25th March 2001
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Lanka holds talks to buy statues

By Nilika de Silva
Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickramanayake who returned from Pakistan after trying to prevent the destruction of historical Buddha statues in Afghanistan said last night Sri Lanka was negotiating with other countries to purchase the undamaged statues.

Addressing a news conference, he said the cost was immaterial as these statues were priceless and belonged to the whole of humanity.

The premier also said he would propose legislation to severely punish those involved in destroying Buddhist statues in Sri Lanka.

The Prime Minister said he was also proposing the setting up of a Buddhist Commission to look into the grievances of the Buddhists. 

Monument body urges action

By Shelani de Silva
Following the international focus on the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddha statues the Sri Lankan body of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMS) will hold a meeting next month to create international awareness on the destruction of archaeological sites .

The ICOMS has decided to urge the government and the UN to take appropriate action to safeguard monuments which are under threat.

The council, with its head office in Paris, has representatives from 85 countries and was formed to preserve cultural monuments and sites. Its members are intellectuals and experts in the field of archaeology and pre-historic culture.

President of the Sri Lanka Council on Monuments and Sites Prof. Nimal de Silva told The Sunday Times a resolution would be passed to urge international pressure to stop the destruction of world heritage sites.

"We will present a paper to President Chandrika Kumaratunga and also to the UN to urge them to take appropriate action. We will also make a request to bring out the shattered pieces of the Bamiyan Buddha statues".

Dismissed Samurdhi niyamaka cries foul

By Laila Nasry
An unjustly terminated Samurdhi niyamaka who was to be reinstated within two weeks on an order of the Supreme Court is still in the same position though the time period has lapsed. 

A Bench comprising Justices Mark Fernando, D. P. S. Gunesekera and C. V. Wigne–swaran ordered the Divisional Secretary of Kaduwela, Commissioner General of Samu–rdhi and Secretary, Ministry of Samurdhi to reinstate S. D. Jagathkumara as a Samurdhi niyamaka and pay back wages for the number of days he had reported for work. Mr. Jagath–kumara who was Samurdhi niyamaka for Kaduwela is incidentally the general secretary of the Samastha Lanka Samurdhi Govi Sevana Niy–amaka Niladari Sangamaya, a union which strongly campaigned for permanency of employment and the general welfare of its members by organising branch level pickets and satyagraha campaigns. 

In his petition Mr. Jagathku–mara states his termination of service is an act of victimisation for holding a protest outside the Divisional Secretariat together with more than 500 other Samurdhi niyamakas on November 2 1998, after having given notice to the Divisional Secretary.

On the same day he and four others received letters from the Divisional Secretary on the instructions of the Secretary to the Ministry of Samurdhi terminating their services with immediate effect as a result of the protest campaign. However, Mr. Jagathku–mara continued as general secretary of the trade union and received death threats and on one occasion was attacked by thugs. 

On December 31, 1998 Samurdhi Affairs Minister S. B. Dissanayake, commenting on a private TV channel said Mr. Jagathkumara would not be reinstated even if ordered by seven courts. However, Mr. Jagathku–mara together with a few others of the trade union met Minister Dissanayake who agreed to reinstate them if the trade union was dissolved. On August 14, 1999 except Mr. Jagathkumar the other four officers from the Samurdhi Bank in Kaduwela were reinstated. 

Kandy hotel in wild act 

Certain unscrupulous police officers were hand in glove with venison and wild boar meat suppliers to a tourist hotel in Kandy, Wild Life Department sources said.

The tourist hotel was raided by police officers sent from Colombo and two employees were produced before the Kandy Chief Magistrate Leon Senaratne who released them on surety bail of Rs. 200,000 each. In the raid about 100 kgs. of venison and wildboar meat was found.

No films, no scan

The Kandy Hospital's CT Scan machine has been out of commission for want of films, hospital sources said. 

Turn your hearts on the mind

By Nilika de Silva 
Parents of mental health patients are appealing for the state to play a much bigger role in taking care of the mentally ill, in a situation where one in eight Sri Lankans is known to be suffering from some psychological ailment.

Members of the Sahanaya Parents Association at a meeting to commemorate the anniversary of Sahanaya, said their children face severe hardships when integrating into society, as the stigma associated with mental illness saw them being discriminated against. 

Sahanaya, the National Council for Mental Health — an organisation which plays a leading role in the care of mentally ill people — is finding that the finances necessary to run such a massive venture are drying up. 

"How long more we will be able to carry on the work of this organisation is unsure because we do not have the finances to keep it working," said mental health specialist Prof. Nalaka Mendis who is also Vice President of the National Council for Mental Health.

In Sri Lanka today, one in every eight people suffers from a mental disorder. There are about 400 million people around the world suffering from ill health stemming from the mind, and every 40 seconds a person takes his or her own life owing to such diseases. Therefore Dr. Mendis stressed the importance of creating awarenes among the people and focussing attention on mental health care. 

Towards this end a Sahanaya Walk will take place on April 7, declared World Mental Health Day by the WHO. The walk will start from the Sahanaya premises at Kitulwatte Road, Borella and end at the Vihara Maha Devi Park with a memorandum being handed over to authorities.

Mallika Salpila today

Mallika Nivasa Samithiya will hold its annual avurudu Salpila today, March 25 at its premises at 35, Visakha Road, Colombo 4.

There will be many stalls, including handicraft, food, household linen, lingerie, baby clothes and nearly new sarees at great bargains. A vegetarian buffet lunch will also be served at a reasonable price, while a cookery demonstration will be held by Mallika Joseph at 10.30 a.m. 

Gulf Air request shot down

By Tania Fernando
A request by Gulf Air for additional flights per week to Colombo has been turned down by the Civil Aviation Department.

With the reduction of Kuwait Airways flights to Colombo from four to three times a week and the change of aircraft used by Saudia from the Boeing 747 to the 777, there is a shortfall of 784 seats in the Middle East sector. 

Due to this reduction Gulf Air had requested permission for two additional flights per week to Colombo. 

However, the Civil Aviation Department has rejected the request, president of the Travel Agents Association in Sri Lanka Udaya Nanayakkara told The Sunday Times.


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