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21st March 1999
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Road divided over Vipassi

Model Farm Road once housed a thriving dairy farm on which more than 300 families depended for their livelihood.

With time the sections of the land were sold and development took place in this hamlet. Although the farm does not exist any more many of the residents still live a kind of a rural life though Borella is in the heart of Colombo city.

Ven. Pelpola VipassiThe controversy over the renaming of Model Farm Road to Ven. Pelpola Vipassi Himi Mawatha led to much protest by some residents. But strangely they were compelled to accept this name change. The only role the residents played was when they received invitations for the grand renaming ceremony on March 6.

Despite their vehement protest a few weeks ago, now the residents prefer to keep mum on the matter. This was evident when The Sunday Times visited the area on Friday. 

Many of the residents said they were unhappy about the renaming but refused to go into detail. They also said they wished to remain anonymous.

A resident of 35 years said the Ven Vipassi had a powerful political backing whatever government was in office.

"The residents also receive money. The monk has also donated large sums of money to various charities. Recently he donated millions to the Vijaya Memorial Hospital in Seeduwa. He has done a lot for the area. The free Nursery in the temple premise is a benefit to these poor residents," he said.

It is learnt that some youth in the area were among those who strongly opposed the change of name. A group of youth whom The Sunday Times met in the area said they had agitated but now that the renaming was done they had given up the fight. 

However different sentiments were expressed by those living in the vicinity of the temple. They said they were grateful to Ven Vipassi who generously donated money to every one, and never kept a 'Bank Account'. 

An institution funded by the Ven Vipassi had already changed it's name board to incorporate the name change.

Right of reply

Colombo's Deputy Mayor Omar Kamil writes:

I write to you with reference to your editorial 'The Name Game' in The Sunday Time of March 14.

This article refers to Mayor Karu Jayasuriya being associated with the renaming of Model Farm Road to Ven Pelpola Vipassi Mawatha. The article continues to make incorrect reference to the Mayor by stating.

* "He has not only consented but also been associated actively with act of renaming."

* "Now the Ven Pelpola Vipassi, bless him is still in the land of the living, but that doesn't deter the Mayor from naming a road after the Ven.'

* "We hope that the Mayor does not have secret a yen for Mahayanisim deep within his grain."

I would like to place the following facts so that the Editor and the Public would be aware of the manner in which the road was renamed.

The process of renaming originated when a letter was addressed to the Municipal Commissioner by the Commissioner of Local Government (CLG) in February 1984. In this letter, the CLG had forwarded a letter addressed to the then Prime Minister requesting the renaming of this road. This request was placed before the various committees, objections called from residents, and placed before the General Council in March, 1985. It was recommended by the Council. There after the then Municipal Commission wrote to the Additional Secretary, Ministry of Housing and Construction by letter dated 7th May 1985 informing the step taken and seeking necessary instructions. The approval of the Minister is necessary for implementation. There was no reply.

While there was a delay in this implementation a circular was issued to all Heads of local authorities by the Commissioner of Local Government. In this circular instructions were given that no road names should be changed to any name of a person, if the said person is living.

The Municipal Commissioner, then wrote to the Commissioner of Local Government by letter dated 6th January 1997 prior to the election of the Mayor Karu Jayasuriya who assumed office on April 15, 1997 informing him of the proposal to rename Model Farm Road to Ven. Pelpola Vipassi Mawatha and quoting the above circular that renaming of streets of people living will not be considered.

The Commissioner of Local Government by letter dated 17th December, 1997 stated that he has obtained the approval of the Minister of Local Government, Western Province to rename the said road. The Municipal Commissioner was instructed to take necessary action accordingly.

It would be thus evident that the act of renaming this road was approved in 1985 by the Council long before Mr. Jayasuriya assumed office as Mayor. Renaming cannot be carried out by the Colombo Municipal Council until and unless the Minister in charge of Local Government in the Western Provincial Council grants his consent. The instructions prohibiting the naming of a road in the name of the living was in fact a directive of the Commissioner of Local Government. And in this particular instance it was strange that he himself obtained the approval of the Minister of Local Government of the Western Province to deviate from this own directive. It is indeed a regret that such prominence, an editorial has been written so critical of an individual, without determining the facts. Mr. Jayasuriya is a person of known integrity and he needs no secret yens for the faith he professes.

It may also be stated that Ministers G.L. Peiris and Jeyaraj Fernandopulle and former Chief Minister Susil Permjayanth were also associated at this ceremony.

Omar Kamil
Deputy Mayor Colombo

Editor's note

Colombo's Deputy Mayor Omar Kamil, writing for and on behalf of the CMC and his Worship the Mayor has shed more light on how Model Farm Road situated by the capital's General Cemetery and the Royal Colombo Golf Club was renamed recently "Ven. Pelpola Vipassi Himi Mawatha".

And it appears that for the first time a road in Sri Lanka has been named in the Japanese language. Not even the Sri Lanka Japan Friendship Road has given the Japanese language that honour.

His letter shows how clearly at odds a municipality can be with a Provincial Council; how a circular issued by a Commissioner of Local Government giving the criteria for naming streets can be flouted by another Commissioner of Local Government; what a mismatch the current Local Government system is and how ridiculously absurd the conduct of government and politics - at all levels has become. 

Here is a road renamed after a Buddhist monk who gave up his saffron robes (see pictures) and donned them again at his will and pleasure, one who tried to bring in the Mahayana sect of Buddhism to Sri Lanka to the utter horror and howls of protest of Buddhist clergy and lay persons alike, and yet we see elected representatives like the Mayor of Colombo, the former Chief Minister of the Western Province and cabinet ministers elected and on the national list pay homage across the political - ethnic - religious divide to this "Himi". While the Deputy Mayor tries to disassociate the CMC and the Mayor, the Mayor by his very presence at the unveiling ceremony of the new street name has very much associated himself in the process his deputy tries to distance him from. 

The fact that the Mayor is the main opposition's chief ministerial candidate of the Western Provincial Council and also the fact that the government's chief ministerial candidate was present along with other cabinet ministers at this ceremony honouring this "Himi" only gives greater credence to that growing disenchantment in the political firmament today and also to that slogan that is reverberating throughout the country "unuth ekai - munuth ekai". God Save Buddhism in this Dhammadvipa.

Local polls in east soon

Elections to local bodies in the Eastern Province are likely to be held soon.

Local Government Minister Alavi Mowlana told The Sunday Times discussions were underway with political parties and officials and he would put it for a cabinet decision soon.

The terms of the municipal, urban councils and pradeshiya sabhas in the Batticaloa, Trincomalee and Ampara districts have been extended until now under emergency regulations. 

Campaigning on TV, radio okayed 

By Dilrukshi Handunnetti
In a bid to minimize confrontational politics, the all-party election monitoring committee has given the green light for national TV and radio campaigns. 

Accordingly, when the APC met on Wednesday, it was decided that all contesting parties should be allowed both air and TV time on an equal basis, party sources said. 

Despite agreement on this and other matters, the APC hangs on a precarious balance with the UNP and the JVP threatening to pull out in the event of the government not taking adequate steps to curb mounting election related violence. JVP spokesman Wimal Weerawansa charged that party members were taking a merciless battering by PA goon squads. 

"Our North Central Province candidate Ranaweera Pathirana was grievously hurt in Eppawela on Thursday, the day after the APC meeting. Violence is continuing and democracy is at stake. We are terribly worried. We have no goon squads because we are not at war with each other over the manapes," he said.

Meanwhile, the UNP which submitted a resolution to parliament proposing additional powers to the election commissioner has taken the matter to the APC amidst reports that the PA is not keen to discuss the matter in parliament at this stage. 

In another move, hired labourers under police protection yesterday began removing posters, banners and cutouts. 

President Kumaratunga has directed the police that in cases where the offensive material cannot be torn down they should at least be tarred.

The UNP also has sent fresh orders to party members to remove all posters and banners, warning them that failure to comply would be treated as a violation of party discipline.

Poll postman coming today

By Shelani de Silva
A special mail service will take place in all parts of the country today to deliver poll cards to registered voters.

Deputy Post Master General K A S Senadeera told The Sunday Times the poll cards had been sorted out in post offices all over the country and everything was set for the special delivery. 

He said the Postal Department was concerned about security after some incidents in Wayamba and had asked for special police protection both at post offices and during delivery, especially in some vulnerable areas. 

Mr. Senadeera said police had not yet given a clear response to the request for security but he hoped there would be no major problems. He said that any voters who did not receive their poll cards could collect them by calling over at the post office with their identity cards. 

Election card sets April 1 for poll

By Faraza Farook
Many voters were puzzled when they received the poll cards stating the election date as April 1 instead of the new date April 6. 

Many who received their poll card for the upcoming Provincial elections, wondered if someone was taking them for a ride.

"Although the poll card states the date as April 1, an official announcement has been made about the new date. The cards carry the date fixed earlier because they were printed before the new date for the polls was fixed," Assistant Elections Commissioner A.G. Dharmadasa said. 

He said printing and delivery of new cards would take time and labour and cost money. The department cannot incur expenses twice for one election," he said. 

Removal of poll posters begins

By Tissa Liyanage
Labourers backed by Police teams began removing election posters in the five provinces from early yesterday in keeping with a decision of the all-party monitoring committee.

Reports from the five provinces said the removal of posters and cutouts was in full swing by last afternoon and the exercise is expected to continue for the next couple of days.

"The only obstacle is the adequate manpower to tear down the offensive material," an Elections Department official said. 

Armed police teams were seen providing protection for the labourers removing posters.

The Moratuwa Police said they started the poster removal early yesterday and it was going on very smoothly with police protection for the labourers.

Anuradhapura Senior Superintendent Mahinda Beddewela told 'The Sunday Times' it was difficult to remove some of the posters as they had been pasted with a strong adhesive. 

'However almost half our work is now over," he said. 

DIG, Western Province (North), N.K. Illangakoon said that they did not face any obstacles in removing the posters.

Bandarawela Police Inspector Jagath Seneviratne said up to yesterday afternoon he had not been able to obtain labourers from the Assistant Government Agent's office and that the AGA. wanted him to obtain them through the grama miladharis. 

Repoll in rigged booths

By Chamintha Thilakarathna
The all-party election monitoring committee is considering proposals for a cancellation of the poll and a re-poll in any booth where rigging or intimidation takes place on a large scale.

Party sources said they had also proposed that every polling booth be given a mobile phone and a messenger with a motorcycle so that the senior presiding officer could immediately get in touch with the commissioner of election or the police in case of trouble. Some parties pointed out that the proposal to cancel the poll upon complaints in a particular booth could be misused. 

They said one party which felt the voting trends at a particular booth were going in favour of another could create trouble to get the voting cancelled. 

These and other proposals are to be taken at the next meeting of the monitoring committee on Thursday but opposition parties are uncertain or sceptical about what would or could be implemented. 

They said the decision to remove all posters, banners and cutouts were taken more than two weeks ago, but implementation was painfully slow. 

Among the other proposals were the confiscation of weapons and to arrest any person with weapons in their possession in or around a polling booth. It is also proposed that ministers and other politicians be prevented from entering polling booths except to vote. 

One list tops 500 but the other is 50

More than 500 election related incidents have been recorded from all five provinces, with the Central Province topping the list, a polls monitor said.

According to the Centre for Monitoring Election Violence, 542 incidents were reported by Friday. More than 250 complaints are against the ruling PA while about 150 are against the main opposition UNP. But in the Uva, most of the complaints are against the UNP. The North Central and Sabaragamuwa provinces appeared to be relatively better than others with the total number of incidents being less than 100.

Though the CMEV figure topped 500 mark, the other monitoring body, the People Action Front for Free and Fair Election gave a much lower figure. 

PAFFREL Executive Director Kingsley Rodrigo told The Sunday Times their figure was less than 50 but they had covered only major incidents which were confirmed by the police. 

He said they would meet party representatives at provincial and district levels along with religious dignitaries to discuss further measures to ensure a peaceful poll.

UNP pledges policy battle

UNP has pledged to focus its election campaign on policy matters and issues rather than personal attacks.

General Secretary Gamini Atukorale said the corruption and threats to democracy along with other broken promises of the government would be highlighted at party rallies.

He said the UNP would present an 'Agenda for Democracy'- telling the people about the Wayamba fraud and what the UNP saw as the inability of the government to govern. 

He said that despite violence the UNP would attend meetings of the all-party monitoring committee because it wanted to usher in a better era where the sovereign people could express their free will.

Peoples Alliance sets up its own watch dog

Battered by the mass vote rigging and violence of Wayamba, the ruling People's Alliance has set up a polls watch body to control party members. 

The body headed by well known lawyer Aloy Ratnayake, now chairman of Lake House, would look into complaints against any PA members, according to S. Sooriyarachchi, a spokesperson for the body. 

He said Media Minister Mangala Samaraweera would coordinate the work and initiate action against any culprits, while major incidents would be referred directly to President Kumaratunga. 

He said the polls watch operating from a central office would have units in all provinces and complaints would be entertained even from members of other parties. 

Who is this terror gang?

Soon after The Sunday Times highlighted the two -hour ordeal of a mother and daughter at the hands of a robber gang in Talahena, a similar robbery is reported from Nugegoda by a gang who used the same technique.

The family affected by the latest attack contacted The Sunday Times and gave all the horrifying details in the public interest but they wanted to remain anonymous for fear of repercussions.

This time the scene of the crime was a house in Kandawatte where a couple lived with their children aged nine and eleven.

On that fateful night Nimali had gone to bed around 10 p.m. with her children, her husband having gone out for a dinner. 

As in the Talahena case, Nimali had been woken up by a sound she heard around 1. 30 a.m.

She thought it was her husband, but suddenly a powerful torch was flashed on her face. When she opened her eyes, she saw two men and as she screamed, they warned her that six others had surrounded the house. It was frighteningly similar to the Talahena incident.

According to Nimali, the gang threatened to burn down the house if she screamed. 

"One armed man warned me not to switch on any light and demanded all the jewellery," she said.

She gave her earrings. But they insisted on more and ransacked the wardrobes and cabinets. They asked why an apparently rich family with vehicles and a big house did not have lots of money and jewellery. Nimali pleaded she had nothing more and told them her husband had gone out for dinner. They then told her they would wait till 4. 30 a.m. and again warned of what would happen if she tried to get help. The men then went to the children's room and started breaking open the cupboards but found nothing. The younger child woke up and realising that something was wrong, pretended to be asleep. 

As the agonising minutes of a night of terror dragged on, Nimali heard the sound of her husband's vehicle. Fortunately, he had come home earlier than expected. Her husband, first went downstairs to the kitchen to get a drink. 

The men waited upstairs for him. But they got impatient and told Nimali to go down while they followed her. 

The men then grabbed her husband and demanded any gold or cash he had. 

They said they wanted Rs. 200,000 to fight the LTTE. Again similar to the Talahena drama.

Nimali said her husband gave whatever he had but the gang was selective and returned a bracelet which they believed was made of copper. Eventually, the gang searched and got cash and jewellery valued around Rs. 50,000. Before leaving they told the family not to move for half an hour. 

It was a night of horror, as they stood before the fires of hell with death in sight. Who will be the next victim of this mysterious terror gang and from what purpose are they collecting funds? 

From where did they get the high-powered torch which is generally available only to top security networks? Mirihana Police told The Sunday Times they were carrying out investigations but as usual could say nothing more. 

WB proposes water trade for farmers

A World Bank study has recommended a water management system under which farmers will be able to sell excess water to those who require it more.

The new system which allows farmers to sell their tradable water entitlements to other farmers, is being proposed as an efficient water management system. 

Farmers who will be allocated water entitlements free of charge depending on their requirements will be encouraged to use water resources efficiently and sell the saved water.

The scheme is also envisaged as being an encouragement to water conservation efforts, as users would conserve water more carefully to enable them to sell the remaining water.The report has pointed out that the present system is inefficient and fails to protect the poor and the environment. 

"The current system of water allocation has dearly cost the country in terms of both environmental degradation and missed opportunities for growth," says the World Bank study which was undertaken on a request made by the government. 

The study says the present system discourages water-intensive agriculture activities as there is uncertainty as to water supplies. 

The study has however recognized that if the scheme is to be implemented, water users associations should be formed and strengthened.

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