2nd January 2000
Business| Sports| Sports Plus|
By Chris KamalendranSeveral Tamil groups based in the north and east and in the upcountry are trying to form a common front with the aim of contesting future elections.
The main aim of the group will be to get more members elected to Parliament at the next general elections and bring pressure on the government as well as the LTTE to enter into a dialogue and reach a political settlement.
'We have already initiated discussions with various groups including the Upcountry People's Front (UPF) and the All Ceylon Tamil Congress',Suppiah Periyasamy, a former CWC Colombo wing branch secretary who has initiated the move said.
He said they wanted to give proper leadership to the Tamil community as they felt that some of the Tamil political parties are working for petty political gains.
He said they hope to have wider discussions with other Tamil groups which also include senior CWC members. He said that other political parties including the TULF, EPRLF and TELO are being invited for the discussions. Mr. Periyasamy said ACTC leader, Kumar Ponnambalam was briefed on the proposal and plans are underway to organise groups in the upcountry first.
He said they also intend playing a supporting role in the government to find a solution to the ethnic crisis.
He said another aim will be to campaign for better facilities to develop estate infrastructure.
By Leon BerengerMystery surrounds the discovery of the sophisticated assault rifle that was found under the rubble of the Silver Slipper Casino at Duplication Road in Kollupitiya which was torched during curfew hours shortly after the Presidential elections in December.
The weapon, described as a Chinese-built T56 rifle was discovered nearly 48 hours after the attack by workers hired to clean up the debris.
The club owner later handed the weapon over to the Kollupitiya police who are carrying out preliminary investigations.
Inspector (IP) Sunil Shantha in charge of the Crime Detection Bureau (CDB) of the Kollupitiya police told The Sunday Times that no arrests have been made as yet.
The weapon has been handed over to the Government Analyst and a report is awaited, SP Colombo South , Sunil Perera said.
Suspicion has been directed at either police or security force personnel since the attack occurred during curfew hours.
The gang armed to the teeth was able to roam freely and even pass check-points although situated in a high security zone barely a kilometre away from 'Temple Trees'. This is the second attack on the Sliver Slipper Casino since it began operations in August last year.
Earlier unidentified goons allegedly working for this big-time casino operator assaulted the club's owner and snatched jewellery that he was wearing at that time.
By Nilika de SilvaMore than five thousand people from around the country gathered for the inaugural meeting of Jana Vijaya held at the Dharmayathanaya in Maharagama last Sunday.
This organization which is open to people of all religions and communities was formed to spread good moral values and fight against the immorality which is rampant in Sri Lankan society today.
Membership forms were distributed among the people gathered at the meeting, with the only requirement to gain membership being the sincere wish to adhere to certain moral standards in daily life.
Ven. Madihe Panaseeha chaired the meeting which a large number of priests also attended, while the founder and consultant of Jana Vijaya is the Ven. Gangodawila Soma Thera.
People from as far afield as Anuradhapura had travelled to Maharagama to participate in this event, and for a non-political meeting the crowd was considerable.
The project is funded by the Archbishop of Colombo, the World Health Organization and the Rotary Club - Colombo East its coordinator Celine Samarasinhe, a District Nursing Sister in London.
This nursing system will provide skilled nursing care to the sick in their own homes, while the services of volunteer doctors would be available when required.
This is a start-up project designed to provide a five year nursing service to people of all denominations free of charge and the key theme of this nursing service is its responsiveness to community health needs, concern with prevention as well as cure, and with the promotion of self-care.
The Archbishop provided the building in the premises of St. Lucia's Cathedral to be used as the base for the nursing team.
The Archbishop thanked Fr. Mahes Ganemulle, the Parish Priest of Kotahena and Fr. Anslem Silva, OMI who have been closely associated with this project.
By J.A.L. JayasingheTwo people were killed when a Reserve Police Constable opened fire during a brawl at a millennium ball in Digana Village Resort.
The victims, 31-year-old Nimesh Rambukwella, a sailor, and Sameera Prasanna Atapattu (20) of Mahaiyawa, died on the spot, while another person, M. Gunawira received serious injuries. She was admitted to the Kandy Hospital, Police said.
The reserve constable who allegedly used a T-56 weapon and fired upto 19 shots has been arrested.
This project is providing counselling services to widows of service personnel killed in battle. The main objective of Ranaviru Family Counselling Service is to bring about stability in the lives of widows who are psychologically affected by the trauma of suddenly losing their spouses, often the bread winners of the family. The first stage of the project is presently underway with workshops being held for counsellors who will guide and train these widows to stabilise their lives.
"We are a highly professional but non- income generating organisation," said the Project Chairman, Air Vice-Marshal Harry Goonetilleke, adding that the organisation has the unstinted support and co-operation of the Army, Navy, and Air Force.
"Our funds for this project are fast running out and we seek the assistance of the public to help us to keep this project going," he said and appealed to the public to contribute to this worthy cause.
By Tania FernandoCurrency notes were discovered in ballot boxes in the Galle Fort counting centre in the Ambalangoda district in the recently concluded Presidential election, Elections Department officials said.
They said the currency notes were of ten and twenty rupee denomination and one each had been found in twenty ballot boxes.
The officials claimed the notes might have been put into the boxes to ensure that substitution of boxes did not take place during transportation to the counting centre.
The Elections Commissioner claimed he was not apprised of the discovery of currency notes, nevertheless it had no bearing on the ultimate result.
Celebrating, PA styleThe PA victory was celebrated on a grand scale by supporters in Bingiriya who left a thumping bill unpaid in a hotel. More than twenty people stormed the hotel on December 23 following President Kumaratunga's victory at Tuesday's elections. Once they had their fill they had left the place thanking the owner but not settling the bill.
The owner who had no choice but console himself that a Presidential victory is something that needs to be celebrated - losses notwithstanding.
Thieving bridegroomWith cellular phones being the in-thing among young people, a bridegroom had stolen a cellular phone when he and his bride had gone to a studio for a wedding photograph.
The couple hailing from Wellawaya posed for the photograph and quietly left taking away the phone. The loss was noticed by the owner when he was getting ready to close shop.
Browsing through the negatives of photos taken the previous day, the owner suspected this particular group and informed the Wellawaya police.
When the suspect was confronted he had vaguely said that a pal of his had given a phone to him which was in his home at the time.
The phone was recovered and handed over to the owner.
The HQI of Wellawaya remarked that the theft by a bridegroom was something that must be included in the the Guinness book of records.
Suicide bid foiledA mother who attempted suicide with her three children was ordered to be sent to the Salvation Army by Additional District Judge A.A.R. Heiyanthuduwa.
The mother who was arrested by the police at Galle Face later revealed that she had been deserted by her husband. Left to fend for herself she had gone begging but out of sheer desperation had attempted to commit suicide.
She was 35 years of age and had twins aged three and a five month baby.
By Chris KamalendranA young Petroleum Corporation executive and businessman Ruwan Korala, 38 was murdered on Wednesday night at Kottawa. He was employed in the capacity of Area Supervisor, Colombo South.
'My husband had a tea factory in Opatha, Galle. He operated the factory with five other partners. But in 1997 Ruwan and another partner pulled out and requested the remaining partners to settle outstanding dues', Ruwan's wife Jeewani said.
'They promised to settle outstanding dues in a short time but although two years had elapsed the promise has not been fulfilled. Consequently my husband instituted legal action.
"The court had authorised him to sign cheques to enable him to recover part of the dues. However, the other partners had obtained a five million rupee loan against the factory without the consent of my husband resulting in the closure of the factory by the owners and consequently further transactions were not possible.
"My husband had several arguments with partners over settlement of dues. We also received threatening calls", she said.
Jeewani, mother of a two-year old daughter said her husband had lodged a complaint at the Mirihana Police station.
"On that fateful day my husband went to Thimbirigasyaya to meet a partner", she added.
That night Ruwan's mother had heard a vehicle arrive and assumed it was her son returning. "I saw a vehicle somewhat similar to my son's vehicle but it did not stop at the gate. I then heard gunshots and the crashing of the vehicle against the wall of the front house.
"I assumed that it was my neighbour's vehicle and requested my son-in-law to rush to their assistance. He discovered that the vehicle belonged to Ruwan and that he had been shot," she said. Homagama Police HQI said that according to available evidence the murder might be the result of business rivalry.
Ruwan's funeral takes place today.
Ruwan a well know cricketer in the early 1980s was voted the 'Best outstation cricketer' in 1982. He represented the Sri Lanka Schools IX too. He played for Galle CC and later for Nomads.
Mr. Karunaratne had reportedly called Mr. Ivan last week inquiring about a story reported in the Ravaya newspaper. The story referred to an attempt to remove the bodies of the members of the PSD who died in the December 18 suicide bombing at the Colombo Town Hall without prior magisterial permission.
Mr. Ivan had reportedly asked Mr. Karunaratne to send in a clarification if he so wished when Mr. Karunaratne had retorted saying 'does that mean you want me to talk to you in the language we understand'.
Mr. Ivan has referred the matter to the MediaMovement.
By Faraza FarookIn spite of the violence caused by intruders in the Colombo National hospital in the recent past the hospital is unable to strengthen security measures due to the large number of visitors.
Everyday 20,000 to 30,000 people visit the hospital and carrying out individual checks is difficult, says Hospital Director Hector Weerasinghe.
"Thorough checks of all visitors is time consuming and would result in long queues besides it causes much resentment", he said.
"People have been requesting the dispensation of passes to visit patients as it causes much heartburn," Dr Weerasinghe added.
In an incident that took place last Wednesday, a patient and a visitor were injured when a shooting incident took place in the ward.
Nobody is aware of how the two gunmen got into the ward. Dr. Weerasinghe said people are sometimes permitted to visit patients without passes on sympathetic grounds.
"We are not endowed with special powers to ascertain whether visitors have ulterior motives.
"Similar incidents had taken place in the past especially during the JVP terror period", he added.
According to OIC A.R. Edirisinghe of the Maradana Police only two police officers have been assigned to the hospital although there are five entry points.
The suspects are alleged to have shot the patient, Lakshman Wettasinghe at Ja-Ela earlier and he is presently in the ICU receiving attention for injuries sustained in the Wednesday attack.
By Ayesha R. RafiqTravel agents struggling to survive in the face of what they say is a rapidly deteriorating industry are accusing each other of undercutting practices which are reportedly pushing out the smaller operators and are contrary to regulations enforced by the governing body of airlines and travel agents.
The Market Development Programme (MDP) under which it is mandatory for all airlines and travel agents to be members stipulates minimum prices at which air tickets can be sold. Any undercutting on these minimum prices will make offenders liable to pay large fines.
In the struggle of the survival of the fittest, however,travel agents say they have no choice but to undercut prices on the sly, if they are to survive. Mr. M.S.M. Mahilal of Airtrav said it was becoming increasingly difficult for the small operators to survive in such unhealthy competition.
Travel agents are also lashing out at the MDP for favouring the larger travel agents and airlines by allowing them to openly undercut the market while they the smaller operators are penalised for selling a ticket even Rs. 100 below the minimum price.
Mr. H.M.C. Nimalsiri, Assistant Director of the Civil Aviation Department under whose Director General the MDP falls, said a first offence of undercutting carries with it a fine of Rs. 75,000 and a second offence a fine of Rs. 150,000. A third offence carries a fine of Rs. 300,000 while a fourth offence will result in the agent or airline being de-listed which would mean it would not be dealt with by any other airline or agent. The agents also pointed the finger at large airlines which they said engaged in undercutting practices such as offering customers a 50% discount on a subsequent first-class ticket bought, or openly selling the tickets at a lower than market price.
Senior Manager, Sri Lanka and Maldives of the national carrier Sri Lankan Airlines Chandana de Silva however said any complaint of undercutting should be addressed to the Panel of Investigation of the MDP and it is left to them to impartially investigate the matter.
By Roshan PeirisAmidst speculation of a leadership change in the UNP, former strongman Sirisena Cooray has described party leader Ranil Wickremesinghe as a "political and electoral disaster."
In an interview with The Sunday Times, Mr. Cooray who still insists he is a UNPer said there was no way he could come back to the mainstream of the party until Mr. Wickremesinghe was removed. He warned that the UNP's vote bank would drop 25 percent in upcoming general elections if there was no change in party leadership.
Asked what his reponse to intensified moves towards a national government, Mr. Cooray said he was all for a national government but it should be based on a clear national consensus on vital issues. Otherwise, it would be something superficial.
Mr. Cooray is among those being mentioned as possible successors to Mr. Wickremesinghe.
But Mr. Cooray's views on the leadership were not shared by former first lady Hema Premadasa with whom he has had an up-and-down relationship.
Ms. Premadasa told The Sunday Times that she was fully behind Mr. Wickreme-singhe as was her son Sajith Premadasa.
Mr. Premadasa confirmed this, saying he was firmly behind Mr. Wickremesinghe though he knew of a consipiracy against the leader by some who posed as friends.
Asked what happened in his Hambantota electorate, Mr. Premadasa said 90 percent of the people there were Sinhala Buddhists and they were influenced by the President's claim that the UNP leader would hand over the North and East to the LTTE.
By Shelani de SilvaBuddhist and Catholic prelates have offered their services as mediators between the Government and the LTTE to bring about a settlement to the ethnic conflict.
The offer follows President Kumaratunga's invitation to the UNP to join the government's search for a peaceful settlement with the LTTE.
Ven. Kamburugamuve Vajira Nayake Thera of the Alliance for Peace told The Sunday Times the group comprising several Catholic Bishops and leaders of other religions would write to the LTTE calling on the rebel group to accept the government's offer.
"We will also ask for an appointment with the LTTE to see what it feels about the move. It is important that both parties get together. This is not the first time that the Government embarked on such a mission. Even we visited the Wanni to achieve this. We will continue to do it," Ven. Vajira Nayake Thera said.
The group will meet President Kumaratunga next week to discuss the peace moves. It will also meet UNP leaders.
Bishop Malcom Ranjith told The Sunday Times the Church was willing to act as a mediator, if the Government and the UNP jointly invited it.
"The two parties have to arrive at a consensus. The Catholic Church has on many occasions appealed to all parties to work towards for peace. We have to realise that peace can never be achieved militarily. Our experience in the past shows that war ends up in destruction," the Bishop said.
Meanwhile the PA constituent parties too have extended support to the peace initiative.
LSSP leader and Minister Batty Weerakoon said the government should first present the draft constitution in Parliament as a step towards achieving peace.
"This is the correct time to present it to Parliament. The UNP too has shown interest. By this join action, the LTTE can be marginalised," he said.
Communist Party leader Raja Collure said the parties were awaiting the PA Executive Committee to discuss the peace initiative.
"We have always encouraged the bipartisan approach to solve the problem. The government should go ahead with the move," he said.
ULF leader Srimani Athulathmudali said the government and the UNP should forget petty party politics and unite in this move.
"There should not be a third party. We ourselves can solve this problem," she said.
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