13th May 2001
Despite the cloud over him,former Board of Invesment cheif Thilan Wijesinghe forced a smile as he left the Colombo magistrate's court with his lawyers on Friday.He was released on bail and told to cooperate with the Bribery aaand Corruption Commission in a High Court case where he is accused of seeking a bribe to approve multi-national flour mill.Pic by Iresha Waduge.
An official news release issued under the name of the Minister of Foreign Affairs last Thursday urging the Norwegian Government to take new initiatives to get the peace talks on track was put on the PRIU website with an introduction stating "The Government of Sri Lanka has reached an agreement with the LTTE on several matters which includes measures to alleviate hardships and dangers to civilians affected by the on-going conflict."
The Foreign Minister's statement did not use these words "the government of Sri Lanka has reached an agreement with the LTTE on several matters....". The statement only quoted Mr. Kadirgamar's letter to his Oslo counterpart merely saying agreement has been reached on several issues.
In cases where hair-splitting nuances in wording are of paramount importance in such diplomatic correspondence, the PRIU stating an agreement has been reached triggered off a verbal onslaught by the LTTE's London based chief negotiator Anton Balasingham through the pro-LTTE Tamilnet to say no agreement whatsoever has been reached. "It is premature and irresponsible on the part of the Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry to falsely project to the world media that an agreement has been reached," the LTTE said.
While Mr. Kadirgamar's release refers to unofficial agreement being reached, which the Norwegians confirm, Dr. Balasingham refers to no formal agreement being reached.
Meanwhile on Friday afternoon nearly 24 hours after the original Sri Lanka government release, the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Colombo issued a terse one paragraph statement to say "there is no overall agreement between the parties in the Sri Lanka conflict."
The LTTE issued a second statement on Friday afternoon softening its official position and conceding that "substantial progress has been made on the Norwegian proposals on the MOU after intense discussions for a considerable time with the Norwegian facilitator." We hope an agreement can be reached soon on the Norwegian proposal after further discussions and clarifications on certain matters," the LTTE said.
The PRIU in Colombo has also made a clumsy effort at sneaking in a comment of the Foreign Minister, into its own version of the official press release saying, "I can confirm that the peace process is on" which he confirmed in "an exclusive interview with the PRIU".
That addition of the PRIU, it has come to light, has been inserted to the Foreign Minister's press release without the knowledge of the Minister or anybody at the Foreign Ministry.
The confusion originally arose as a result of the Foreign Minister's
press release being issued by the Minister's Bureau to some newspapers
and wire services and not others; the Publicity Division of the Foreign
Ministry denying the existence of any such press release; and the PRIU
putting a doctored version of the official press release on its web site.
By Shelani de SilvaA dispute has reportedly flared between Ministers S. B. Dissanayake and Anuruddha Ratwatte over the arrest of two bodyguards of the Central Province's Acting Chief Minister.
The Acting Chief Minister, Saliya Bandara Dissanayake, brother of Minister S. B. Dissanayake, complained that two of his bodyguards had been unfairly arrested at the PA May Day rally in Kandy.
He protested that he was exposed to danger as a result and accused the Kandy Police of endangering security by carrying out orders of a top politician in the region.
The acting chief minister said Kandy was not the private property of any VIP.
The bodyguards were arrested and remanded on charges of unlawful possession of weapons but they were later released.
In the wake of this, Minister S. B. Dissanayake as General Secretary of the SLFP is reported to be pushing for an immediate probe on alleged election malpractices in Kandy during last year's general elections.
Claiming that some PA members were allegedly involved in these malpractices, he has sent letters to party members asking them to give evidence before a probe committee.
But in another strange twist, Minsiter D. M. Jayaratne has virtually rejected the probe committee appointed by President Chandrika Kumaratunga.
Mr. Jayaratne who is also the General Secretary of the PA told The Sunday Times he was asking for a committee comprising retired judges instead of the three officials appointed by the President.
During and after the October elections, Mr. Jayaratne publicly accused Minister Anuruddha Ratwatte of involvement in election malpractices. For some time, Minister Ratwatte was sidelined from the inner circle of the PA. But after he was reappointed as deputy minister of defence, Gen. Ratwatte called on the President to appoint a probe committee.
The President later appointed a committee comprising prominent PA lawyer Wijedasa Rajapakse, Essential Services Chief Sripathi Sooriyarachchi who had monitored the October elections through the PA Media Watch and E. U. Edirisinghe.
The Committee is scheduled to begin hearings next week and Minister Dissanayake has written to party members in the district inviting them to give evidence regarding any malpractices by PA members.
Mr. Jayaratne said he had not received any letter inviting him to give evidence and in any event he wanted a committee of ex-judges who he believed would be more balanced.
The inter-party rivalry between Ministers Jayaratne and Ratwatte for supremacy in the Central Province had started before the October elections and intensified after the polls.
Amidst this confusion, the Committee's chairman Wijedasa Rajapakse told The Sunday Times that they had not yet formulated any procedures. He said their plan was to first take statements from any witnesses while the two ministers concerned would be called later.
Meanwhile, opposition MPs in the Central Province have rejected the exercise as a sham probe in a bid to whitewash PA vote-rigging.
Recently Minister Ratwatte is reported to have publicly thanked President
Kumara-tunga for making all the PA MPs elected from the Central Province
either cabinet ministers or deputy ministers.
By Shane SeneviratneA 700-year-old Buddha statue at the Gadaladeniya Viharaya off Kandy was severely damaged by treasure hunters early yesterday — sparking a protest by hundreds of angry villagers who alleged that the chief priest and other authorities had not taken sufficient measures to protect the statue.
The statue from the Gampola era of King Wickramabahu III was heavily damaged in the stomach and feet areas by the vandals who were apparently searching for some treasure in it.
As the news spread, about 500 people from surrounding areas gathered outside the temple in protest.
They claimed that certain persons connected to the temple were responsible for the treasure-hunt. They then got into buses, lorries and vans and went to the Malwatte Temple where they told the Mahanayake that the chief priest at the Viharaya had not taken action to protect the statue.
The Ven. Rambukwelle Sri Vipassi Mahanayake Thera of the Malwatte Chapter immediately contacted the police who put the temple under police guard while an investigation was launched.
Diyawadana Nilame Neranjan Wijeratne also visited the temple, which is a major tourist site along with the nearby Ambekke Devale while the Archaeology Commissioner also sent officers for an on-the-spot probe.
Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickramanayake who is also the Minister of
Buddha Sasana has been notified of the matter.
A Letter of Intent from the Government assures the IMF that the GST will be increased after a significant reduction in the National Security Levy (NSL). Currently the NSL is 7.5 percent and the GST is 12.5 percent. The timing and the amounts are to be decided in September this year.
The government says it envisages that the full integration of the NSL with the GST will take place by the end of 2004.
The Government also says it will not increase public servant salaries during the year, while cutting down defence expenditure and curtailing construction of new buildings .
The Government is asking the IMF for a 14-month Stand-by Arrangement to the tune of SDR 200 million.
By Chris KamalendranConfusion and uncertainty prevailed over the weekend on how much support there would be for the proposed UNP-sponsored motions of no confidence against the government and the impeachment of the Chief Justice.
The main Tamil party, the TULF, held a crucial meeting yesterday to work out the party's strategy.
TULF's Vice President V. Anandasangari told The Sunday Times the party had decided to urge the government to pursue the Norwegian peace initiative and take every possible step to begin talks with the LTTE.
He said that if the government did not pursue the path of peace through dialogue, the TULF would have no option but to consider supporting the UNP's motion of no confidence.
The TULF has five members in parliament. The other Tamil parties TELO and the ACTC which have four seats have decided to support the motion on the grounds that the government has not taken effective steps to find a peaceful solution to the ethnic conflict.
In a statement issued after yesterday's meeting, the TULF said it appreciated the continued commitment of both the Government and the LTTE to the pursuit of the Norwegian initiative.
"The TULF appeals to both the Government and the LTTE to extend their fullest support to the Norwegian initiative so that early constructive negotiations could begin," the party said.
"The vast majority of all people in the country, especially the Tamil people who have borne the brunt of the war, are yearning for peace, and very much desire that they should not continue to be subjected to the suffering and hardship inflicted on them by a continuing war.
"This is the first time since the Indian initiative in the 1980s that a historic opportunity has presented itself for a just and durable peaceful resolution of the Tamil national question through negotiations. The TULF strongly feels that the conduct of serious negotiations while continuing to fight a fierce war, is an unrealistic proposition and cannot end in success," the statement said.
Last Thursday Opposition UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe met Tamil party leaders to seek their support for the motions.
Whatever the decision on the no-confidence motion, the Tamil parties have shown little sign of supporting the proposed motion to impeach the chief justice. The JVP also has still not decided on whether to support the motion of no-confidence against the government, propaganda secretary Wimal Weerawansa said.
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