28th January 2001

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Few bad eggs in judiciary, says former AG

Former Attorney General and UNP nominated Member of Parliament Tilak Marapana said that despite the majority of judges being people of high integrity and competence, that in the recent past they have been penalized for their independent decisions thereby creating a fear psychosis among some of them.

Mr. Marapana participating in the debate on an amendment to the Judicature Act last Thursday told Parliament that the laws and regulations that were presented to or approved by the House became a redundant exercise if they were not properly implemented. They were not even worth the paper they were printed on unless implemented and acted upon.

He told Parliament that the problem, in his opinion, was that even the existing legislation was not implemented due to political interference. For any small task involving the Public Service or the Police, the public was made to go behind politicians. The Public Service and the Police being politicized, though bad enough, was understandable, and was no new phenomenon. But what hurt most was the gradual but unacceptable creeping in of politics to the judiciary.

Mr. Marapana said that the vast majority of the judges were of high integrity and competence. Only a few bad eggs were in the habit of seeking political patronage, which has always been the case. Those few, were habitually currying favour with the powers that be and there was nothing more to be said about such individuals.

He said his main concern today was for the rest of the judges who were honourable men and women but prevented from exercising their functions towards the general public, crippled by a fear psychosis inhibiting and preventing them from acting independently. Judges appeared to fear dire consequences if they were to make any order against politicians and supporters of the ruling party or displease them in any way. They seemed to fear not only top politicians, but even their henchman-from the highest to the lowly Pradeshiya Sabha Member. The public were well aware that a number of Judges have in the recent past been penalized for their independent decisions and perhaps this was the biggest contributor to the existing fear psychosis.

As a result, Judges were compelled to deny justice to some. They may be doing so reluctantly and against their conscience. Whilst we may pity them for their impotence under these unfortunate circumstances, the need of the hour was to take remedial measures and prevent these things from taking place. Fortunately, there were some Judges, who despite these threats that ominously loomed over them, continue to act impartially. This is suitable enough to pay eternal tribute to the courage they displayed in the performance of the noble and upright task expected of them.

The former Attorney General cautioned the House that this was a serious enough situation, and that he would be failing in his duty if

he did not bring this matter to the attention of Parliament.

Mr. Marapana appealed to the Government to look into this matter and take remedial action. He noted that as long as this perception continued, the Judicial process would be in jeopardy and the public would lose their confidence in the judicial system itself. Then there was a very real likelihood of the people taking the law into their own hands and to precipitate a complete breakdown in the deteriorating law and order situation, warning that this process had now already begun.

Cyclone victims

Red Cross relief work will end on February 1

The Sri Lanka Red Cross Society (SLRCS) will continue only till February 1 its relief operations to those displaced in the recent cyclone that hit the Eastern Province.

Massive relief operations have been launched in Veeranagar and Kerniadi in the Trincomalee district since January 18. The first phase will target 1,760 families whose houses have been severely damaged by the cyclone.

The families have been given ten galvanised roofing sheets as a first step with kitchen utensils, sleeping mats and bed sheets to be provided later.

The SLRCS had received funding from the International Committee of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the Spanish and American Red Cross Societies amounting to Rs. 3.1 million upto December last year. However, since January, funds for the local Red Cross have been suspended by the International Committee of the Red Cross due to alleged mismanagement.

Last month's cyclone travelling at an average speed of 180 kmph caused destruction in the Trincomalee, Anuradha–pura, Polonnaruwa, Ampara, Mannar and Batticaloa districts, followed by floods. Trincomalee was the worst affected according to an assessment of the SLRCS. The cyclone was described as the most destructive ever to have struck the country after 1964.

More than 20 fishing boats with the fishermen on board were reported to have gone missing. At least 20,000 families were said to have been affected by the cyclone.

Right of Reply

The People's Bank drawing reference to a news item in The Sunday Times last week has sent the following letter signed by K.B. Kumarapathirana, Deputy General Manager (domestic operations and marketing.)

As the reference to the People's Bank in the news story is incorrect and misleading, we shall be thankful you to publish the following in the next edition of The Sunday Times.

As an important public sector organisation, Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) has always received our care and consideration. We have been honouring salary and other cheques issued by CEB regularly.

The Headquarters Branch of the People's Bank which deals with the CEB has never returned a cheque of the CEB, including the salary cheque sent on January, 18. In fact on that day the Bank had honoured cheques of the CEB worth Rs. 195 million.'

REPORTER'S NOTE: There is confirmation that the People's Bank Headquarters had returned the salaries bank slip diskette indicating that there were no sufficient funds available in CEB Bank Accounts. The CEB Assistant Financial Manager (Distribution) had informed the Finance Manager on January 18 to the above effect.

The Sunday Times learns that The Peoples' Bank has subsequently agreed to pay salary to CEB staff but held back releasing money for any other payment.

Last week The People's Bank which handles the CEB accounts informed the Finance Manager that the Bank is unable to pay this months salary to the staff due to insufficient funds in addition the CEB running on a 4 billion over draft.

However following discussions with CEB Management the Bank has agreed to pay the salary's. But the Bank has refused to pay bills submitted for the emergency generators which would cost more than 1 million rupees per month.

In a desperate attempt to salvage itself the CEB is planning to get a 500 million rupee loan from a private bank, apart from the existing loan of 1 billion rupees taken from the Bank of Ceylon to which it pays a monthly interest of 25%.

The CEB has been informed not to exceed the 4 billion overdraft, by the Peoples Bank. However, with anticipated revenue the CEB is planning to settle the overdraft.

Rs. 12 b. Japanese loan to upgrade Colombo airport

By Tania Fernando

The Bandaranaike International Airport will soon get a face lift to the tune of Rs. 12 billion, of which 90% will be provided by the Japanese Government as a soft loan, said Minister of Aviation and Airports Development, Jeyaraj Fernandopulle.

He said that the project will be in two parts, of which the first is the construction of a 300 metre pier with eight bridges to facilitate the movement of passengers and the second the expansion of the terminal gallery. Both will commence simultaneously.

In addition to this major revamping the Minister said it is planned to introduce information centres for Middle East returnees, free telephone calls within city limits and announcements in Japanese, German and French to cater to the large number of tourists arriving from those countries.

Further he claimed that a hotel in close proximity to the airport will be built at a cost of US$ 20 million. 12 acres of land has been identified and allocated for this project.

"It will be a five star hotel, so that tourists would not have to come to Colombo, but can conduct their business meetings from there", he said.

The airport at Ratmalana too will get a face lift and be expanded, in anticipation of resumption of domestic flights which would commence shortly. He said that there has been much concern by residents of the area as to whether they would be affected by the proposed expansion. Residents will not be affected by the forthcoming expansion, he said.

Meanwhile in Tokyo Japan Bank for International Cooperation said it would extend 6.35 billion yen (54.2 million dollars) in loans to Sri Lanka to improve blood transfusion services and help small businesses. Of the total, 1.51 billion yen will be used to build a national blood transfusion centre and supply equipment and materials to provincial and regional blood banks, the government-financed aid giving agency said. The loan package will be repayable in 30 years with a grace period of 10 years, carrying an annual interst rate of 2.2 percent.

Sri Lanka safe from Mad Cow

By Faraza Farook

Local authorities who are continuing surveillance of all imports of meat products and cattle feed have confirmed that Sri Lanka is not a victim of the dreaded Mad Cow disease, despite warnings by British scientists of a possible outbreak here and in other Asian countries.

Head of the Committee to Prevent the Entry of BSE (Bovine Spongiform Encephaopathy) to Sri Lanka, Prof. Tissa Vitharana said continuous surveillance of all imported meat products and byproducts has been in force since 1996 and chances of an outbreak of the disease was minimal. All relevant authorities have been alerted to prevent the disease entering the country.

Prof. Vitharana said that all imported products that might transmit the disease, including medicine, have been itemized and copies have been forwarded to the Customs and the Ministry of Trade. Any applications for the import of such products have thus to be referred to the Technical Sub Committee (TSC) which liaises with the WHO and the World Animal Health Organisation. Clearance to bring the products into the country is given by the TSC, he said.

In addition, surveillance programmes have been instituted through veterinary surgeons and doctors.

Veterinary surgeons have been alerted about BSE and have been asked to report any doubtful cases.

Likewise, doctors have been asked to look out for the human disease and report.

Though restrictions were in force, Prof. Vitharana said the Committee is unable to take the responsibility for products imported prior to its appointment. Yet he assured that if any contaminated product had entered the market, clinical cases would have been reported by now.

Additional Secretary of the Ministry of Livestock Development Dr. A. Shakthivel said that 13 countries have been identified as having the problem and Sri Lanka has refrained from importing from those countries.

"We have been very strict about the quarantine and if by any chance we had imported any contaminated product, clinical signs would have appeared by now," he said.

Initially, heavy restrictions were imposed but gradually relaxed and tightened when necessary, he said.

Meanwhile, Indonesia and Thailand which were among the list of countries the British scientists had warned against an outbreak of the disease, have said that there was no chance of the disease spreading in their countries as they have banned the import of meat from countries hit by the mad cow disease.

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