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28th June 1998

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The era of caring and rising beyond the call of duty has yet not gone with the wind. This duty conscious Traffic Police Officer put aside his pride and humbly took up an axe to cut a tree and clear the path for traffic on Bauddhaloka Mawatha. This was one of the scores of trees that came crashing down in the storms that hit the country over the past few days.
Pic by Sajeewa Chinthaka
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Happy B'day

President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga marks her birthday tommorow, June 29.

The Sunday Times wishes her well

Poll mess: Govt. gets back to PC

Ranil's call for August Presidential eletions rejected

The Government will adopt a two track policy of going ahead with the Provincial Council elections and to review the security situation as the polls draw near.

Hence nominations for polls for Uva, Sabaragamuwa, Central, North Central and Western Provincial Councils will be received as scheduled.

The decision came after a four hour special Cabinet Meeting where the Ministers discussed both the impending Provincial Council elections and the Presidential polls, which according to the Constitution, could only be held after November 22.

The meeting came after Opposition UNP Leader, Ranil Wickremesinghe, baited the Government to hold Presidential elections in lieu of Provincial Council elections if the Government wished to postpone Provincial Council elections.

Ministers who reviewed the political and security situation, government sources said yesterday, noted the need to clear legal hurdles should they decide to put off provincial polls due to an unsatisfactory security situation. The matter was brought to light after Minister Batty Weerakoon, pointed out that a postponement of the polls may not only require a two thirds majority in Parliament but also the approval of the people at a referendum, because it involved their franchise. The Ministers decided to seek legal opinion on this matter both from the Attorney General's Department and outside it from eminent counsel.

The Cabinet directed Constitutional Affairs Minister Dr. G.L. Peiris to issue a brief statement on Friday's meeting. Until last night no official statement has been issued.

Earlier, Deputy Defence Minister Anuruddha Ratwatte, who is personally directing the ongoing Operation Jaya Sikurui is learnt to have given another new deadline to end the offensive. He has said it would be possible to conclude it by the end of this year.

Opposition Leader, Mr. Wickremesinghe, yesterday renewed his call for the Government to hold the Presidential elections and accused the PA of trying to postpone all polls until the year 2000.

Addressing a series of public meetings in Ingiriya yesterday, Mr. Wickremesinghe asked how the Government was going to host a seven nation SAARC summit in Colombo next month if it could not provide adequate security for PC polls.

"The actual problem is not security. The Government is trying to evade Provincial elections. We are prepared for both PC and Presidential elections," he declared.

It's a canard, say Chandrika, Anura

Both President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, her brother and political arch rival Anura, have denied the latter will join the People's Alliance Government.

At the end of Friday's special Cabinet meeting which discussed matters relating to a Presidential and Provincial polls, Ms. Kumaratunga requested the Ministers to stay behind since she wished to tell them something.

She said she read speculatory reports in newspapers that her brother, Anura, planned to join the PA and be appointed Prime Minister. She said there was absolutely no truth in these reports and added that she had not spoken to him for years.

An equally emphatic denial came from Anura Bandaranaike. He told The Sunday Times last night

"I have never expressed a desire to either quit the UNP or to join the PA. This canard has been spread by two Cabinet Ministers of the PA."

He added "this is nothing but mischievous speculation . Every time a canard is floated, I see no reason why I should keep making comments. That is the only reason why I have told media there is no comment.."

Mr. Bandaranaike said "I was both amazed and amused that a Sunday newspaper photographed me when I was coming out after a meeting with A.C.S. Hameed. He is a Parliamentary colleague and we both belong to the same party. My meeting a friend and colleague, for some strange reason known to themselves, is being construed as some conspiracy. That is all the more intriguing."

He said if he was hatching conspiracies within the UNP, he would not have chosen to meet Mr. Hameed publicly at his Horton Place office.

"We would have chosen somewhere else. Its ridiculous," Mr. Bandaranaike said.

Asked whether there was animosity between him and his sister Chandrika, Mr. Bandaranaike replied "I have absolutely nothing personal against her.

From our childhood we have been close friends. Only politics have driven us apart."

UK will not be used as terrorist base: FO official

By Ameen Izzadeen in London

Britain is to strengthen anti-terrorism laws to make fund-raising and certain other activities of rebel organisations such as the LTTE illegal, a senior Foreign Office official told The Sunday Times.

Nigel Bowie, desk officer in charge of Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and the Maldives, said a Home Office ad hoc committee had prepared a consultation document, suggesting amendments to the Prevention of Terrorism Act. One of the recommendations, he said was aimed at making fund-raising by terrorist organisations illegal irrespective of their status in Britain. Though the recommendation is not aimed at any particular terrorist group, analysts believe it is targeted at combating and curbing terrorism connected to Northern Ireland. But the proposed amendment would apply to any organisation involved in terrorism and this would include the LTTE, Mr. Bowie said.

The Home Office document will be released soon for public scrutiny before it is presented to parliament for necessary amendments to the PTA. Mr. Bowie also said a bill would be introduced soon, making conspiracy to commit terrorist activities abroad a crime.

He said the bill was seriously being considered as many terrorist groups were using the loopholes in the law, making Britain a safe haven for them and their activities. 'The British government is concerned about terrorism and it does not want British territory being used as a base by any terrorist group," Mr. Bowie said. Last month some 3000 Lankans, mainly Sinhalese, marched through Central London asking the Blair Govt. to ban the LTTE. He also said British Junior Minister Derek John Fetchett was planning a visit to Sri Lanka but no date had been fixed as yet. Mr. Bowie cautioned that it was just a familiarisation visit and it should not be construed as any peace move connected to the Sri Lankan conflict. His predecessor, Liam Fox of the Conservative government, visited Sri Lanka to help work out a bipartisan agreement between the PA and the UNP. "Britain cannot play any mediatory role in Sri Lanka unless the parties to the conflict asked it to play that role," Mr. Bowie said.

What went wrong?

By. Frederica Jansz

AirLanka Chairman Harry Jayawardena, who is also the Managing Director of Stassens Group has been named as a suspect in a Customs case of alleged under-invoicing in the import of chocolates.

A former Customs Director General V. T. Vittachi, now Chairman of Stassens Group, has also been named as a suspect in the case.

Mr.Vittachi is also the author of a book What Went Wrong. which focuses on bribery and corruption during President J. R. Jayewardene period

"The first case against Stassens Group investigated by Customs has now been concluded. There are 12 cases of alleged fraud against the Stassens Group of Companies," a Customs source said.

If found guilty Mr. Jayawardena and Mr. Vittachi could be fined up to Rs. 4 million.

The chocolates were imported from a chocolate company in Belgium to a company based in Singapore known as 'Libra Ltd' which is affiliated to the Stassens Group in Colombo.

Libra sent the order to Stassens in Colombo, allegedly under- invoicing the consignment by US$ 13,238, in August 1997. The consignment was flown in on an AirLanka plane.

Sources revealed that the Customs in Belgium have worked with the Customs Department in Colombo to help investigate this case.

A highly placed source at Stassens told The Sunday Times that the initial raid by Customs on Stassens had nothing to do with the company, but was connected to what Harry Jayawardena in his capacity as Chairman of AirLanka was doing to rejuvenate a flagging airline.

Stassens maintain that it is 'absurd' to say that the company is guilty of fraud. It claims the company has "always played a straight bat and trodden the straight and narrow path."

The Sunday Times was told that Harry Jayawardena has consulted his lawyers who will appeal against the findings of this case, and challenge its witnesses.

The Managing Director of the Chocolate Company in Belgium has given a statement to Customs in Colombo that under-invoicing of goods is a totally unacceptable practice, and that his company will not be a party to fraud.

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