18th October 1998
In a week of escalating political violence with opposition meetings disrupted, vehicles burnt and organisers assaulted, The Sunday Times talks to Srimanie Wickramasinha, UNP Provincial Council candidate for Gampaha District.
Q. It has been widely reported that a meeting of the UNP in Attanagalla was disrupted, were you personally attacked?
A. Yes. I was assaulted and threatened with death if I continue politics in Attanagalle. Microphones were broken, the stage, amplifiers and other equipment, wrecked. These belonged to local small business people. Damage was estimated at Rs 50,000.
Q. Were you able to identify the attackers and inform the Police?
A. Yes. Names were furnished to Gampaha Police as the local station -Nittambuwa- was strangely inactive. The thugs arrived in a bus, led by three tinted glass pajeros. You can imagine why the attack was executed with such impunity!
Q. What are your comments on the incident?
A. Attanagalla is an electorate that sent the world's first woman Prime Minister to Parliament and women are assaulted! In an electorate that was represented by a great liberal, SWRD Bandaranaike, basic democratic tenets -the right of assembly and free speech- are violated and obstructed. It is a disgrace! Goons claiming to represent those in authority should be brought to justice without fear or favour.
Q. Do you see a solution to political violence?
A. I do not agree with the view that it is endemic and that we have to live with it. This is a Buddhist country. Feelings of love and kindness abound. Look around on a Poya Day, observe neighborliness on Sinhala and Tamil New Year's Day. One can set examples. This is a purely personal view. Parliamentarians, both government and opposition, interact well, socially. Let this camaraderie be visible via functions, at electorate level. It will defuse tensions on the ground. After all, one has opponents only at elections. They are not all time foes to be hooted or assaulted on sight!
Q. These incidents apart, what problems do you encounter in your normal political work?
A. As you would expect, the main difficulty is jobs. I feel political patronage in government employment should be reduced and eventually eliminated. The independent public service and police commissions that the UNP is agitating for, will take this process further.
Also, privatisation, started by the UNP, will see managers looking for viability and profit. Over manning with political appointments will cease. The village areas have much potential, for example, in handicrafts. They need funding and marketing assistance.
CID detectives rummaged through records and checking computers at the J.R. Jayewardene Centre at Dharmapala Mawatha in Colombo yesterday after reports that access to Internet porn sites using Minister Mangala Samaraweera's credit card had been made from there.
CID sources said the trail led to the Jayewardena Centre after 'technical evidence' obtained from the US Federal Bureau of Investigation and Interpol. CID officials went through records and checked the computers at the Jayewardene Centre for at least six hours yesterday. They said that several employees at the Centre would be questioned in connection with the racket.
US and Interpol investigators had revealed that the credit card of the Minister had been misused on May 12 to access five pornographic sites, the CID sources said. The computer section in the Jayewardene Centre is headed by Pradeep Jayewardene — a grandson of the late President. However he was reported to be out of the country.
Lak Wanitha Movement,-women's wing of the UNP will take to the streets on Wednesday to protest against the escalation of alleged PA- perpetrated violence against female politicians, a spokeswoman said.
Women's wing leader and NuwaraEliya district parliamentarian Renuka Herath said they would not disclose the location of the protest meeting Unwilling to disclose the exact location to stage the protest meeting because they feared another attack. But she hinted it might be close to the powers that be.
"It is a tragi -comedy enacted by the PA which was voted to end violence and give dignity back to women- all on a platter by a female president and a prime minister. The reality is for the first time, female politicians have to face the ugly side of it," she said.
The attacks on UNP meetings took place at Attanagalle and Eppawala last weekend.
The UNP's Eppawala organiser Kumari Disanayake said she had been threatened with assault and her pajero was set on fire while she was preparing for meetings to protest against the postponement of provincial elections.
Three spectacular flashes of light from the Blessed Sacrament, one clearly imprinting the face of the Blessed Virgin Mary with stars around her, were seen at the Rawatawatta Catholic Church where the mysterious vision on the wall has been drawing thousands of devotees the past two months.
The parish priest of the Queen of Angels Church in Rawatawatta and several members of the Church community said the three brilliant flashes took place during a three-hour adoration of the Blessed Sacrament last Friday October 16 exactly two months after the apparition began on August 16.
Parishioner Monica Alles told The Sunday Times she and a group of others were praying in the Church during the special three-hour adoration when they saw the mysterious flashes from the Blessed Sacrament exposed on the altar. She said one of the flashes went directly to the already existing vision on the wall and they clearly saw the face of the Blessed Virgin.
She said the spectacular flashes of multicoloured light were emitted around 3.30 p.m., then around 3.45 and again at 5.30 p.m. When Holy Mass began at 6 p.m. that day the Parish Priest Fr. Edward Revel told the congregation about the new revelation and called for more intense prayer.
The Free Media Movement(FMM) has justified its actions in expelling Lucien Rajakarunanayake from the organisation.
Among the allegations levelled against Mr. Rajakarunanayake is that he nominated himself for the annual meeting of the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEE) in Paris in May 1998 without even informing the FMM that an invitation had been sent.
Through an exchange of e-mails back and forth between the FMM and the International Freedom of Expression Exchange(IFEE) it has been proved that Mr. Rajakarunanayake had sponsored the cause of another organisation Prajathanthra of which he was the Convenor even though he was aware that the FMM had refused to be connected in any way to this new project.
"The FMM does not and has never had any dealings with 'Prajathanthra' which to our knowledge is an organisation set up by Mr. Rajakarunanayake with four of his friends," reads an e-mail addressed to Mr. Wayne Sharpe, IFEE Outreach Prog: Funding from officials of the FMM.
The e-mail further states that "the EXCO of the FMM in mid 1997 categorically refused a request from Mr. Rajakarunanayake to issue a letter recommending this organisation to funders."
'Yet, interestingly Mr. Rajakarunanayake had the confidence to write to Isabelle Patanaude of the IFEE Outreach Program requesting funding, stating "Although the Project is to be carried out by 'Prajathanthra', it has the full endorsement of the Free Media Movement - Sri Lanka."
By Roshan Peiris
One of Sri Lanka's tallest buildings ,the luxury Star Tower is shaking over a massive 100% hike in rents.
Urban Development Authority Chief Nimal de Silva is justifying the rent increase saying it brings the rents for the 20 offices or apartment complexes in line with current values in lands and buildings.
Prof de Silva himself an architect said the rent hikes had been recommended by a Government valuation committee and the UDA was doing everything possible to provide the best facilities to the Star Tower offices.
He said two more lifts had been installed after one person died recently of suffocation in a lift. But owners of offices rejected the claims of the UDA chief. They claimed the complex lacked parking space and other facilities while the UDA appeared to be interested mainly in the rental. Prof. de Silva said the UDA was sensitive to the needs of the tenants and was ready to discuss any problem with them. He pointed out that seven Star Tower offices which were vacant had been snapped up within a week. There would not have been such a rush and demand if the facilities were not good, he said.
A rent hike has also been imposed on offices at the Lady Lochore building in the Fort. This building is run by a semi-government trust and private companies having offices in it say the hike is unjustified because basic facilities such as parking have not been provided and renovations not done properly.
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