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10th May 1998

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Bridgroom Sanath Jayasuriya blushes as our photographer Gemunu Wellage captured this shot.
Bridgroom Sanath Jayasuriya blushes as our
photographer Gemunu Wellage captured this shot.
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"Oops! We got it wrong"

I am writing to correct an egregiously incorrect assertion that your correspondent has attributed to me in the interview published on Sunday May 3, 1998. I categorically deny having stated that the US presently has a military base or listening post in Peshawar. I did state, by way of historical background, that the US had some intelligence assets in Peshawar during the early years of the Cold War during the Eisenhower administration. Consequently, it did not seek other, similar venues in the region. Your correspondent's flawed account needs prompt rebuttal to avoid the emergence of yet another new canard about the American military and intelligence presence in South Asia.

Sumit Ganguly

Professor of Political Science

Hunter College of the City University of New York.

Red mark gives house owners the jitters

By Chamintha Thilakarathna.

It's all hush-hush ó the Presidential Palace project.

Residents said about ten houses had been marked in red in the UDA plans around the proposed complex.

Authorities have declined to comment about the markings and instead state that 'there is nothing to worry as yet' they cannot guarantee the future.

Residents of Madiwela who have been recently invited to the UDA to clear their fears on acquisition of private property are now even more afraid after having witnessed some of their houses having been marked in red.

They said that the houses that fall on the borders are those that have been marked and that when they asked the authorities why, they refused to give a satisfactory answer.

All they said was that so far there is no move to acquire private property for construction or for security reasons.

He also said that they will be using high tech American security equipment and will need their land, the representatives of the residents who visited UDA said.

According to UDA official who displayed the plans, Nihal Fernando, he cannot predict what will happen in the future, but for now there won't be any acquisition of private land.

Residents of Madiwela have also written to the President pleading her to assure them that their land will not be acquired under any circumstances at any point of time.

The residents who received a letter stating that they won't face any threats as yet from the VIP resident complex, but are not satisfied with the statement, have also written to the Prime Minister, and the Defence Ministry Secretary for clarification on the matter.

The letter does not answer any of our questions clearly. Although it is stated that our land will not be acquired as yet, or that we won't face any threats of acquisition due to security reasons. This is why we decided to take firm action and to address the President directly with our problems, they said.

The Housing and Agricultural Ministers have failed to respond to the letters sent by the residents to the further suspicion of the residents.

Any comments, Dy. Minister?

The Army Commander was asked at Friday's press conference why he needs 15,000 deserters to rejoin the Army, when the Deputy Minister of Defence had on several occasions said that the war is 95 per cent over.

Why does the army need a strength of this proportion (over 15,000) to finish just 5 per cent of the war?

Twice, the General refused to answer the question. Finally, when asked: "Do you or do you not agree with the Deputy Defence Minister?" the Army Commander said, "It is not a question for me to answer", but he agreed that one "cannot give percentages in a guerrilla war of this nature". Any comments, Mr. Deputy Minister?

President to say 'Well Done' to actress Nita

By Kumaradasa Wagista

President Chandrika Kumaratunga will felicitate leading actress Nita Fernando on May 14 at 5.30 p.m. at Temple Trees.

Nita Fernando recently won the best actress award at the Singapore International Film Festival for performance in the film 'Pauru Walalu' (Walls Within)

This event is organised by the National Film Corporation.

Flat residents in a quandary

By M. Ismeth

Even after having bought their flats paying lakhs of rupees to the NHDA, residents of the B-type new flats at Soysapura are in a dilemma regarding the different rates paid by some and the NHDA requesting them to attend to basic amenities, such as maintenance of the buildings, garbage disposal, cleaning of drains and other chores.

According to occupants of these flats, all their appeals to the NHDA and even to the Minister of Housing Indika Gunawardena had fallen on deaf ears. Still worse the former Housing Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva too had ignored their appeals, they alleged.

Residents of these new flats have paid the maintenance fee of Rs. 25,000 each totalling several millions, and nobody seems to know who is sleeping over these millions, with several of their problems unsolved they said.

Their main complaints are the leaking of overhead tanks. Cheap fittings in the units, such as taps, cisterns, washbasins etc are either damaged or defective.

Complaints to the NHDA/contractors do not even result in inspection of the damage. items at their own expense.

Ministers to contest PC elections?

By Arshad M. Hadjirin

The People's Alliance (PA) has proposed to field some top parliamentarians at the forthcoming Provincial Council Elections in a bid to secure certain strategic provinces.

The Sunday Times learns that Cabinet ministers Nimal Siripala de Silva, C.V. Goonaratne, Dharmasiri Senanayake, and Berty Premalal Mendis, were among some of the names proposed by the party, to contest the elections, which is now tipped to be held in early July.

It is also learnt that parliamentarians who are considered much stronger than their UNP counterparts in certain areas will be asked to step down and contest the provincial councils elections.

PA General Secretary and Agriculture Minister D.M. Jayaratne told The Sunday Times that they are confident of a wide majority in the forthcoming polls and that they have already held several meetings in various parts of the country.

"We are finalising the candidates list for the Badulla, Monaragala, Hambantota, Kalutara, Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa districts," he said.

Mr. Jayaratne said that in a fortnight's time the entire PA list of candidates for the Provincial Council Elections would be ready.

"Like in the previous elections, we have decided to give priority to youth and women in our list," he said, remarking that at least forty per cent will be youths.

He added that he believed Srimani Athulathmudali led United Lalith Front (ULF), would remain with them for the elections despite heavy speculation they would merge with the United National Party.

However, United Lalith Front spokesman Ravi Karunanayake earlier told The Sunday Times that its discussions with the main opposition UNP were healthy and that he wouldn't be surprised if other political parties did the same.

Prins fears threats so it's London for him

Ex Parliamentarian Prins Gunasekera has claimed he is unable to come back to Sri Lanka and rejoin the mainstream politics as there are threats to his life from certain government quarters.

Mr. Gunasekera, who is now domiciled in London told The Sunday Times that in a letter to President Chandrika Kumaratunga he had said that the threats came from government sources who alleged that he had been involved in terror activities in the past.

SLAF officers get bail but with stern warning

By Christopher Kamalendran

The two Air Force officers in remand custody over the alleged attack and death threat on The Sunday Times Consultant Editor and Defence Correspondent, Iqbal Athas, were released on bail on Friday.

The two suspects ó Squadron Leader Rukman Herath, a personal bodyguard of former Air Force Commander, Oliver Ranasinghe, and Flight Lieutenant Sujeewa Kannangara of the Ekala Air Force camp ó were released on Rs. 5000 cash bail each and Rs.100,000 surety.

Gangodawila Magistrate N.V. Karunathilake warned the Air Force officers not to interfere with the ongoing investigations and directed that their passports be handed over to courts. Both suspects were earlier identified by Mr. Athas and his wife Anoma as part of the gang which raided his residence at Wijerama on February 12.

CID Inspector K. M. Chammika submitted a report to courts on the investigations.

He said the CID had not yet been able to get the documents related to the issue of weapons and this was hampering the probe.

However, other documents related to the movement of vehicles of the special air mobile unit, about their operations and fuel purchase details had been obtained.

The CID informed courts that more suspects were to be taken into custody and appealed that the Air Force be directed to release the documents needed for the probe.

The CID said it was not objecting to the granting of bail for both suspects. Lawyer Hemantha Warnakulasuriya who appeared for Mr. Athas said he had not yet submitted all documents to courts and he felt the release of the suspects on bail would hamper the probe.

But the magistrate allowed bail, though ordering the SLAF officers to report to the CID every Sunday and warned the suspects against any attempt to intimidate witnesses. He said that if these conditions were violated the suspects would be re-remanded and their bail money confiscated.

You watch us, we'll watch you

Mangala on Colombo Declaration

Media Minister Mangala Samaraweera has welcomed the Colombo declaration issued after the recent international symposium on Media Freedom and social responsibility.

Speaking at the cabinet news briefing on Thursday the minister said that while respecting the rights of the media the government also would be closely watching to see how the responsibilities were being fulfilled. He said:

"I thank the Media for coming up with the Colombo Declaration on Media Freedom and Social Responsibility.

"I read the document. It's very interesting and the Government is open to its suggestions. In fact, in the other room at this very moment a meeting of the select Committee on Media is in progress with my Deputy chairing it until I arrive there. But I find the Colombo Declaration very very positive, and I hope that you will also, always, while criticising the Government for the slightest mistake, will also stick to some of these suggestions on Media Ethics.

Just as you are watching us carefully, we will be watching you very carefully in the future. You watch us and we will watch you. I think this will be very healthy for this country, please help us. We are honest. We want to do something. We want to have a liberal media culture. However, we also want a responsible Media.

Dead too Pay GST

Even the dead are not spared by GST.

A person who wanted an obituary published in one of the state owned dailies got the shock of his life when he found the receipt for payment included GST.

Pol sambol, electricity, telephone, water etc. being charged GST is now a nightmare for the people, but GST on an obituary will earn the wrath of the dead as well, observed this gentleman.

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