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2nd August 1998

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600 Lankan children on Internet porn

By Faraza Farook

Around 600 Sri Lankan children are available in Internet pornography, according to a BBC interview.

This and other shocking details of child pornography through Internet and other means were discussed at a seminar in Colombo yesterday, organised by the child protection group PEACE.

According to a document released by the PEACE, the on-line child sexual exploitation includes, arrangements for exchange, sale or purchase of child pornography, arrangements between adults seeking sexual access to children and adults willing to provide or trade children for sexual purposes.

With the facility adults seeking sexual contact with children establish "friendships" with children on-line and the "friendships" then lead to face-to-face meetings and ultimately, the sexual exploitation of the child, the document said.

The different aspects of sexual abuse of children by adults or by older children, the effects and suggestions to combat this fast spreading problem, both here and abroad, were the issues raised at the discussion.

"The Internet is the mirror of the real world. It provides the world with a lot of good and bad information. It is a lot more than pornography. A place for criminal activity, Markus Aksland, Resident Representative Redd Barna, Norway said. He said he discovered the sites when a project to combat child abuse was introduced in April 1996.

Pakistan unhappy as issues sidetracked

By Chamintha Thilakaratne

Pakistani government spokesman Tharique Altaf at a media briefing questioned the future of regional co-operation if India and Pakistan cannot agree on what priority issues should be.

"Unless we have mutual understanding and can come to a settlement on simple matters, like priorities, how can we decide on free trade?" asked Mr.Altaf.

Emphasizing the lack of understanding in the regions as the main issue, he said the SAARC heads had left regional security out of their speeches. Members have even left the word "security" altogether.

"We are disappointed.this is a set back.there has been no progress here at all, he emphasised.

He said India was not willing to discuss the issue at the top of the agenda such as the Jammu and Kashmir, and the nuclear tests stating that concentration should be on issues as a whole and not on specific items on the agenda.

"India does not want to specify items. But we hope to grab every opportunity to resume discussions. And, the next meeting will be in South Africa during the NAM meeting" he said.

Pakistani PM, Nawaz Sharif also referred to the lack of regional co-operation in his address. He said there were only two options left. "Either we break up or try to strengthen the relationships between nations if SAARC is to continue," he said.

He also said that it was time that issues of importance for the region even political should be addressed at SAARC.

However, in the light of the discussions, fears were expressed that SAARC has little or no future unless India and Pakistan resolve their conflicts soon.

Ranil avoids sensitive topics

UNP Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe met visiting SAARC leaders to discuss regional matters, but sensitive issues were avoided.

The opposition Leader met Nepalese Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala, Bangladesh Premier Sheik Hassina and Pakistani Premier Nawaz Sharif on Tuesday at Hotel Taj Samudra.

On Friday, after the Summit ended he called on Indian Prime Minister Athal Behari Vajpayee and Bhutan's Ministerial council chief Jigmi Yoeser Thinley.

UNP sources said sensitive issues such as the recent nuclear tests by India and Pakistan were not discussed.

Former army chief discharged

The Colombo High Court has discharged the former Army Commander and Defence Ministry Secretary, Hamilton Wanasinghe, in a case of alleged illegal assets as the crisis-ridden bribery commission had not served the indictment properly.

Judge Tissa Ekanayake discharged General Wanasinghe on the grounds that the indictment was irregular and wrongful. Defence Counsel Tilak Marapana said that under 23 A/4 of Bribery Act, no prosecution for such an offence could be instituted unless the suspect had failed to show cause or the cause shown by him was unsatisfactory in the opinion of the bribery commissioner.

According to the amended Act No. 20 of 1994, it is the Commissioner who should be satisfied with the cause shown and not the Director General who had signed the indictment.

The absence of such certificate signed by the Commissioner with the indictment, was a fatal irregularity and that the court thus had no jurisdiction to entertain such an indictment, Mr. Marapana said. The judge upheld the objection.

In this case, Gen. Wanasinghe was indicted with acquiring cash and other assets amounting to Rs 1.5 million, which could not be accounted for by his legitimate earnings.

Don't kill the good image

Imposing an emergency countrywide will kill the positive impression of the Sri Lankan security situation, warned UNP parliamentarian and former ambassador, Dr.Karunasena Kodituwakku.

"If an emergency is declared it will give a very bad impression to the world that Sri Lanka is not in a position to hold elections, even on a staggered basis, despite the boasts of having held local government elections in North and East," said Dr. Karunasena Kodituwakku.

He said that this would have a deep effect on Sri Lanka as a whole and the government should take not of this.


Horse racing or economics Mervyn was tops

By Douglas Senaratne

It saddened me to learn on Thursday of the death of Mervyn Pereira of the Ceylon Daily News. He died on Wednesday.

I first met Mervyn at the home of the late Elmer de Haan, to whose place I used to go to listen to good music and play chess.

Mervyn was then working at the Co-operative Wholesale Establishment. Shortly after that he joined Lake House as Horse Racing correspondent of the Ceylon Daily News. His column on horse racing was very popular and many punters followed his tips, which were rarely wrong.

Mervyn's racing column ended when racing was banned in Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) in 1958. From racing, Mervyn took on the economics round. His writings on economic matters and issues were admired by most and envied by some.

When I joined the Ceylon Observer and later the Ceylon Daily News as a Sub Editor, I encountered many of Mervyn's writings (copy). I found the copy did not at all need the hand of a sub. They were, like Reuters copy, ready for setting and publishing. And never had any of his stories bounced.

Although horse racing had been banned in Sri Lanka, Mervyn's studies on the subject did not cease. It was well known that certain book makers consulted him on matters concerning the turf.

Mervyn left Lake House in 1977 and went abroad to work on a newspaper in one of the West Asian countries, where his excellence as a journalist became known. On his return, he wrote a weekly horse racing column for The Sunday Times, where I was the sports sub. I found again the widespread of his knowledge and the excellence of his diction.

Mervyn Pereira was a kindly man and so soft spoken that he was often inaudible.

About three years ago, Mervyn went back to Lake House where he served as an adviser. He was not quite well for about a year, and died at the Jayewardenepura Hospital on Wednesday.

His death is a great loss to the journalistic tribe.

Who needs bottled gum?

To city children gum is something that comes out of a bottle or tube. But to these village children who have never seen a bottle of gum it is something one gets out of a tree trunk.

The children of Thannapanguva Vidyalaya, a remote school in the Badulla district, have for many years been getting their gum from this same rubber tree.

These children living so close to nature are a striking reminder of how far we city dwellers have come from the days when we allowed mother nature to take care of all out needs.

HPT directors fined Rs. 1.8 mn

By Mel Gunasekera

Directors of the collapsed finance company, Housing & Property Trades Ltd (HPT), have been fined Rs. 1.8 mn by the Fort Magistrate, for violating Central Bank directives.

The Central Bank filed action against HPT for failure to honour directives issued by the Monetary Board under the Finance Companies Act No: 78 of 1988.

It charged that HPT had failed to maintain liquid assets in approved securities to settle deposit liabilities to depositors and submit audited balance sheets.

Thirty cases have been filed against the HPT directors Dharmadasa Wijemanne (Chairman), Aruna Wijemanne, Dimuth Wijemanne, Deepal Dushmantha Wijemanne and P A Jayakuru.

They pleaded guilty and admitted liability.

When the cases were called on July 22 for sentencing, Aruna Wijemanne, Deepal Dushmantha Wijemanne and P A Jayakuru were present in court and were ordered to pay a fine of Rs. 100,000 for each case.

The Magistrate reserved his order against Dharmadasa Wijemanne and Dimuth Wijemanne who were not present.

All fines received under this Act would be credited to the Depositors' Relief Fund maintained by the Central Bank.

Christians appeal for more religious freedom in Maldives

A Chrisitian evangelical group in Sri Lanka has expressed shock over the alleged persecution of Christians in the Maldives in recent months.

The Christian Consultation of Sri Lanka (CCSL) in a letter to the Maldivian High Commissioner in Colombo has asked the government in Male to halt its repression of religious freedom.

The group had reports that about 50 Maldivian nationals have been taken into custody and 19 expatriates expelled since June this year on account of their professing Christian beliefs, CCSL Executive Secretary Godfrey Yogarajah said.

A demonstration was held outside the Maldivian High Commission in Colombo last Wednesday to protest against the alleged repression of Christians. The protest coincided with the visit of Maldivian President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom for the South Asian summit.

The CCSL in its letter said:

"As Sri Lankans, we consider the people of the Maldives close to us - in more ways than a mere physical proximity. The leadership of your land is identified with ours in the development of our region, and we respect the role you play. This is why the news we have now received of religious persecution in your land is shocking.

"We have heard that Christians in the Maldives have been arrested by the Maldivian National Security Service and incarcerated for reason of their faith. We are particularly concerned that Aneesa Hussain (32) and Aminath Moonisa (17) residents of Pereeru-ge, Male have since 18th June 1998 been imprisoned on account of their professing to be Christians. These are Maldivian nationals who have been taken into custody under your laws on account of their profession of a non-Islamic religion.

"Thereafter about fifty other Maldivians have also been taken into custody because of their Christian beliefs or their suspected association with Christians. The Maldivian newspaper Haveeru has on 21st June 1998 disclosed that action has been taken against those accused 'of being involved in spreading Christianity'.

"Your statement on this subject published in newspapers on July 12 does assert that "those who violate the laws of the country are liable for prosecution in accordance with due process of the law.' Does this mean that those who profess a non-Islamic religion in your country are liable to prosecution? You have not clarified if profession of a non Islamic religion by a Maldivian national is legal or illegal in your country.

"With regard to expatriates, you say that 'they have never been discriminated against on grounds of their personal beliefs.' Why then have you suddenly expelled about nineteen expatriates on 24th June and the days following, on the ground of their beliefs?"

"The freedom of thought, conscience and religion is an accepted absolute right, and is foundational to civilised society. The repression of religion is therefore abhorrent and cannot be condoned in such society. It is because of such situations that the "Declaration on the Elimination of all forms of Intolerance and Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief" was adopted in the United Nations General Assembly in November 1981.

"We are sure that the President of the Maldives who interacts which the most diverse world around us with dignity, would appreciate the value of recognising human dignity in his own land. We are sure he will accept that forcing people to hold any particular religious belief amounts to religious slavery, and slavery whether political or religious has no place in modern society.

"We are writing to express our deep revulsion at what is happening to Christians in your land and call on your government to change its repressive attitude to those who profess a non-Islamic religion. We appeal to you in the name of God to release and grant religious freedom to those who are accused of professing a faith other than Islam.

"We must also say that we have joined with millions of Christians around the world to pray earnestly for those facing religious oppression in your country, and eagerly await news of their early release from custody."

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