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26th September 1999

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Sri Jagannath Ratha Yatra (Ther) was held in
Colombo yesterday to bring peace and harmony
to the country. This is the first time Sri Jagannath
Ratha Yatra was held in Sri Lanka. The origins
of this procession are traced to Poori in India.
Pic by Lakshman Gunathilake
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Peacemaker turns bus broker

Lalith Kotelawala's multi-billion rupee offer direct to CBK

By M. Ismeth

Private sector's main peace broker, Lalith Kotelawala, who wants to end the ethnic conflict by talking to LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran, was last week busy negotiating another deal - a multi-billion rupee offer to supply buses to the government.

Mr Kotelawala, Chairman of Ceylinco Consolidated, himself made the offer in a letter to President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, to supply 2500 buses under a US $ 55 million (over Rs 3,800 million) Exim bank credit proposal.

But President Kumaratunga's cabinet colleague in charge of the subject, Transport Minister A.H.M. Fowzie, was unaware of the proposal. "I am not aware of any such proposal," he told The Sunday Times. This is despite the fact that the buses offered are for use by the Sri Lanka Central Transport Board.

The proposal is to supply 2,500 Ashok Leyland "Colombo Rider" 40 seater passenger buses at a cost of Rs 1.84 million each with manual steering. A power steering version of the same bus has been offered at Rs 1.915 million each.

Mr Kotelawala's proposal, sent directly to President Kumaratunga, was referred by the Ministry of Finance and Planning to G. Hewagama, Secretary, Ministry of Transport, requesting him to examine the proposal and take necessary action.

This month, the Sri Lanka Central Transport Board's Chairman, Ramal Siriwardena, informed the Ministry of Transport that he was in "full agreement" with a preliminary report on the subject prepared by Dr. T.L. Gunaruwan, Director, SLCTB board.

Ashraff–Pathi row defused

By Shelani de Silva

Presidential Secretary K. Balapatabendi has stepped into defuse the tension between Ministers Richard Pathirana and M. H. M. Ashraff after a heated exchange of words between the two outside parliament chambers.

Mr. Balapatabendi had reportedly consoled Mr. Ashraff, saying that Mr. Pathirana was not the one to lose his temper usually.

The argument broke out over an incident involving SLMC MPs Dr. I. M. Illyas, M. M. Zuhair and M. Mohideen. A placard-carrying Dr. Illyas, SLMC's Jaffna MP, staged a sit-in protest in the well, accusing EPDP leader Douglas Devananda of not releasing development funds allocated to him.

Mr. Pathirana had told Mr. Zuhair, who was walking out in protest, that the matter could have been settled amicably.

An angry Mr. Zuhair then told Mr. Pathirana that the government was not doing much despite several appeals to get the funds released.

Lion Air crash: some passengers still alive

By Leon Berenger

Police probing the unexplained Lion Air crash on September last year which reportedly killed all 55 passengers and crew on board, believe some survivors are held by the LTTE.

Relatives who turned up at the Jaffna, Mannar and Bambalapitiya police stations to identify belongings of the victims told police some of those presumed dead in the crash were communicating with them. But they refused to divulge more details fearing harassment, Mannar Police Chief Lalith Lekamge said.

He told The Sunday Times he had written to the Attorney General, saying that in the event of a proper and discreet inquiry the people who had already made statements in Jaffna would give more details.

At least six persons of a total of 18, who turned up to identify the belongings of the crash victims had indicated in their statements, that some of the so-called dead were very much alive and in touch with close relatives and friends.

These persons however had refused to divulge more details fearing harassment, SP Lekamge told The Sunday Times.

Abolition of Presidency

LSSP taking fight to House

LSSP leader and Minister Batty Weerakoon has decided to give notice to Parliament to take up for debate a series of constitutional amendments, including the one on the abolition of the executive presidency, thus bringing further pressure on the government to fulfil its main election pledges.

The amendments were first presented by Mr. Weerakoon as a private members motion in 1994, but since then had not been taken up for the second reading.

Mr. Weerakoon told The Sunday Times he had given notice to the Parliament Secretary General, requesting that priority be given to the debate.

"I want to take up the matter before the government's term ends," he said.

Mr. Werakoon said he was moving Parliament for a debate as part of the LSSP campaign to get the People's Alliance government to fulfil its election pledge of abolishing the executive presidency.

He had proposed that a President acting on the advice of the prime minister should be elected by Parliament for a term of six years and in the event of the office of the President falling vacant the Parliament should fill the vacancy. Mr. Weerakoon said the LSSP would continue its campaign for the abolition of the executive Presidency.

Police caught with banians down

By Frederica Jansz

Police Chief Lucky Kodituwakku has ordered a probe to ascertain how a tenderer who offered to supply 180,000 pieces of banians to the police forwarded a forged bid bond for Rs. 300,000.

Deputy Inspector General Lionel Karunasena who is in charge of police logistics said the matter was being investigated by the Fraud Bureau and the police could not say much at this stage.

"The unsuccessful tenderer's documents, according to normal procedure, were sent to the Commercial Bank which then claimed the bid bond was forged," he said.

According to a copy of the bid bond, it is issued on behalf of Chilan International (Pvt) Ltd, a company incorporated and registered in Sri Lanka.

Chilan International applied to supply 180,000 pieces of banians to the Police in December 1998. Along with other required documentation a bid bond as required was also submitted to the tender board.

Fraud Bureau Director V. Kanthasamy said investigations into the matter had just begun and he could not make any further comment.

Commercial Bank Executive Officer J. Samsudeen said she knew nothing about this transaction though it was she who had on behalf of the bank written to the IGP on August 23 this year.

The bank's letter to the IGP said the bank was forwarding a "forged guarantee bond which is said to be issued by us favouring the Inspector General of Police on behalf of our constituent M/s Chilan International (Pvt) Limited, for Rs. 300,000. We confirm not having issued this guarantee."

Chilan International Managing Director Anoma de Silva expressed shock when asked if she was aware that an investigation was underway "I do not know anything about this," she said.

"We were unsuccessful in the bid. That's the last I heard about this matter," she said. Ms. de Silva however confirmed that her company when securing bid bonds for tender purposes used the services of Commercial Bank of Ceylon Limited, City Office.

Ms. De Silva also said that her company had been importing vests and supplying the armed forces on previously awarded tenders.

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