30th May 1999
By Nilika de Silva
The contenders for the Southern Provincial Council have begun their main meetings.
President Chandrika Kumaratunga, apparently aware that it is the JVP that might eat into the PA vote in the south, has been hitting out strongly. In one election speech, she said: "Prabhakaran in the North and the JVP in the South are carrying out the same kind of destructive politics."
Saying the JVP could not come to power at national level for more than 100 years, the President told voters it was not good for one party to control a province while another ran the central government. In addition the central government needed the strength and support of provincial administration.
The President also hit out at the UNP, saying it had no proper or strong leadership today. She warned that if Ranil Wickremesinghe or Sirisena Cooray came back to office, it would be hell again for the south, like in 1988/89.
The President expressed confidence that the people of the south who wanted freedom from fear more than jobs, would give the PA another opportunity.
Opposition UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe told UNP rallies that the economy was on the decline and that even PA Minister Mahinda Rajapakse had blamed it largely on some lapses by the ruling party. He said the government had declared a national youth day but it had little meaning in a situation where thousands of youth were jobless.
He said the UNP had worked out an economic master plan for the new millennium and the youth would get jobs where their full potential would be tapped.
The JVP is hitting out at both major parties, accusing them of promising much but producing only a little more than hunger, unemployment and war for millions of people.
JVP propaganda secretary Wimal Weerawansa told meetings his party was not interested in personal dog-fights for preferential votes but was stressing on policies and principles.
By Shelani de Silva
With ten days to go for the Southern polls, the relatively peaceful atmosphere is being shaken with a number of incidents.
Officials of the two independent election monitoring groups, PAFFREL and CMEV, gave widely varying figures of incidents — Paffrel 23 and the CMEV 80. In previous elections, the PA has accused the CMEV of blowing up incidents for personal or political reasons.
PAFFREL director Kingsley Rodrigo said they were on full alert as generally there was a tendency for tension to rise in the last days before the elections.
Meanwhile, the CMEV in a statement said more than 40 of the incidents had been reported from the Galle district, with Hiniduma being the worst affected. In the Matara Districts, most incidents were reported from Deniyaya.
The police were successful in recovering only five of the 15,000 illegal weapons in use in the Southern Province, a top police officer said.
He said the police had failed to carry out the operation largely because the people were not coming forward to give information.
Meanwhile, as a safety measure, police are also keeping in their custody all licensed weapons. So far, 5,000 licensed weapons have been handed over to the police, sources said.
The newly formed Democratic Peoples' Movement has called upon the Southern voters to strengthen the hands of the leftists parties at the Southern provincial polls or to lodge their protest by spoiling votes en masse.
In a statement, Vasudeva Nanayakkara, convenor of the Movement and Ratnapura district MP, has charged the UNP and the incumbent PA administration of causing irrevocable damage to the social structure and called upon the people to elect representatives who have always highlighted anti-national policies and actions.
The statement also claimed that the consistent growth and social improvement experienced between the 50s and 70s have been destroyed thereby increasing the poverty, malnutrition and anemia of the people. It has become impossible for at least 80% of the population to bear the aggravated economic burdens, it charged.
The statement has also charged the political leadership of the country with pawning the national interest and bartering away the national freedom and assets to European nations to amass wealth and helping to widen the class gap.
An election monitoring group has accused the PA and the UNP of intimidating the JVP contesting the Southern Provincial Council elections.
PAFFREL Executive Director Kingsley Rodrigo told The Sunday Times that judging from reports, the JVP had been victimised by the PA and the UNP.
'This is evident from the complaints lodged by the party and the manner the party members have been harassed for the last few weeks. This may be because both parties fear the support the JVP has in the province," he said.
He added that in comparison to the previous elections the level of violence was relatively low.
PAFFREL has also expressed concern at the government's decision to recruit Samurdhi animators as polling agents .
"We discussed the matter with the Commissioner of Elections who promised the issue will be looked into.
If this happens, we will have serious doubts that the elections will be free and fair," he said.
Opposition UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe has written to President Kumaratunga making several proposals to ensure a free and fair poll.
He has asked that an election monitoring secretariat under the Public Administration Ministry be set up with representatives of all contesting parties to monitor the conduct of the poll and act on complaints.
He says the police should be directed to enforce election laws with regard to posters and take prompt action against offenders engaged in election violence irrespective of party affiliations.
Usage of official vehicles and equipment by any contesting party and the participation of persons from Public Corporations and Statutory Bodies should be prohibited, he adds.
Mr. Wickremesinghe has also suggested that no police personnel should be transferred from the South until the conclusion of the poll and a mobile patrolling system be introduced two days prior to the elections.
He has urged that security personnel engaged in election work should wear their uniforms while on duty.
The Media Ministry has commissioned the Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Limited to print more than one hundred thousand election posters for the PA's southern campaign.
Questions are being raised as to how and why the Media Ministry is using state resources for party propaganda and whether it is a commercial transaction.
According to a letter sent to the chairman of ANCL by the Media Ministry, some 50,000 of these posters are to be printed urgently and 20,000 specially directed to members of the security forces. About 3,000 posters are being printed for each of the 14 rallies to be addressed by the president, giving the dates, time, places and other details.
By Shelani de Silva
The JVP has written to international human rights organisations, appealing them to take up with the government a well orchestrated campaign against the party in the state-run media.
JVP spokesman Wimal Weerawansa said his party saw the publishing of photographs and stories in the state media about the 1988-89 terror period as an election ploy.
He said all this showed the PA was scared of the JVP strength in the south.
"The PA cannot find anything to tarnish the JVP image.
Thus it is rekindling the 88/89 period. The JVP that emerged after that era is committed to upholding human rights.
"The PA may resort to all types of tricks. But it is the people in the South who will elect their representatives.
For the past few months we have been moving with the people and judging from their response, such cheap campaigns will not affect people's commitment to vote for the JVP," Mr. Weerawansa said.
The party spokesman also said they were also considering taking legal action against any defamatory statements made against the party.
Have tea, but no party
Despite the zeal and enthusiastic campaigning by the candidates and their political parties, the general southern voter appears to be disenchanted if not sick of all parties.
So, when an enthusiastic group of UNP supporters were having a pocket meeting in Akuressa, a family living close by volunteered to provide some tea. Taken up by the offer, the UNPers tried to canvass their support while having the free tea.
But the chief occupant of the household hit back at them. He said the people of the south were still charitable though the UNP had taken away their sons and PA had given false promises. The people were ready to be hospitable even to strangers, but they did not like political stunts.
Theories instead of terror
The JVP now quietly emerging as a potential third force in the country has launched an ambitious political campaign in the South.
A young JVP er clad in red was touring a small village in Ambalantota on his push bicycle- spreading the JVP message and distributing leaflets. Tired, he stopped to have a cup of tea from a kade by the wayside. While sipping the cuppa, he did not stop campaigning. So he exultantly explained how tiring it was and what an arduous task it was to be distributing the leaflets and explaining theories.
So a wise old man, himself enjoying the repartee butted in: "It sure must be more tiring than sending a threatening note ordering already terrorized people- "Do as we say, close shops, switch off lights and don't work or else pay with your life!" Memories!!
Preferring priest to politics
While the South is agog with meetings, walls covered with grinning faces and stilted campaigners trying to extol the virtues of candidates, people of the South are apparently too busy to talk politics but continue their day to day work without even a cursory glance at the surrounding political hype.
Recently, a Buddhist monk now popular for faith healing, was visiting Galle Fort. And judging by the crowds that thronged the streets to see him (more like frantic shoppers doing last minute purchases the day before Christmas), it is much better to be a non-political attraction!
But campaigning was not confined to the lighter vein activities alone. It has been reported that goon squads from Badulla are stationed now in Matara to support a PA candidate.
And their campaign, according to residents of the area, has many aspects. They distribute applications to collect building material and ask the applications to be endorsed by Samurdhi animators, or simply go berserk in towns and scare opposition party supporters away.
And now, crowds from Mahiyangana have reportedly taken up residence in Devinuwara, domain of a powerful politico to carry out something similar to what is now known as 'Operation Mahiyangana".
The Mahiyangana crowd had caused quite a stir with their VIP status. Two reputed rest houses in Matara temporarily closed down last week in their honour, of course offering the public the excuse that repairs have begun.
But the ongoing repairs did not affect the PA supporters, thugs and all who allegedly masterminded the Uva provincial operation as they continue some secret work inside the rest houses — of course now behind closed doors.
The jeer squad
Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe was addressing a meeting in Getamanne in the Beliatta electorate when a group of PA supporters led by a pradeshiya sabha chairman allegedly drove through the meeting many times.
While the UNP leader spoke, at each pause, there was applause from the crowds. Soon after applause, now there was new addition -a hoot from the goons. The police tried to send them away, but they wouldn't budge and the fiasco continued.
First it was Wayamba, and then the rest of the country and finally the South. And like the other provinces, there is full-scale development taking place in the South with government politicians working overtime to build bridges, introduce electrification and improve roads and supply water.
And no lesser person than the head of state was recently laying foundations stones or cutting ribbons to bring in instant development to the long-deprived south. But the new light posts unloaded in various parts of Galle had the critical tongues wagging. "Whether there is electricity or otherwise, these won't travel like the Wayamba 'kanu' to Matale."
Cattle fodder in poster war
And here's a thought for zealous candidates who continue to deface walls.
On their way to a see a political meeting in Matara town, a group of youngsters paused to allow a farmer to direct his cattle — towards the poster wall. "It was good cattle feed," the farmer said with a grin. If only the candidates who adorn the walls knew!
By Tissa Liyanage
Preliminary steps to restructure the two state commercial banks - the Bank of Ceylon and the People's Bank — are being taken by the government on the advice of the World Bank.
The portfolio audit contract has been awarded by the government through the Department of Financial Markets of the Central Bank to Arthur Anderson, an international accounting firm, whose officials are now in the country.
The portfolio audit is conducted, firstly, to ascertain whether assets shown in the balance sheets of the two state banks reflect their fair value. The assets — apart from the fixed assets — are the loans and advances granted to customers and investments made by the bank.
According to a top official of the Bank of Ceylon, all aspects of human resource planning will be looked into. Human resources planning relates to staffing requirements, deployment, performance appraisals, promotions, transfers, compensation packages, incentives and rewards and training needs.
The Central Bank is co-ordinating this audit costing around Rs. 20 million, to be borne by the World Bank.
The audit report is expected to be submitted within three months
A memorandum of understanding has been signed between the government and the two state banks to achieve certain targets — increasing return on assets and return on equity, reducing loss-making branches and non-performing advances ratio, expediting recoveries and bringing down the debt ratio.
President Kumaratunga told a meeting in Hakmana recently that the government had lost 800 million dollars by way of aid for not acting on the advice of the World Bank.
All attempts at restructuring the two state banks by the government sometime ago were thwarted by trade union pressure.
Health authorities are probing a racket where a large amount of contraceptive drugs stolen from a divisional drug store in Angoda was sold to private pharmacies.
A store employee who is alleged to have sold the drug to pharmacies in the Kalutara district had been arrested.
According to Health Ministry officials, the drugs were said to be available only at the Family Health Bureau. Each vial costs around Rs. 65 and is taken every three months to prevent conception.
Meanwhile, the department said it is unable to state the quantity stolen and that figures carried in the newspapers were wrong.
By Shelani de Silva
Madhu refugees who are being evacuated have been assured that they will soon be settled in safe areas — but a Bishop has said they are being driven to camps which are like cattle sheds.
The evacuation of refugees in the Madhu area which began a few weeks ago on a government directive will be completed over the weekend, Government sources said.
While some of the refugees were sent to Jaffna, Vavuniya and Mannar, those who came from the uncleared areas were taken to another camp. However some refugees had requested that they be sent to live with relatives in the cleared areas.
Mannar's Assistant Government Agent S Sivalingam told The Sunday Times that of the 7482 refugees in the camp only around 1000 refugees would be sent to other camps.
Bishop of Mannar Rev. Rayappu Joseph told The Sunday Times that the church had protested against the refugees being sent to the Vavuniya welfare centre which he described as a cattle shed.
The government's decision to evacuate the refugees from the Madhu area is seen as a move to restore civil administration in the area. The Catholic Church has protested against the Army's presence in the church premises. The church even threatened to cancel the feast if the Army was not moved out of the area.
The school development society of D. S. Senanayake College Colombo, has written to the Minister of Education seeking the transfer of the principal.
The letter alleges that discipline in the school has deteriorated and academic performance has gone down. It also alleges that the principal has been incapable of gaining the support and co-operation of the staff and that funds received by the school have been used in an irregular manner.
A member of the school development society also alleged that there was a conspiracy to ruin the school due to its name. He said that though it is the practice to appoint a science graduate to the post of deputy principal, this had not been adhered to.
However, the principal of the school G. C. Adhikari said the school development society was violating rules.
By Faraza Farook
A private hotel in Kitulgala has accused the Ceylon Electricity Board of causing severe damage to the hotel by opening the floodgates of the Norton Bridge dam — but CEB officials say there are no floodgates to open.
The Plantation Hotel chief Anton Jayasuriya said the hotel suffered losses amounting to nearly half a million rupees and he claimed two German tourists were injured and goods were washed away or damaged beyond repair when water upto three feet gushed in.
But an official of the CEB said, there were no floodgates at the dam, and the overflow was due to heavy rain.
He however said the matter would be investigated.
The flood has also affected the nearby Kitulgala hospital with the water supply being contaminated.
The District Medical Officer said as a precaution the water was being chlorinated without being given to patients.
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