19th December 1999

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UN recognises Vesak as global holiday

A UN Resolution seeking the international recognition of the day of Vesak has been adopted by consensus at the 54th UN General Assembly.

The resolution was co-sponsored by 34 member states, all the SAARC countries and many Asian Buddhist countries among others, including Russia and the United States. Many countries which supported the resolution were those where a majority of the population are from other faiths.

The idea of internationally recognising the day of Vesak was first mooted at the International Buddhist Conference held in Colombo in November last year and presented before the General Assembly by Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar in September this year.

Addressing the General Assembly Minister Kadirgamar said the teachings of the Buddha had been bringing happiness and solace to the lives of millions in many parts of the world.

"International recognition at UN offices would acknowledge the contribution Buddhism has made for over two and a half millennia as one of the oldest religions in the world," he said.

The draft resolution recognises that the day of Vesak or the day of the full moon in May is the day most sacred to Buddhists, who commemorate on that day the birth of the Buddha, his attainment of enlightenment and his passing away.

'Do your polls duty, we'll fight for you'

The Civil Rights Movement has sent letters in all three languages, Sinhala, Tamil and English to all police stations calling for their cooperation to ensure that this election turns out to be free from malpractices.

The CRM which is regarded as Sri Lanka's main civic's rights group has told the police to act in an unbiased manner and with a sense of national responsibility. The CRM assured that along with other groups it would fight for the rights of all police officers who were politically victimised for carrying out their duties without fear or favour.

"Long after an election is over, people are likely to remember not just who won, but how they won," the CRM said. "It is with the aid of the Police that the people can be assured to freely and fairly exercise their ballot to elect their chosen candidate."

The letter emphasised the importance of instilling faith in the people that changes in Government and leadership will take place in a peaceful manner.

Professionals to assist election monitors

The Organisation of Professional Associations (OPA) is inviting its 30,000 members islandwide to join its elections watch committee.

The OPA Elections Watch has decided to collaborate with PAFFREL in carrying out its work. However, the OPA members will not be deployed at polling stations as they have yet not received official status from the Elections Commissioner, OPA President Dr. Reggie Goonetillake said.

Though the OPA has been involved in monitoring the 1994 general elections and the Provincial Council elections held thereafter, the members have been reluctant to recognise themselves this year, for fear of being victimised.

"Our members feel that they will be targeted for attack if they openly involve themselves in reporting election malpractices," Dr. Goonetillake said.

Those wishing to communicate with the OPA or report election malpractices can call 580268 / 501721 / 075-344902.

CPC says no strike or fuel shortage

By Ayesha R. Rafiq

Despite recent panic buying of petrol and diesel caused by rumours of a strike by the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation, the CPC has assured consumers that there will be no strike action and no shortage of either petrol or diesel.

Distribution officers of the CPC said there was no danger of a strike despite newspaper reports to that effect and that the supply of petrol and diesel would continue as normal.

Officials said that while they had asked dealers and distributors to place their orders earlier than usual to avoid the huge rush during the elections and Christmas season, the CPC would be working 24 hours a day to deal with the extra orders.

A CPC official said that to ensure a smooth and continuous delivery to the outstations which could have been disrupted by the rail strike due to the oil carrying trains not functioning, the CPC had mobilised 60 large capacity bowsers to deliver the petrol and diesel to the outstations.

CPC officials said petrol stations would be open as usual on Tuesday.

They waited in vain

Two Presidential candidates waiting at the Hilton Hotel by appointment to meet international monitors waited in vain because the monitors who had gone to Temple Trees to meet another candidate _ President Chandrika Kumaratunga _ had not returned.

The foreign monitors had left at 12.30 p.m. for an appointment with the President yesterday but had not returned till 3.30 p.m., an hour after they had scheduled a meeting with other presidential candidates. The two candidates who waited were Liberal Party's Dr. Rajiv Wijesinghe and the Bahujana Nidahas Peramuna's A. W. Premawardena.

The monitors met UNP presidential Candidate Ranil Wickremesinghe on Friday.

Disabled soldiers appeal to CBK, Ranil

The Association of Disabled Ex-Service Personnel (ADEP) has sent appeals to President Chandrika Kumaratunga and Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe to give a public declaration to their demands, irrespective of who comes to office.

The proposals sent to the President and Mr. Wickremesinghe include pension rights to war heroes with less than 12 years of service, to legalise the pay and allowances in Parliament without the need for Cabinet approval, to establish an Authority for the disabled, and to give suggestions to end the war.

President of ADEP Asoka Dayaratne told The Sunday Times that they only got an acknowledgment from Mr. Wickremesinghe to their letter.

'We are yet to get a reply from the President. We put forward our demands because both these leaders talk about solving the ethnic issue. This is the main topic of their political speeches, but what have they done and what do they hope to do for the disabled soldiers who have sacrificed their limbs. They show that they are interested in solving the ethnic issue but they cannot even reply or give us an appointment to talk about our problems. We are not asking for the impossible, instead our demands are to help us to lead a normal life' he said.

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