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23rd November 1997


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As Kandy braces for next year's Independence celebrations security is being stepped up. Here soldiers put up a bunker close to the Dalada Maligawa. Pic by Shane Seneviratne


Mahanayake says 'no' to govt. package

By Roshan Pieris and Shane Seneviratne

The Sangha Sabha of the Malwatte Chapter will not endorse the Government's Devolution Package, the Ven. Rambukwelle Sri Vipassi Mahanayake Thera announced yesterday.

"I believe the Package will not to help the country. An armed group is still fighting in the north and east. It is dangerous to devolve power. My view is the war should end first and a political solution should come next," the Prelate of Sri Lanka's top Buddhist Chapter told The Sunday Times.

The Mahanayake's statement came a few days after Constitutional Affairs Minister G.L.Peiris met the Prelate in Kandy and handed over to him a copy of the Govt. proposals for Constitutional reforms and devolution of power.

Dr.Peiris requested the Mahanayake and the Sangha Sabha to carefully study the proposals and said he hoped they would endorse the moves. The Sangha Sabha, the supreme decision making body of 20 senior monks, the Mahanayake said was yet to meet formally to discuss the proposals. However, that did not mean the Sangha Sabha had changed its original stance of rejecting the devolution package which they had already studied, he said.

During his meeting with the Mahanayake, Dr. Peiris had urged that the Sangha take adequate time and study the package. He criticised the UNP for seeking six months to study it. The Mahanayake told Dr. Peiris he had doubts whether even the militants would accept the proposals and thus he felt the country would be plunged into greater crisis if they were implemented.

The Mahanayaka also told the Minister he believed the Sangha would not be in favour of a new constitution which did not guarantee the rights of the religion and nation.

He said constitutional reforms should not be made to satisfy any particular section and it should be a stable constitution which would last for a long period.

Minister Peiris in response had said steps would be taken to gurantee the rights of the Sinhala and Buddhists people.

Earlier some Buddhist organisations who met the Mahanayake thera expressed concern over the provisions on religion in the proposed constitution.

Meanwhile EPDP leader Douglas Devananda has denied allegations that he asked for a change in the National Anthem and clarified that what he sought was for the same anthem to be sung in Sinhala and Tamil.

Mr. Devananda told The Sunday Times from Jaffna his call had been distorted by some parties which apparently wanted to beat the racial drum.

He pointed out that in Canada the English speaking people sang the national anthem in their language and the French in theirs. He had proposed something similar in Sri Lanka.

Constitutional Affairs Minister G.L Pieris has assured there would be no change in the national anthem.

Terrorist bombs: Lanka presses for UN okay

An international convention for the suppression of terrorist bombings will be adopted by the United Nations General Assembly during its current sessions, the Foreign Ministry said yesterday.

The Ministry said the Convention, for which Sri Lanka played an important role, was adopted by the UN Legal Committee on November 19. It is to be open for signature by member countries on January 12.

The Foreign Ministry states:

"Sri Lanka as Vice Chairman of the UN Ad-hoc Committee on Terrorism played an important role in the drafting of the Convention. The Ad-hoc Committee was established by the General Assembly in September this year and held a number of sessions to prepare the Convention.

"Sri Lanka had emphasised the need for urgent action in the context of widespread acts of terrorism being perpetrated in different parts of the world.

"The focus of the Convention is the indiscriminate use of bombs and explosives targeting public buildings and facilities including public transportation systems. This creates a legal regime conferring on States universal jurisdiction to prosecute terrorist bombers and an obligation to extradite or prosecute such offenders, the release stated.

"The Convention requires states to take steps to establish their jurisdiction over terrorist bombings committed in their territories. States could also have jurisdiction when offences are committed against their nationals or facilities abroad including their Embassies or Consular premises.

"Sri Lanka had also introduced in the Legal Committee a general resolution on measures to eliminate international terrorism. The resolution condemns all acts, methods and practices of terrorism and calls upon states to take measures to prevent such acts which include fund raising for terrorist activities, abuse of internet and communication systems through front organisations and measures to ensure that the territories of member-states are not used for the preparation or organisation of terrorist acts intended to be committed against other states."

'Children' still waiting

By Bandula Jayasekera

The National Film Corporation is yet to withdraw its permission for shooting Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children in Sri Lanka by the BBC, NFC spokesman said.

He added the permit had not been withdrawn as they had not received any official instructions.

However The Sunday Times learned that BBC and the local representatives met President Kumaratunga recently to appeal against her decision to ban the shooting.

After the NFC gave permission for the shooting, Muslim groups protested pointing out that even India had refused approval. The President then asked the three Muslim Cabinet Ministers to review the matter and report to her. Minister Alavi Moulana later issued a statement saying that on the basis of their report the President had decided to ban the shooting of the film here. But no official notice has yet been issued by the govt.

Double-your-money con-men nabbed

By Imran Vittachi

Police have arrested two suspected members of a Cameroonian money-laundering racket that has targeted Colombo in recent weeks, CID sources confirmed on Friday.

The suspects were picked up in a sting operation conducted at a Kollupitiya hotel last week, after police were alerted to a pattern of cons being executed successfully in the capital over the past two months, SSP Bandula Wickramasinghe of the CID told The Sunday Times.

"We set up a decoy and caught them," he said.

One victim, who had hoped to double his money, was apparently duped into handing them up to Rs.5mn.

When they were arrested, the West Africans were found carrying $1000 in genuine dollar bills, not $5mn in counterfeit notes as reported separately. "They were Cameroonians, not Cambodians," Wickramasinghe noted, dispelling one report that described the suspects as Khmer Rouge cadres.

The CID man gave no further details about the suspects, but elaborated about how the Cameroonians had bluffed locals into working a little "magic" on dollar bills.

The con-men would loiter in hotel lobbies, approaching and demonstrating to their prey that they could transform blank pieces of paper into dollar bills.

According to Wickramasinghe, these were genuine greenbacks coated in a special chemical film. The con-men would persuade their victims to wait for the chemical agents to be absorbed, wash off the film and present these bills to local banks for authentication.

Convinced that these genuine dollars had been made out of ordinary paper, in their eagerness the victims would rush back to the con-men, hoping to "double" their money, the SSP added. The victims would exchange hard cash for "dollar bills" that were "treated" and wrapped in brown paper. This time, however, the con-artists would instruct them to wait for precisely four hours until the chemical worked its wonders.

"So when they would go home and unwrap these, they would find only blank pieces of paper," Wickramasinghe said. "And by the time they get back to the hotel, [the con-men] would already be long gone."

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