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4th July 1999

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Deal with docs but strike threat still looms

By Faraza Farook

The Government Medical Officers Association (GMOA) yesterday warned that it would launch strike action again if President Chandrika Kumaratunga failed to carry out the promises she made at crucial talks on Friday.

"We cannot rule out trade union action in the future, if the promises are not kept," a GMOA official said.

He said the President had conceded that the GMOA's argument against the ad hoc appointments made by the Provincial Councils was reasonable.

The official said the president had finally agreed to meet the GMOA leaders when she realised they were strong enough to sustain the strike.

He said the ultimatum issued by some 25 trade unions and pressure from some cabinet ministers had also helped to bring about the talks between the president and the GMOA.

In terms of the deal between the government and the GMOA on Friday, a seven member committee will be appointed to study the proposals for a national policy on health services within the framework of the 13th amendment which provides for devolution of some powers to the provinces.

The GMOA said, the PC established to solve some problems has ended up in creating a new set of problems.

GMOA officials said that during the three hour discussion on Friday, government leaders had tried to convince the doctors that their demand ran contrary to the constitution.

They said the GMOA had also consulted constitutional experts who were of the view that the demand could be met without harming the existing principles. He added that no changes may be necessary in implementing the national policy, but a parliamentary enactment passed with a simple majority will strengthen the legal position.

The alleged attacks and damage caused to doctors' were also brought up during the meeting. The President asked for details and assured that compensation would be paid by the Rehabilitation Ministry.

Some of the placards used by the protestors were shown to the President. When the attack on doctors' quarters and picketing in hospitals in some districts were brought to her notice, the President admitted that at the parliamentary group meeting it was decided to have picketing in front of hospitals. However she had stressed that instructions were given not to go into hospitals and cause pandemonium, the GMOA official said.

Commenting on the impact of the strike on hospitals and patients, the GMOA official said there was inconvenience, but they denied any deaths directly linked to the strike or serious harm to any patient.

On the change of the president of the Association in the middle of a strike, the GMOA official said that Dr. J Niles was elected President early March but his term of office began in June.

President's comments rile doctors

By Faraza Farook

The Government Medical Officers Association is displeased with comments made by President Chandrika Kumaratunga at a public meeting at Ragama, hours after discussions with the doctors on Friday.

"Come what may, the doctors want me to implement the national policy. The meeting turned out to be a discussion with the deaf," the President said at the opening of the Ragama fly-over. In no other country other than in Sri Lanka would doctors go ahead with trade union action while patients die," she pointed out.

A GMOA spokesman said that doubts are being raised by their members about the genuineness of what was said at Friday's three hour discussion at Temple Trees.

"Even the statement sent by the Presidential Secretariat stated that the discussions were cordial, but a totally contradictory version had been given at Ragama, a GMOA spokesman said.

The entire membership will meet on Monday to re-asses what had taken place to date, he said.

Moves to take Cooray back to UNP

By Dilrukshi Handunnetti

A resolution is to be moved by five senior working committee members urging that former strongman Sirisena Cooray be brought back into the party fold, party sources said.

They said Mr. Cooray's conduct had been extremely detrimental to the political party he professes to love, and as a damage control measure a motion would be moved by senior UNPers proposing that he be formally invited to join the party of which he was the all-powerful general secretary once.

UNP sources confirmed that five members of the Working Committee have had discussions on the matter as it had become apparent that all possible forces needed to be gathered in order to galvanize the party to face future elections.

"Mr. Cooray like Mr. Mendis, acted in an extremely unbecoming and damaging manner. But there has to be damage minimizing efforts, hence the motion. Also, Mr. Cooray has exceptional organizational skills which could be harnessed for the benefit of the party" the sources noted.

Meanwhile, several UNPers with a sound electoral base who, have performed well as organizers are to be moved to higher party rungs. Tipped to be elevated soon to the Working Committee are Mahinda Samarasinghe, Lakshman Yapa Abeywardene, Keheliya Rambukwella and Themiya Hurulle.

LSSPer challenges Athauda's entry

By Ayesha R. Rafiq

An LSSP member has filed a petition in the Court of Appeal challenging the appointment of Sabaragamuwa Chief Minister Athauda Senev-iratne to the provincial council.

The petitioner K.M. Ratnasena says Mr. Seneviratne was not nominated or elected to the council.

After the April election, an elected LSSP member from the Kegalle district resigned and acording to the election law another LSSP member on the Kegalle list should have been apointed.

The LSSP secretary had done so. But the PA general secretary had nominated Mr. Seneviratne who was not on the list and this had been accepted by the commissioner of the election.

Judges to get due recognition

Judicial officers will be entitled to scholarships 30 of them will receive new cars by September and steps would be taken to improve court facilities shortly.

These are some of the decisions made at a meeting between Justice Minister, G.L. Peiris and a Judicial Services Association (JSA) delegation led by its President Sarath de Abrew.

The Minister confirmed that arrangements would be made to give Mitsubishi Lancer cars to 30 judicial officers and that the vehicles would be made available by September.

Minister Peiris had said the proposal would be put before the Cabinet on Wednesday and has directed the Justice Ministry Secretary M.S. Jayasinghe to make the necessary arrangements to make the vehicles available to the officers by August or September.

A proposal to award scholarships of a four week annual visit to Bangalore to ten judges was also confirmed by the minister at the meeting held on Tuesday at the Ministers residence.

The Minister had also promised to make available sufficient funds to improve the courts complex and other facilities with World Bank assistance.

Among the other matters agreed on were that the Justice Ministry will in future seek the views of the minor judiciary and incorporate their ideas in any new Bills that were to be introduced in Parliament.

The Urban Development Authority has also agreed to hand over the entire land promised as a housing complex to the judges, ending a long drawn out dispute.

The JSA will again meet with Professor Peiris on July 24 to discuss the progress on these matters.

Also present at the meeting were JSA Secretary and Chief Magistrate Colombo G.T. Kulatilleke, JSA Vice Presidents M. Paranagama District Judge, Mt. Lavinia and K. Ekaratane Additional District Judge, Colombo and Nihal de Silva, JSA committee member and Additional District Judge, Colombo.

Meanwhile an Additional Magistrate Colombo has been appointed to hear the case tomorrow of the two suspects remanded over the storming of the Ratnapura Magistrates Court on May 19,

Additional Magistrate I.A.A.R. Heiyanthuduwa has been appointed to hear the case of the two suspects who were remanded over the storming of the court house and threatening Ratnapura Magistrate W. Nambuwasam after he remanded a suspect in a murder case.

Deputy ministers promoted ministers

Two new Cabinet ministers were sworn in on Friday to fill the vacancies left by former Ministers Berty Premalal Dissnayake and Nandamitra Ekanayake who took up posts as Chief Ministers of the North Central and Central Provincial Councils.

Deputy Minister of Buddha Sasana Sumedha G. Jayasena has replaced former Social Services Minister Dissanayake while deputy minister of Housing and Urban Development Mahinda Wijesekara has replaced Forestry and Environment Minister Nandamitra Ekanayake.

The two ministers were sworn in at a ceremony at Temple Trees in the presence of President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga and Presidential Secretary K. Balapatabendi

New subjects for A/L

By Vimarshini Jayaweera

Three new subjects will be introduced to the Advanced Level Examinations from September this year.

According to the University Grants Commission, the new subjects will be Science and Society, General English and Management.

These subjects were proposed to assist the students in their different areas of higher studies.

UGC Vice Chairman Prof. Pathmanadan told The Sunday Times that the new English subject would not be tested at the GCE A Level Examination.

"It will only be tested at school level as a general subject," he said.

He added that the students would obtain a certificate of their performance at the completion of two years at the advanced level.

K.A.D.C.Nanayakkara, Deputy Director General of Education Reforms and Implementation, said the English background students gained would help them understand the courses better particularly subjects like science and technology.

The new management subject is expected to mould the students to prepare themselves as leaders, get involved in group activities and the training to think and act under pressure.

Manique Gunasekera, the Head of the English Department at The University of Kelaniya, said the Ministry of Education was planning on promoting the English Language subject as widely as possible.

She also said the only reason they were unable to make the subject compulsory was due to the dearth of English trained teachers in rural areas.

Minister shoos out cameramen

An angry Home Affairs Minister Ratnasiri Wick- ramanayake chased away journalists yesterday as they tried to photograph him handing over an elephant to the Asgiriya temple in Kandy.

Minister Wickramanayake refused to let the journalists take photographs either when he was presenting the elephant or later.

However, they were later allowed to take photographs of the Asgiriya Mahanayake Palipane Chandrananda Thera and the Diyawadana Nilame. The one-and-a-half-year old elephant was reportedly captured in the Udawalawe area.

Queries over management boards for schools

By Nilika de Silva

The National Pastoral Convention has been asked to explain why it feels boards of management should be appointed to the Catholic schools.

Father Ivan Perera, General Manager Catholic Schools, told The Sunday Times he had written to the National Pastoral Convention seeking clarification on the resolution regarding the boards of management.

The National Pastoral Convention of the Catholic Bishops Conference recently recommended that schools owned by the Church have boards of management for more transparency and accountability in the administration of these schools.

The resolution that the Archbishop be requested to appoint boards of management to schools owned by the Church was put forward because the National Pastoral Convention admitted there were many shortcomings in the administration of these schools and felt boards of management were the solution.

However, Fr. Ivan Perera said he felt there should be a change only if it was really necessary.

"Already there are different organisations, various boards dealing in consultative and participatory management. In certain matters the management wants to have uniformity," he added.

Old black Joe is gone

Joe Segera, one of the colourful journalists of Lake House, has passed away after over fifty years of reporting for the Daily News and its sister papers. He was 67.

Starting his career on the Times of Ceylon, he joined Lake House as the Daily News correspondent in Galle, where he met and wrote about its politicians. Notable was W. Dahanayake, who later as a minister would call Joe, who had built up Daha's confidence as a trustworthy reporter , to give a story.

Joe was one of those reporters that made up the parliamentary corps that filled two to three pages of House proceedings. He was one of those who covered important events like a queen's visit or a prime minister's news conference and turned out excellent copies.

Joe was popular in office and brought in good stories so that there was no day that his byline did not appear in the Daily News.

He reported the Bandung conference, the inauguration of the Colombo Plan. He was correspondent for the UPI and the Newsweek.

Time off from journalism, he was jovial and at the year end get-to together, he warmed up quickly and was soon the life of the party singing jazzy baila and songs that put you in stitches.

Coming hardly fortnight after the demise of another great journalist, Mervyn de Silva, the journalist world bids farewell to one of its colourful, sons.

He leaves his wife Ranee and two daughters. The funeral takes place today at 4pm at Nayakakanda cemetery.

Danny dispute drags on

By Shelani de Silva

A controversy over the appointment of a minister to the southern province is causing a major dispute between the Communist Party and the SLFP, constituents of the ruling People's Alliance.

The CP has put forward Danny Hiththatiya from the Matara district as its nominee to the board of ministers. But Minister Mangala Samaraweera and others opposed it on the basis that Mr. Hiththatiya had attacked both President Kumaratunga and the Southern Development Authority.

At recent meetings, the President and the ministers agreed on a compromise Mr. Hiththatiya could get the portfolio if he apologised for the attacks.

But Mr. Hiththatiya is refusing to apologise, saying he is standing by what he said and that others, including President Kumaratunga herself had also attacked the SDA.

The CP is also standing by Mr. Hiththatiya. Party leader Raja Collure told The Sunday Times they would not ask Mr. Hiththatiya to apologise to the President but would only inquire into the charges made by her.

Chief Minister Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena said the ministers should be sworn- in before Thursday and he hoped a settlement would be reached by then. (See also political column.)

Chemmani report on two bodies soon

By Ayesha R. Rafiq

A forensic team investigating the alleged Chemmani mass graves will submit a report to the Jaffna Magistrate on the possible cause of death of two persons, whose skeletons were found and identified during the recent exhumation, a prosecutor said.

State Counsel Yasantha Kodagoda said military officers whose names had transpired during the investigations would also be questioned and their statements recorded beginning tomorrow.

The skeletal remains exhumed from the Chemmani graves were identified as those of Mahendran Babu and Rasiah Sathiskumar. The provisional identifications based on the exhumed skeletons were confirmed by the forensic experts, when they briefed the Jaffna magistrate on the progress of the probe.

The Attorney-General's Department which is heading the investigation will also submit to court the CID team's plan of action in pursuing the case. Mr. Kodagoda said the next step would be to get a general view of the entirety of the alleged graves.

The team will be back in Jaffna this week interviewing new witnesses as to the existence of any other graves where people were killed and buried. Mr. Kodagoda said they were hopeful new witnesses would come forward.

VIPs at Prayer Breakfast for peace

Top politicians, business leaders and security forces chiefs gathered at a top Colombo hotel on Thursday to pray for peace in the country.

A 200 strong gathering at the Hotel Lanka Oberoi was described as the first ever National Prayer Breakfast to be held in Sri Lanka.

Among those present were speaker K. B. Ratnayake along with ministers G.L. Peiris, C.V. Gooneratne, Jeyaraj Fernandopulle and S. Thondaman and Deputy Minister M.L.M. Hisbullah.

The UNP was represented by UNP Chairman Karu Jayasuriya along with MPs John Amaratunga and Tyronne Fernando the UNP, while the Army and Air Force Commanders and the police chief prayed on behalf of the security forces. The business community was represented among others by Ken Balendra and C. P. de Silva. The participants hope to continue praying for peace by meeting for a prayer breakfast once every two months.

Change of duties of Army officers

Army headquarters has effected changes with a series of appointments and attachments of senior officers.

Brigadier C.J. Ranaweera ceases to function as Deputy General Officer Commanding, 56 Division, will function as Principal Staff Officer, Headquarters. He is being succeeded by Brigadier T.T.R. de Silva, Commander, 212 Brigade (Mannar).

Brigadier G.B.W. Jayasundara, Deputy Commander, Operations Command, Colombo (OCC) and to be attached to Army Headquarters. He will be succeeded by Brigadier D. Ratnasabapathy, who is now Director, Staff Studies at Army Headquarters.

Brigadier M.L. Jayaratne Colonel (Co-ordinating), Joint Operations Headquarters, will function as Deputy Logistics Commander ,Forward Maintenance Area (North).

Brigadier D.V.S.Y. Kulatunga, General Staff Branch, Army Headquarters to function as Security Co-ordinating Officer, Temple Trees and also as Deputy General Officer Commanding, 21 Division (Anuradhapura).

Brigadier D.H.M.R. Tammita, Deputy Logistics Commander, Forward Maintenance Area (North) will function as Brigadier (Co-ordinating), Joint Operations Headquarters.

Brigadier R.K.J.B. Wijeratne, Director, Humanitarian Law, Army Headquarters will function as Director Staff Duties, Army Headquarters. He will also overlook the duties of Commander, 112 Brigade until the return of Brigadier D.U. Munasinghe from overseas training.

Brigadier W.U.B. Edirisinghe, Commander, 213 Brigade, function as Competent Authority, Yala (Puttalam).

Brigadier H.A.N.T. Perera, Competent Authority, Yala will be attached to Army Headquarters.

Brigadier H.I.G. Wijeratna, Acting Judge Advocate-General will function as Judge Advocate General.

Brigadier N.A. Ranasinghe to overlook duties of Commander, Armour Brigade in addition to his present duties as Commander, 561 Brigade.

Colonel K.S. Fernando, Commandant, Army Training School will function as officiating Commander, 213 Brigade.

Colonel M.C.M.P. Samarasinghe, officiating Commander, 552 Brigade will function as Chief Instructor, Army Command and Staff College.

Colonel R.M. Jayasinghe, Chief Instructor, Army Command and Staff College, will function as officiating Commander, 212 Brigade.

Colonel S.M. de A. Rajapakse, officiating Commander, 533 Brigade will function as officiating Commander, 552 Brigade.

Colonel R.M.D. Ratnayake, Regimental Headquarters Sri Lanka Light Infantry (SLLI) will function as officiating Commander, 533 Brigade.

Colonel M.P.A. Jayawardena, Colonel (Co-ordinating), 11 Division attached to Area Headquarters Galle, and function as Officer Commanding Troops - Yala.

Lieutenant Colonel W.M.S. Gunaratne, Commanding Officer, Recruit Training Wing Army Training School and Deputy Commandant, Army Training School, to function as officiating Commandant, Army Training School.

Lieutenant Colonel C.Wimalasiri, Commanding Officer, 15 Sri Lanka Light Infantry (SLLI), will function as Commanding Officer, Recruit Training Wing, Army Training School. He will also function as Deputy Commandant, Army Training School.

From mother with love

By Roshan Peiris

What did Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike give her famous daughter, President Kumaratunga, for her 54th birthday on Wednesday?

"I gave her the best present, my love and blessings as a mother. That was my birthday present to her," Ms. Bandaranaike told The Sunday Times.

The ailing veteran premier said: "I have given her a good background and sound values to follow both in life as well as in politics. I am proud that my upbringing has borne fruit.

"It was Chandrika who turned the tide in favour of the SLFP when she won the Western Provincial elections in 1993. She went on to win the General and the Presidential Elections in 1994. I am very proud of her achievements and so what more could I give her as a birthday present other than a mother's full love and blessings."

The pimpernel Perumal

Former North-Eastern chief minister Varatharaja Perumal is like the legendary Scarlet Pimpernel who was here, there and everywhere but never to be found, EPRLF members said.

EPRLF leader Suresh Premachandran said Mr. Perumal was in hiding and would not answer any questions by phone or fax.

Asked from whom Mr. Perumal was hiding, the EPRLF leader said it was from his old friends in the LTTE. He keeps moving around and does not live in any one place for long. A TV station said Mr. Perumal had gone back to India as he did when he gave up his office as chief minister ten years ago. But Mr. Premachandran said he was still in Sri Lanka. " We cannot contact him. But he contacts us. He is apparently on the run for security reasons," Mr. Premachandran said.

Mr. Perumal who once led the EPRLF returned from India recently and submitted proposals to the government for a solution to the ethnic conflict through devolution of power. Reports say the EPRLF is also facing a power struggle between supporters of Mr. Perumal and the present leadership.

Try him for treason, says UNP motion

The main Opposition UNP is to move a motion in Parliament asking why President Kumaratunga did not arrest former North-eastern chief minister Varatharaja Perumal on charges of treason when he returned to the country recently.

UNP General Secretary Gamini Atukorale has told The Sunday Times the UNP also wanted details regarding all dealings and discussions between the government and the EPRLF leader who unilaterally declared the North-East a separate state in 1990.

While urging the immediate arrest of Mr. Perumal to be tried for treason, the UNP is also demanding a public explanation and apology from the PA leadership for behaving in a manner detrimental to national interest, he said.

"A country's sovereignty is supreme. What confounds reason is the PA's mysterious links with the EPRLF strongman and its discussions with a man who should be hauled before court and tried for treason. He has deeply hurt this nation and undermined the supremacy of the legislature," Mr. Atukorale charged.

He said the UNP had repeatedly called for action against Mr. Perumal and little had been done and thus it was now moving a motion in parliament.

In alternative devolution proposals made recently, Mr. Perumal called for a federal system and for a change in national flag to symbolise the multi-ethnic character of the country.

Will he cross over?

By Dilrukshi Handunnetti

Speculation is rife about a possible crossover by Kandy district UNP parliamentarian Sarath Amunugama who is reportedly making overtures to the ruling PA, political sources said.

The former civil servant and media chief who entered politics on the SLFP ticket and subsequently crossed over to the UNP has reportedly got in touch with PA leaders after he put forward certain demands to the UNP leadership.

Dr. Amunugama at a meeting recently supported a call for the setting up of a national government and this has led to widespread speculation. He was severely criticised at a recent meeting of the UNP parliamentary group but he stood his ground saying he had a right to express his views in a democratic party.

When contacted by The Sunday Times, Mr. Amunugama denied he was seeking any post in the UNP but reiterated his call for a national government to solve the ethnic crisis.

When asked about a crossover, Mr. Amunugama was vague in his response, only saying he wanted a national government.

Government sources said Dr. Amunugama had always had a close dialogue with the PA and being a liberal UNPer, he had often made worthy contributions to discussions on power sharing.

"We wouldn't mind having Dr. Amunugama back in our fold, and perhaps it is only natural for him to come back to the SLFP- his one time political home," a senior SLFPer said.

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