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4th July 1999

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Frozen meat sent back to where it came from

By Vimarshini Jayaweera

Authorities keeping a close watch on food imports from Europe following reports about the presence of a cancerous chemical, have so far made one detection at the Colombo port.

A stock of frozen, boneless meat detected had been immediately returned to its country of origin, according to Minister of Food, Trade and Commerce, Kingsley Wickremaratne.

The chemicals known as dioxins and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are contained in fat which is mixed with compounded feeds for poultry and pigs. Animals and eggs are contaminated as a result of the consumption of the poisonous feed. It is reported that meat and eggs retain the toxin and could cause cancer if consumed.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Livestock Development and Estate Infrastructure told 'The Sunday Times' they will detain consignments of poultry and pork products as well as pet food originating from European countries, especially those from Belgium, Netherlands and France.

He said importers of meat, poultry and eggs are required to obtain prior approval from the Director, Department of Animal Production and Health on intended imports indicating the country of origin, type of products and submit supporting documents with regard to requirements expected by the Department.

The Animal Quarantine Staff will examine the laboratory test results of the shipments and the relevant certificates before clearing the goods.

The Ceylon Institute of Scientific and Industrial Research (CISIR) is in charge of the tests carried out on the different samples of shipments that enter the country, he said.

The Secretary to the Ministry of Livestock Development and Estate Infrastructure Dr. P. Ramanujam speaking to The Sunday Times said once the food items enter the port of Colombo, the importers are expected to give all the details and the food inspector would take over in giving the clearance. He further said that the Ministry of Health is in charge of the clearance process.

A member of the Animal Quarantine staff in Colombo, Dr. A. Sivasothy, added that there had been a recent shipment of about 25kg from the United States of America which was also inspected before clearance was given.

There has been some concern over the import of cattle by the Ministry from the Netherlands for the Livestock Breeding Project. Animal fat is not included in the rations that are fed to dairy cattle and therefore there is no danger of these animals being contaminated with dioxins or PCBs.

The Controller of the Imports/Export Control Department, S. W. Rajapakse said they took measures earlier to prevent diseases such as the mad cow disease from entering the country but at the moment the Import/Export Department is not involved as The Ministry of Livestock Development has taken over.

Hush hush over alleged girl beating

By Chris Kamalendran

An incident in which a 15 year domestic aide was allegedly beaten up by the lady of the house, leading to the hospitalization of the girl is being hushed up by the Police, residents of the area complain.

They say there is heavy lobbying by some politicians and the Police have been inactive despite several complaints made by them about assaults on the child.

R. Nirosha who was undergoing treatment at the Kalubowila hospital was suddenly discharged from the hospital on Friday afternoon after 'The Sunday Times' earlier in the day made attempts to speak to the girl, but was prevented by the woman police constable on duty who claimed she was under strict instructions by the Police not to allow anybody to speak to her.

Nirosha, from the Balangoda area was employed as a domestic aide at the residence of a wealthy woman, with allegedly close government connections at Talapathpitiya in Nugegoda.

Nirosha is reported to have been admitted to the hospital after she escaped from the house by phoning the police using a telephone number she had seen on television.

"I saw this girl being taken away by a woman policeman. Just before she left she told me she could not bear the assaults on her any more. She told me that she had telephoned the police on a number she had seen on TV," a neighbour who wished to remain anonymous told 'The Sunday Times'.

"On several occasions we provided food for the girl after she was found to be starving. We have also seen this girl being punished by the lady of the house," the neighbour said.

Nirosha is reported to have been working at this house for more than eight years and reported to have undergone harassment throughout the period, which in recent times had been increasing, residents claim.

They say they had petitioned and telephoned the police on several previous occasions, but police had not taken action regarding the matter.

"We want the police to investigate this case as we have personally seen this child being harassed. We are surprised that the Police are not taking action regarding this case," another neighbour said.

When 'The Sunday Times' contacted the DIG for Western Province (South), Jayantha Wickramaratna, he said since the investigations are being conducted by: Nugegoda SSP Nihal Dharmadasa he should be contacted. However when SSP Dharmadasa, was contacted he wanted 'The Sunday Times' to contact ASP Mahesh Divakara.

"We are investigating the case and also checking how this information reached the press,"ASP Divakara said.

Meanwhile Colombo south JMO Dr. S.M. Colombage said he was due to submit his report about the child to the Police.

Child Rights activist said it was a serious offence and the lady of the house could be charged for cruelty towards the child.

'The Sunday Times' learns that the woman involved in the assault is closely related to a member of a high powered government committee looking into cases of child abuse.

Meanwhile gangs allegedly connected to a PA MP was reportedly guarding the house in the night.

Bureaucratic red tape bungling food products from north

By M.Ismeth

When the prices of food items are soaring to dizzy heights in the South, why cannot the government think of bringing vegetables and sea food from Jaffna which are available at cheap rates, asked a shipping agent who is prepared to provide a vessel?.

Haritha Weerasinghe, director of a shipping company told The Sunday Times that his company was prepared to provide a vessel with deep freezer facilities to bring whatever vegetables that are grown in Jaffna and all the sea food which is available in plenty at cheap prices, to be sold in the South.

This would definitely help in bringing down the cost of living at this end and help the growers and fishermen in the north, he said.

He recalled the Sunday Times special assignment report of June 13 which had clearly given a breakdown of some of the prices of vegetables and jumbo prawns etc. and compared them to the prices prevailing in the South.

"Won't big hoteliers like to purchase jumbo prawns at a cheaper price rather than pay Rs 750 per kg when it costs only Rs 75 per kg in Jaffna," he asked.

"I just cannot understand the mentality of our politicians. When they can bring down the cost of living they do not really make an attempt to bring it down and let the people to enjoy the benefit., he said

He was critical of bureaucratic bungling which had failed to give his company the clearance to charter a ship to take civilian goods from Colombo to Jaffna and bring whatever produce was available in Jaffna on its return voyage.

Moreover, Mr. Weerasinghe was perturbed as to why his company could not be given the green-light to charter a ship when it was prepared to offer a reasonable price of US dollars 35 per metric ton for civilian cargo from Colombo to the North and charge US dollars 12 per metric ton for cargo from Jaffna to Colombo.

This price is much less than what is now being charged for cargo from Colombo to the North and that come he said.

"We have got all the clearance necessary from government agencies, but somewhere down the line someone has stumped us,"he lamented.

"See for yourselves, the price of the items that are available in the north. Red onions cost Rs 10 per kg, in Colombo its Rs 80. Prawns Rs 75 in the north and Rs 275 in the south. Jumbo prawns at Rs150, here its Rs 750. Brinjals Rs 25, beetroot Rs 20,green chillies Rs 20, carrots Rs 20, all per kg, and what prices we have to pay at this end," he said.

If these items could be brought down from the north, the cost of living at this end would be reduced to a great extent, said a confident Mr.Weerasinghe.

No money, no drugs

Insufficient allocation of funds this year by the Treasury to the Medical Suppliers Division to purchase drugs resulted in a drug shortage in hospitals.

The Kurunegala Teaching Hospital suffered a shortage of drugs used for treating thalassaemia, a blood disease, for the past two months.

Hospital sources said that the hospital was able to purchase the drug with funds received from donors.

The same source said 5000 vials of the drug is used every month. It was also confirmed that except for the death of a child who was seriously ill, no other deaths took place as a result.

Meanwhile the Medical Supplies Division at the Health Ministry reported that the required drug had been sent to the Kurunegala hospital.

The hospital is at present treating around 200 thalassaemia patients.

Off to Gay Paree

In the aftermath of an unsuccessful fund raiser which included cabaret and jiving in Los Angeles, the main Opposition UNP will this time go French with a gala fund raiser in Paris.

The fund raiser scheduled for September will be attended by the party hierarchy including party leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, General Secretary Gamini Atukorale, Treasurer Milroy Perera, Anura Bandaranaike, John Amaratunge, Dr. Jayalath Jayawardena, Daham Wimalasena and others.

The second international fund raiser to fatten the party coffers will go on for three weeks. During the visit, the Opposition Leader is expected to meet several leading Paris-based politicians and diplomats.

UNP takes polls violations to Geneva

The UNP will take a record of violations at the Southern Provincial Council polls by the ruling PA, to the Geneva sessions of the Human Rights Committee of the Inter Parliamentary Union (IPU), next week, a party spokesman said.

The newly elected member of the Asia Pacific Committee and Kalutara district UNP parliamentarian Mahinda Samarasinghe will be taking a report of 140 incidents committed during the poll, supplemented by documents and video tapes.

"The Southern polls were also full of incidents though they cannot be compared to the Wayamba fiasco. Our party has decided to continually report to the international fora on human rights violations and election malpractices taking place in the country,"Mr. Samarasinghe said.

Move to send more males to Middle East

By Shelani de Silva

A plan to minimise the number of women leaving for jobs in West Asia and to encourage more men to seek jobs there is being implemented, Foreign Employment Bureau officials said.

According to FEB chairman Jayantha Liyanage, the move is part of a government policy aimed at upholding the family structure and values.

Several studies have shown that the majority of migrant workers are females many of whom suffer a double blow they undergo hardships in the desert and when they return some of them find their families too are neglected.

As part of the move, duty-free vehicle allowances are offered to foreign job agencies which send more male workers abroad. This offer is made in accordance with a proposal in the last budget. To qualify for the duty-free allowance, the foreign job agency should have found jobs for 500 Sri Lankans of whom 300 should be males. They have to maintain this record for three years.

Mr. Liyanage said countries such as India and Bangladesh had stopped sending female workers abroad for housemaid positions, taking to consideration similar factors. "In time to come, Sri Lanka too will have to stop sending maids abroad," he said. However the Association of Licensed Foreign Employment Agencies is not happy with the plan. The association's president, W.M.P Aponso, told The Sunday Times the majority of jobs they got were for females.

"While it is a welcome move by the government to give a duty free concession, it is unfair not to take into consideration, the female workers. There are some agencies which send only male workers, so they do not come under this category. It is not possible to send 500 male workers abroad," he said. Mr. Aponso said they would meet the FEB Chairman this week to suggest that the number should be 250 males. Once an agency obtains the pre-qualification criteria, it will be allowed to import one vehicle a year, free of import duty and excise duty, provided that by the end of the year the agency will be able to secure any one of the overseas employment targets for Sri Lankans under the categories of unskilled males and skilled and semi-skilled persons. Further vehicles imported under this scheme will be registered under the FEB and not in the name of the individual. The vehicle will not be allowed to be transferred or sold.

Observers say the decision to limit the number of females going overseas will affect the economy, as the migrant workers are the highest foreign exchange earners.

UNP to decide on Wijeyapala Mendis tomorrow

A crucial decision to take disciplinary action against senior party man and former chief whip Wijeyapala Mendis is to be taken at a special joint session of the working committee and the parliamentary group tomorrow.

Party sources said several UNPers were not happy with Mr. Mendis' Negombo meeting where several speakers criticised the party leader.

Mr. Mendis was at the receiving end at the UNP Parliamentary group a fortnight ago when many senior and junior MPs described his actions as being inimical to party interest.

Mr. Mendis has denied the charges and attributed the controversy to reports which he described as mere 'newspaper stunts aimed at destroying him'.

The joint session is also expected to take decisions on campaign strategy in view of possible presidential or parliamentary election scheduled for next year.

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