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27th September 1998

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CA jdges study contempt case

The twelve judges of the Court of Appeal are considering whether to instruct the Attorney General to file contempt charges against former CID Director Bandula 'Show' Wickramasinghe, Court of Appeal President Justice Ameen Ismail said.

Kesbewa Magistrate Munidasa Nanayakkara has requested the Court of Appeal to consider the contempt action after Mr. Wickramasinghe re-arrested High Court Judge Mahanama Tillekaratne who had been released on bail by the Magistrate in an alleged assault case.

CP downplays rift with Indika

By Roshan Peiris

Reports of a split in the Communist Party, provoking Minister Indika Gunewardena to threaten to quit are unfounded or highly exaggerated, General Secretary, Raja Collure told The Sunday Times. He was commenting on recent media reports that Minister Gunawardena, a stalwart of the CP had clashed with the politburo over the suspension of two of its confidantes and might join the DJVP or the SLFP.

While Mr. Collure was clearly trying to underplay any rift, Mr. Gunawardena was apparently trying to evade questions or avoid the issue. When The Sunday Times contacted Mr. Gunawardena he told us to fax the questions to his wife. That was done, but he later said he was going overseas and would respond when he returned.

The dispute revolves round two party members, H. H. Sarath and H. K. D. Chandrasoma, known to be close friends of the Minister. According to Mr. Collure these two candidates of the Minister had recently held a secret meeting in Colombo to decide on a candidate from Avissawella for the Western Provincial Council Elections.

Mr. Collure said "there is no serious division among us on this issue, as it has been made out. Mr. Gunewardene is still a respected member of the party's policy making Politburo. Mr. Sarath and Mr. Chandrasoma met secretly without the permission of the District Committee of the party to decide on their own to field a member from Avissawella for the Western Province, while the Party had selected Sumedha Almeida, Chairman of the Sitawaka Pradeshiya Sabba in Avissawella. Explaining what had happened after that Mr. Collure said "as a matter of principle Mr. Sarath and Mr. Chandra had been suspended from the party and disciplinary action would be taken against them.

I must make it clear that disciplinary action will be taken by the District Committee and not the Central Committee.

I as General Secretary and the Central Committee have nothing to do with it. So Mr. Gunawardena need not take umbrage over the business of Mr. Sarath and Mr. Chandrasoma".

Asked about reports that Mr. Gunewardena had been offered the leadership of the Deshapremi Janata Vimukthi Peramuna which is a PA affiliated splinter group of the JVP Mr. Collure said, we have had no such information.

"There is talk also that he might join the S.L.F.P since he is in the Cabinet. But these are baselss political conjectures. We have no major divisions within our Party.

"It is all much to do about little and some political parties are trying to blow up all this.

"Mr. Gunewardena is still and always will. I am sure be a loyal member of the CP'.

Despite Mr. Collure's denial, political observers say the rift goes beyond disputes over a nomination from the Gunawardena family home base of Avissawella.

During the past few months, Mr. Gunawardena has been accused of subscribing to PA Government capitalist policies in many areas, including Housing. Some CP members feel current policy regarding thousands of Government Flats run contrary to the vision of CP leader Pieter Keuneman who pioneered the low rent housing schemes for the poor and middle classes.

BASL chief on our lead story

Romesh de Silva P.C. has written the following letter with regard to last week's Sunday Times lead story headlined "Bar Association backs judge to sue AG".

"I write to inform you that the said headline and some of the contents of the article of September, 20 which refer to the views and decisions of the BASL are inaccurate.

"I will be thankful if, in future, you would verify the accuracy of all news items referring to the official views and decisions of the BASL prior to publication, from either the Secretary or the President.

"I am confident that you will publish the letter with adequate prominence.

Our Legal Correspondent adds Mr. de Silva does not say which parts of his report are wrong.

In response to his letter the Sunday Times asked Mr. de Silva "Is the Bar Association of Sri Lanka backing the Judge to sue the Attorney General or not ?

"Has the BASL decided to fully support the Judge's fundamental rights petition or not ?

"Following an Executive Committee decision of the BASL, did you as its President invite Mr Ranjit Abeysuriya, to file papers on behalf of the Judge?"

Mr. de Silva, however, has not answered these questions.

The Sunday Times stands not only by the headline but also the story.

Give us fresh air

By K.M Weeraratne

Accusing the Environment Minister of doing precious little to combat air pollution in Colombo and the suburbs, a top environmental lawyer has petitioned the Supreme Court, stating that the people's right to breathe fresh air has been violated.

The petitioner, Lalanath de Silva, has cited Environment Minister Nandimithra Ekanayake and the Attorney General as respondents in the fundamental rights case, accusing them of violating the fundamental right of the people to breathe air of reasonable quality. Mr. de Silva states that chapters 3 and 4 of the Constitution recognise the right to life as a fundamental right and that the Supreme Court has ample power to grant redress under Article 126 for violation of this fundamental right.

He also says the right to life also includes a right to an environment adequate for such life and further includes a right to breathe air of reasonable quality that support such life.

Mr. de Silva says the minister has an obligation in law to ensure, through the appropriate exercise of his powers under the law, that the quality of air in Colombo is maintained at levels that are adequate for him and other members of the public to lead a healthy life.

He states that he had written to the minister, asking him to exercise his ministerial powers to enact air emission standards but the minister had not even extended the courtesy of an acknowledgement to his letter.

"The minister has failed to enact the air pollution standards thereby allowing the air quality in the city of Colombo to continue to deteriorate due to increasing vehicular emissions and has thereby through administrative and executive inaction violated the fundamental right to health and life," Mr. de Silva alleges.

He is seeking leave to proceed with this case relating to the violation of right to life and a declaration by court that the minister has by his failure to enact regulations fixing all and/or any one of the following standards, violated the petitioners fundamental right to life (i) mobile air emission standards, (ii) fuel standards and (iii) specifications standard for import of vehicles.

School closed as SWRD is commemorated

By D.B Liyanarachchige

While the country commemorated the 39th anniversary of the death of S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike, the leading Gampaha school named after him lies shut down in turmoil after students demonstrated against alleged maladministration and sabotage by the school authorities.

Gampaha's Bandaranaike Maha Vidyalaya - with some 4,500 students on roll and regarded as a leading school in the District - was closed last week after demonstrations by students.

Zonal Director of Education, Gampaha, A.J.Y. Sirisena, said that schools had been closed last Monday after the students' complaint.

Mr. Sirisena said a meeting took place on Friday, which comprised staff members, parents, members of the Past Pupils Association, the Gampaha District MP Lionel Goonewardene, representatives from the Ministry of Education and Higher Education and student representatives.

He said a request had been made to the ministry to look into the matter, and they are awaiting the results.

In a letter to parents and people of the area the students front has accused senior staff members of being responsible for a gradual deterioration in the standard of education, discipline and sports. They have appealed to parents to support them in saving the school which is the treasure that belongs to the whole of the historic Siyane korale and not the property of any self seeking politically motivated elements.

Explaining reasons for the students right to strike, which began on September 18, the front said, the action was taken as the students felt the school was gradually being taken on a course of destruction. They said some of these destructive acts had been outlined and exposed at the School Development Committee meetings at the end of last year and beginning of this year.

They demanded the removal of senior staff members who are allegedly acting against the interest of the school, but said no action was taken. In the letter the students have named the staff members who, they feel are responsible for misuse or abuse of power and irresponsibility.

They claimed that some staff members had false educational certificates and false degree certificates with political backing. For the past few years those teachers had been neglecting classes, creating disputes and trouble among the teaching staff, they said.

Students alleged some sports had been dropped while others were run down because some staffers favoured areas where they had personal interest. The Japanese scholarship scheme and Japanese language classes were cancelled arbitrarily, the front alleged.

ERD projects hit by dispute

By Ayesha R. Raifq

A top officer of the Finance Ministry's External Resources Division (ERD) has been moved out, amidst controversy and allegation over the collapse of a massive tender for a project to rehabilitate hospitals.

B.H. Passeperuma, director in charge of dealings with the east, including Korea, had headed a team which negotiated the tender under a Korean Aid loan of US$ 8 million from the Economic Development Co-operation Fund (EDCF).

The tender was initially awarded to Kabool Construction Ltd., but the Exim Bank of Korea refused to agree on the basis that Kabool in Korea was insolvent, The Sunday Times learns.

Following this, Mr. Passeperuma had reportedly written to the EXIM bank, saying the committee would negotiate with the second lowest bidder, Keangnam Enterprises Ltd.

It was in these circumstances that Mr. Passeperuma, who had served in the ERD for 18 years, was transferred to the Ministry of Plan Implementation as a director of district development.

Some officials in the ERD however say Mr. Passeperuma's transfer is a routine one, but other sources claim it is linked to the tender dispute.

The project was intended to include the construction of new buildings in the Negombo, Gampaha and Kalubowila hospitals, and a training facility at Kalubowila .

Due to the delay caused in the tender the Kalubowila hospital was taken off the plan, and the original Korean loan of US$12.6 million was cut down to US$ 8 million, with the government having to fork out the rest of the money, it is learnt.

A.B. Sosa, Director of Kabool Lanka, said they had already started clearing the ground for the work, when the Ministry of Health had suddenly asked them to stop.

SEP says thank you to Amnesty

The Socialist Equality Party (SEP) has thanked the Amensty International for its help in getting three of its five members released after they were abducted by the LTTE in Kilinochchi recently.

A party spokesman in Colombo said the released partymen had written to them saying they were neither tortured nor harmed by their captors.

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