Sri Lanka's largest ever National Flag by Lal Kumara, a businessman from Kalutara South, measuring 100' by 50', will be on display during the Golden Jubilee celebrations in Kandy. Students of Kalutara Vidyalaya are seen here admiring the flag. Pic by Kumara Dayawansa Nanneththi
Government will await the main Opposition UNP's response and will not go ahead unilaterally with the devolution package, PA General Secretary and Minister D.M. Jayaratne said yesterday.
The conciliatory stance came barely a month after Constitutional Affairs Minister G.L. Peiris placed January 31 as the deadline by which the UNP should respond.
The statement met with a sharp retort from Opposition and UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, who said the UNP would not keep to deadlines set by the Government.
According to UNP MP Ronnie de Mel, the party's alternate proposals to the Constitutional reforms and the devolution package will come in two instalments, one in January and the other in February.
Elaborating on this, UNP spokesman Dr. Karunasena Kodituwakku said two separate committees of the party were looking into the legal and political implications of the draft constitution.
Minister Jayaratne told The Sunday Times that since the draft constitution and the devolution package were matters of utmost public importance, "we cannot omit the views of other political parties."
However, Minister Jaya-ratne cautioned that if the UNP did not support the Government, the government would have no choice but go for a non-binding referendum.
"That was the only way to obtain the approval of the people if the Opposition did not co-operate."
Meanwhile the MEP charged that the Government was not heeding views expressed by others on the devolution package and constitutional reforms.
"The PA's attitude is indifferent. The views of Buddhist clergy, NGOs and other views against a federal government have been ignored," MEP leader Dinesh Gunewardene said.
Britain's Prince Charles will confer a knighthood on Dr. Arthur C. Clarke during his visit to Sri Lanka, the British High Commission has confirmed.
A time and date for the knighting is yet to be fixed, but it will take place at the High Commissioner's residence in Colombo 7, according to the official host. "Yes, it will take place in a private ceremony at Westminster House," High Commissioner David Tatham told The Sunday Times.
Dr. Clarke, the space visionary and author of science fictions classics was named as one of 25 knights and four life peers by British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who read out the New Year's Honours list in London on Dec. 31.
Health problems had hampered hopes of Dr. Clarke, 80, travelling to London to accept his knighthood for Services to Literature from the Queen.
Meanwhile, The Sunday Times learns Prince Charles during his short visit here as the chief guest at the Golden Jubilee independence ceremony in Kandy on Feb. 4 will present a memorial stone for the restored Jaffna clock tower.
The Prince will visit the Dalada Maligawa on Feb. 3. He will also visit the war cemetery and the Royal Botanical Gardens at Peradeniya. On the independence day the Prince will attend the English Chamber Orchestra concert at Bishop's College, Colombo and a reception for the British Community. Other functions include a meeting with prominent Sri Lankans at Hotel Mount Lavinia, opening of a water colour gallery at National Museum, attending a function connected to the visiting England A team and attending the civic reception hosted by Colombo Mayor Karu Jayasuriya.
The prince will leave on February 6.
Presidential Secretary Kusumsiri Balapatabendi is expected to give up his post at the end of this month.
A former secretary to the Ministry of Public Administration who retired last month will succeed as Presidential Secretary from February, a reliable source said.
Mr. Balapatabendi will also resign the post of Chairman National Lotteries Board on the same date. He will be appointed Chairman of a leading corporation by President Chandrika Kumaratunga from Feb.1, they said.
Major changes are to be effected in the Presidential Secretariat soon after the new secretary takes over duties.
President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga has accused public servants of coming late to work.
She also accused a section of public servants of neglecting their duties and idling in office.
Addressing the senior public servants at the launch of the second phase of Administrative Reforms at the BMICH, the President charged that certain public officers did only 5 or 10% of the work assigned to them and urged that the situation had to be changed. "All should shoulder the onus equally."
"One of the ministries that still follows outdated systems is the Finance Ministry which is under my purview. It still runs on the red-tape system. A set of documents that can be approved by just one official goes into the hands of at least five officials for approval," she said.
The President said the public service had not been re-organised to suit the changes that this country experienced in economic , social and political fields in the past two decades. Times had changed and governments had changed, but criticisms about public service continued regardless, she said.
"Some of these criticisms are justifiable while the others are without merit. The reason for that was public servants had to shoulder the blame for shortcomings and needs of politicians," she said.
"Perhaps the colonialists introduced systems of this nature thinking that Sri Lankans were ignorant. The same system is still followed even after we gained independence from them. May be this system was introduced then with the idea of containing bribery and corruption.
If corrupt elements are present, sending of the same set of documents into the hands of even hundred would not be a solution to the problem. Other methods have to be employed to arrest such situations," she pointed out.
The President said filing of fundamental rights cases has become a business while pointing out that the judiciary and the administrative system were working in two directions.
Last week's The Sunday Times exclusive on the Mahanayake of the Malwatte Chapter, Venerable Rambukwelle Sri Vipassi Thera, boycotting Independence Day celebrations in Kandy set off a chain reaction.
An official of the Presidential Secretariat, who travelled to Kandy, made two unsuccessful attempts to meet the Mahanayake, to discuss his statement.
A person who identified himself as Derrick Nugawala contacted The Sunday Times. He then claimed he was speaking on behalf of the Mahanayake Thera of the Malwatte Chapter and said the prelate was angry over the report. When The Sunday Times checked back with him, Mr. Nugawala claimed he would arrive in Colombo carrying a letter of denial.
In another development, reporters from a state media organisation were put together to travel to Kandy to interview the Mahanayake Thera and have him rebut the statement. But no appointment was granted.
The Mahanayake told The Sunday Times yesterday, "I made up my mind not to attend the main independence celebrations as soon as I became aware that Prince Charles would be the chief guest on the occasion of Sri Lanka's 50th anniversary of independence."
Interested parties who have obviously failed to get the Mahanayaka to deny what he said then seemed to have resorted to other tactics.
The Sunday Times Kandy Correspondent, Shane Seneviratne, who wrote last week's report after a meeting with the Mahanayake was returning home after work. It was night. As he was getting back home, two persons in a motor cycle confronted him. The rider exhorted, "Stop supplying news to The Sunday Times. If you continue, you will be killed." The men who wore helmets rode away.
Mr. Seneviratne reported the matter to the Kandy Police.
On hearing the incident, the Mahanayake who was deeply concerned, sent for Mr. Seneviratne to inquire what happened.
The Mahanayake told The Sunday Times yesterday, "I am shocked at this incident. Whoever is responsible has done something wrong. Sadly, these things are happening at a time when we are supposed to be enjoying media freedom."
Security forces reinforcements have been sent to the Punkuduthivu island, replacing EPDP cadres who were in charge of the island's security until last Friday's LTTE attack, political sources said yesterday.
They said the EPDP cadre withdrew from Punkuduthivu island to the Valani area.
Nine EPDP cadre were killed in what is seen as the biggest LTTE attack in the run-up to the January 29 local polls.
Two EPDP candidates were among the nine party cadre killed in a major LTTE attack in the Punkuduthivu island as election fever gained momentum, a party spokesman said.
The party identified the two candidates as 'Kalidas' and 'Suddha'.
They were contesting the Velanai Pradeshya Sabha.
The attackers are also reported to have abducted two of the EPDP cadre and removed one Light Machine Gun (LMG) and five AK 47 assault rifles.
Meanwhile campaigning in the north continued with additional check points being set up and security checks being stepped up.
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