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31st May 1998

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In the latest of a series of attacks on telecom installations, a
private telecom centre at Kadawatte was the target yesterday.
Police are seeninspecting the site.
Pic by Sajeewa Chinthaka.
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President and Mahanayakes accuse each other

By Shane Seneviratne

The alleged misuse of funds meant for reconstruction and restoration of Dalada Maligawa has sparked off a controversy between the President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga and the Maha Nayake Theras.

President Kumaratunga has charged that a letter written to her by the Maha Nayakes of the Malwatte and Asgiriya Chapters had been released to the media even before it reached her.

Earlier, the two prelates charged that a letter written to the Cultural Affairs Minister, Lakshman Jayakody, by President Kumaratunga had appeared in a Sinhala weekly newspaper even before its contents were brought to their notice.

The letter had said that according to preliminary report submitted there had been misappropriation of Maligawa funds. President Kumaratunga had asked Mr. Jayakody to inform the Maha Nayakes and the Diyawadana Nilame.

The controversy arose as three Presidential Security Guards were deployed to provide security to the Maha Nayake of the Malwatte Chapter, Ven. Rambukwella Sri Vipassi. A Dalada Maligawa source told The Sunday Times "no security was sought. We don't know whether it is a move to see who is visiting us."

The Malwatte Mahanayake said the fresh allegations seemed to be part of a cover up of the Maligawa bomb explosion in January.

Subsequently an important meeting was boycotted by the Mahanayakes and the Diyawadana Nilame, Neranjan Wijeyeratne.

Telecom rings alarm bells

Defence Ministry help sought to stop sabotage

By Arshad M. Hadjirin & Chris. Kamalendran

Sri Lanka Telecom has called for security force's help to guard telephone exchanges after an explosion at the switching centre at Kadawata yesterday added to a string of mysterious incidents.

"The situation is grave, I have asked the Ministry of Defence to deploy security personnel to guard our installations," SLT Chairman Hemasiri Fernando, told The Sunday Times yesterday. He said damage as a result of recent explosions has reached Rs. 50 million.

Yesterday's explosion of the Mobitel Container Exchange at Kadawata was detonated around 1.00 a.m. while the installation was being guarded by two watchers.

"We did not see anyone entering the premises," the watchers said.

A Mobitel Engineer who visited the site said that this exchange was a linkup to SLT network, and that measures are being taken to set up a temporary unit immediately. Yesterday's damages are still not estimated.

DIG S.C. Pathirana of Terrorism Investigation Division, who also visited the site last morning said it was too early to comment about the possible motive of the bombing.

"We are investigating with an open mind," he said

Three identical bomb attacks were carried out by unknown persons, on telecom installations at Kalutara, Kuliyapitiya and Notchchiyagama, within a month.

A minor explosion also took place in Negombo, while in the latest incident an attempt to blast a telecom facility at Ratnapura was thwarted when the bomb was defused.

Mr. Fernando said the attacks were carried out by unknown elements and the SLT would do everything possible to prevent anymore sabotage.

"We have not ruled out the possibility of the attacks being by terrorists but it could even be due to some business rivalry party. We are not ruling out conspiracy," he said.

Telecom Customer Service Chief Christie Alwis said most employees were shaken by the attacks, and vigilance programmes were now being worked out.

Mr. Fernando said many employees have volunteered to become part of this vigilance committees which he hoped would help track down the saboteurs.

He said only the Colombo installations were properly guarded while most of the other 350 installations islandwide were vulnerable.

"Colombo is guarded by 270 men, but we need a further 100. We have asked the Defence Ministry for more assistance," he said.

Meanwhile according to police, three home guards and a watcher attached to SLT, Nochchiyagama are suspected of involvement and suspended from service.

Samurdi animators sue Police for Rs.2m

Samurdhi animators are suing the Police and the Attorney General for Rs. 2 million rupees on grounds of unjustly cancelling their May Day procession and rally at the last moment.

S.A.D. Jagath Kumara, who heads a Union comprising some 21,000 Samurdhi animators and 12,000 Govi Sevena animators, has made the compensation claim in a Fundamental Rights petition to the Courts. He says the Union had incurred heavy expenses in planning for the Rally and making all arrangements to bring thousands of members to Colombo, after they had obtained permission from the Police. But everything was finalised and after thousands of members had come to Colombo the Police have arbitrarily and unjustly cancelled their procession and rally.

Director's tongue cut by gang

A company executive who is also a director of an exclusive night Club" The Legend" at Majestic city in the heart of Colombo was severely beaten up and his tongue cut off by a gang last week, following an argument, outside the club. The Club owner is hospitalised.

According to Bambalapitiya Police about five to six persons had been involved in the attack in which an iron rod had been used.

Nobody had been identified yet nor can the victim name anybody.

Police also said they had tips regarding motives for the attack but that no arrests had been made as yet and investigations are in progress.

Pakistan conducts two more nuke tests

QUETTA, Pakistan, Saturday (Reuters) - Pakistan has conducted two more nuclear tests after five on Thursday, official sources in the southwestern province of Baluchistan said on Saturday.

They said the tests were carried out in the same Baluchistan region. A foreign ministry spokesman also confirmed that two more nuclear tests had been conducted but had no immediate details.

Saturday's two tests brought to seven the number of tests Pakistan says it has conducted, one more than the total of six that arch-foe India has carried out since 1974.

There was no immediate indication whether this brought Pakistan's test programme to a conclusion after a wave of international condemnation and sanctions by the United States and Japan.

Foreign Minister Gohar Ayub Khan told Reuters that the devices were detonated in the same Chagai region where five nuclear tests were carried out on Thursday, but at a slightly different location.

Asked if more nuclear tests were carried out on Saturday, Khan said: "Yes by the grace of God."

He said it was done at a slightly different location from that of the previous tests.

"The previous ones were in hard rock done after tunnelling but these were conducted in a shaft in an earth like a well."

He said further details would be given at a news briefing by the Foreign Ministry later on Saturday.

Britain accused Pakistan on Saturday of acting in "flagrant disregard" of international opinion by carrying out two further nuclear tests.

Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said in a statement the new tests "do nothing to enhance Pakistan's security environment. "Jaya Sikurui heavy fighting resumes

At least 11 soldiers were killed and 200 injured in heavy fighting in the Wanni after " Operation Jaya Sikurui" resumed on Thursday.

Military officials said most of the injuries, which were minor, were caused by mortar fire. They said a major thrust to recapture the strategic town of Mankulam was yet to begin.

Bribery Commission faces make or break situation

The permanent commission set up to probe bribery and corruption has two big cases on its hands but the Commission is still embroiled in a prolonged internal crisis. The main Opposition UNP last week filed two cases before the commission- one relating to Minister Mangala Samaraweera's credit cards and the other to AirLanka. Opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe yesterday challenged the government to either get on with the work of the commission or get rid of the commissioners if it could through a vote of parliament.

The Commission's chairman T.A. de S. Wijesundara, a former Supreme Court judge said yesterday that despite pressure from the Government for him to quit, he would not step down.

He told 'The Sunday Times' that while he was still undecided on the issue he was inclined not to resign. He declined to elaborate saying 'I do not want to say anything more."

For the past few months the Government has reportedly been pressurizing Mr. Wijesundara and the other commissioner Rudra Rajasingham to resign so that it could reconstitute the Commission.

The third Commissioner, as required by law has not been named since the death of Mr. Siva Selliah last year.

'The Sunday Times' learns that Mr. Wijesundara had been spoken to by the highest levels of government but that he was unwilling to compromise.

The Commissioners though appointed by the President can only be removed, by a two thirds majority in Parliament. The President can only request them to quit.

UNP Leader Mr. Wickremesinghe said yesterday his party's position was that the onus of either getting on with the Commission or getting rid of the Commissioners lay with the government.

He told The Sunday Times that the government had not consulted the UNP when appointing the Commissioners, or when it removed theDirector General Nelum Gamage after the crisis arose last year.

The commission has said it is now crippled because of the withdrawal of its investigative and legal staff provided to it by the Police and the Attorney General's department. Mr. Wijesundara lamented last week the commission which at the inception had more than hundred investigative and legal staff, did not have even a single security staff.

Mr. Wickremesinghe said the UNP would make the crisis in the Permanent Commission a national political issue. If the government wanted to sack the Commissioners it should bring a motion to parliament for their removal.

The establishment of the Permanent Commission was one of the first acts of the PA government soon after it assumed office in August 1994 riding to office on a major anti-graft election campaign against the then UNP.

Meanwhile, a citizens watch group Avadhi Lanka in a letter to Mr Wijesundara has stated:

"Those who are pressing you to resign from the post you now hold, may have their own reasons for doing so.

But Avadhi Lanka wishes to remind you that the only persons who can rightly call upon you to vacate your post are Members of Parliament sitting as a body and that too only on a resolution passed by a two third majority of the House.

"Avadhi Lanka considers that if you or the other member of the Commission (the third member's post not being filled after the demise of late respected Siva Selliah should resign without your being called upon to do so by Parliament you will betray the interests of the people who are crying out desperately for a society free of corruption.

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