6th May 2001
Anthem to bring dignity!A UNP legislator has proposed the playing of the national anthem before the commencement and conclusion of Parliament sittings in order to develop a sense of national spiritedness in the country. How ironic would this be considering the unruly behaviour which took place at the last session. It was so bad that the public who came to view the proceedings even compared the Parliament to a Zoo. It can only be hoped that such a proposal would help restore the lost dignity of the august assembly.
Parties for some, no passes for othersA police station in the Colombo city limits promptly stopped issuing curfew passes to the public by 10.30 p.m.on Friday despite curfew being lifted at 6.00 am the following day. When asked for the reason the cops said that the Administration OIC was not in, and they had finished the passes. But it was later revealed that the OIC was hosting a party on Friday night, and the cops were also invited, so they had to close shop.
Aiyse, we heard it allMedia Minister Anura Priyadarshana Yapa should watch his tongue, specially when it comes to addressing public gatherings. The Minister who was addressing a Cabinet Media briefing on Friday, found a technical problem with the microphone, The minister addressed the technician,'Aiyse' while mumbling that the microphone was not working. These comments came loud and clear.Finally the minister settled to switch off the microphone and address the media.
Shame, shameYet another senior cabinet Minister had a similar experience, when he attended a UN function last week. The minister who arrived late for the function was heard whispering to an official, "I was not planning to attend the function, but I heard you were giving us a free meal." It was no whisper since the microphone was switched on !!!
True picture!While information technology is at the helm these days, the information Department still considers it an achievement to have launched its own web site. On Friday it was celebrations at the Info Department, with journalists being invited, for a screening of its achievements over the past year. While slides and clippings were shown of the Fall of Elephant Pass Army Camp, the officers went on an MPHOT ride, by saying that the Web site was launched at the correct time when all other media organisations were giving a bad picture of the country.
Scheduled programmes, and functions came to a virtual halt and a panic stricken public were anxious to get home safely amidst heavy traffic and disrupted transport services.
Office workers were rushing home, but the railway strike aggravated the situation with trains not running on schedule or not running at all.
The Fort Railway station controller said while the Badulla Night mail was cancelled, only a limited number of trains were being operated.
However, CTB Chairman Tilak Iddamalgoda said buses would be operating as long as there were people on the road.
Nearly three hours after the curfew was declared people were still seen trying to obtain curfew passes to reach various destinations and attend scheduled functions and programmes.
Airport officials said all flights would be on schedule with 14 arrivals and 14 departures from 6 p.m. on Friday to 6 a.m. yesterday morning. Passengers were asked to use their tickets and passports as curfew passes.
Meanwhile with Vesak round the corner several scheduled bhakthi gee programmes had to be hurriedly cancelled.
Some of these were the Gateway International School bhakthi gee programme at BMICH and the police bhakthi gee programme at Police Park.
Hotel officials said they were expecting a low turnout at functions
that evening. Meanwhile some people were using invitation cards as curfew
passes to get to weddings. Some bakeries in the city too were getting curfew
passes to distribute their products to retail outlets while others were
cutting down on the production to minimise waste.
By Laila NasryThe case regarding the alleged harassment and intimidation of The Sunday Times Consultant Editor and Defence Correspondence Iqbal Athas which has been dogged by postponements since the beginning of proceedings almost three years ago, was put off for the eighth time this week as High Court Judge Justice Sarath Ambepitiya was absent.
The case was taken up on April 30,by Justice Upali Abeyratne having been postponed from February 16, due to the Counsel for the second accused requesting more time to prepare.Trial was refixed for May 10, May 30 and then July 31.
Counsel for the accused Srinath Perera stating the trial will run on to three days requested the case be taken off the roll on May 10 and be re scheduled for three consecutive days in September.
However the Senior State Counsel P.P. Suresena did not concede to such a request and solicited for an earlier date as preferred by the judge in June or July.
Further Mr. Suresena moved court to admit three more witnesses Police Sergeant Manawadu, Sub Inspector Asela both of the Mirihana Police and Dhammika of the Criminal Investigations Department.
Two Air force officers Squadron Leader H.M.Rukman the bodyguard of a
former Air Force Commander, and Squadron Leader D.S.P.Kannangara the Officer
in Charge of the Special Air borne Force were indicted in the High court
for committing criminal trespass, intimidation and unlawful entry with
weapons into Mr. Athas's home on February 12, 1998.
The appeal was made by Secretary of State Colin Powell when he met visiting Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar in Washington on Friday.
Mr. Powell also said the United States fully supported the Norwegian efforts to facilitate talks for a settlement within the framework of the unity and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka.
A statement issued by the US embassy here said that Mr. Powell and Mr. Kadirgamar had also discussed several bilateral and multilateral issues.
Mr. Powell said the US understood the terrorist challenge confronting the government of Sri Lanka and expressed sympathy for the tens of thousands of dead, injured and displaced persons as a result of the conflict.
"The United States has long believed that the Sri Lankan conflict cannot be settled with military means. For this reason, the Secretary of State expressed his hope that the two sides will make a commitment to cease hostilities and start peace talks as soon as possible," the statement said.
The Colombo Foreign Office in a statement said that during the 45-minute meeting, the Minister briefed Mr. Powell on the current situation in Sri Lanka and the government's resolve to seek a negotiated settlement to the ongoing conflict.
The Foreign Minister outlined the Government's plans for devolution of power as a means of settling the ethnic issue. While reaffirming the US government's rejection of a separate state and its consistent policy of support for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Sri Lanka, the Secretary of State expressed the hope that a cessation of hostilities would be arranged and that the Government, on its part, would do all it could to assure that the conflict would be brought to a close.
Minister Kadirgamar also briefed the Secretary of State on the current situation of SAARC and mentioned that the Foreign Secretaries of the seven member states would meet in Colombo next month.
The Minister also extended an invitation to Mr. Powell to visit Sri
Lanka while the Secretary of State recalled a brief visit to the country
in the eighties and said he looked forward very much to visiting Sri Lanka
By Ruwan WeerakoonA suspect in the killing of Customs sleuth Sujith Perera has been arrested by the CID.
The suspect who was arrested in Kandy is known to have had close connection with Customs Assistant Superintendent Anura Weera-wansha, the main suspect in this case. Mr. Weerawansha disappeared last month — with his lawyers claiming he had been abducted, but detectives saying he was evading arrest under the protection of a top businessmen.
The suspect arrested was allegedly involved with Mr. Weerawansha in a plan to implicate Mr. Perera in a bribery case.
The suspect was operating a firm with a bogus registration and had imported some goods, which were checked by Mr. Perera and cleared. Later, Mr. Weerawansha is alleged to have recalled the cleared cargo and together with the suspect worked out a method to suggest that Mr. Perera had taken a bribe to clear the stock.
Mr. Perera had taken court action regarding this matter and the case
was going on when he was killed on March 24, allegedly by two contract
By Sunil JayatillekeThe Central Cultural Fund (CCF) has failed to contribute to the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) and Employees Trust Fund (ETF) funds of over 2,000 of casual workers it employed between 1981 to 1992 amounting to nearly Rs. 90 million, sources said. The regional Labour Commissioner's offices in Anuradhapura and Kandy have now taken steps to initiate legal action against the CCF... Labour Department's legal officer said the non-payment of EPF and ETF was were due to the designation of the CCF as a religious institution. However, legal sources said labour laws stipulated that anyone who was employed by an institution for more than six months was entitled to EPF and ETF. As the CCF had made EPF and ETF contributions for its permanent staff, sources said their argument was not valid. The CCF sources said if it was compelled pay Rs. 90 million, it would face a major financial crisis. Meanwhile, a rest for monks and pilgrims at the Gal Vihare in Polonnaruwa built at a cost of Rs. 5 million in 1994 was said to be idling while the CCF was making arrangements to reconstruct it spending more than Rs. 1 1/2 million, sources said.
By J A L Jayasinghe and Siri AbeysiriThe Chairman of the Ukuwela Pradeshiya Sabha has been remanded after being arrested by the Matale Police on charges of encroaching and destroying a cardamom plantation in Matale.
It has been alleged that Samantha Dharmasena of the PA forcibly entered the estate and encroached on 25 acres of a land planted in cardamom in Pansaltenna, Matale and blocked it out to be distributed to 152 people.
Estate superintendent K. Nugawela had lodged a complaint with the Matale
Police, after which Mr. Dharmasena was arrested and produced before acting
Magistrate V. K. Sivalingam who remanded him till Wednesday.
The association's president, E. P. Ekanayake said the Satyagraha to
be held outside the Fort Railway Station was being organised to reiterate
their call for government intervention in seeking the release of servicemen
being held in LTTE captivity and to seek permission to visit the Wanni.
By Shelani de SilvaA 25 per cent surcharge imposed on electricity consumers as a temporary measure during a power crisis in February will not be lifted even though the power-generation capacity is improving, Ceylon Electricity Board sources said.
When the surcharge — or the fuel adjustment charge — was introduced in March, the then CEB chairman Arjun Deraniyagala said it was effected as an immediate measure to overcome the impending power crisis.
The Sunday Times learns that power generation capacity has been improving with the onset of rain. It would receive a further boost with the South West Monsoon expected in three weeks time.
The CEB sources said that restriction imposed through emergency regulations on the usage of electricity would be removed but the surcharge would remain.
These sources said that the surcharge was necessary to cover the CEB's losses which were incurred largely due to non-payment of bills by government institutions.
The CEB and the government came under heavy criticism for heaping the
burden on the people instead of strengthening the financial management
of the board.
The JVP MP Vijitha Herath will move for the abolition of motor vehicle permits issued to parliamentarians once in every five years.
He would propose a system of allocating light vehicles to parliamentarians
He will also call for the abolition of the pension scheme meant for legislators.
Another JVP MP Nandana Gunatilleke has proposed the abolition of the
Rs. 500 meeting allowance paid to parliamentarians and the enhanced allowance
paid to MPs, ministers and deputy ministers, the deputy Speaker and the
By Tania FernandoSerious questions involving millions of rupees, in the liquidation of two textile establishments have been raised by the Auditor General in his latest report.
It has taken the government a record 16 years to wind up operations of the Wellawatte Spinning & Weaving Mills Ltd. Even todate , no proper liquidation has taken place the AG said.
According to the report, files on debts amounting to more than Rs. 16 million are not available and the Wellawatte mill has still not been able to recover this money.
It was claimed that these and other files are in the possession of a senior official of the mill who is alleged to be collecting money from the debtors claiming that he would ensure that the amounts would be written off.
This official said to be in his 70s, was first appointed on a contract basis, and now continues on a part time basis with unauthorised allowances.
Four bungalows belonging to the mill on Mayura Place had been forcefully encroached and sufficient steps had not been taken to remove the encroachers, the report said.
In response to this report, the mills' Competent Authority for WS&WM
Sumith Ediriwickrema said all queries had been answered and that there
was no problem with the liquidation process.
By Laila NasryThe Supreme Court on Friday granted leave to proceed in a fundamental rights application involving Year 1 admissions filed by nine parents and their children against Sujatha Balika Maha Vidyalaya alleging a violation of their right to equality. The Bench comprised Chief Justice Sarath N. Silva, Justices Shirani Bandaranayake and Ameer Ismail.
The nine parents having furnished duly completed forms in April 2000 last year under the chief occupant and sub-chief occupant category in their petition said they were refused admission though they had the necessary requirements..
The petitioners have also alleged that the principal had admitted students who were living far away from the school.They have also alleged that their appeals were favourably reviewed by the appeal board but they had been sent letters of rejection.
The parents who staged a satyagraha outside the school had appealed
to the 2nd respondent ministry secretary Dr. Tara de Mel, and the 3rd respondent
and national schools director S. .L. .Gunewardene who directed the principal
to admit the nine students.
By Louis BenedictThousands of Government doctors are ready to cooperate in a fresh effort to slash medical bills of patients by prescribing and promoting generic drugs instead of the more expensive brand names being sold now, a spokesman said.
Government Medical Officers Association Secretary, Dr. Anuruddha Padeniya said yesterday they had proposed a new policy on generic drugs and review of the drug import policy some years ago but the Government was sitting on it.
Dr. Padeniya told The Sunday Times that doctors were painfully aware that patients were often being forced to buy drugs under brand names which were five to ten times more expensive than the generic drugs.
He said the expensive brand names were being promoted not by Government doctors but by pharmacies and medical representatives of big drug companies.
The GMOA Secretary said that even when doctors prescribe drugs under generic names private pharmacies often coaxed patients to buy the much more expensive brand names.
During the past two weeks The Sunday Times published reports indicating how the medical bills of patients and the country as a whole could be slashed by a huge margin if the government adopted a clear cut policy on the import and sale of drugs under generic names.
In the 1970s, Prof. Senaka Bibile who pioneered the campaign for health rights and human rights of patients said Sri Lanka could manage with about 200 essential generic drugs.
But today there are about 5000 brand names being imported freely under the open economy policy - meaning that the country spends more than 100 times what it should on drug imports.
Last month State Pharmaceuticals Corporation chairman, Prof. Colvin Gunaratne - who also is campaigning for generic drugs - issued a list giving comparative prices of generic drugs and different brand names.
For example the generic paracetamol costs 0.30 cents a tablet while the same drug sold under a trade name costs Rs. 1.50 or more.
Medical evidence has clearly shown that there is no difference in content or efficacy between the generic drugs and those sold under various trade names.
Last week eye specialist Dr. Reggie Siemon - another crusader for the campaign to give patients priority over patent rights of drug companies pointed out that even where trade names were concerned Sri Lanka was importing expensive varities from Western companies instead of cheaper ones of the same quality from India or Pakistan.
He gave a list where in some instances a drug that could be bought from India for Rs. 30 was instead imported from a Western company and being sold here for as much as Rs. 200.
The GMOA Secretary told The Sunday Times that more than 6000 GMOA doctors who work in public hospitals were deeply conscious and concerned about the heavy burdens on the patients, especially the poor.
He said they were more than willing to cooperate in easing the burdens on the patients and the country, but the government needed to take the initiative by introducing and effectively implementing new laws.
Analysing the seriousness of the situation Dr. Padeniya pointed out that while Sri Lanka had 10,000 registered doctors, there were as many as 40,000 quacks operating as doctors all over the country.
He said the government needed to act urgently and effectively in dealing with those quacks.
Dr. Padeniya said that three years ago the GMOA had sent proposals regarding the greater use of generic drugs to the Presidential Task Force on Health.
But no action has been taken.
The new efforts to promote the import and production of cheaper generic drugs at an international level came after a historic court battle in South Africa last month. Some forty big drug companies had opposed the bid by the government to produce AIDS drugs at about 35% of the prices being charged by the companies.
After a prolonged battle the drug companies withdrew their case allowing the government to import or produce the cheaper generic drug.
On the basis of that decision some fifty African countries at a summit recently also decided to enact new laws to import and produce cheap generic drugs instead of the expensive trade names.
Please send your comments and suggestions on this web site to