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21st March 1999
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The law is lax and 'Tigers' roam city: DIG

By Frederica Jansz
A senior police officer has complained that a lack of strict control on visitors from the north and east has resulted in an increase of LTTE infiltration into Colombo and suburbs.

Senior Deputy Inspector General H.M.G.B. Kotakadeniya told The Sunday Times a rule which stipulated that visitors from the north and east must register with the police did not act as a deterrent to terrorist activity in Colombo. "Once they register they can engage in any illegal activity. There are hordes of these people moving about. The situation looks hopeless," he said. 

He said there was no need for the police to arrest or harass any innocent persons. "There are plenty of Tiger cadres moving in Colombo who the police can arrest," he said. 

He said the government must insist that any Tamil coming to Colombo should stay with a relative who could vouch for the credibility of such persons. At present, he said, every ruse was used to enter the city and engage in illegal activity.

Meanwhile, SSP M.B. Raban, Director Crimes, refuted charges that the Anti-Harassment Committee hindered police investigations into terrorist activity. 

Mr. Raban serves as Police Coordinator to this committee. He said when the committee received a complaint it was immediately referred to the police who then investigated the case. "If it is proved that there has been no assault or torture the committee immediately closes the file."

He admitted that in the present situation there could be a certain amount of harassment that some Tamils might face, "but this is unavoidable," he said. "When fighting a faceless enemy it is very difficult to separate the innocent from the guilty."

The Anti Harassment Committee helps visitors from the North and East to get police permission to stay in the South. Established in July last year the committee raises concern in cases of torture and assault on Tamil civilians.

The committee comprises Ministers Lakshman Kadirgamar, Lakshman Jayakody, G.L. Peiris and Batty Weerakoon and MPs M. M. Zuhair, R. Sampanthan, Douglas Devananda.

Meanwhile, the National Movement Against Terrorism in a statement, a copy of which is to be sent to Minister G.L. Peiris says: "Law enforcement officers have stated with ample reason that directives of the Anti-Harassment Committee to the police, have helped the LTTE to infiltrate Colombo." 

'Tigers are in the final phase of opening a murderous 'war front' in the city using 'registered refugees' surreptitiously smuggled into Colombo. They are totally disrupting the security, economy and civilian life of the city and the district of Colombo," the NMAT said.

It called for the introduction of a fool-proof method to register Tamil persons entering the city.

"A computerized centralized, single record of all registrations must be maintained. Persons staying on in Colombo without valid reason must be investigated and sent back. Security must be maintained, whatever the cost the NMAT letter said.

Meanwhile, a member of the Ministerial Anti-Harassment Committee told The Sunday Times that they had drawn up guidelines for the release of such "registered refugees". 

Will it be the noose for them or not?

By Chris Kamalendran
The fate of more than 100 prisoners convicted for murder at the Welikada and Bogambara Prisons was in the balance and prison officials feared jail breaks as they were not sure whether the reintroduction of the death penalty would affect these prisoners.

A prison official said since the reintroduction of the death penalty was announced last Saturday unrest had set in among the prisoners.

"We are not sure whether they would stage a revolt against us and pose a security threat by making attempts to escape," he said.

Since May last year none of the prisoners sentenced to death had their sentences commuted as the President had not signed the papers and the reintroduction of the death penalty would affect them as well.

However authorities were not clear on how the death penalty would be reimposed and whether it would be effective only for future sentences.

Justice Ministry Secretary M.S. Jayasinghe said the decision to reintroduce the death penalty came after a Presidential Committee had studied the increase of crime.

The committee headed by Attorney General Sarath Silva included Supreme Court Judge Sriyani Bandaranayake and Prisons Commissioner, K.W.E. Karaliyadda. 

Mr. Jayasinghe said once a death sentence was passed the President would study the reports sent by the Minister of Justice, the Attorney General and the relevant High Court Judge who passed the death sentence on the convict. 

Prison officials said that of the 80 convicts at the Welikada Prison appeals by 35 of them had been rejected while the remaining were pending.

Meanwhile Superintendent of Prisons, L.L. Galappaththi told 'The Sunday Times' that Welikada Prison which could only accommodate 1000 inmates was already overcrowded four times over.

"We have convicted and remand prisoners and if the death penalty would apply to those already convicted, we will have to be careful as those convicted, may try to create problems," he said.

Prison officials also said there were several Army deserters among the prisoners who might stage a jail break.

Meanwhile former Deputy Commissioner of Prisons, R.J.N. Jordan told 'The Sunday Times' that the introduction of the death penalty was one step forward in a civilised society.

Meanwhile prison officials said they would need at least Rs. 500,000 to renovate the gallows which have not been used since 1976. 

They also said there are moves to re-train the hangman at the Welikada Prisons who now works as a peon there.

Assailants not identified yet

By Chamintha Thilakarathna
The alleged assailants of Lakbima journalist Sri Lal Priyantha are yet to be identified with all possible theories still being investigated. 

Sri Lal Priyantha claims that no progress has been made in the investigations.

"All along the police have given little attention to the case, from the point of filing the complaint. But it is difficult to state definitely who is responsible till all options are looked into," Sri Lal said. 

Although he has left the identities of the criminals open, he says that the attackers were in search of recorded tapes of a secret PLOTE meeting where a plan to assassinate Deputy Defence Minister, Annurudha Ratwatte was being discussed.

The Lakbima article published in the February 7 issue gave details of a meeting where a Secretary of the Defence Ministry along with PLOTE members, including an MP, and the former EROS leader, Suda Master participated. 

According to the article by Sri Lal Priyantha, the PLOTE leader had been promised Rs. 25 lakhs to befriends the deputy defence minister and another Rs. 25 lakhs was promised to a secretary of the Defence Ministry for the same purpose.

The article further states that the contract of Rs.75 lakhs was sponsored by a top businessman based in Colombo.

"Since the CID had visited me previously in connection with another article, I did not take much notice when they tapped on the door and identified themselves as CID officials. 

They kept asking me for the tapes, and pulled out all the drawers and my mattress in search of them. They all spoke in Tamil and had T-56 guns and pistols. Except for one person the others were not fluent in Sinhalese at all. This aroused my suspicion as to their identity," Sri Lal said.

But, he is convinced that whoever it may be, the police have had a hand in the assault. 

Police pursue child abuse case 

By Ayesha R. Rafiq
The child abuse unit of the police has appealed to the Attorney General's Department asking for a revision of order in a judgment given in a child abuse case.

The case is one of alleged physical abuse of a student by a teacher at the Panadura Wekada Bauddhaloka Vidyalaya, over a month back.

A 16-year-old boy had absented himself from a school parade practice, complaining of a headache. When the teacher had called him the boy had not responded, allegedly fearing punishment.

However when the boy had finally approached the teacher and explained the situation, he had allegedly been caned about 20 times on his thighs, hips and buttocks, by the teacher, leaving large welts on him.

Professor Harendra de Silva, Chairman of the Child Protection Authority however said that under the 1939 Education Ordinance Regulation 23, it is only the Principal of a school or someone to whom he delegates authority, who can punish a child, and that too, a maximum of four cuts on the palm, with a cane. The boy had left the school and come back later in the day. On his arrival, teachers had informed the principal that he had come back with a gang with the intention of assaulting the teacher.

The Principal had then made a complaint to the Panadura police. The boy's attempt to make a complaint at the police station was allegedly refused by the Panadura OIC, which Professor de Silva pointed out was unlawful.

On the same day, the principal had asked the boy's mother to take him out of school. When the boy had gone to school the next day to meet his friends for the last time, the police had again been called.

An Inspector of the Panadura police had slapped the boy, abused him in foul language and taken him to the police station where he was handed over to his mother, allegedly at 11 pm.

Fort Magistrate Mervyn Wijetunga dismissed the case on the grounds that the teacher had acted correctly in disciplining the child.

The request for a revision of order of the judgment was made to the Attorney General last week, Professor de Silva said.

'Inferior vaccine led to whooping cough'

By Faraza Farook
The administration of a substandard vaccine led to the increase in whooping cough cases, a presidential committee appointed to look into the epidemic that spread in 1996/1997 states. 

Findings of the committee state that the increase in the outbreak of the whooping cough illness was partially because of the inferior packing procedures adopted by the manufacturer, which reduced the efficiency of the vaccine.

The Committee has recommended that the President forward the copy of the report to the Attorney General to consider legal action against the manufacturer and the supplier of the relevant Diphtheria, Tetanus and Pertusis (DPT) vaccine for having violated tender conditions in the supply of the vaccine. 

Among the other recommendations put forward was, to grant registration only to vaccines that are manufactured in countries where the National Drug Control Authority has the capacity to exercise six critical control functions and from which there are no unresolved quality problems reported. The Cosmetic Devices and Drugs Authority (CDDA) should grant registration only when a fully equipped vaccine quality testing laboratory is established. 

The Presidential Committee comprised of P. Ramanathan, Retired Judge of the Supreme Court, T.N. Abeyweera and retired Judge of the Court of Appeal with Secretary to the Committee W.A. Premasiri and State Counsel Yasantha Kodagoda assisting the Committee.

ACHC shocked by camp condition

Shocked by what they saw in camps for the displaced people in the Wanni, a Hindu delegation has appealed to President Chandrika Kumaratunga to take urgent steps to uplift the living standards of the inhabitants.

The delegation from the All Ceylon Hindu Congress in a letter to the President has said thousands of Hindus, including about 1,000 children living in camps, have been denied basic needs such as food, clothing, medicine and education.

Although the law of this country stipulates that all children should attend school at least up to the age of 14, many children in the camps have been denied the right to education, the delegation says in its letter which also sought an appointment with the President to discuss the matter.

Doctors' strike deadline nears

By Faraza Farook
The Government Medical Officers Association (GMOA) has given a deadline till tomorrow for the Health Ministry to resolve issues pending for more than two months. 

The doctors will go on an island wide strike on Tuesday if the Health Ministry fails to resolve the demands put forward by the GMOA, President of the Association, Dr. Ananda Samarasekera said.

He said, "it will be a one day strike but emergency cases would be attended. If the Health Minister is keen, he can avoid this strike".

Among the many issues put forward were those relating to the appointments and transfers. The failure to take disciplinary action against doctors engaged in private practice during working hours was another issue.

New look for national hospital square

By Kumaradasa Wagista
Colombo National Hospital square redesigned by the Colombo Municipal Council (CMC) will be opened to the public on Wednesday.

Health Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva and Mayor Karu Jayasuriya will be the chief guests.

With more than a million patients take treatment every year from the hospital and thousands of people visiting the area every day, the redesigning of the area with several facilities was a long-felt need.

Under this project E.W. Perera Mawatha, all three sections of Norris Canal Road, De Saram Place, Hedges Court and Vipulasara Mawatha are provided drainage systems, foot-walks and street lights. Asphalt surfaced roads with lane markings to help the traffic flow are among the new features, according to Deputy Mayor Omar Kamil.

A canopy and benches for patients and visitors at the nearby De Soysa Maternity hospital are also part of the project.

Norris Canal which flows through the Hospital Square has been enlarged and a car park for 80 vehicles on the southern boundary of the hospital has been constructed.

About 100 hawkers who were occupying and obstructing streets in this area have been provided with alternative places for trading. 

Right of reply

Former CID Chief T.V. Sumanasekera, now Additional Director General of the Directorate of Internal Intelligence (DII), in a letter to The Sunday Times states:

"I refer to the article published in your newspaper on March 14 giving the impression that I had made a request to the IGP to release Rs. 50,000 which had been ordered by the Supreme Court to be paid by me personally to Anura Bandaranaike. This is a blatant lie and I categorically deny having made such a request to the IGP or any other person.

"It appears to me that the writer by irresponsible reports of this nature, is making an attempt to defame me and cause damage to my reputation.

"I request that the general public be made aware of the facts in this case by making a correction in the aforesaid distorted article."

Our reporter Frederica Jansz says she is standing by her story that such a request was made to the IGP though Mr. Sumanasekera has now personally paid the fine.

Martial law at Royal-Thomian

This picture is not from the battlefield but its from the playing field the SSC grounds to be precise. 

The Royal Thomian cricket match played at the SSC grounds last week was a curious affair, especially for those who liked starched military suits and military spit and polish. 

The military policemen pictured here paraded the grounds in formation, they intervened to settle petty fights between schoolboys in the spectators tents, and provided muscle to haul out slightly exuberant spectators. 

The military police is a military organ that is supposed to police the military; how it came to police a bunch of civilians, of all things watching a cricket match, is curious,. Spectators, treated like terrorists, were stared down and dressed down by these military men wielding canes. Nazi-like, they banned bands, rapped bums and enforced discipline to the point of making the match look like a cross between a montessori class and chamber orchestra concert.

There is also the news that the military police was brought down from operational areas, especially to carry out this mission. All this the organisers did in the name of preserving cricket. What will they do next time at the match ban spectators, and ask them to watch the game at home from their TV sets? While some have welcomed this 'muscle', what they have forgotten is that the Royal-Thomian has endured a 120 years simply because it's simply not just another cricket match 

TU action by Air engineers 

Air traffic engineers are threatening trade union action if the government fails to increase their rating allowance entitlement. The Air Traffic Engineers' Association claimed that despite many requests made to the government no action had been taken but instead allowances have been increased in other departments.

A spokesperson for the Association said the government was quick to increase the allowances of air traffic controllers by a large sum while the engineers got a mere Rs.800.

"This is very unfair. The engineers have been downgraded. We have written to the Minister and are awaiting an appointment. We will discuss this issue and if nothing is done we will resort to strike action. This will affect the entire aviation system in the country," he said.

He also pointed out that despite a committee being appointed, to look into the matter, the Association was not given a fair hearing.

Tuesday's blast

The crawl to Moratuwa

By M. Ismeth
If it was 'Nine hours to Rama' then it was five hours to Moratuwa on Tuesday when a suicide bomber created havoc opposite the Mount Lavinia police station.

I had got into a packed semi-luxury bus at the Gangaramaya bus stop at 5.35pm on that fateful Tuesday. At Wellawatte the commuters heard the announcement over the bus radio that there had been a bomb blast at Mount Lavinia and that traffic would be diverted.

From there onwards we moved slowly, but by Dehiwala we virtually came to a standstill. Adding to the agony of sweating inside the packed bus, was the rain, pouring in buckets, accompanied by thunder and lightning.

With more news about the blast being broadcast, the driver increased the volume of the radio for all commuters to hear.

The bus was diverted through Hill Street, Dehiwala. Hill Street would never have had such a flow of traffic as on this Tuesday 

Due to the bus inching its way, some commuters got off the bus and ran to some telephone booths to give calls home.

The driver of the bus, K.Saman obliged any passenger who wanted to get off to take a call home. Close to Karagampitiya a man ran into a private communication centre only to be told that nearly 40 callers were waiting to get through .

Most of the passengers who were standing got off the bus and walked ahead knowing too well that they could board it again.

Some even bought soft drinks and snacks and shared them. 

Inching and crawling the traffic jam was diverted through whatever lane or by-lane, both by the police and volunteers.

The bus we travelled in was diverted through Karagampitiya, Nedimale, Bellantota junction and on to Attidiya.

When we got close to Maliban junction it was close upon 10 pm.

Though the passengers had a feeling for those who were killed and injured in the blast yet they had a look of anxiety on their faces. Unlike most drivers at a time like this the driver Saman never lost his cool.

Harsh legislation to curb crime? 

The spate of violence and the high incidence of murder and crime had compelled the government to review the present Criminal Procedure Code and the Penal Code, sources said.

They said the government was acting inthe belief that more stringent measures had to be taken to arrest the ever escalating crime rate in the country. 

Top UNPers pay tribute to Gamini

By Roshan Peiris
A sorrowing widow looked up at the statue of her late husband and wiped the tears that blurred her vision. Yesterday Gamini Dissanayake's birthday was celebrated at the Vihara Mahadevi Park where stands the young charismatic leader's statue.

Four and a half years ago, an LTTE suicide bomber killed Mr. Dissanayake as he was moving into top gear in his bid for the presidency. 

Among those with widow Srima at yesterday's ceremony was Colombo's mayor and UNP's Western Province Chief Ministerial candidate Karu Jayasuriya.

UNP spokesman Karunasena Koddituwakku laid a bowl of crimson roses, paying tribute to Mr. Dissanayake as the master builder of the Mahaveli era. Other frontliners present included Susil Moonesinghe, N.G.P. Panditaratne, P. Dayaratne. Former IBA president Desmond Fernando was also present.

Behind the statue were two live elephants sent by the Gangaramaya temple. The gathering was relatively small, perhaps because most of the UNP hierarchy and men were busy with upcoming elections. 

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