immediate cause for the rise in occupancy came when guests from Hotels Galadari, Hilton and Inter-Continental were evacuated in the aftermath of the bomb blast.

“Our hotel was the worst affected by the explosion. Extensive damage was caused and all 500 rooms were damaged in one way or another,” Hotel Galadari General Manager Chandra Mohotti said.

“However, engineers from two firms had confirmed that there has been no structural damage to the building on the whole. Elaborating on the damages to the rooms Mr. Mohotti said, items like carpets, windows and ceilings would all have to be replaced.

The carpets in the rooms could not be salvaged this time due to heavy showers that followed the blast,” he pointed out.

Commenting on the total damage to the hotel, Mr. Mohotti said though it was too early to assess it could be in the region of US $ 20 million.

Asked when the hotel would resume operations, he said it depended on how soon the government would give them the urgently needed financial assistance.

“We are determined to start work right away if the government provides us the money,” he added.

His main concern was the fate of the 600 strong experienced staff, whose future now depended on the government assistance. Most of the staff earned virtually two third of their pay packets from service charges and almost all was lost with the blast, he said.

President Chandrika Kumaratunga had assured that all assistance would be given to the hotels that were damaged so that they could be back in business at the earliest, Mr. Mohotti said stressing that he hoped government machinery would move fast.

“With a lot of renovation to be done and a host of items to be imported we hope the government will waive off the duty, so that we could import items like carpets etc.,” he said.

Every room has to be redone. It will take from three to eight months,” he added.

Asked what the owners of Hotel, the Galadari brothers felt about the extensive damage, Mr. Mohotti said the owners had been servicing a loan of the hotel upto Rs 400 million annually with no return from Colombo.

They are disillusioned with no present or future prospects. The security threat, the 1983 riots, turmoil during the Indo-Lanka accord, JVP uprising etc. all put together had hampered the tourist industry and all this is at the back of the minds of the owners,” Mr. Mohotti said.

Meanwhile, Tourism Ministry Secretary, W. P.S Jayawardena said upto Thursday evening the cancellations were less than three hundred.

“There are no major cancellations from tour groups and the day following the bomb blast, over 1000 tourists had arrived in the island,” he said.

Mr. Jayawardena was optimistic that the winter season would be a good one predicted and pointed out tourists arrivals up to last Monday (October 20) had exceeded 800 per day.

Meanwhile, the Tourist Board recently approved a US $ 4 million publicity drive.

“But what on earth are they going to publicise,” asked an angry travel agent.

“Are they going to show the world that Sri Lanka’s three major hotels have been extensively damaged due to a bomb blast?

“Why cannot they divert that money to the hotels affected by the bomb blast to get going with the necessary repairs,” he added.

“The entire world knows that Hotel Galadari, Hilton and Inter-Continental had been affected badly.

“Is the Tourist Board trying to tell the outside world that tourists could now come to Sri Lanka, even before we start repairing our hotels,” he said bitterly.

President’s toast to cricket, lovely cricket

Edinburgh: President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga played beautiful shots all round the wicket when she proposed the toast at the banquet accorded by Queen Elizabeth at yesterday’s Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting here.

Quoting extensively from the game of cricket, she said: “Many of our countries engage in a special form of esoteric sport, so complex and shrouded in mysterious rituals that it drives half the world to despair in seeking to comprehend it, while to the other half it is a religion, not a game.

“Only we in the Commonwealth know that a square cut is not a succulent bovine offering, that off drives, on drives and cover drives are not options available to a landscape artist, that a yorker is not a pudding, that a googly is not an Indian sweetmeat.

“No other game is capable of bringing the life of entire nations from the West Indies to Australia, from South Africa to the Indian Sub Continent to a halt for a day while 22 young men watched by millions across the globe pursue a small spherical with frantic fervour over an open field.

“Coming from the country that produced the current world champions in the art of hitting, throwing and catching that object, I can vouch for the fact that cricket at least provides a level playing field on which larger and small players can contend on equal terms.”

BASL condemns demo

The Bar Association of Sri Lanka ( BASL ) yesterday adopted a resolution condemning the demonstration of a group of Roman Catholics which was staged in Kochchikade to register the devotees’ protest against two lawyers who appeared in a case at the Negombo Magistrate’s Court to defend an alleged paedophile ,Victor Baumann.

The resolution also condemned certain remarks alleged to have been made in this connection by Father Ivan Pietersz of the Kochchikade Catholic Church in the course of a Sunday Mass held in October last year, describing them as defamatory. The Executive Committee of the Negombo Law Society which is a branch of the BASL , unanimously adopted a resolution in this respect earlier.


You may not be with us, but as long as the Mahaweli flows you will never be forgotten by the nation, seems to be in the mind of Srima Dissanayake at a function held yesterday to commemorate the third death anniversary of her husbond Gamini Dissanayake. Pic by Dunstan Wickremerathne.

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