17th October 1999

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Controversial bill to be challenged

By Ayesha R. Rafiq

More than 25 petitions have been filed in the Supreme Court challenging the Equal Opportunity Bill and will be taken up for determination tomorrow, with a formidable battery of senior lawyers appearing for the petitioners.

Among the petitioners are Deputy Director, General Education, Mrs. Hema Jayasinghe, the Centre for Policy Alternatives, the Past Pupils Associations of Visakha Vidyalaya, Ananda, Dharmarajah and Nalanda Colleges, the Government Nurses Union, Veera Vidhana and the Dharma Vijaya Foundation.

One of the main points of contention are that the Equal Opportunity Commission and Equal Opportunity Tribunal which will come into existence if the Bill is passed, will have the powers to take affirmative action in the case of alleged discriminatory practices, and will thus take away what is at present the sole and exclusive jurisdiction of the Supreme Court to hear Fundamental Rights cases based on discrimination under Article 126 of the Constitution.

Another apparent flaw is that the Equal Opportunity Commission will have the power to take affirmative action if there is alleged discrimination in companies, but only those companies incorporated under the Companies Act No. 17 of 1982, thereby excluding the companies established earlier. Lawyers claim that the companies established before 1982 consist of a larger number of non-Buddhist Sinhala people in comparison to those companies established after this period, and would thus be detrimental to the interests of the Sinhala people.

Other main points on which the petitioners are challenging the Bill are that the Bill discriminates against elite Catholic and Buddhist schools and also against less prominent Catholic schools. They claim that as schools governed by religious bodies have been excluded by the Bill, the Buddhist schools which are not governed by religious bodies will suffer.

A team of several senior lawyers are appearing for the petitioners. they are: H.L. de Silva PC, Maureen Seneviratne PC, R.K.W.Gunasekera, E.D.Wickremanayake, D.S.Wijesinghe PC, R.Chula de Silva PC, Chandra Seneviratne PC, Nehru Gunatlleke PC, A.A. de Silva PC, Varuna Basnayake PC, Sidath Sri Nandalochana, H.L.K. Karawita, Dr. Jayantha Almeida Gunaratne, Srinath Perera PC, Ranjan suwandaratne, N.R.M.Daluwatte PC, Maxie Bastiansz, Migel Hatch, Prasanne Jayawardena, Kushan de Alwis, D.M.S.Dissanayake, Dulinda Weerasuriya, Miss. Ruwana Rajapakse, W.Karunajeewa, Kalinga Indratioon, Sanjeewa Jayawardena, Manohara de Silva, Indra Ladduwahetty, Champaka, Ladduwahetty, Hemasiri Withanachchi, Yasa Jayasekera, Rohan Sahabandu, Sarath Wijemanne, Manori Jinadasa, Salinda Jayasinghe, Chaturika Wijesinghe, Chandana Liyapatabendi, Sujith Perera, Daid Weera, S.L.Gunasekera, Gomin Dayasiri, Ramesh Eevelighe.

Three killed, thousands homeless

A mother and her four-month-old baby were killed when a hill collapsed into their two storey house at the Ayagama junction, in Pallekada on Wednesday evening.image

The victim's husband, a police officer in Batticaloa, was informed of the incident and the bodies were dug out of the house one day later as the place could not be approached due to the high level of water.

Due to landslides the Ayagama-Gawalagiriya road was impassable. In Pitigala a 94 year old man was carried away by floods.

Meanwhile, more than 15,000 families were left homeless by last weeks's torrential rains.

The Meteorology Department said that the highest rainfall reported had been on Tuesday (12), 236.3 mm from Ratmalana.

The heavy rains caused earthslips in many areas, while most low lying lands went under water. Several main roads and byroads were also reported to be impassable. The railway authorities said that no trains operated beyond Madampe on the Puttalam line.

The 15,000 families rendered homeless are from Wattala, Kelaniya, Dankotuwa, Negombo, Madampe, Nattandiya, Wennappuwa, Hikkaduwa, Rattanapitiya, Ratgama, Dehiowita, Kahatagasdigiliya, Jaela & Minuwangoda areas.

The provincial secretariat areas of Kaluganga and Dandugamoya were also severely affected by the floods.

Meanwhile, Social Services Department sources said that they were offering dry rations to over 10,000 families ravaged by the monsoon.

It has already cost the Social Services Department over Rs. 10 lakhs for relief work, sources said.

The Kelani river was said to be on the rise on Thursday, standing at 4 ft 8 inches.

However, Irrigation authorities said that the water level is on the wane.

2 petitions against CJ's appointment

Two petitions were filed on Friday against Chief Justice Sarath Silva asking that the CJ's appointment be declared invalid and that an interim order be issued restraining Justice Silva from functioning as CJ until the hearing of the petitions.

The petitions filed by Ravaya Editor Victor Ivan and Attorney Rajpal Abeynayake state that the appointment of the CJ at a time when there are two motions calling for disciplinary action against him on grounds of moral turpitude, violate their expectations of equal and equitable justice and is therefore a violation of their fundamental rights.

Mr. Ivan's petition states that in light of the fact that the First Respondent has sat with two judges inquiring into the two complaints against the first respondent, it is contrary to the principles of fairness and the rule against bias, especially where the purported appointment of the first respondent as CJ empowers him to nominate and constitute benches hearing applications including the application against himself.

Mr. Ivan's petition also points out that in practice judges are selected through a process of nomination by the CJ, the AG and the Justice Minister.

He believes that the President would have consulted with the first respondent in his then capacity as AG which would have resulted in his own appointment to the office of CJ.

Mr. Abeynayake in his petition states that the very fact that the first respondert has been asked to give his observations on the two motions against him indicates a prima facie case against him, and that such doubts as to the integrity of the petitioner which any person would entertain in these circumstances should have precluded the first respondent from being appointed CJ.

The petitioner also states that the appointment of Justice Silva as CJ is arbitrary and capricious and detrimental to the independence of the judiciary as it is imperative that a person holding the office of a Supreme Court judge be someone against whom there are no allegations of lack of integrity.

It was also submitted that the appointment seems to be a political one which seeks to make the judiciary an arm of the executive, in violation of the constitutional imperative to maintain the judiciary independent of the executive.

Both petitioners have cited international covenants which cite moral standards which the judiciary and judges therein should adhere to.

The petitions in particular cite the Beijing covenant, which Sri Lanka is a signatory to, which states that 'judges shall uphold the integrity and independence of the Judiciary by avoiding impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all their activities'.

In addition to asking that the CJ's appointment be declared null and void, they are asking that a full bench to hear and determine this matter in view of the general, public and constitutional importance of the matter constituted.

Save little Onella

imageOnella Eardley turns six on December 21. But she may not be alive to celebrate her birthday, for she has a rapid-growing cancerous tumour in her chest.

She has already undergone a four-hour operation at the Colombo National Hospital, but needs emergency treatment, otherwise she may not be around to light the six candles on her birthday cake.

This is a desperate and urgent plea to all those kind people to help save Onella, as her time is running out. Contributions in the form of cash or cheques could be sent to Account No. 02-13804 at the Hatton National Bank, Main Branch, Colombo 3 or deposited at any branch of the Hatton National Bank to be credited to this account.

Jayatissa walks out free

Jayatissa Tennekoon, one of the suspects in the embezzlement case filed by businessman Ravi Wettasinghe and against whom an arrest warrant was out was yesterday cleared of all charges and walked out a relieved man from the Fort Magistrate's Court.

Acting Fort Magistrate A.A.R. Heiyanthuduwa delivered order discharging Mr. Tennekoon after considering the "B" report which contained the opinion of the Attorney General that there was insufficient material for charges to be framed against Mr. Tennakoon.

The main suspect Lakshman Hulugalle has already been indicted before the Colombo High Court in the case filed by Mr. Wettasinghe that they had defrauded a sum of Sterling Pounds 50,000 which he had donated to the SLFP party fund.

The case is connected with the controversial Channel 9 issue.

Earlier an application filed by the CID before former Fort Magistrate, Mervyn Gamini Wijetunga for the discharge of Mr. Tennakoon was refused.

However on the same day Mr. Wijetunga was interdicted from service on allegations of 'suspect actions' in respect of two other cases.

Veera Vidahana rejects Mangala's allegations

Sinhala Veera Vidahana has dismissed allegations of Media Minster Mangala Samaraweera that the pro Sinhala movement is pretending to be the saviour of the Sinhala race and misleading the younger generation.

Media minister at last week's Cabinet press briefing came out strongly against the movement stating that it was a bankrupt movement and one could not use decent words to describe the movement.

Sinhala Veera Vidahana, in a statement, has pointed out that the main reason for the minister to accuse the organisation is to please the minority since the Government depends on such parties. The minister will even go to the extent of betraying his race to keep the minorities happy, it said.

The statement added that the minister's claims that the organisation being bankrupt only goes to show that the government has fallen into this position, and the minister was covering it up by making such baseless allegations.

Sleek operator held in cheque scam

The police this week busted a major travellers cheque scam following the arrest of a young man who had successfully charmed his way through many leading banks and got away with nearly a million rupees in hard cash.

The suspect, a resident of Chilaw struck at more than 10 state and private banks in the city and outstations for over three to four years, Inspector Jayaratne Manamperi of the Colombo Fraud Investigation Bureau (CFIB) said.

The suspect was tracked down to a safe house in a city suburb following a complaint by a leading corporate boss who had lost a large number of cheques on returning to the country from an overseas trip, Manamperi said.

He added the suspect had an excellent command of the English language which helped him to win his way through unsuspecting bank officials among whom are a number of women who fell for his charm and impressive personality.

According to IP Manamperi the suspect was also tied up with various underworld figures in the metropolis, and together they cleverly faked signatures and even passports, needed to encash the stolen cheques. He had also operated as a leading travel executive.

Investigations were carried out under the instructions of the CFIB Chief Senior Superintendent (SSP) V. Kanthasamy.

Jayaratne says old guard will remain

By Shelani de Silva

The Government has decided it will not change the party organisers for the forthcoming election campaign and that senior ministers will contest the election, People's Alliance General Secretary D M Jayaratne told The Sunday Times.

Minister Jayaratne said that although the Government is yet to decide on an election date all members have been informed to complete the development projects in their respective electorates.

"We have, to a certain extent completed most of the development work which we undertook five years ago.These are not big projects like the Mahaweli but village level projects. We will continue to do the work. The only problem we have is that we have not been able to provide job opportunities' fully," he said.

He added that although the election camapaign has not officially commenced there are plans to have more branch offices in the rural areas and to conduct seminars.

"We will not change the strategy of our campaign but we will get the Provincial Councillors and Pradeshiya Sabha members actively involved in the camapign. No one will be removed from the party, all the senior ministers will contest. Our government is a mature force which will help build the country for the 21st century," he said.

Minister Jayaratne refuted allegations that President Kumaratunga is planning to remove 'old hands' in the party and introduce young blood. "Everywhere in the world most of the politicians are above 60 years my personal opinion is that such people are the best rulers in the country," he said.

Cameramen allowed to proceed in rights case

The Supreme Court this week granted leave to proceed in the fundamental rights applications filed by five photo journalists against the IGP and others, alleging that their fundamental rights were violated when they were assaulted and their photographic equipment damaged during the July 15 UNP protest rally. Photo-journalists from the Ravaya, Yukthiya, Lakbima and The Sunday Times filed the FR applications, alleging that they were wrongfully assaulted in the course of their professional duties.

The UNP July 15 protest rally against what they called the government's failure to keep their promises was disrupted when police started attacking and firing tear gas into the crowd. The photo-journalists allege that when they were trying to photograph the chaos as a part of their professional duties as news photographers, they were assaulted by security personnel among whom were allegedly members of the Presidential Security Division, and suffered injuries.

The petitioners have submitted that this allegedly unprovoked attack on them is a violation of their fundamental rights to freedom of speech and expression, and their entitlement to receive equal protection under the law and also the freedom to engage in any lawful occupation and profession.

Colour bar nurses' problem

Identical uniforms for staff at state hospitals has triggered a row, with nurses going on a two week protest by working in casual clothes.

The nurses who are against attendants and labourers wearing a uniform somewhat similar to theirs, see a threat to the nursing profession.

The nurses in casual clothes said it was difficult to engage in their day to day work adding, "We have no choice. We don't want to disrupt work, but we want to fight for our right".

A union member Mrs. K.P.S. Wijeyalakshmi that the attendants and labourers have begun to wear a gown and shoes similar to the nurses' uniform instead of the 'osariya' and the apron.

"By dressing like us they give a wrong impression to the public that they are also nurses. We are in this field with relevant qualifications and special training, but these people with very little qualifications are trying to compete with our posts", Wijeyalakshmi said.

The attendants and minor staff had begun wearing their new uniform for over a month but there is no ministry circular directing a change of uniform for them.

The nurses at the Colombo National Hospital said they were not against them wearing gowns, but they don't approve in the colours which are blue and white.

The nurses were firm that the colour must be changed from white or blue to some other colour.

Threat to DIG triggers manhunt

By Leon Berenger

Police were last night on the trail of an underworld boss behind alleged crime operations in the Kandy and Peradeniya areas after Central Range DIG Sirisena Herath received a death threat, sources said.

A team of CID operatives from Colombo investigating the threat questioned a over a dozen guest house and liquor outlet operators, and are now looking for the underworld boss, their chief suspect, the sources said.

DIG Herath has ordered a tough crackdown on unlicensed food and beverage outlets that operate liquor sales. Guest house and lodge operators who rent out their rooms for vice have also been targeted under this crackdown.

According to investigators, the chief suspect they are looking for is alleged to have made huge profits through illegal business ventures with some of these outlet owners, and may have suffered a financial setback owing to the ongoing police raids.

New AG sworn in

Solicitor General K. Kamalasabayson was on Friday appointed Attorney General after a month as Acting AG.The appointment followed when former AG Sarath N. Silva was named Chief Justice.Mr. Kamalasabayson enrolled as an Advocate in 1972, having obtained a Class I Honours at the Advocates final exam.

He joined the Attorney General's Department as a State Counsel in 1974 and was promoted to Senior State Counsel in 1984. In 1990 Mr. Kamalasabayson was appointed Deputy Solicitor General and was promoted to Solicitor General last year. He was conferred silks in 1996.

Mr. Kamalasabayson also holds an L.L.M. in Public Law from the University of Colombo and an L.L.M. in International Business Law from King's College, University of London.

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