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10th September 2000

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Ashraff and Fowzie under fire

By Dilrukshi Handunnetti

A.H.M. Fowzie in the thick of controversy seen together with President Kumaratunga at the SLFP convention in Attanagalla on Thursday. Pic by J. Weerasekera.

With two key PA Cabinet colleagues M.H.M. Ashraff and A.H.M. Fowzie at war with each other in their bid for supremacy, canons have been fired from other Muslim quarters calling upon all Muslims to reject both ministers for blasphemous conduct contravening the Holy Quran.

Two Muslim leaders, Mohammed Abdul Rasool of the Sri Lanka Muslim Kachchi and A.L.M. Hashim of the All Ceylon Muslim League have lashed out at the warring ministers for setting the wrong example to the people in their lust for power.

The Muslim Kachchi leader Abdul Rasool who is to contest on the UNP ticket for Gampaha said that Minister Ashraff was obviously defeated 'inside' to drop the first demand of Minister Fowzie's removal from his portfolio.

Mr. Rasool said he could not comprehend why Minister Ashraff could not concede a moral defeat as substantiated by his desperate need to get into alliances.

"There are people like Rauff Hakeem, the NUA Secretary General who could have contested from Kandy, but Ashraff's decisions are so arbitrary that his party people are like puppets held by strings which only he can pull," he said.

Mr. Rasool reiterated that Mr. Ashraff who was known for his dictatorial attitudes could never have five members returned from his party, and hence the demand for more National List slots.

Meanwhile, All Ceylon Muslim League President A.L.M. Hashim has called upon the Muslim community to sweep both rival politicians out of the political fabric for having deviated from the fold of Islam by sowing seeds of disunity in the community.

Mr. Hashim who issued a public statement to the same effect told The Sunday Times that he was shocked by the deplorable depths to which both these politicians have sunk in their greed to wrest control of the Muslim community. He said the Lamatul Ulama Organization of Islamic Scholars has already named Minister Ashraff as a deviationist from Islam.

Mr. Hashim further explained that the Code of Conduct set out in the Holy Quran required all Muslims to "Hold fast to the Rope of Allah and not to be disunited". If a Muslim refused to abide by this code, heavy punishments have been prescribed.

In this backdrop where the country was facing a separatist war and other worrying issues, it was a disgrace for two senior Muslim politicians who style themselves as leaders to be further dividing the people to achieve their narrow political ends, he said.

The All Ceylon Muslim League called upon the entire Muslim community to reject the two politicians who flouted the true essence of Islam and attempted to divide rather than unite.


Lanka bites off Pak apples

By Hasitha Premaratne

Import of apples from Pakistan has come to a halt since the Ministry of Agriculture imposed new conditions.

During the last six years thousands of tonnes of apples were imported from Pakistan but since the new conditions were imposed not a single apple has been imported from Pakistan.

The Agriculture Ministry said it had banned the import of apples in wooden crates to prevent pests getting into the country.

As a result of this move the Pakistani exporters have agreed to pack the apples in cardboard boxes but the Ministry has demanded a cooling certificate from the exporting country to ensure that the apples arrive in good condition, according to apple importers.

Reports from Pakistan last week said the President of the Pakistan Apple and Citrus Board, Abdul Wahid has urged the government to take up with Colombo, the issue of the ban on the import of apples in wooden crates.

"We want to ensure that the apples imported are of good quality. We have asked for a cooling certificate from the exporting country for at least 14 days. But Pakistan is unable to issue a cooling certificate for even 10 days," a senior spokesman for the ministry said.

Australia, New Zealand and United States are the other major apple exporters to Sri Lanka. "These countries meet the conditions, so they continue to export apples to Sri Lanka.


Peiris episode: lawyers' resolution fizzles out

By Nilika de Silva

A move by a section of the members of the Bar Association to take up for discussion a resolution to request the IGP to produce the persons responsible for the killing of four lawyers during the 1988 -90 period failed due to the lack of quorum at a special meeting of the Bar Council yesterday.

PA National List members, Ananda Gunathilake, S.S. Sahabandu and another lawyer Mr. D.P. Mendis were the only signatories present at the meeting of the 21 who originally gave notice.

"The meeting which was scheduled to commence at 10 a.m. was not held due to a lack of quorum," BASL Sceretary, Palitha Mathew told The Sunday Times.

The Resolution demands that the Bar Association should officially request the IGP to produce the persons involved in the killings of those lawyers in a Court of Law, as the identities of the killers of Wijedasa Liayanarachchi, Charitha Lankapura, Kanchana Abhayapala and Nevil C. Nissanka and the names of the politicians who were involved in those killings are revealed in the Affidavit of SSP Douglas Peiris now under CID investigation.

The requisition signed by 21 delegates representing Colombo, Negombo, Panadura, Gampaha, Kalutara, Mount Lavinia and Moratuwa branches of the Bar Association had been forwarded by Ananda Goonetilleke of the Colombo Bar.

Several lawyers were present to defeat the Resolution, but remained outdoors. They dispersed when it was announced that those who spearheaded the Resolution could not muster a quorum.


Burning end to life's problems

By Faraza Farook

Corrosives that are freely available in the home or in workplaces, have become the chief means used by many persons attempting to commit suicide.

The intake of corrosives which include harpic, caustic salts and nitric acid, has at times proven fatal while those fortunate to survive the agony go through years of hardship unable to enjoy the pleasures of having a normal meal.

On a visit to Ward 8 (Surgical Unit) of the Sri Jayewardenapura Hospital I saw more than 20 patients who had come to attend their follow-up clinic after having undergone surgery to replace the oesophagus damaged by consuming corrosives.

They suffered from benign end stage oesophageal disease due to the intake of corrosives, either accidentally or with the intention of committing suicide. Hospital reports showed that 58.33% of those who had undergone surgery for benign stricture (narrowing of the oesophagus) had taken corrosives with a suicidal intent while others were accidental.

The most vulnerable age group among the attempted suicide cases was between 16 and 30 of which many were males.Easy access to corrosives whether accidentally or otherwise has thus become the commonest cause for benign stricture in most patients, Consultant Surgeon Dr. Gamini Goonetilleke said.

Explaining the results of corrosive ingestion, Dr. Goonetilleke said that in some cases, only the oesophagus was affected while in others the stomach too was affected. There had been one patient whose stomach was completely destroyed.

During my visit to Ward 8, there were enough and more patients who had taken corrosives with a suicidal intent. The few patients I talked with were in the 16 to 30 age group.

Sixteen year old Chandrika Kumudini underwent surgery for oesophagael replacement after she took an acid as a way out of her troubles.

"I was determined to die because my mother and stepfather treated me badly," Indrani said adding, "there was no love at home, no one to turn to when I needed some comfort".

Before she underwent surgery, Indrani had to go through several sessions of dilation. Amazingly, during this period, Indrani gave birth to a baby ( in 1993). During her pregnancy she had a tube inserted into her stomach through which only liquids and vitamin syrups were fed.

Indrani went through a very difficult phase unable to eat or drink until she underwent surgery at the Sri Jayewardenapura Hospital in 1998.

Not everyone can put up with the tremendous pressure exerted by parents, as was the case with Sumudu Kariya-wasam, a 20-year old who attempted to commit suicide when she felt she could not withstand any longer the stress of studying for her A/L exam.

"Too many classes, too much to study," she said recalling that day. Trying to solve a mathematical equation, she failed several times. "I tried again and again, but it didn't work. I was mad at myself and felt really hopeless. Then I took three draughts of a corrosive liquid which was available at home but the burning inside was too much to bear and I screamed for help," Sumudu said.

After a year of treatment at various hospitals, Sumudu underwent an oesophagael replacement at the Sri Jayewardenapura Hospital.


Flying probe will take wing

By Leon Berenger

The new Civil Aviation Minister Reggie Ranatunga yesterday promised to look into allegations of corruption and other irregularities in the Aviation Department, as jittery officials rallied round to protect a controversial figure at the centre of an internal probe into his operating licence.

Minister Ranatunga said he was not aware of such happenings and said he would direct his Secretary S. Jayewardene to look into the allegations and report back to him.

At the centre of the allegations is the move to extend the contract of an internationally sanctioned project that must be completed by the end of this month.

According to sources, the project which was advised by the International Convention of Aviation Organisations (ICAO) and cost the state Rs. 180 million, has done little to upgrade aviation safety standards and the department and an extension would only mean an additional expense for the Treasury.


Month's pay for day's work

By Ranga Sirilal

Due to the resummoning of parliament for one day to formally approve the extension of the emergency, all 225 MPs will get another bonanza full pay for the whole month along with a host of other perks and allowances.

In addition to the salary, each member is entitled to Rs. 6000 fuel allowance, accommodation in Colombo, Rs. 1000 entertainment allowance, two telephones and the bill of one to be paid from public funds, Rs. 2000 for a mobile phone bill, two armed police constables for security, three personal staff, food unlimited and other subsidies.

Each member will also be able to post election propaganda material to voters at state cost within the district.

Parliament was dissolved on August 18, but last Monday, the President issued a proclamation resummoning parliament to sit on Thursday.


UC head's return faces snag

Despite a request from President Chandrika Kumaratunga to North Western Province Chief Minister S. B. Nawinna to reinstate the sacked chairman of the Puttalam Urban Council, the move has run into a legal problem.

According to informed sources, the chief minister would need to issue a gazette notice announcing UC Chairman Kamaldeen Abdul Faiz's reinstatement but he is unable to do this as a one-man commission, inquiring into alleged corrupt practices during his term as the council's head has not submitted a report.

The chief minister is legally bound to wait for the commission report before making a decision regarding Mr. Faiz's future.

Meanwhile, Mr. Faiz has handed in his nomination as a candidate from the SLMC. SLMC leader M. H. M.Ashraff had demanded the reinstatement of Mr. Faiz as a condition for his support for the PA in the upcoming polls. A separate court case is also pending against Mr. Faiz for allegedly assaulting a group of audit officers who went on an inspection to the UC a few months ago to check on allegations of serious abuses of state funds.


Athas intimidation case re-fixed

The case of two Air Force officers intimidating and threatening The Sunday Times Consultant Editor and Defence Columnist Iqbal Athas and his family has been re-fixed for December 4 and 6.

The case that was taken up before High Court Judge Andrew Somawansha.was postponed as the judge was due to attend a Trial-at-Bar.

Counsel for the prosecution was advised to have the first witness Mr. Athas and three other witnesses present at the next date given for the hearing.

A total of 12 witnesses including a prison guard and two CID officers have been listed as witnesses in the case. The two Air Force officers were indicted for criminal trespass, criminal intimidation and unlawfully entering the Nugegoda residence of Iqbal Athas, on February 12, 1998.

The two officers Flt.Lt. H.M. Rukman Herath and Sq.Ldr. D.S.P. Kannangara have been charged with illegally entering the residence of Mr. Athas and threatening him and other members of his family.

Flt.Lt. Herath was a bodyguard of a former Air Force Commander and Sqd.Ldr. Kannangara was the officer in charge of the Special Airborne Force (SABF).


Yellow Ribbon for free polls

By Nilika de Silva

"Swarna Bandh-ana", the Yellow Ribbon campaign towards a free and fair election will be launched tomorrow by the Alliance for Democracy.

The campaign targets a million people to sport yellow armbands demonstrating their commitment towards free and fair elections.

The Alliance for Democracy, a coalition of 60 organisations including the GMOA, professional unions, trade unions, and the Jathika Sangha Sabha will come together in this massive campaign for a peaceful election.

The campaign will consist of tying a yellow ribbon on one's hand or hair, flying a yellow flag in one's house, pasting a yellow sticker on one's vehicle and other such gestures to show one's commitment towards a free and fair election.

The inaugural ceremony of the Yellow Ribbon campaign will take place at the Elphinstone Theatre tomorrow at 3 p.m. More than five hundred people are expected to participate in the event to which all political parties and diplomats have been invited.

The People's Alliance has accepted the invitation, a volunteer of the Alliance for Democracy told The Sunday Times.

Initiated in May this year to protest against the war footing, the Alliance for Democracy is committed to campaign for free and fair elections.

The concept of the yellow ribbon campaign is to get more and more people involved in the effort to ensure free and fair elections.

The distribution of ribbons will take place on September14 in 500 places accompanied by street theatre and other activities to carry them, a spokesman for the Alliance for Democracy said.

The Yellow Ribbon campaign will continue till October 10.


All for city, none for rural areas

The Board Of Investment has approved the construction of 16 more hospitals with most of them to come up in Colombo resulting in a surfeit of hospitals in the city and little or nothing for rural areas.

These hospitals include a multi-specialty hospital, a cardiac surgical hospital, a 200-bed teaching hospital, an ayurvedic hospital and a women's hospital. Four hospitals, which had been given approval earlier, have begun commercial operation. A senior spokesman for the BOI told The Sunday Times that the locations of the hospitals are of the investor's choice. "They have invested more than Rs. 50 million in a project.

We believe that they have carried out a feasibility study and identified the potential for hospitals in and around the city of Colombo," he said.

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