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30th August 1998

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Area politico backs fearful gang war

Killing at funeral brings more terror to Maligawatte

By Chris Kamalendran

Maligawatte is in the grip of a major gang war involving politicians, killings and political extortion with most ordinary people keeping their mouths shut for fear of their lives.

Police said they had launched a massive search in the area for a gang leader who is allegedly responsible for a spate of murders with the backing of a local politician.

The latest victim was Nevil Bastian Peiris, the owner of four motor spares shops who was gunned down at point blank range inside a funeral house.

"A gang of five dressed in t-shirts and trousers stormed the funeral house and opened fire indiscriminately. One of the bystanders was hit on his head. Then one of the gangsters looked for Mr. Bastian and fired at him thrice, killing him on the spot," an eyewitness said. Mr. Bastian was the father of four children.

Two days earlier another person was hacked to death in the same area by the same gang, police said.

The number of violent deaths in the area climbed to 15 in the past six months and indications are that gang rivalry is getting more intense and bloody.

Besides the string of murders a local politician is alleged to be extorting money from businessmen in the area to maintain the gang involved in the murders.

Businessmen complain they have been paying the men tens of thousands of rupees monthly in fear as they want to protect their business interests.

Maligawatta police who on Wednesday made an attempt to arrest a section of the gang were fired upon by the gangsters. In the ensuing gun battle one of the gang members was shot and injured, police said.

Police have arrested six members of the gang and are looking for the gang leader who terrorises the area by killing any rivals.

Police said most people in the area were reluctant to give information regarding the reign of terror for apparent fear of their lives.

Police recovered a .38 revolver and a locally made galkatas from the gang.

CID probes worst act of vandalism

By Shelani de Silva

Only one worker was available to guard the historical 600 acre site at the Medirigiriya Watadagaba from where treasure hunters robbed five precious guard stones on Saturday night, officials said.

Archaeology director Senerath Dissanayake told The Sunday Times the CID had been called in to probe one of the worst acts of vandalism in this ancient site which has been subjected to much rape and ruin during the past few months.

Medirigirya Archaeological officer R. Piyatissa said the lack of security had allowed the vandals to get in and do what they did.

"We had only one worker to guard the 600 acre site and he has to do a12 hour shift. After the incident three more workers have been brought in from Anuradhapura for security ," he said.

As a measure to crack down on treasure hunters a special committee was appointed in February by the department. The committee comprised Divisional Secretaries, Grama Sevaka,Provincial Archaeology Department officials, police, chief priest and village committee representatives.

In February this year a committee comprising govt,. archaeological, police and other officials was set up to find ways of tackling the vandalism.

Produce replicas to save real artefacts, says Clarke

World renowned space prophet Arthur C Clarke yesterday urged the government to take immediate action to safeguard Sri Lanka's archaeological sites following the most shocking act of vandalism at the historical Watadage in Medirigirya last Saturday.

Expressing deep concern over the robbery of five guardstones from the 2000-year-old site, Dr. Clarke said replicas of such priceless items should be produced for sale as one of the measures to prevent vandalism of the real ones. He pointed out that he had a fibre glass replica of a Buddha statue from the Gal Vihara and it was as good as the real one.

Journalist 'lifted': none allowed to see him

By S.S.Selvanayagam

The Managing Editor of 'Sarinihar' a sister newspaper of 'Yukthiya' has urged the Anti-Harassment Committee to ensure the safety of its journalist Thadshanamoorthy Mathusoothanan who was arrested by the police last Wednesday.

Madhusoothanan, known as 'Madhu' among the Tamil journalists and literary circles was abducted by two men in civvies last Wednesday at 5.50 p.m. near Holy Family Convent, Bambalapitiya, while he was walking along the Galle Road with two Indian professors. "According to his friends person dressed in jeans and T-shirt grabbed him and put him inside a service vehicle and drove away. Inside the vehicle there were some officers in uniform," Managing Editor S.K. Vickneswaran said.

'There were no receipts issued when he was abducted or after. But after 17 hours we were able to locate him at the Peliyagoda police station on Thursday. However, none of us was allowed to talk to him,' Mr. Vickneswaran said.

"The journalist's father who went to the police station with a lawyer working for MIRJE was also not allowed to talk to him or provide him meals," he added.

Mr. Vickneswaran requested the Anti-Harassment Committee to make necessary arrangements to enable Madhu's family members to see him and provide meals as he is a vegetarian and would not take any meals in the police station.

Yukthiya Editor Sunanda Deshapriya told The Sunday Times that Madhusoothanan had been arrested and released twice before.

'The way he was arrested and kept by the police for 20 hours without informing anybody is completely against the rule of law. When he was arrested, the arresting authorities did not identify themselves but according to the law they should have done so,' he pointed out.

Meanwhile the free media movement in a statement, expressed its concern over the arrest and detention of Mr.Mathusoothanan.

"The manner of Mr.Mathusoothanan's arrest is in itself a direct contravention of existing presidential directives on the arrest. He was picked up by a person in civil clothes and put into a jeep at about 5.50 p.m. August 26, while he was walking along Galle Road, Banbalapitiya, in the vicinity of the Holy Family Convent.

His friends and family were not informed of his arrest, no receipt was issued and in fact it look almost 17 hours before he was finally traced to the Peliyagoda Police Station. It has been reported that he has been detained under the Emergency Regulations and a formal Detention Order issued in his name, the statement said.

"The Free Media Movement urges national security officials and mechanisms to exercise care in arrest and detention of persons and to act in compliance with the presidential directives in view of repeated incidents of indiscriminate and unlawful arrest of Tamil civilians. The need for this vigilance was brought into focus once more by the recent arrest of Virakesari journalist Gajan on a case of mistaken identity," the statement said.

The Captain's assailants were aiming higher

The two Tamil rebel pistol gang members apparently mistook a captain for a Major General they were gunning for when they fired at a Land Cruiser at the Dickman's Road-Galle Road junction in a Tuesday evening drama, preliminary investigations have revealed.

Captain K. Wickrama-ratna was injured in the incident while one of the suspects was nabbed with the help of two brave civilians. The suspect was found to be a student registered at the Open University Nawala.

In a related development, 24 Open University students who were taken in for questioning were released after police found they had no links with the LTTE suspect in custody.

The university's Acting Vice Chancellor G. I. C. Goonawardena said Police had sought permission of the authorities to question the students.

Meanwhile detectives said they believed LTTE pistol gang members now in the city had been given vehicle numbers of VIPs and top military officers to carryout attacks. Thus they apparently mistook Captain Wickramaratna who is the personal aide to a Major General.

After the shooting incident, extra security measures are being enforced, including armed guards at traffic lights.

Security forces and Police were also seen conducting random checks on pedestrians.

The two civilians who chased the suspect risking their lives, were given rewards Rs. 50,000 each by Army Commander Rohan Daluwatta. The soldier who joined the two civilians in seizing the suspect was promoted to the rank of corporal.

Few snags hold up Workers' Charter

By Shelani de Silva.

President Chandrika Kumaratunga has appointed a sub committee to study and make recommendations on the workers' charter prepared by the Presidential Task Force a few months ago in the face of objections from employer and trade unions.

The President who met the Labour Minister, officials of the Ceylon Employers' Federation and trade unions last week requested the sub committee to report back by the end of September on the document.

The sub committee headed by Labour Minister John Seneviratne, includes representatives from trade unions and the the Employers' Federation.

The ten member sub-committee met last Thursday to study and make recommendations to the charter. Employers Federation Chairman Franklyn Amerasinghe told The Sunday Times the sub committee was trying to come to a common stand on at least eight of the fifteen clauses in the document. On the balance seven clauses, only a few differences remained to be ironed out, he said.

UNP talking reforms with all political parties

The main Opposition UNP has invited all political parties and action groups to a discussion on September 14 at the Sri Lanka Foundation Institute(SLFI) in a bid to bring in all party consensus against the postponement of provincial elections.

MP Mahinda Samarasinghe who is also a co-ordinator of the alternative constitutional reform committee said three principle constitutional reform proposals forwarded by the UNP will be the basis of discussion.

The three key proposals of the UNP which were presented as part of the alternative proposals to counter Minister G.L. Peiris' constitutional reform proposals are the setting up of an independent elections commission and police and public service commissions.

"This apolitical move is to form a working group and evolve better legal structures that ensure free and fair polls. Our own proposals will be suitably amended if there is such need," he said.

The discussion which is to be chaired by Opposition and UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe will also be attended by Ministers Dharmasiri Senanayake and G.L.

Peace brokers from N. Ireland

Two senior peace brokers from Northern Ireland will be here on September 3 to share their experiences and to meet professionals and parliamentarians.

Prof. E. Frazer will be accompanied by another Northern Ireland constitution expert to discuss matters connected to resolving the ethnic conflict through dialogue using the Irish experience as a foundation.

MP worried over drugs

The medical doctor parliamentarian, Jayalath Jayawardena, has called for the appointment of a committee of experts to study the drugs being marketed in Ayurveda and other fields of alternative medicine.

In a letter to the Parliamentary Consultative Committee on Health and Indigenous Medicine, Dr. Jayawardena referred to one instance where an Indian herbal drug named Memory Plus is being freely marketed without proper medical or legal scrutiny.

He says the Commissioner of Ayurveda has given general approval for the import of such drugs under existing laws but there are loopholes which need to be reviewed.

Natural gas turbine in trouble once more

By M.Ismeth

The natural gas turbine imported at a cost of Rs.1.69 billion (US dollars 32 million) to supplement the national grid is now non-operational.

According to sources, this gas turbine was imported from Italy after the power crisis in 1996 on the recommendation of a high powered committee appointed by the President.

Though gas turbines are normally operated either on natural gas or diesel, this turbine could not work on diesel, sources said. Since Sri Lanka does not have natural gas, an atomiser was necessary to make the turbine run on diesel, the sources said.

Lately 18 combustion chambers which form a part of the apparatus used for the operation of the turbine with diesel have all got burnt.

The sources said the Kelanitissa Thermal Power plant which provides 1080 megawatts of power during peak hours, had been deprived of 115 mw op power, due to the non-operation of the Italian gas turbine.

Incidentally, any turbine operated on natural gas or diesel should have at least 25,000 continuous running hours, but this did not have such a certificate from the manufacturer, they said.

Moreover, filters for any turbine were changed after10,000 running hours, but in this case filters had to be changed every three months, they said.

A duty engineer at the Kelanitissa Power Plant said: "though the turbine in question was not in operation last week, it is in operation."

But CEB sources challenged this claim.

Phosphate deal: 8000 villagers protest today

About 8,000 villagers in and around Eppawala will stage a mass rally today protesting against the sale of the phosphate deposits there.

According to Sarath Bandara, chief organiser of the Committee for the Preservation of Eppawala Phosphate Deposits, they had visited some 40m villages in the past two weeks and briefed the people on the dangers and environmental hazards inherent in the deal between the government and an American company. Protest rallies carried out by villagers in the past few months have resulted in clashes with government supporters.

"Earlier only a few villagers joined in protest rallies although a majority of the people are against the sale. But this time the chief priest of the Galkande Temple, who heads the committee, spoke to the villagers and they seem to be convinced.: Mr. Bandara said.

Today's protest rally will begin at 9.00 a.m. at the Eppawala town.

According to Mr. Bandara, the main reason for this mass rally was the recent discussions between Minister C V Gooneratne and officials from the American Company.

Archbishop views the apparition

In a significant step towards making an official proclamation on the mysterious apparition at a Catholic church in Rawatawatta, the Archbishop of Colombo yesterday visited the church to see the vision and join hundreds of devotees in prayer.

Fr. Revel, Parish Priest of the Queen of Angels church in the suburb of Moratuwa, said the Archbishop Rt. Rev. Dr. Nicholas Marcus Fernando would make an official statement soon regarding the apparition on the wall behind the altar of the church.

The heavenly drama began two weeks ago when the church was celebrating the Feast of Corpus Christi (Body and Blood of Christ). It was also the day after the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin. Fr. Revel was depositing the blessed sacrament in the monstrance on the altar for exposition soon after holy mass, when many devotees saw a flash of light from the Blessed sacrament along with what appeared to be a cloud. Eyewitness Kithsiri de Silva said entire families- fathers, mothers and Children had seen the miraculous flash of light.

The flash left a six- foot imprint on the wall behind and tens of thousands of people who have flocked to the church since then say the apparition is that of the blessed Virgin Mary holding a cross.

The Queen of Angel's church is keeping its doors open till ten every night to accommodate the growing number of pilgrims and Three Holy masses are celebrated everyday at 6.00 a.m., noon and 6.00 p.m

Fr. Revel told the "Sunday Times " it is now clear that the vision is not of human origin. Theologians are studying it while devotees who visit the church are being requested to pray for God to reveal what he wants to show or say through the vision.

Generally, as in the hallowed shrines such as Lourdes or Fatima the church watches for sometime and if the vision continues then an official study is conducted by Theologians and experts before a proclamation is made.

Whatever the outcome of the official study residents of Rawatawatta say a little known church has come alive as a Holy place and the centre of a divine revelation linked to the situation in the country and the role of the Blessed Mother.

They said the positive developments so far were also significant. People who seldom or never prayed were praying devoutly now; those who seldom gathered for common prayer and service at the church were doing so now.

Customs officers who probed CGE shifted out

By M. Ismeth

Two customs officers directly involved in the investigations of Ceylon Grain Elevators Ltd. (CGE), have now been transferred out.

Assistant Superintendent of Customs, A.L.M. Nazeer and Parakrama Jinadasa investigated of CGE, and as a sequel the Customs fined the company a staggering Rs. 1200 million.

According to sources, the fine has not yet been paid, and Prima Singapore Ltd., the Singapore principals, have directed CGE to make representations to courts.

Attempts were made at the beginning by interested parties to transfer out these officers from the Customs "D" Branch Investigating Unit. However, due to the direct intervention of Minister G.L Peiris, the transfers were stopped.

It is learned that since Mr. Nazeer is in charge of all documents of the investigations of CGE, those interested might be not wanting him to present a case in courts.

While Mr. Nazeer has been transferred to the export division, Mr.Jinadasa has been transferred out to the Post Audit Manifest Unit (PAMU) division.

TULF says no to EPRLF call to boycott

By S.S.Selvanayagam and Chamintha Thilakarathna.

The former Tamil militant group, EPRLF, last week appealed to the Tamil and Muslim parliamentarians to boycott parliamentary sessions till the anti-Tamil measures allegedly taken by the PA government is settled.

EPRLF Secretary General Suresh Premachandran in his call for boycott charged that the ongoing war described as a "war against the Tigers and a war for peace" by the government has only brought in severe hardships, sufferings, death and destruction to the Tamil, Muslim and Sinhala communities in the province.

"Mass graves in Chemmani, indiscriminate arrest of Tamils, restrictions on movement in Vavuniya, reduction in the dry rations to the refugees and rationing of fuel in Vavuniya are some of the draconian measures taken by the PA government," he pointed out.

"Tamil parties protested against these anti-Tamil measures and brought to the notice of President Kumaratunga but nothing has changed," he said.

"Instead, three recent actions - reduction in the dry rations to the displaced people in the North; rationing of fuel in Vavuniya; sinking of the merchant vessel "M.V.Princeas Kash" that was carrying essential goods to Jaffna - were taken by the government," he added.

"Under these conditions it is the duty of the Tamil political parties to exert pressure on the government to relax these restrictions imposed on our people. The government will not do anything on its own to give relief to our people or solve these basic problems he said

While EPDP and PLOTE spokesmen were not available for comment, TULF Senior Vice President V.Anandashangari said, "We are committed to the democratic principles. TULF is convinced that parliament is the only forum to air Tamil grievances. There is no point in boycotting parliamentary sessions .

"TULF made the biggest mistake in 1983 by keeping out of the parliament and thereby gave the opportunity to the government to do anything they wanted" he said.

"It is the duty of Tamil political parties to exert pressure on the government to relax restrictions on our people.

In order to pressurize the government and highlight these issues to international community, the EPRLF appeals to Tamil and Muslim parliamentarians from the North and East to boycott parliamentary sessions till a settlement is reached," stated Vice President K. Premachandran of the EPRLF in a letter to these parties.


Mayors to recommend changes to ordinance

The National Chapter of Mayors (NCM) meeting at Mayor's Centre yesterday decided on the submissions to the presidential commission on suitable reforms to the Municipal Councils Ordinance.

Mayors of seven MC's will go before the commission and submit their proposals jointly when the commission meets on September 4. Mayors of Colombo, Moratuwa, Dehiwala, Mt.Lavinia, Kandy, Kurunegala, Jaffna and Batticaloa will appear before the commission to submit their common proposals.

The needs of Jaffna and Batticaloa are also incorporated in the collective proposals, NCM sources said.

Colombo Mayor and NCM Chairman Karu Jayasuriya presided over the meeting which lasted for more than six hours.

Beware the hotel prowler

By Shane Seneviratne

Nuwara Eliya Police yesterday cautioned couples who visit the town for short holidays to be on the lookout for a man who enters hotel rooms and gets away with cash and jewellery.

'The man not only gets away with the valuables and cash, but also fondles the women to prevent any complaints to the police which cause them embarrassment', Headquarters Inspector Nuwara Eliya Saman Yatawara said.

He said most of this type of cases go unreported to the Police as the visitors remain in the town only for a short period and do not want to go through the hassle of police inquiries.

HQI Yatawara said that within the past two months they had received 10 such complaints, but believe that the actual number of incidents may be higher.

Nochchiyagama blast: 3 in the net

Three suspects have been arrested in connection with the recent bomb explosion at the Nochchiyagama Telecom centre, police said.

They said one of the suspects was a Tamil and the other two Sinhala youths who allegedly provided shelter for him.

The Nochchiyagama blasts which caused damages amounting to one million rupees was one of a series in various parts of the country during the past few months.

Major's prayers were answered

The Fundamental Rights petition filed against Army Commander Lt. Gen. Rohan Daluwatte by a Major who led commando troops to rescue the Pooneryn camp was settled before the Supreme Court on Friday.

The case was settled with the Army Commander agreeing to provide a car to Major M.G. Chandrasena to use daily to travel to the Army Hospital for medical treatment and to pay his monthly salary with the arrears of payments since October 1997.

Ravi vs. Fernandopulle on Sept 11

By K.M. Weeraratne

The trial in the defamation case filed by parliamentarian Ravi Karunanayake claiming Rs. 500 million damages from Minister Jeyaraj Fernandopulle will begin on September 11.

Colombo District Judge Sunil Rajapaksa made this order when the case was called before him on Friday. Mr. Karunanayake alleged that Mr. Fernandopulle defamed him during a TV debate on AirLanka deal.

The Minister also filed written objections to the case on Friday.

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