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19th April 1998

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Open-air theatre gets new-look

By Kumaradasa Wagista

The new-look Viharamahadevi Open-air theatre was opened by Colombo Mayor Karu Jayasuriya yesterday. The 'Aluth Avurudu' musical show, sponsored by Colombo MC, was spiced by popular artistes.

The 5000 seat Open-air theatre once a hive of activity with musical shows almost every weekend, waned in the dark period of the mid eighties.

The Open-air theatre was popular among the poorest of the poor as they could enjoy H.R. Jothipala, Milton Mallawarachchi or J.A. Milton Perera singing under the baton of popular music directors. M.S. Fernando and Anton Jones were two famed baila singers on Viharamahadevi those days.

The CMC has spent about Rs. 2 million to renovate Viharamahadevi Open-air theatre and it would be available to the public. Renovating this theatre is one of those community utility projects undertaken by Mayor Jayasuriya to mark the golden jubilee of independence.

In the morning the Mayor, Deputy Mayor Omar Kamil, councillors and heads of departments met community leaders at the mayor's official residence and were entertained with 'kiribath' oil cakes and to the rhythm of 'raban' music.

It was followed by the Sinhala and Hindu New Year festival celebrations held at Municipal Sports Club grounds, Colombo.

More scrutiny after Supreme Court decision

Anti-Ragging Bill

By Dilrukshi Handunnetti

The controversial anti-ragging bill seeking to prevent inhuman ragging in institutions of higher education, is to be referred to a Standing Committee of Parliament once the Supreme Court determination is communicated to Parliament.

Pending the Supreme Court determination, the main opposition UNP has also appointed a five-member committee chaired by former Foreign Minister A.C.S. Hameed to look into various aspects that student bodies have disapproved.

Committee member and MP Sarath Kongahage told The Sunday Times the Standing Committee was proposed as a sequel to the adjournment motion he moved in Parliament denouncing inhuman ragging and calling for its ban. He assented that there was no intention to curb the legitimate rights of students at all.

The necessity for tougher legislation was felt in the aftermath of engineering student Varapragash's death allegedly caused by inhuman ragging by fellow students.

Heeding the public outcry, Education Minister Pathirane sought to introduce tough legislation amidst protests from some student bodies that the legislation was anti-democratic and sought to curb student activities.

Two petitions challenging the constitutionality of the Bill have been filed before the Supreme Court since it was presented in Parliament a month ago. A ruling is expected this week.

Meanwhile, the main opposition UNP will resume its anti-corruption campaign and the evaluation of its grassroots organization next week with a public rally in Anuradhapura town on Thursday. The UNP will also hold meetings in Polonnaruwa and Matale Districts.

'Fire' girl coming here

Top Indian actress Nandita Das of 'Fire' fame will arrive in Sri Lanka on Thursday at the invitation of the Indian Cultural Centre.

Nandita will speak on the 'Role of women in contemporary Indian cinema' at the Indian Cultural Centre.

Lanka's grand dame glorious at 82

By Roshan Peiris

Two Buddhist monks chanted pirith in the spacious living room which through the years has memories of both Prime Ministers S.W.R.D. and Madam Sirimavo Bandaranaike.

It was flowers all the way given by her brothers, daughter Sunetra and son Anura who arrived last night from abroad to wish his mother a very happy 82nd birthday early on Friday morning.

Dressed in a shot maroon saree with a gold border and a matching blouse Sri Lanka's 'mother of the nation' sat in her wheel- chair dispensing an unaffected courtesy so characteristic of her.

There were many touching moments when young children, retainers, relations and friends greeted the world's first woman Prime Minister with betel leaves and some even knelt at her feet.

Minister A.H.M. Fowzie was there explaining to The Sunday Times his ongoing row with his Cabinet colleague, Minister M.H.M. Ashraff, "Imagine", he said, "going to my electorate in North Kalmunai and installing electricity without even the courtesy of informing me which is a convention among us ministers. I am sorry that he chooses to cause divisions if not diversions among us Muslim people and also ruining in some ways the SLFP"

Trade union stalwart Alavi Moulana,now Minister of Provincial Councils and Local Government, was glad he said that Madame Bandaranaike would continue as Prime Minister.

Minister Lakshman Jayakody came in with wife Pabitha carrying a large bowl of roses adding to the profusion of colourful flowers already there,

Brother Dr. Seevali Ratwatte and wife Coocoo were there and also brother Barnes a former judge.

There was an atmosphere of pleasurable surprises as all awaited President Chandrika Kumaratunga, the most outstanding of her three children to come over and greet her mother.

"The Sunday Times" was sorry to miss her since we had to leave to keep copy to press time.

It was altogether a pleasant atmosphere as people gathered round a table full of short eats and the birthday cake. All were in galloping high spirits on ice coffee and fruit juice as they gossiped or talked politics in groups.

"The Sunday Times" thanks the gracious Prime Minister for giving us the privilege to take a picture of her which had been refused to others.

"The Sunday Times" is also glad to mention that Madame Bandaranaike despite an ailing foot and so confined to a wheel- chair, will continue as Prime Minister, despite self appointed oracles predicting others to take her place.

Madame Bandaranaike's buoyant indomitable spirit is intact. It has carried her through many a personal and political crisis in her life.

Today at eighty-two, Prime Minister Bandaranaike can be proud that her dreams have been translated to enduring realities. Friend or foe cannot but wish this queen mother of Sri Lankan politics all the very best.

Tug-boat and oil rig rescued off SE coast

A tug-boat and an oil rig were rescued by a private company off the south eastern coast of Sri Lanka after the vessel caught fire at mid-sea on New year's eve.

The tug-boat towing an oil rig from Bangladesh to the Gulf region caught fire on April 13 about 75 nautical miles off the Sangamankanda areas. Immediately an SOS was sent to Colombo Radio.

The SOS was picked up by Master Divers in Colombo who in turn contacted the owners of the ship in Shanghai who wanted them to go ahead with the rescue operations.

By the following day, two tug-boats were dispatched from Colombo and on April 15 the vessels had reached the tug-boat. Although the fire was brought under control the vessel was out of operation.

The ill-fated tug-boat 'Deda' had been towed to Singapore for repairs while the oil rig was towed to the Gulf.

Director Operations of Master Divers, Ruwan Wickramanayaka said the rescue operation was successful.

Row over a girl stalls office train

Office workers on the Kalutara-Colombo bound train yesterday were unnecessarily delayed by 20 minutes at the Dehiwala station over a fight between some boys over a girl.

The row between the boys over their sweetheart began at Mount Lavinia station and at Dehiwala it began to worsen with commuters in that compartment shouting and children screaming, which made the Station Master to stop the train for twenty minutes.

When irate commuters who were on their way to office inquired from the Station Master as to why he should delay the train became of a fight over a girl instead of signalling the train to proceed, he said it was a procedural matter and they had to wait till the Police arrived.

Some commuters vented their anger over the delay by using some choice language at the Station Master.

Free incoming calls decision this week

A ruling on the incoming free mobile phone calls is expected this week from the industry watchdog, Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Sri Lanka.

Mobile phone operators have been pushing for free incoming calls, but technical snags at Sri Lanka Telecom have been holding up the process.

Sri Lanka Telecom now charge mobile operators for all calls passing through their network. Operators have proposed that the cost be passed on the party originating the call (caller party pays or CPP)

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