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28th June 1998

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Thank you for Cheri

A thanksgiving service to mark the first anniversary of the death of the veteran and widely respected A.P.J. Cherical will be held on Saturday July 5 from 10.30 a.m. at Christ Church, Kotte.

Cheri, as he was affectionately known amongst journalistic colleagues and friends, died in Ontario and was buried there.

In a journalistic career spaning some 45 years, Cheri worked at the Sun Weekend Group, the old Times Group, the Island Group and also did P.R. work before he emigrated to Canada. As a sub-editor, feature writer and news editor Cheri displayed a rich and deep side of journalism that earned him much respect and admiration.

His wife, Priscilla, teenage son John and sister Susan have flown to Colombo for Saturday's thanksgiving service. They have invited all friends, colleagues and relatives to join them in saying 'Thank you' to God for the life and work of Abraham Peter Jacob Cherical.

Errol did it in style

Veteran journalist Errol de silva who worked on several newspapers in Sri Lanka and other parts of asia in a career spanning four decades, died in Bangkok recently.

Beginning his career in the Daily News under editor Ernst Corea, the active and amiable Errol soon rose to the highest levels as a sub editor and a layout specialist.

So meteoric was his rise that he became the page one sub editor within a matter of years and was also selected as the journalist of the year at Lake House.

Venturing abroad the dynamic Errol worked for newspapers in Malaysia, Singpore ,Hong Kong, and finally Cambodia, where a story he did during the early days of the infamous Pol Pot became an international scoop.

In the eighties he returned to Sri Lanka and worked for several media groups including the island where as a layout consultant he gave a powerful new image to the paper. Errol then went back to Bangkok where he worked as a business correspondent for the Bangkok post and for an international magazine on gems and jewellery.

Errol is the brother of another veteran journalist Rex de Silva, editor of the Sun /Weekend newspapers.

His body was flown back to Colombo and buried on Thursday in the presence of a large gathering of journalists and friends. may he rest in peace.

MPs asked to donate blood,but none came

By Faraza Farook

Both, government and opposition parliamentarians yesterday failed to respond to an appeal for blood by the Government Medical Officers Association (GMOA), the Associations President Dr. Ananda Samarasekara said.

The campaign organised especially for parliamentarians was a complete failure and a sad sight Dr. Samarasekara said.

Individual letters were sent to all Members of Parliament inviting them to donate blood while separate letters were sent to President Chandrika Kumaratunga and Opposition Leader, Ranil Wickremesinghe to extend their support to make the occasion a success, he said.

The blood donation campaign was organised at the Central Blood Bank yesterday from 10 a.m. and went on till 12. noon onwards, but no parliamentarians turned up. However the executive committee of the GMOA and some doctors from the National Hospital and the Welisara Hospital volunteered.

The GMOA's letter to the MPs said: Considering the prevailing shortage of blood at the Blood Transfusion Service, the GMOA has decided to organise a series of blood donation campaigns.

'We invite you to be present at the Central Blood Bank for a worthy cause', the letter said.

Individual requests were made to parliamentarians anticipating a favourable response, Dr. Samarasekara said.

'This was a move to encourage the professional sector with the MPs taking the lead', he said.

Jaffna U staff agitate for incentive allowance

By S.S.Selvanayagam

Jaffna University staff with a token strike on June 23, are alleging that they are being denied the incentive allowance to the government servants serving in the war-torn North-East.

They question why the incentive allowance is being denied only to the staff of the Jaffna University.

Government servants serving in the North - East have been paid the incentive allowance for the period July - December 1996, while staff of universities in the North - East except the Jaffna University too have been paid this incentive allowance, said the Jaffna University's University Employees Union(UEU) President S.Kalaraj.

"When Minister of Higher Education paid a visit to the Jaffna University in May 1996 after our return from exile, he gave us a pledge that action would be taken to pay the incentive allowance to the Jaffna University employees, he said.

In December 1997, the University Grants Commission Chairman had written a letter to the Ministry of Higher Education, pointing out that it was unreasonable to withhold the payment of this allowance to universities," he added.

The Jaffna University administration which displays such reluctance to pay the incentive allowance to the academic and non-academic staff, had no hesitation whatsoever in paying this allowance to a government servant who served as a high official in the university administration on secondment, UEU alleged.

FMM against putting off Provincial Council elections

The Free Media Movement called on democratic forces and individuals to organise a mass campaign to defend the right to vote and to condemn the proposals to postpone the provincial council elections.

The FMM statement said:

"The Free Media Movement views the proposals being made from varied sources to postpone the provincial council elections, which are due to be held in August, as well as the negotiations between the government and the opposition in this regard, as attempts to infringe on the right of franchise of the people of this country.

"The right of the people of Sri Lanka to use their vote to elect their representatives in a legal manner and from time to time, cannot be negated according to the wishes of religious leaders or other individuals.

"The election of representatives by the people through a voting process is a cornerstone of the representative democratic system which we follow in our country. We should direct our energies towards strengthening this process, not towards eroding it further. Therefore, the Free Media Movement condemns each and every attempt being made to postpone the provincial council elections and joins forces with all other democratic forces to defeat this attempt.

"The right of every citizen of this country to use his or her vote freely and fairly becomes also an issue relating to the freedom of opinion and expression. Thus, any proposal to postpone provincial council elections also constitutes a violation of the freedom of opinion and expression.

"The Free Media Movement believes that we should not tolerate any such measures to constrain the freedom of expression.," Says the statement

The Free Media Movement also does not accept the justification for the postponement, which is the difficulty of providing adequate security to the process. As far as the Free Media Movement is concerned, there has been no grave deterioration of the security situation in the south of the country since the last local government elections were held in March 1997.

If indeed the question is one of providing adequate security, then the elections could be held in a staggered fashion and all the votes counted on one day, as is the practice in India. We cannot therefore agree with the government when it brings forward the security issue. It is also clear that the proposal to postpone the elections until the war ends is based on a total misreading of the reality of this war. This is because the date when the war ends cannot be predicted by anyone.

Under these circumstances, it is clear to us that the postponing of the provincial council elections is one more step in an anti-democratic process. Press censorship is another. Therefore the Free Media Movement calls on all genuine democratic forces and individuals to come forward to build a mass campaign to defend the right to vote and to condemn the proposals to postpone the provincial council elections.

Of commissions, polls and leaders

From the green corner

By Viruddha Paakshikaya

Paakshikaya, my good friend, had reverted to his favourite theme last week - corruption. He waxed eloquent about how the PA government is trying to root out bribery and corruption, using the ingenious method of kicking out of office, the much respected Bribery Commissioners.

But Paakshikaya, "Commissions'' are the key to this government. They came into office promising many Commissions and indeed, they had many Commissions - investigating the deaths of Kumaratunga, Athulathmudali and Kobbekaduwa, probing ''torture'' at Batalanda - the list is endless.

But now, it is apparent that even Commissions make omissions resulting in revisions of decisions. Just look at what happened last week, Paakshikaya. The Supreme Court held that the findings of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry probing allegations against former Treasury Secretary R. Paskaralingam were null and void.

Why? Now, Paakshikaya, this is where the issue becomes interesting. The findings were declared null and void because of the omission of Justice F.N.D. Jayasuriya's signature - though it was uncontested that he was ill. Pardon me, if I am wrong, but Paakshikaya, I see a curious coincidence here.

From what I understand (and I am no legal eagle like Professor Peiris or President's Counsel Balapatabendi!). The Bribery Commission law states that the Commission SHALL comprise of three Commissioners. After the death of Commissioner Siva Selliah the government did not appoint a third Commissioner.

Now, does this mean that all acts of the Commission after the death of Commissioner Selliah are null and void? Now, surely there is a precedent for this case. I know, Paakshikaya that this possibility is being debated in your ''Blue Corner'' - the government parliamentary group. But Mr. Know all, Professor G.L. Peiris was absent (by accident or design?) and no one knew what the legal position was. So much for the PA's ''fight'' against corruption.

We in the UNP on the other hand are determined to cleanse ourselves of corrupt elements in our ranks. I know, in advance, Paakshikaya, your response to this: "What about Wijeyapala Mendis?" You will ask.

Wijeyapala Mendis has challenged his civic rights deprivation recommendation in Court, so I must say no more about it except to state that he may find a loophole by courtesy of the government's incompetent law makers. But the UNP, notwithstanding this faux pass by the government is determined to show the country that it stands for a clean party, and I can prove that claim, Paakshikaya.

When Henry Jayamaha presented the three-member UNP Committee of Inquiry report on Wijeyapala Mendis, ten Working Committee members opposed the move. They were A.C.S. Hameed, M.H. Mohamed, Festus Perera, Dharmadasa Banda, Tilak Marapana, Stanley Kalpage, Nanda Mathew, Susil Moonesinghe, A.M.S. Adhikari and Anura Bandaranaike, and they represented one-fifth of the Working Committee. Each had his own reasons for opposing the move.

My friend Anura Bandaranaike, in my opinion, had a tame, lame excuse. If he said he was against Commissions because of what they did to his mother, it could be understood. But to put it on the footing that Wijeyapala Mendis stood down for him to become the UNP's Chief Organizer for Gampaha District? With no malice or prejudice towards Wijeyapala Mendis or his case in Court, is Anura Bandaranaike's position that however corrupt someone is, he must stand by him for a political favour done? I beg to disagree with you on that, Anura, my friend!

Of course, Anura did also argue that even J.R. Jayewardene exchanged lands under the Land Reform Act , and that the PA's Commissions of Inquiry were only political witch-hunts.

Be that as it may, the UNP leadership has noted that of the ten who opposed Wijeyapala Mendis, almost all of them (with the exception of Anura, I must hasten to add) were those who supported Gamini Dissanayake's candidature for the Leader of the Opposition mantle in 1994, over and above Ranil Wickremesinghe.

Wijeyapala Mendis himself also brought this factor out when he said he was being victimised for supporting Gamini Dissanayake. For the first time perhaps, Mr. Mendis, who prides himself on being a ''party man'' says that internal party politics is behind all this.

Former Minister P. Dayaratne another one-time Gamini Dissanayake loyalist kept away from this meeting but has since explained his stance to Ranil Wickremesinghe after a political commentary in ''The Island'' exposed his absence.

Our leader said he could excuse only Tilak Marapana for his position on the basis that it would seem utterly ridiculous for one who gave legal counsel to Wijeyapala Mendis to support his expulsion.

Now, at this week's UNP parliamentary group meeting, A.C.S. Hameed, M.H. Mohamed and some of the ''group of ten'' kept away, this being a crucial meeting to decide the UNP's position on Provincial Council elections or a possible Presidential election.

Anura Bandaranaike shrugs off such issues, saying, ''what is the use of discussing these issues when my sister will be the one to decide on elections,'' others seem to want to show to Ranil Wickremesinghe that they are dissatisfied with his leadership. But, apart from Anura Bandaranaike and Tilak Marapana these personalities can be considered the old guard of the UNP. But, even the most dyed-in-the-wool UNPer would grudgingly admit that the UNP lost the last elections partly due to the corruption issue and it is apparent, Paakshikaya, from what I have stated above that Our Leader is sincere in trying to weed out corruption in the UNP, come what may. That is why I have spilled the beans, as it were, regarding UNP's inside stories, just to prove my point to Paakshikaya.

I'm sure Paakshikaya would counter that by saying, ''What about Paskaralingam?" I agree the government messed up the Paskaralingam inquiry on a technicality but I reserve my comments on the merits of the findings.

I just hope that the issues involved therein were judiciously adjudicated - and I also hope the UNP will not touch the likes of them again, not because I love Paskaralingam less, but because I love the UNP more.

But I must also take this opportunity, Paakshikaya, to counter your innuendo's about the ''incompetence'' of our leader. Even UNPers say so, Paakshikaya, so you can be excused. And being from the UNP, they tend to compare him with J.R. Jayewardene and R. Premadasa. They say he can't smile in public or in private. But I miss them - those in the UNP - and you, Paakshikaya, do you agree with what they did after assuming power? Let's face it Paakshikaya, Ranil Wickremesinghe may have his own style of political management, but here is someone who has already proved he will make no promises just to hoodwink the masses and win elections.

In return, people scoff at him, asking how he could win elections without making promises. Then, they call him a ''weak'' leader.

But that is what we in the new UNP are trying to do. We want to build a clean, sincere political party with no hidden agenda, to the best of our abilities and with all the convictions at our command. We want to introduce a new political culture to this country.

In so doing, we are facing resistance, even from within our own ranks. ''Look at some of those labelled as being corrupt'', they say, "they come on top at the elections''. They say that it is not whether you are corrupt or not - it is how you win elections that matter.

Of course, Paakshikaya, the PA must be laughing from the sidelines as our leader shows his willingness to remove from the UNP even it's most senior members - if they are corrupt.

Paakshikaya, your PA in contrast, is doing sweet nothing to clean its act. It appears that they want to win the next polls - by Hook and with Crooks - if so, so be it! The correct response to that will eventually come at the correct time - from the people? Then, you would realise whether our leader is weak or whether your weakness is your leader!

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