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22nd August 1999
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Independent photojournalists boycotted yesterday's mega show 
of  the PA government to protest against the attack on them by the 
Presidential Security Division men on July 15 during a UNP 
demonstration. But they covered the event though in a different place. 
The picture shows policemen at the Pettah bus stand trying to bring the 
chaos there under control as thousands of commuters waited for hours 
for buses. Passenger bus services were hit yesterday as thousands of state-run 
buses were used for the transport of people for the PA rally. 
Pic by Ranjith Perera
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War: CBK seeks all-party solution

By Faraza Farook
In a landmark speech to a crowd of more than 100,000 with a television and radio audience of millions more, President Chandrika Kumaratunga yesterday outlined an ambitious 22-point vision for the new millennium and repeatedly appealed to the UNP, the LTTE and the JVP to join the government in finding a peaceful solution to the ethnic conflict.

Addressing a massive People's Alliance rally at Havelock Park to mark the fifth anniversary of the PA government, the President pledged that the war which was having disastrous socio-economic consequences would be ended by next year. 

The hundred-minute speech first outlined the socio-economic achievement of the PA government during the past five years and then went on to outline a vision for the first ten years of the next millennium ranging from unity in diversity to a blending of what was good in both socialism and capitalism. 

She also identified 21 weaknesses and challenges facing the country in the 21st century. 

The rally was the high point of the celebrations, officially described as a 'national festival' with one of the biggest ever procession from the Sugathadasa Stadium. The processions with some 160 floats showcasing the government's achievements started around 11 a.m. and was continuing even after 8 p.m. while the President spoke to the nation. 

Please see Page 2 for high points of vision 2010 and weaknesses.

The PA's mega anniversary show yesterday essentially a political event though dubbed as a 'national festival' cost an estimated 30 million rupees in public funds as tens of thousands of people were drawn to Colombo for the show of strength with state-run buses and train services provided free of charge.

The costs of the floats prepared by ministries, corporations and state institutions ran into millions while additional expenditure was incurred for banners, on providing meals, T-shirts, cool drinks and caps.

More than 2500 buses were arranged by the Sri Lanka Central Transport Board in addition to special trains which brought in crowds, while additional private buses were hired at state expense. "Since this is a state function we have been told to provide the buses," SLCTB Chairman Ramal Siriwardana said.

An official of the Social Services Ministry confirmed that it had spent Rs. 750,000 for the floats and other expenditure for the ministry participation in the event while the Ministry of Health which displayed one float had spent nearly Rs. 250,000.

The float displayed by the National Youth Services Council was estimated at Rs. 150,000. 

The Ports, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Ministry and the Science and Technology Ministry had three floats each while the Public Administration and Home Affairs Ministry had at least 12 floats. 

The Ports Authority has instructed various divisions to send at least 5,000 workers and participants were offered a packet of lunch, a T-shirt worth Rs. 150 and a cap in addition to being paid overtime.

Each ministry had been told to prepare floats depicting its progress.

Both the public and private sector participated at yesterday's celebrations with a large number of people brought to Colombo from other districts. 

In an angry reaction, the UNP's trade union movement Co-ordinator Gamini Jayawickrema Perera charged yesterday that workers in the public and corporation sector had virtually been forced to take part in the extravagant PA show. 

UNP parliamentarian R.A.D. Sirisena raising the issue in parliament on Thursday quoted a government circular, saying that youth from Colombo would be paid Rs. 100 to come for the show while more was paid for those from other districts. 

He said the National Youth Services Council had allocated Rs. 900,000 for the show. 

NYSC Chairman Sunil Navaratne admitted that food and transport were provided to cover the cost of the youth who came but said they were voluntarily representing youth clubs in the districts. 

Ministers Richard Pathirana and Jeyaraj Fernandopulle replying Mr. Sirisena's charges denied that public funds were used for the show. 

Minister Alavi Moulana, however, said the party was bearing part of the cost but the floats were paid for by the ministries meaning public funds.

Customs sees abuse: BOI soft-pedals

By Chris Kamalendran
A large number of companies and individuals are allegedly misusing facilities after obtaining Board of Investment (BOI) status, Customs intelligence sources said but a BOI official says the misuse is not of a serious nature.

Customs intelligence chief L. M. Nelson told The Sunday Times they were probing allegations that vehicles, drugs, chemicals, computers and other electronic equipment were being brought in by abusing duty-free BOI concessions. He said they would also probe allegations that companies with BOI status were exporting prohibited items including fauna and flora and goods of archaeological value.

"We have found that the concessions given to BOI companies are not being properly monitored and thus are heavily misused," Mr. Nelson said.

He pledged if substantial evidence was found the Customs would initiate legal action. Mr. Nelson said Customs had also got complaints that the export of various items in containers which were carrying goods of BOI companies. 

In response, BOI Executive Director P.M.A.J. Silva who is in charge of monitoring and project implementation, said they too had received complaints, but not of a serious nature. He said there were 1200 BOI companies and the were trying to monitor as much as possible but there were some instances of misuse and the facilities given to such companies had been withdrawn. 

Getting more for less

Despite the ministers and MPs helping themselves to a 150 percent increase in attendance allowances among other perks, Parliamentary Committees cannot even muster a quorum for sittings.

On Thursday, a visibly angry Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike got into her wheelchair and went away from the high post committee, which could not sit without the required quorum to confirm the appointment of Janaka Nakawita as ambassador to the United Arab Emirates.

Mr. Nakawita was confirmed the next day by the committee to which the Premier did not attend.

A Parliamentary Privileges Committee due to sit at 10 am sat over an hour late until officials managed to rally sufficient numbers. Cabinet has just approved an increase in allowance of Rs. 500 per MP for each sitting of Parliament along with Rs. 2000 for to settle cellular phone bills. Fuel allowances were recently raised from Rs. 5000 to 8000.

Package pushed further down

By Our Political Editor
The Government's 'package' now seems replaced in the back-burner despite the boast before the assassination of Neelan Tiruchelvam that it would be presented to Parliament by August 19.

The assassination of the TULF moderate and co-author of the 'package' which comprises constitutional reforms including devolution proposals and the abolition of the Executive Presidency has clearly changed the mood of its advocates, The Sunday Times learns.

The other co-author, Minister G.L. Peiris met Opposition UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe recently and informed him that the 'package' will have to be approved by the SLFP Central Committee first.

This was conveyed to the UNP leader at a dinner hosted by UNP's new Colombo East organiser Milinda Moragoda at his residence a few days ago. The only other guest present was British High Commissioner Linda Duffield.

Political analysts believe this is clearly a delaying tactic by Prof. Peiris, when considering the fact that it has come hardly a month after a PA leadership meeting announced the proposals would be out by August, and that the LTTE assassinated Dr. Tiruchelvam only a few days later.

Hardly two days after Prof. Peiris met the UNP leader at Mr Moragoda's Kirulapone residence, he told a workshop on 'Minority Protection' that the UNP had been given time till September 30 to reach a consensus with the minority parties to support the package.

It is ironical that Prof. Peiris is pushing the package further down the road, analysts say, when all the minority parties like the TULF, SLMC, CWC and the EPDP are voting with the government.

However, government sources said the aim of Prof. Peiris was to get the minority parties to agree to the UNP's position on the reforms package and arrive at some kind of consensual formula.

These developments came amidst a show of strength by PA constituent partners, the LSSP and the CP and Ministers like Mangala Samaraweera at Colombo's Lipton's Circus last week in support of the 'package'.

UNP leader Wickremesinghe said a three-member UNP delegation led by A.C.S.Hameed was discussing package-related issues with Prof. Peiris, but he emphasised that the delegation's views were not necessarily the official view of the UNP.

Prof. Peiris told the workshop that the government was ready for its part to address seriously the views of the UNP, a marked change from a position he took a year ago when he dismissed the UNP as only trying to woo the Tamil vote.

For instance, speaking at the centre for Strategic and International Studies in the United States, Prof. Peiris slammed the UNP leader and termed the UNP's stand on devolution as "vacuous" (empty, unintelligent).

Prof. Peiris had also told the workshop that there should be an agreement between the UNP and the PA, and such an agreement must be acceptable to the Tamil and Muslim parties. 

"If such an agreement is reached by September 30, Lalith Kotelawela, head of the Business Forum working towards a political solution to the civil war, will take them to the LTTE," Prof. Peiris had added.

He did not elaborate on what steps would follow a failure to reach such a consensus, given the fact that the SLFP itself has still to approve the package.

Among the other issues discussed at the Moragoda dinner was the UNP leader's visit to Britian where he is scheduled to meet Liam Fox, the ex-British Deputy Foreign Secretary, and the architect of the now discarded Fox Agreement which brokered a deal between Sri Lanka's President and the Opposition leader.

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