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28th February 1999

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Wayamba's strip suspects identified

By Hiranthi Fernando

After public outrage and the intervention of the President herself, two suspects named in the stripping cases at Katupotha and Wariyapola were identified by witnesses and remanded by the Wariyapola magistrate on Friday.

The Katupotha and Wariyapola Police stations had failed to track down the suspects even a month after the incidents during the controversial Wayamba election campaign. On February 19, a special team headed by Kuliyapitya Police Superintendent Gamini Amarakoon was detailed to investigate the case, on the instructions of the President. Next morning, the suspects Nalin Sujanaka Perera, amember of the Pradeshiya Sabha, and Loku Balasuriyage Lal Padmasiri alias Kasippu Lal — were arrested at their homes in Pubbowa and Maspotha.

They were produced before the Magistrate and remanded until an identification parade was hed on Friday.

A large number of people, including Chief Minister Sarath Nawinna, gathered outside the Wariyapola Courthouse on Friday. Among them were supporters of the suspects, particularly Mr. Perera.

Leaflets of the SLFP Youth League, protesting against his arrest were distributed to the crowd. Although permission for photographing ouside the courtroom was obtained from the court registrar, The Sunday Times photographer was threatened by some persons in the gathering when he attempted to take photographs. Posters in support of Mr. Perera and against some sections of the media for highlighting the cases, were also seen at the roundabout in Wariyapola town.

After the cases were called, the suspects, covered from head to foot, were taken from a prison bus and led to the Judge's chambers where the identification parade was held. Six witnesses were taken into the chambers, one at a time, to identify the suspects. Each witness had identified one or both of the suspects. After the parade the suspects, now, were put in the dock, visible to all.

Counsel for the suspects sought bail for them and Katupotha Police said they had no objection. But lawyers for the complainants, Chandra Rekawa and Nalin Dissanayake, raised strong objections, claiming that the suspects would interfere with the witnesses and commit further offences while out on bail.

Magistrate K. Ranaweera, remanded the suspects till March 11.Counsel for the complainants further stated that they had no confidence in the Katupotha Police due to their failure to arrest the suspects for over one month, while the Kuliyapitiya Police were able to locate them. They requested that the case be handed over to the CID for investigation.

Regarding the attack and attempted stripping of the 17 year old schoolgirl at Minuwangette, the Wariyapola Police seem to have made no headway. Although several other suspects have been named by the victim, in addition to Nalin Perera and Lal Padmasiri, no arrests have been made so far.

Vipassi road stirs row

Despite a 1987 rule that roads can only be named after dead persons, the Colombo Municipal Council has decided to rename Model Farm Road in Borella as Ven. Pelpola Vipassi Himi Mawatha, allegedly because of political pressure.

Invitations have already been sent out by Municipal Commissioner M.A.V. Perera for the renaming ceremony on March 6, despite objections. Sirimavo Bandaranaike Mawatha is known to be the only exception to the 1987 rule.

Objections were raised by Theravada Mahanayakes when Ven. Pelpola Vipassi wished to return to Sri Lanka in the early '90s, after he became a Mahayana monk.

Ven. Hedigalle Pannaseeha Thera condemned the move and said, "These are all meaningless things."

Colombo's Deputy Mayor Omar Kamil said it had been decided to rename the road after many requests by residents of the area since 1984.

"A motion had been passed and approved by the council after having called for objections and forwarded it to the Local Government Ministry," he said.

Mr. Kamil said, "In 1997 there was a further request to rename the road and accordingly the Provincial Council minister approved this".

Western Province chief ministerial candidate Susil Premjayanth said," Ven. Pelpola Vipassi is popular among the residents of the area having developed the area and helped them in many ways.

The Sunday Times learns that despite being aware of the fact that there was a violation of a rule, the pressure from political higher-ups has forced the council to implement the change.

Another jump hits JSC

Legal circles are abuzz with attempts by the government to jump the normal procedures once again, this time in appointing a certain judge allegedly with SLFP connections, above 16 other senior judges, as Secretary of the Judicial Services Commission.

The position fell vacant with Dhammika Kithulgoda assuming duties as secretary general of parliament last week in another controversy which resulted in an abrupt adjournment of parliamentary sititngs on Tuesday.

The main opposition UNP which is opposing Mr. Kitulgoda's appointment as secretary general has also vowed to oppose the appointement of a junior judge as JSC secretary.

UNP urges Supreme Court to cancel Wayamba poll

By Ayesha R. Rafiq

The main oposition UNP has petitioned the Supreme Court, asking it to declare the newly-elected Wayamba election null and void on the basis of widespread vote rigging and violence.

The petition, citing several instances of violence and intimidation has named the elections commissioner, attorney general and general secretaries of the contesting parties among others, as respondents.

The party has outlined incidents of death threats, physical assault, abduction and ballot stuffing and obstruction of voters.

It said that by these actions the fundamental rights of the province's voters to equal protection of the law, freedom to campaign for the political party of their choice and their freedom of speech and action among others, had been violated.

The UNP has also asked the Supreme Court to direct the elections commissioner to hold fresh elections to Wayamba.

LTTE says: no courts

The LTTE has threatened that action would be taken if courts in Jaffna do not obey its orders to close until further notice, reports said.

Courts in Jaffna did not function on Friday.

Earlier Jaffna courts were closed for four months after the LTTE issued a similar threat.

Printers wounded in poll poster war

By Shelani de Silva

As the poster war hots up in the runup to the elections in five provinces, a major casualty was the printing press owners who say that many politicians treat payments due to them like election promises.

It is generally believed that printing press owners are minting money with the campaign gathering momentum but many press owners told The Sunday Times they were reluctant to accept orders because past experience had shown that most politicians did not honour payments due to them.

A printer from Maradana said many politicians did not even pay the 50 perecent advance required to start printing. 'The usual sum is around Rs.50,000 but they pay only about Rs.1000 as an advance.

At times they even collect the posters and promise to pay the balance but that is the last time they come to us. We know who the people are but we just cannot demand the money. After all they are politicians," he said.

According to printers, the average order they receive is for 20,000 posters, which are printed and delivered within a day. A poster will cost around 12 rupees, depending on the amount of colour work.

The State Printing Corporation which also undertakes commercial orders says it has not received any orders for election posters.

SPC Vice Chairman Malalgoda Banduthilake said most of the candidates preferred to get the work done by other printers because the SPC charges were high.

Despite printers showing lack of enthusiasm to accept orders, every day new posters spring up, defacing walls of private and public places.

A candidate allocates about Rs. 2 million for posters, The Sunday Times learns.

Many political leaders believe the poster war is part of the campaign. JVP spokesperson Wimal Weerawansa said the party could not refrain from taking part in the poster war, but added that they will concentrate on other avenues such as leaflets and the print and electronic media.

MEP leader Dinesh Gunewardene said that the party would abide by the election laws and posters would be on a very low key.

Stormy weather not yet over for AirLanka

By Frederica Jansz

The partnership between AirLanka and Emirates Airlines has run into storm again with the resignation of Chief Executive Officer Andrew Gray on Monday — three days after the lightning strike by Sri Lankan pilots.

Bowing to pressure that had reached bursting point barely ten months after the hurried partnership was sealed, Mr. Gray's resignation also came in a same hurry as was the case of Chairman Harry Jayawardena in December last year.

Preparing to say his final good-byes and clearly upset, his voice heavy with emotion, Mr. Gray would only confirm that his resignation had been accepted by AirLanka.

Peter Hill, Chief Commercial Officer took over as acting CEO and now heads the airline whose troubles are far from over. In the wake of the crisis, AirLanka Managing Director Tim Clark flew into the island last week to defuse the situation.

Senior management officials at AirLanka told The Sunday Times that Mr. Gray found statements made by the Pilot's Guild against him "damning'' and could not continue working for local flight crew after he had been accused of discriminatory action.

A strike by Sri Lankan pilots on February 19, grounding almost the entire AirLanka fleet was called off only after the government stepped in and gave a guarantee that local cockpit crew would be treated as equals with their foreign counterparts. Sri Lankan pilots told The Sunday Times that the new AirLanka management had not acted in the best interests of local flying crew.

A move by AirLanka to employ 80 to 100 more expatriate pilots has run into a storm of protests by the Pilots Guild.

Mr. Gray told The Sunday Times Sri Lankan pilots had acted irresponsibly in holding the airline to ransom while some 1000 people were stranded at Katunayake.

He denied that there had been any attempt to discriminate against local cockpit crew adding that expatriate pilots were essential to facilitate expansion and a major training programme for local pilots.

As charges and counter charges continued, a report submitted to Mr. Gray, by Captain Graham Jenkins, a check pilot for Emirates Airlines, asserts that local cockpit crew are overworked while many have not taken leave for the past three years.

This report states that the flight deck procedures are sound, while AirLanka flights are well conducted with good crew co-ordination. This after all is the bottom line, he says.

Lanka – United States sign extradition treaty

Sri Lanka and the United States have concluded a new extradition treaty to replace one that existed since 1931, the Foreign Ministry announced yesterday.

A ministry statement said the negotiated text of the treaty was initialled in Washington on Wednesday by ambassador Warnasena Rasapu-tram, and U.S. State Department legal adviser David Andrews.

"The new treaty replaces the pre-independence treaty between the US and Britain signed at London on December 22, 1931, which was then applied to Ceylon," the statement said.

It said the validity of the pre-independence treaty was recently challenged in extradition proceedings in Sri Lanka.

"Even though the legal validity of this treaty was upheld by the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka, both the United States and Sri Lanka recognised the need for a new treaty for the reciprocal surrender of offenders between the two countries," the ministry said.

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