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26th September 1999

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Gas vehicles to run on laws soon

Moves are underway to regularise the use of gas for running motor vehicles, Commissioner of Motor Traffic, D.S. Edirisinghe said.

"At the moment there is no law governing the running of vehicles on gas and we are in the process of doing it, " Mr. Edirisinghe said.

Regarding the taxation of gas vehicles, Mr. Edirisinghe said he was not the authority on it.

Minister of Transport and Highways, A.H.M. Fowzie said, "We've actually not planned anything with reference to taxing gas vehicles."

Meanwhile, gas stations are seen opening not only in Colombo, but even in remote areas, underlining the fact that conversion to gas is taking place in a big way in Sri Lanka.

However, the manager of a service station in Dehiwela, Mr. G. Dissanayake, said that still only about one car comes in a week for gas to his station.

Where to dump the Beira mud?

By Nilika de Silva

The Sri Lanka Land Reclamation and Development Corporation (SLLRDC) is still to find a suitable place to dump some 60,000 cubic metres of mud being dredged from the bed of the Beira Lake, under phase 2 of the project launched last Friday.

"This Rs. 26 million project includes the dredging, flushing and strengthening of the lake," Chairman, SLLRDC, K.A.T Nikapitiya, who assumed duties on the first of this month, said. "The water will be cleaned through aeration, by being mixed with air" he added.

Dredging of the South West Lake of the Beira will result in removing material from the lake bottom using suction dredgers. As the consistency of the material removed will pose a problem in transport along city roads, it will be dumped in a part of the lake as a stockpile until later transported to safer dumping areas outside the city.

Following the second phase of the operation, pipes carrying waste into the lake will be intercepted and connected to the sewer lines. "Only rain water will be allowed to flow into the Beira Lake," Deputy General Manager of the SLLRDC, Gemunu Alawattegama said.

"We're trying to install wooden gates so that during the rainy season, water from the Kelani river could be sent in quickly. Our aim is to protect Colombo city from floods," Mr. Nikapitiya said.

Management of the Beira Lake which was handled by the Ports Authority was recently handed over to the SLLRDC.

"All water bodies in Colombo should be regulated by one organisation," Chairman SLLRDC said.

"Until recently different institutions were responsible for different water bodies in the city. The SLLRDC was in charge of the 34 km of canals, the Beira Lake was administered by the Ports Development Authority and the Department of Irrigation the Nagalagama Gate and the Kelaniya Flood Gates.

See alsoPlus

'I'll never cease to be a Samasamajist'

By Roshan Peiris

The unrepentant maverick of politics Vasudeva Nanayakkara told The Sunday Times that the Democratic People Congress (DPC) that he has newly formed is not a political party. He said "it was a socio-political organisation which aims at political interventions and social initiatives and actions to promote and defend the interests of the people, weaker sections in particular and that of the country."

Vasudeva went on to say the DPC was also formed with an objective to develop individual personalities and cultivate a practice among the members and others who serve the social and national objectives. Vasudeva told The Sunday Times that the DPC was first begun in 1994 as a movement to remind the government of its pledges given, and to pressurize it to carry them out. "But since 1999 being convinced that the government is beyond redemption we resorted to mobilize the forces of the PA as against the government and lead them towards a new alliance of Left and democratic forces."

Asked whom the DPC would support at the forthcoming Presidential elections he said, "We will oppose the policies of the UNP and the present government which are substantially the same. Vasudeva spelled out that the DPC hopes to have a common presidential candidate as the nominee of the proposed Left and democratic alliance "on a common minimum programme that is distinctly novel. Asked whether he had left the LSSP Vasudeva said "No never. I started my life as a Samasamajist in my teenage days and I have to date remained so because of my commitment to National Independence, Democracy and Social Justice and also the internationalism of the exploited and oppressed.

"I have been expelled by the LSSP politbureau by a majority decision and I have asked my comrades of the Central Committee to raise this as a constitutional issue in the next CC meeting. If necessary at the next Congress. I will appeal to have my membership restored and our cherished political principles reinstated.

"I tell you that I will never cease to be a Samasamajist however much I am expelled. I only wish to bring the LSSP in to line with our heritage."

Pro-Vasu faction wants expulsion reviewed

Who had the right to remove him?

By Shelani de Silva

A pro-Vasudeva Nanayakkara Group of the LSSP will call for the review of his expulsion from the party at the Central Committee meeting scheduled for next month, party sources said yesterday.

Mr. Nanayakkara who was expelled from the LSSP a few weeks back remains in Parliament despite being removed from the LSSP.

Party sources told The Sunday Times more than ten members of the Central Committee will call for the review of the expulsion.

The group will challenge the grounds of his expulsion on the basis of whether there was a mandate for the politburo to take such a drastic decision.

Mr. Nanayakkara said he will continue to sit with the Opposition in Parliament as he has been doing for the past few months.

Meanwhile LSSP Secretary Wimalasiri de Mel said the party will not inform the PA General Secretary about the expulsion since the party is not in agreement with the present constitution.

Mr. Nanayakkara last week sent a letter to parliamentarians giving his reasons to sit with the opposition explaining his decision to remain in Parliament. He has said that the main reason for his expulsion is because he is against PA policies.

JVP to put forward common candidate for elections

The JVP is planning to put forward a common candidate for the presidential elections if the Government fails to honour it's pledge to abolish the executive presidency, a party official said.

The party is discussing with independent political groups to get their support to nominate a common candidate.

However the party will opt to join in a coalition with the independent groups only if they fail to come up with a candidate.

JVP spokesperson Wimal Weerawansa told The Sunday Times that the presidential candidate had still not be selected.

"If the move fails we will seek the support of independent groups. The political parties we are looking for will not be those affiliated to the PA or the UNP," he said.

The JVP last Tuesday met the Nava Sama Samaja Party, Muslim United Liberation Front and the United Socialist Party to discuss the selection of the candidate. The parties had agreed to support the JVP move for a common candidate but added that the party should first seek to nominate their own candidate.

"The JVP is also keen to have its own candidate, but if the move does not succeed we will join the other parties. The parties promised to support us and wanted the JVP to take the lead," Mr. Weerawansa said.

Sources said the party would agree to a non-party common candidate.

Right of reply

Environment Minister Mahinda Wijeyasekera writes in response to a news item titled "Ministry polluted by Matale misfits" published last week writes:

I refer to your news report which appeared on Page one in your September 19 edition with the above heading.

The report is incorrect. I have not given any statement in this regard either to Dilrukshi Handunetti or to any other correspondent of your newspaper.

I did not make any comment at any place that the former Minister had packed this ministry with more than 50 unqualified and incompetent officials from his constituency of Matale.

There is no truth at all that I intend to protest to the President over Mr. Ekanayaka's recent visit to an International conference. I feel that the ulterior motive of publishing this type of news item is to create unwanted problems between a Cabinet Minister and a Chief Minister and to tarnish the image of the government.

I would like you to publish this statement correcting your news item and to give equal publicity to my statement please.


Our reporter Ms.Dilrukshi Handunetti is on an overseas assignment and therefore unable to respond to the minister's denial.

There was however no reference to the minister speaking either to Ms. Handunetti or any other correspondent.

The story referred to the minister being angry about his predecessor packing the Environment Ministry with 50 unqualified persons from Matale.

If the minister is not angry about it, so be it.

Media freedom debate: Govt. dragging its feet

The fate of a parliamentary motion urging the government to introduce progressive media laws and repeal archaic ones, including the criminal defamation laws, is still in the balance with the opposition accusing the government of dodging the debate.

UNP sources said contrary to public pronouncements of its commitment to media freedom, the PA's feet dragging is clearly apparent in the face of a Parliamentary motion urging the government to introduce a freedom of information act, repeal criminal defamation and the Press Council laws and codify laws relating to contempt of court and sub-judice.

The motion, signed by UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe and ULF Leader Srimani Athulathmudali and several other MPs is expected to be carried if put to a free vote, the sources said. Knowing this well, the Government had twice made excuses to avoid debating the motion, they said.

The Government recently referred the matter to the Attorney General who advised that a debate on the motion could be sub-judice as there were several criminal defamation cases before courts.

At a recent Parliamentary Business Committee meeting UNP's Ronnie de Mel deputising for Party Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe (who was abroad) said the House had already agreed to debate the motion on October 8, and neither the AG nor the Parliamentary Business Committee could override the House.

Speaker K. B. Ratnayake intervened to say the AG's opinion must be respected and Secretary General Dhammika Kitulgoda suggested as a compromise that the admissibility of the motion be taken up on October 8.

The meeting concluded with no business being agreed upon for Friday, October 8 which is Private Members' Day, and the Speaker saying that he would have a word with the Opposition Leader on his return.

Media Minister Mangala Samaraweera told an International Colloquium on Freedom of Expression and Defamation last week in Colombo that a National Media Policy would be introduced by January next year.

Ranil in

UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe returned on Friday night after a two week European tour during which he met British political leaders.

Mr. Wickremesinghe met Foreign Office Under Secretary Peter Haynes, former prime minister Margaret Thatcher, Opposition leader William Hague, Lord Chancellor Irwin and and former Foreign Office under secretary Liam Fox who brokered a bipartisan agreement between the UNP and the PA.

Mr. Wickremesinghe said his talks with British Foreign Office officials did not centre on any particular topic but he had discussed the general situation regarding the military and political scenario in the country.

President out

President Chandrika Kumaratunga who left for the United States on Thursday to address an international aid conference will be away for a week.

The presidentwill be accompanied by Minister G. L. Peiris, and Central Bank Governor A.S. Jayawardena, will chair a session at the conference with the IMF and World Bank

Meanwhile Minister Anurudha Ratwatte was appointed acting defence Minister, Ratnasiri Wickremanayake acting Finance Minister, Dilan Perera, acting Justice Minister and Lakshman Kiriella acting Foreign Minister

Implement media seminar proposals, say editors

The Editors' Guild of Sri Lanka has hailed the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression and Defamation in general, and the call to Governments to abolish criminal defamation laws, in particular, following last week's International Colloquium jointly organised by the Commonwealth Press Union and Article XIX, held in Colombo.

The Guild reiterates its total support for the Principles enumerated following the colloquium wherein, among others, it was unanimously agreed that there should be a series of changes in media laws throughout the world, including the abolition of criminal defamation laws, and that Governments should ensure an impartial judiciary that safeguards freedom of expression.

It was agreed that criminal defamation laws, including those criminal laws that provide special protection to the President and other public figures, are unnecessary to protect reputations and should be abolished.

It also recognised the role of self-regulatory mechanisms in the media, the importance of open access to information, the promotion of accurate reporting, the need for accountability and transparency and the media's obligations to carry on their publishing activities with a view to furthering the people's right to know.

The Guild has long campaigned for these basic rights and responsibilities in Sri Lanka, and welcomes, unreservedly, the salutory campaign by the Commonwealth Press Union and Article XIX for these basic rights and responsibilities both pan- Commonwealth and internationally.

Despite promises to introduce Media Law Reforms a long time ago, the Guild nevertheless takes note of the Media minister's pronouncement at the opening ceremony of this International Colloquium to usher in progressive laws that govern the Media in Sri Lanka by January next year and earnestly requests him and the All Party Parliamentary Select Committee currently studying media law reforms to take into cognizance the International Principles on Freedom of Expression and Defamation enunciated in Colombo last week.

Declare Vesak as a special day, UN told

Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar has suggested that Vesak day should be observed as a special day by the United Nations.

The minister made these observations during his address at the 54th annual sessions of the UN. He said the teachings of the Buddha are studied and practised worldwide, and nowhere more avidly than in the west.

There are over 150 million known adherents of Buddhism in the world today while if one takes into account the vast uncounted numbers of those who practise Buddhism that figure would be much higher, he said.

The Minister said this recommendation had been made by an International Buddhist Conference held in Colombo last November which was attended by delegates from 26 countries.

A resolution to this effect sponsored by a number of countries will be introduced in the General Assembly at its current session he said adding that the Government of Sri Lanka commends this resolution to the attention of the General Assembly.

CJ has yet to reply letter

Chief Justice Sarath Silva has yet to reply a letter from one of his Brother Supreme Court judges asking for his observations on the allegations of moral turpitude made against him by Ravaya Editor Victor Ivan.

Justice Ameer Ismail had sent Mr. Silva the letter, the day before his appointment as Chief Justice last week. The Ravaya Editor's petition urged the Supreme Court to disenroll Mr. Silva as an attorney-at-law.

Both Justice Ismail and Justice Shirani Bandaranayake had been requested by the then Chief Justice Silva to investigate Mr. Ivan's petition against Mr. Silva and another by a petitioner who had cited the CJ as co-respondent in a divorce case and is also alleging that the CJ is guilty of moral turpitude, respectively.

The CJ has, in the meantime called a meeting of the Supreme Court judges for tomorrow, and one of the items on the agenda for discussion is likely to be the reconstitution of the benches.

Meanwhile, no new Attorney General has been confirmed and Solicitor General K.C. Kamalasabayson remained this week as Acting AG.

There were still unconfirmed reports that Appeal Court Justice Asoka Silva would be appointed AG, but a firm decision may now take longer in view of President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga's overseas trip to the US.

Colombo District Court judge A.W. A. Salam filled the long standing vacancy as Secretary of the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) this week and his place has been taken by Colombo Additional District Judge Kumar Ekaratne.

Mr. Ekaratne is tipped to get a double promotion to the High Court in the event Justice Asoka Silva is made AG, as the senior-most High Court judge Nimal Dissanayake is likely to fill Justice Silva's vacancy.

Rohana killing

Still no breakthrough

By Leon Berenger

Nearly two weeks after the fatal shooting of Satana editor Rohana Kumara the police are still groping in the dark while the killers remain at large along with the murder weapon and the getaway vehicle.

Some 25 people, including Kumara's wife, Gayani Kumara, the Deputy Editor of Satana, Senaka Ekanayake and a colleague have so far been questioned by police in this connection, but investigators have come up against a blank wall without even a remote chance of a breakthrough.

Shortly after the killing Kumara's mother told the Gangodawila Magistrate Sarath Chandrasiri Karunaratne that she suspected a colleague of her late son of having a hand behind the incident. She also added that this colleague whom she identified as Sujeewa Wickremaratne maintained an 'over friendly' relationship with her daughter-in-law.

Kumara's mother even went to the extent of stating that she found her daughter-in-law and her late son's colleague whispering behind closed doors shortly after the killing took place.

However sources close to the investigation told The Sunday Times that both the mother-in-law and Kumara's wife had a very poor relationship ever since the marriage took place.

Kumara's wife is alleged to have told police that her mother-in-law had cooked up the entire story in courts to discredit her. The mother-in-law is also believed to have been further infuriated after a demand for money was refused by her daughter-in-law, the sources said. The investigations have now returned to square one, and police are now probing with an open mind, sources who did not wish to be identified said.

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