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20th June 1999

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Why only two, where are the 300, ask judges

By Ayesha R. Rafiq

The Judicial Services Association of Sri Lanka will ask the international judicial community to intervene if the suspects involved in the storming of the Ratnapura magistrates court are not arrested by the end of the month.

A JSA spokesman said a special meeting of the association comprising judges and magistrates would be called and the Commonwealth Magistrates and Judges Association as well as other judicial organisations would be approached for help.

While the police have arrested two of the suspects so far, the JSA spokesman said if the nearly 300 suspects allegedly involved in the incident were not arrested by the end of the month the association would have no choice but to seek international help.

The incident occurred after Ratnapura Magistrate W. Nambuwasam remanded the Chairman of the Nivithigala Pradeshiya Sabha on a charge of attempted murder.

A 300 strong mob had allegedly stormed the Court House and threatened the Magistrate with death, and later staged a protest march outside the Court House.

The JSA expressed its concern to Justice Minister G.L. Peiris at a meeting on Friday, and wanted all suspects arrested before it met the minister again.

'While we deeply appreciate the initiative taken by the Minister and the President, the slow progress of the police is dissatisfying and we feel it is being caused by interested parties,' the spokesman said.

The JSA this week asked the Attorney General to directly indict the two identified suspects who were allegedly involved in the incident and also requested the President and Minister Peiris to direct the IGP to expedite the matter.

While a special police team was to be sent from Colombo to Ratnapura to investigate into the incident, the JSA spokesman said they had as yet not received news of such a team initiating investigations.

DIG Sabaragamuwa M. Seevaratnam said a team deployed from Colombo to look into several other incidents in the district had investigated the matter, but that the main investigations had been done by the Ratnapura police.

High Court Judge acquitted

High Court Judge Mahanama Tillekeratne and three others were on Friday acquitted of charges of attempted murder and causing grievous hurt after the Attorney General dropped the case because of contradictory evidence by an eye witness.

In a case which hit national headlines after the judge was arrested by the CID, Mr. Tillekeratne had been accused of trying to kill and causing grievous hurt to his neighbour G.H. Somachandra.

Kesbewa Magistrate Munidasa Nanayakkara acquitted and discharged Mr. Tillekeratne and three others, including the judge's son after it was revealed that the eye- witness had given contradictory evidence.

The contradiction was higlighted by defence counsel Hemantha Warankulasuriya.

First step to put noose round the neck

By Ayesha R.Rafiq

The Presidential Secretariat has called for the case records of prisoners sentenced to death to implement the death penalty.

K. De Silva, Senior Assistant Secretary (Legal) at the Ministry of Justice, said the Presidential Secretariat had begun calling for the case records of those prisoners on death row and would be going into and reviewing the records on a case by case basis.

Attorney General Sarath Silva said under Article 32 of the Constitution the records would have to be reviewed by him and the judge who heard the particular case.

It would then have to be referred to the Minister of Justice and to the President for an order to be made.

President Kumaratunga has however not yet signed any documents which would enable the execution of any convict to take place, Justice Ministry Secretary M.S. Jayasinghe said.

Prisons Commissioner P. Baskarasingham said there are 52 prisoners in both the Welikada and Kandy prisons who have been sentenced to death, one of whom is a woman.

There are an additional 68 convicts, amongst them one woman, who have been sentenced to death but who are currently appealing or about to appeal their sentences. Among this number are the three accused in the Rita John murder case.

Did bad water make 400 ill?

Food and water samples have been sent for testing following the food poisoning of some 400 garment workers in Ekala.

Workers who had complained of severe stomach ache, diarrhoea, and fainting were rushed to the Ragama and Ja Ela hospitals on Friday morning.

By afternoon nearly 300 patients left the hospital after treatment.

Although the tests were yet to be completed , it is believed that the cause may have been contaminated water.

Don't die in Kandana hospital

Don't die in Kandana hospital. This advice comes from Kandana District Medical Officer Ranjith Abeysiriw- ardena who says the hospital morgue is nothing but a building.

"The morgue lacks basic facilities, such as a cold room. The bodies cannot be kept for more than two days.

" If no one claims a body, either it is sent to Ragama morgue or just left on the trollies to decompose," the DMO said.

Dr. Abeysiriwardena said he had written to the Health Ministry, highlighting the health hazard posed by the mortuary and requesting a new morgue, but so far he had not received any response.

Major tea-oil deal with Iraq signed

Sri Lanka's troubled tea market got a well needed boost when Iraq agreed yesterday to purchase six thousand metric tonnes of Sri Lankan tea under the sixth phase of the UN 'Oil for Food' programme.

Iraq has also expressed its desire to buy 6000 MT of vegetable ghee while Sri Lanka has shown interest in purchasing 120,000 MT of Basrah Light Crude oil from Iraq, under UN regulations.

The agreement means that Iraq will purchase more than triple the amount of tea than that purchased under the fifth phase of this programme.

The agreement was reached when the fifth session of the Iraq/Sri Lanka joint committee for Economic and Technical Co-operation concluded its meeting yesterday.

Trade Minister Kingsley Wickramaratna headed the Lankan delegation while his Iraqi counterpart Dr. Mohammed Mehdi Saleh led the Iraqis.

In a further attempt to boost the flagging demand for tea after Russia, the country's main tea importer reduced its demand for tea in the midst of the Russian rouble crisis, Sri Lanka has also accepted an invitation by Iraq to participate at the Baghdad International Trade Fair in November this year, a joint statement released yesterday said.

The committee will also sign a Joint Co-operation Agreement on behalf of the Chambers of Commerce of the two countries and seek to develop economic and commercial relations.

The agreement covers area such as the extension of scholarships, information exchange and co-operation in sports.

Hokandara trial: June 29

The trial-at-bar in the Hokandara murder case which shocked the country will begin on June 29, with the fourth accused still absconding, an official of the Attorney General Department said yesterday.

Twenty-four charges including murder, conspiracy to commit murder, rape and robbery, have been filed against the four accused in the case involving the massacre of a family of six, State Counsel Sarath Jayamanne said.

With no witnesses coming forward, the accused were identified by DNA testing of blood samples found at the site. This was the first time this modern process was used in Sri Lanka for a criminal investigation.

The bench will comprise High Court Judges Raja Fernando, Gamini Amaratunga and Gamini Abeyratne.

Baby milk is safe, reassures importers

By Udena.R. Attygalle and Wathsala Mendis

Sri Lankan consumers were in panic last week after health officials warned of dioxin contamination in milk foods and meat products imported from three European countries.

The 'dioxin' crisis spread like wildfire after local and foreign media gave prominent coverage warning consumers. While 'dioxin' in dairy foods and meat products are yet to be detected in Sri Lanka, the warning saw several products untouched in supermarkets.

Sri Lankan officials checked dairy and meat imports from three European countries for possible dioxin contamination. They had asked for an analytical report from an accredited lab for all poultry and meat products coming out of Belgium, Holland, France. "This will apply to stocks already at port and those in the high seas," an officials said.

Meanwhile baby milk formula importers were anxious to reassure parents that their products were safe. Mead Johnson Nutritionals (Asia Pacific region ) assured that the milk used for its products is free of dioxin contamination .

A press release from the company said, "While Mead Johnson infant formulas are manufactured in several countries around the world, milk which has been certified as safe and free of dioxin contamination, and the safety of which has never been in question, has been used. Further all Mead Johnson infant formulas marketed in Sri Lanka, including Enfalac have vegetable fats as their only source of fat content. No animal fats of any origin are used in its manufacture." The information on the Enfalac tins sold in Sri Lanka specify that only vegetable fats are used.

The company also released a letter from The Netherlands controlling authority for milk and milk products stating "the milk originating from the Netherlands and products derived from it are without restriction fit for human consumption."

Darley Butler and Co. Ltd also reacted swiftly to last week's reports in The Sunday Times. The company said the Cow and Gate products imported and marketed by the them are from milk imported from New Zealand and not in any way connected to any of the European countries. The company also took out newspaper advertisements to this effect on Friday. But Cow and Gate 'Blue' tins (milk formula for infants over six months) sold in Sri Lanka only state the formula is 'manufactured under license of N.V Nutricia, Zoetermeer, Holland, packed by P.V Nutricia, Jakarta, Indonesia. Marketed by Darley Butler Co. Ltd, Sri Lanka."

The medical manager Darley Butler and Co. Ltd Peter Anthony Pulle said the end product is actually manufactured in Indonesia ".He agreed that it not being mentioned in the container was a "grey area" which would be rectified shortly. He also assured that of N.V Nutricia, Zoetermeer, Holland assures that the product was safe and of good quality.

Meanwhile the Coca Cola crisis seemed to be making the headlines in Europe. Reacting to the Belgian issue the Coca-Cola company (Sri Lanka ) in a recent press release stated that "their products in Sri Lanka are bottled by a local bottler , Coca Cola Beverages Sri Lanka Ltd, which is not connected to operations in Europe".

Perumal wants wide powers for regions

By M Ismeth

Along with wider powers for regional councils, former North East Chief Minister A. Varatharaja Perumal has proposed the present National Flag of Sri Lanka needs be changed as in his view it conveys the reflection of Sinhala hegemony over other communities.

In amendments and comments regarding government's proposals for devolution of power, Mr. Perumal says the national flag of a country should neither reflect the controversial mythical history nor the racial domination of the majority over other communities.

It must be a true reflection of the sanctity and of the progress and prosperity of the country. In his proposals submitted to President Kumaratunga, Mr. Perumal says the national flag therefore should be changed to reflect the common aspirations and interests of all the communities. He proposes that the country be constituted as the Federal Republic of Sri Lanka. This clear and explicit declaration is essential to avoid any Constitutional or legal confusion, he states.

He has called for a bicameral system of Parliament with the Second Chamber being constituted to uphold and protect equality among all communities and to prevent any legislative or executive activity detrimental to the basic rights and interests of any community.

Mr. Perumal proposes the Second Chamber be named as the House of National Communities with the following considerations:

On citizenship, Mr. Perumal proposes that the Acts of 1949 and 1950 related to citizenship and voting rights be repealed and pacts and agreements with India with regard to the Up-country Tamil people should be treated as annulled and outdated.

Sri Lanka citizens, on the date of the commencement of this constitution are all those who live in Sri Lanka excluding those who entered in and have been living here as registered foreigners within the period not more than last ten years .

He also proposes a Regional Judicial Service Commission (RJSC) in each region. This Commission shall function as an advisory and consultative body to the regional government on the matters of administration of justice in the region. Judges to the district courts and the subordinate and lower courts shall be appointed by the Governor on the recommendations of the RJSC.

There shall be a Solicitor General in every region as there is an Attorney General at the centre. Functions and responsibilities of a Solicitor General is almost in parallel with the Attorney General.

There shall be an Auditor General at the centre as well as in every region and a Chief of Auditors General as the head of all the auditors general. Mr. Perumal had also called for various subjects to be added to the Regional list, including financial and fiscal powers.

Unions to raise hell if postal bill is tabled

By Shelani de Silva

The main postal trade union has again warned of a full-scale strike if the controversial Postal Corporation Bill is taken up in Parliament this week.

Union of Post and Telegraph Officers' Secretary N. P Hettiarachchi told The Sunday Times they had information that plans were afoot to take up the Bill when Parliament met this week, despite assurances by government leaders that it would not be taken up until a full discussion was held with unions and others.

He warned that the union would call 24,000 postal workers, out on a full-scale strike, if the Bill was taken up. Mr. Hettiarachchi said they had appealed to President Kumaratunga to intervene and prevent the Bill being taken up until all the disputed clauses were discussed and rectified.

The UPTO and other unions believe that the Bill as originally proposed will be the first step towards privatisation of postal services and amount to a sell-out of national assets.

Post Mistress General Soma Kotakedeniya, who has been clashing head on with the postal unions, said the Bill was on the order paper but she did not know of any plans to take it up for debate in Parliament.

Three months ago, the Supreme Court ruled that 15 clauses of the original Postal Corporation Bill were contrary to the Constitution. In such a situation,the government could amend the clauses accordingly and present the Bill or pass it with a two thirds majority.

The postal unions have already launched lunch-hour picketing campaigns and are holding group meetings with employees to show them the dangers in the proposed bill.

UNP to decide new strategy

In the wake of a series of defeats in seven provincial councils, the UNP has called a special joint session of its Working Committee and the Parliamentary group tomorrow to decide on new strategy.

UNP sources said most party members were not happy with its performance in the South, especially in Galle at the June 10 election.

They said district steering committees were likely to be appointed as part of new strategy after reviewing reports from the 21 electoral organisers in the south.

The party, in its overhauling process, is expected to inject new blood and fill some vacancies in the Working Committee.

Among those likely to come in to the frontline are Rajitha Senaratne, Central Province Opposition Leader Keheliya Rambukwella and Mahinda Samarasinghe.

GL moves to Moratuwa

Minister G.L. Peiris has been moved from his Colombo East electorate to Moratuwa, after the PA suffered one of its worst setbacks in Colombo at the April PC elections.

With Dr. Peiris' going to Moratuwa, Deputy Minister Jeevan Kumaratunga is tipped to move from Moratuwa to Colombo East.

At the Western Provincial Council elections, the UNP won more than 60% of the votes in the Colombo east area.

He announced he would contest a seat, first in Panadura, his home town. He later came to Colombo East where he resided. Now he has gone to Moratuwa which is in between Panadura and Colombo East.

CBK acts fast to help Jaffna people

By Frederica Jansz

President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga has moved in promptly to resolve some of the urgent problems facing the people of Jaffna.

The move is the result of revelations made in the Situation Report in The Sunday Times of June 13 which highlighted various shortcomings.

Main among them, the report said, were the lack of transport facilities for the public to move in and out of the peninsula. Another was the inability of the Jaffna farmers to sell their produce outside the peninsula, again due to the non availability of transport.

President Kumaratunga chaired a five-hour conference at Temple Trees on Thursday where the issues highlighted were discussed at length and remedial measures decided upon.

Taking part in the conference were the North-East Governor Asoka Jayawardena, Presidential Secretary Kusumsiri Balapatabendi, Defence Secretary Chandrananda de Silva, Resettlement and Rehabilitation Authority for North (RRAN) chairman N.A. Obadage and Governor's Secretary S. Ganeshanathan.

Also invited to join in was Major General Lionel Balagalle, former security forces Commander, Jaffna, who is credited with introducing civilian welfare measures during his tenure in the peninsula. Maj. Gen. Balagalle, now Chief of Staff of the Army is also Security Forces Commander, Wanni.

As reported in Situtation Report in The Sunday Times of June 13, Maj. Gen. Jayawardena, who was in Jaffna early this month on his fist visit as Governor is to send an urgent report to President Kumaratunga on conditions in the peninsula. The report is to be forwarded later next week, according to officials.

President Kumaratunga summoned the conference even before the Governor's report reached her. She wanted to take prompt action on what The Sunday Times had highlighted, an official source who did not wish to be identified said yesterday.

RRAN Chairman Obadage told The Sunday Times such meetings with President Kumaratunga were held every month. However, Thursday's conference was held after a break of three months.

"The conference focused on rejuvenating flagging rehabilitation work in Jaffna. Some of the important issues were discussed," Mr. Obadage told The Sunday Times.

Besides transport facilities and other problems, it also included re-settlement of Jaffna citizens returning to their homes from the Wanni.

They had left the area during "Operation Riviresa" in 1995.

Another was the re-construction of some 100,000 houses and repair of roads, Mr. Obadage said.

He said special rehabilitation assignments would be handed over to the provincial councils and line ministries to begin work.

It would be funded largely with assistance from the United Nations Development Programme, Mr. Obadage said.

After Thursday meeting, Mr. Obadage had another meeting with President Kumaratunga on Friday to finalise plans for rehabilitation and resettlement work.

LSSP easy on Vasu

The LSSP and its rebel member Vasudeva Nanayakkara are continuing to sit on different sides and might just remain that way for some time.

Minister and LSSP leader Batty Weerakoon said the party would not be holding any inquiry on his move but would only review the situation. Observers said the party was not keen to take action against Mr. Nanayakkara and provoke a crisis at a time when it is being overshadowed by the JVP in left politics. Mr.Nanayakkara was suspended from the party after he decided to sit with the opposition in Parliament, accusing the LSSP of going against socialist principles. Mr. Nanayakkara told The Sunday Times that he would continue to sit with the opposition.

Parties ready for polls, but when?

Senior ministers have advised the President that the time is opportune for presidential or general election but she will have to take a final decision, a minister said. Parliamentary Affairs Minister Jeyaraj Fernandopulle told The Sunday Times he and others had advised the president that it was the right time for national elections.

Their assessment was based on the results of recent provincial elections.

Amid widespread specualtion that national elections would take place late this year or early next year, UNP General Secretary Gamini Atukorale told The Sunday Times his party was prepared for any election.

"We have never stopped our campaign . We are having a positive approach. One cannot compare the PC polls to a general or Presidential election and go on those lines," he said.

The JVP which has emerged as a third force at the PC elections has started formulating national poliey and strategy, party sources said.

MEP Leader Dinesh Gunewardene said he wondered how the government could go for national elections without fulfilling most of its important pledges. He said that the MEP was, however, ready for national polls.

Within the ruling PA, the constituent parties are also reviewing the position.

SLMC General Secretary Rauf Hakeem told The Sunday Times his party would go it alone if general elections were held soon but it would be futile for the party to go on it alone if presidential elections were held.

Mrs. B: 4 decades of service to Lanka

A series of religious programmes and felicitation ceremonies have been planned to mark Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike's completion of 40 years of active politics.

An all night Pirith ceremony to invoke blessings on Ms. Bandaranaike was held at the Attanagalla Raja Maha Viharaya last night as part of this programme.

An alms giving for 1500 Buddhist monks will be held today at the Sangabodhi Maha Vidyalaya, Nittambuwa.

Several ministers, MPs and party supporters were present at the Pirith ceremony yesterday.

Arrangements also have been made to have a public function at the Nittambuwa Sangabodhi Maha Vidyalaya to honour the Prime Minister for her four decades of service to the country.

Ms. Bandaranaike turned 83 in April this year.

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