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22nd November 1998

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Not the 'neva gilunath ban chune' attitude
This is neither a war dance nor 'neva gilunath ban chune'
attitude. The occasion was the second anniversary celebrations of the SLBC's Lak Handa Radio in Vavuniya this week. A woman soldier is seen along with her male colleagues dancing to a Baila music that was part of the celebrations.
Pic. by Gongitotal Arunasiri
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George Keyt nude back here

Precious cargo in the form of a nude painting by the well-known George Keyt has left New York for Colombo and is to soon adorn a government VVIP's official residence.

This much spoken about piece of art, often inquired after by visitors, adorned the walls of Sri Lanka's Permanent Representative at the United Nations, only a couple of blocks away from the world body.

Art lovers queried successive Permanent Representatives for Sri Lanka about the man who painted it and its value.

John de Saram, Sri Lanka's current envoy, a modest and shy man, does not feel good to greet the nude when he is at his official residence. So he packed the painting and stored it in a safe place.

Perhaps the care and safety was prompted by the loss of valuable paintings at Janadhipathi Mandiraya not so long ago.

But the news of the George Keyt nude resting in a safe place reached the ears of President Chandrika Kumaratunga when she was in New York to address the UN General Assembly.

She ordered that the valuable piece of art be packed and shipped to Colombo, so it may find an appropriate place to hang.

CWC to defeat Ratnasiri's vote

By S.S. Selvanayagam

A bitter row between ministers Ratnasiri Wickramanayake and S. Thondaman reached a climax yesterday when the former accused the latter of making underhand moves to defeat his ministry votes in Parliament tomorrow.

In a sudden outburst Mr. Wickramanayake blasted Mr. Thondaman during a public meeting in Matara yesterday. He warned he would resign his portfolio if Mr. Thondaman succeeded in the plot to defeat his Plantation Industry Ministry votes during the committee stage of the budget tomorrow. He also accused Mr. Thondaman of breaking the principle of collective responsibility in the cabinet.

"I am aware of a secret campaign by the CWC to canvass the opposition including the UNP to defeat the votes of my ministry," Mr. Wickramanayake charged.

His comments came two days after a heated argument with Minister Thondaman during the weekly cabinet meeting over the allocation of land for plantation workers in the Kalutara district.

The two ministers were calmed down by their colleagues on the understanding that the matter would be taken up when President Kumaratunga presided over the next Cabinet meeting.

Mr. Wickramanayake told the Matara meeting the dispute broke out after he objected to a proposal by Mr. Thondaman that 20 perches should be distributed to each plantation family from a 60-acre coconut plantation.

He said he opposed the move because the CWC chief tried to acquire a land for a CWC member 'illegally'.

CWC Parliamentarian R. Yogarajan confirmed yesterday they had canvassed Tamil parties to vote against the Public Administration and Plantation Industry Ministry votes, but denied that UNP support had been sought.

"Our move is not connected with the land matter, but we are moving this motion in the Public Administration Ministry vote to urge the Government to implement the Tamil language policy which had been approved 11 years ago, but not properly implemented," Mr. Yogarajan said, indicating that they were challenging Mr. Wickramanayake in his capacity of Minister of Public Administration.

"CWC's aim is not to topple the Govt., but to urge the Minister to give us an assurance that the language policy will be implemented by next month," he said.

On the land matter, Mr. Yogarajan said there were 56 linerooms occupied by families of plantation workers and the government was planning to allocate only seven perches for each of the families while allocating 15 perches for non-plantation workers.

Kumar flies away: giving slip to CID

All Ceylon Tamil Congress leader Kumar Ponnambalam is reported to have left the country last Tuesday as CID detectives were reported to be preparing to grill him over alleged links to the LTTE.

The CID is said to have launched an inquiry into statements Mr. Ponnambalam had made supportive of the LTTE's political stand in recent TV chat shows.

Mr. Ponnambalam was also critical of President Chandrika Kumaratunga recently for her own TV interview in South Africa last month where she said the Tamils in Sri Lanka were not the original inhabitants of the country.

The TULF also expressed its displeasure at the Presidential pronouncement, but President Kumaratunga is reported to have told a TULF delegation recently that she was rushed by the interviewer and that she was not able to elaborate.

Collect your clothes but away went car, computer

By Our Legal Correspondent

The man who is alleged to have committed gross sexual abuse of a seven-year-old girl, which 'The Sunday Times' reported last week is now reported to have flouted the Magistrate's order.

The man who had been granted bail and refused access to his house where the victim child resided had been granted permission by the Mt. Lavinia Chief Magistrate Sarath de Abrew to collect only his clothes from his house.

He had however come armed with that order to the victim's house and taken away his car, computer and some spare parts.

The order brought to the house however mysteriously contained that he could remove the car and the computer as well, it is learnt.

In an alarming twist to the incident the man had been given an escort to his house by the Dehiwela Police. The child, her mother and the man's wife, who is the victim's aunt, live in that house.

Earlier the Chief Magistrate de Abrew had granted bail to the alleged paedophile on the basis that he had burn wounds on his back.

Subsequently the Additional Magistrate G. S. Edirisinghe had remanded the child's mother based on the police B report which stated that the mother had thrown hot water on the alleged paedophile.

The mother was however released on bail the same afternoon.

The Dehiwela police when contacted last night refused to comment on the matter.

Rs 400m worth tea in the balance

By Ruvini Jayasinghe and Mel Gunasekera

Last Thursday's Appeal Court order cancelling tea broker Asia Siyaka's licence in mid stream, blew up into a storm over the weekend, exposing all players to its harsh elements.

The order has temporarily put Asia Siyaka who holds about 16% of the trade out of business, the Tea Board in a tight spot and producers who operate via the broker in a spin.

Forbes and Walker Tea Brokers Ltd. (F&W) took their breakaway rivals Asia Siyaka to court early February, on a technical point in the Broking Licence Act even before the issuing authority licensed the new broker. Although the legal point they made remained intact, Forbes even had to revise their court application in March after Siyaka was licensed.

The Act says that licences for a calendar year have to be issued or renewed the previous year.

When Siyaka applied for the licence early this year, the Tea Board obtained a legal opinion from the Attorney General's Department before issuing the licence on February 26, 1998.

F&W in their case argued that the interpretation of a regulation framed by the Plantation Industries Minister, has been misinterpreted by both the Tea Board and the Attorney General's Department.

The basis of the legal objection is in the interpretation of a regulation gazetted by the Plantation Industries Minister in 1981, that even though the Appropriate Authority has to determine the application of a new broker within 30 days of receiving that application, the new broker cannot commence operations at any time during the year, but should apply by September to commence operation by the following January.

This means that not only is Asia Siyaka's licence for 1998 revoked, but the broker could be too late to apply for a licence for 1999, because of a slip up by the issuing authority.

Last month the Tea Board renewed all broking licences, including Asia Siyaka's for 1999.

The Appeal Court Judge U Gunawardena in making his order says that the application for a licence for 1999 has been already made. So that Siyaka will be locked out of business only for a few weeks.

But sections of the tea industry say that the cancellation of Asia Siyaka's licence for 1998 would also mean that the renewed licence for 1999 is null and void. If so, Asia Siyaka would then have to apply for a fresh licence for 1999.

In another development, The Tea Board's, Ranjith Maligaspe, in a letter dated November 2 to Additional Solicitor General, S. Marsoof states "If the verdict is unfavourable to Ms. Asia Siyaka Commodities (Pvt) Ltd., and to the Appropriate Authority under the Licencing of Produce Brokers Act, I believe that the Licence issued would get quashed. "

Tea Industry sources say Mr. Maligaspe wrote in anticipation of the worst after having renewed Asia Siyaka's licence for 1999 in October 1998. "If he was aware of the consequences why did he renew Asia Siyaka's licence for 1999?" a senior tea broker asked.

The letter goes on to explain the dire consequences the tea industry would have to face, if the licence is revoked and seeks the Additional Solicitor General's early advice in a worst case scenario.

With the Tea Board and Asia Siyaka's appeal in the Supreme Court coming up for hearing on Tuesday, the situation hangs in the balance.

Brokers prepare catalogues of tea for sale and distribute samples to prospective exporters, two weeks before the auction date.

Asia Siyaka's catalogues for the auction of November 25 and December 2nd are already distributed to exporters who, in turn ,send samples to prospective buyers overseas.

The cancellation of their licence, would stop the sale of all these teas and at current prices, blocking the sale of an estimated Rs. 400 mn worth of tea.

In the tea industry, manufacturers receive their payments from the exporters through brokers and this cancellation of licence would most likely halt these payments also.

Forbes Tea Brokers chief, Chrisantha Perera said that they are concerned about the fate of the tea already catalogued. He told 'The Sunday Times' that teas cataloged can be offered by any one of the other seven brokers if the Ceylon Tea Traders Association gives special approval.

Meanwhile, Asia Siyaka has informed tea factory owners that they are unable to sell their teas and pay them. The Private Tea Factory Owners Association with about a 100 members, says this decision means that they are in turn unable to pay the small holder green leaf suppliers.

"Our members obtain funding of upto Rs. 150 mn from Asia Siyaka to finance the purchase of green leaf from over 70,000 to 100,000 green leaf suppliers," President of the Private Tea Factory

Owners Association said.

Distraught factory owners have written to President Kumarathunge to provide an immediate solution to this problem.

Asia Siyaka CEO Ravi Kumaratne told 'The Sunday Times' last night that during the past seven months his company has sold more low grown teas every month than most other brokers, including Forbes and Walkers and said the court ruling will not deter them from fighting against "excessive clubs" in the interest of the country's tea industry

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