12th August 2001
The Sinhala Commission report compiled by the
By Nilika de SilvaConfusion over who controls the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress intensified to chaos and violence yesterday with leadership rivals Rauf Hakeem and M. L. A. M. Hisbullah holding separate delegate conventions in Sammanthurai and Akkaraipattu.
While Hakeem supporters claimed that Hisbullah supporters had opened fire and exploded grenades at Friday night's public meeting addressed by Mr. Hakeem at the Kalmunai Town Hall, the Hisbullah faction said they were forced to transfer their conference venue to the Akkaraipattu GA's office due to security reasons.
The Hisbullah convention which was earlier scheduled to begin at 9.30 a.m. at the Kalmunai Town Hall had to be shifted to Akkaraipattu and finally began at 1 p.m. The most significant guest was National Unity Alliance leader and Minister Ferial Ashraff, who is known to be directly backing the Hisbullah claim for SLMC leadership.
An angry Mr. Hakeem was also unrelenting. At the Sammanthurai convention, he blasted the Hisbullah faction as impostors who were compromising the cause of the Muslim community but Mr. Hisbullah hit back by accusing Mr. Hakeem of parading a bogus rag-tag politburo.
Mr. Hakeem reiterated the charge that the PA government and the state media were behind the abortive Hisbullah coup.
As the conventions took place, Mr. Hakeem produced a list of 40 politburo
members who he claimed were fully backing him, but Mr. Hisbullah dismissed
A trade union leader told The Sunday Times the Prima factory had already curtailed supplies to the Food Department in view of the takeover which comes into operation from September 1.
He said Food Department warehouses at Narahenpita, Trincomalee, Ratnapura and Orugodawatta would be abandoned as Prima would make use of its facilities.
Meanwhile, Prima has expressed concern over high insurance premiums
which it would have to pay in view of the recent imposition of hefty surcharges
on ships calling at Sri Lankan ports by London-based underwriters. A ship
that was to transport Prima wheat from Trincomalee bypassed and proceeded
towards Singapore after it learned about the surcharge, shipping sources
By Chris KamalendranThe liquor war in Sri Lanka has intensified with the monopoly giant allegedly carrying its campaign to outstation outlets and one well-known company complaining that its sales had plunged by as much as 50 percent.
Intervening in this battle of the bottle, Excise Chief Parakrama Ekanayake Bandara has ordered divisional superintendents to fully probe charges that the Distilleries Company of Sri Lanka, which first imposed restrictions in Colombo and suburban outlets had now spread its tentacles to the outstations. Mr. Bandara told The Sunday Times he had told officials to go to the field and investigate complaints by liquor traders that the DCSL was insisting that they must sell only its products.
The outlets have allegedly been warned that if they sold other brands, they would not get the popular DCSL products.
Liquor dealers have also complained to Treasury Secretary P.B. Jayasundara that the alleged action by the DCSL is a violation of excise and fair trading laws.
Liquor Dealers Association Secretary S. Britto said sales at several outlets had been severely affected by the DCSL restriction.
W. M. Mendis, chairman of the popular liquour manufacturing company of that name said some of the liquor outlets had complied with the DCSL instructions as they feared they would not get DCSL supplies if they did not comply. He said his company sales had been cut by 50 percent as some outlets were not buying Mendis products.
The Sunday Times again tried several times to contact DCSL Chief Executive
Officer Maxie Peiris by calling over at his office and through telephone
but we were told he was not available. We were also told DSCL boss Harry
Jayawardana was out of the country.
They said these cabin crew members had been told that they must take this year's annual leave together with any accumulated leave from last year. However an airline spokesperson disputed this claim, saying they had only been redeployed on ground duty.
Meanwhile, the airline has closed down its office in Karachi and Rome
as part of its contingency plans.
By Tania Fernando and Faraza FarookThe postponement of the referendum alongside political uncertainty is causing tremors in business circles which have already felt the effects of the imposition of a war risk surcharge on ships and aircraft arriving in Sri Lanka.
Many of the foreign travel advisories drew attention to the July 24 attack at Katunayake and also to the political situation indicating that violence was expected in the run-up to the now postponed referendum.
The travel advisories by western countries said demonstrations were expected in view of the referendum and uncertainty would loom large until it was held or cancelled.
The London-based War Risk Rating Committee (WRRC) has added Sri Lanka alongside Somalia, Iraq, Israel, Lebanon, Sierra Leone, Yugoslavia, Libya, Angola, Eritrea, Congo and Liberia in their list of 'war risk zone' countries which have already ruffled feathers in the shipping industry.
Accordingly, three shipping lines which formerly announced a war risk surcharge of US $ 50 –100 for a 20 feet container and US $ 100 – 200 for a 40 feet container have increased it to US $ 500 and US $ 1000 respectively following the decision by the WRRC to declare the entirety of Sri Lanka as a war risk zone.
The additional war risk insurance premium is being discussed at the highest levels comprising those in the shipping trade. While no amount has been fixed, much would depend on the age and size of the ship with premiums ranging from US $ 15,000 – US $ 175,000 per call.
The impact of this on an average garment factory with 500 employees is estimated to suffer an additional expenditure of Rs. 10 million a year, whilst the total cost for the industry as a whole is put at Rs. 3.3 billion a year.
The National Apparel Exporters Association chairman Premal Mendis said the series of situations in the last couple of weeks had prompted a German-based office to stop buying from Sri Lanka from next spring season, whilst another USA children's clothing buyer placing about four million pieces a year has reduced planned purchasing for the next 12 months to two million pieces and a leading French buyer has suspended operations in Sri Lanka with immediate effect.
Business sources said freight rates were bound to go up with three shipping lines having already scaled down their activities by 90% while some ships had bypassed Colombo.
"Transhipment cargo will be badly affected because exporters and importers will not want to ship their goods on a vessel stopping at Colombo as the surcharge will be slapped on them," Ceylon Association of Shipping Agents (CASA) vice chairman Parakrama Dissanayake said.
He said the surcharge and additional war risk insurance premia would have a snowballing effect with levies also being increased. As a direct result, the customs duty would be increased as they calculated taking into account the Cost Insurance and Freight (CIF) charges.
At a meeting on Thursday summoned by the Shippers Council where officials of all the product associations took part, it was decided that a request be made to President Kumaratunga to step in immediately and take measures to give some temporary relief to the shipping lines.
Ceylon Chamber of Commerce chairman Anton Abeysekera said unless the government projected the image that the port was safe, the surcharge would be inevitable which would result in the consumer also having to bear the cost.
He said the export sector was to lose a lot of business if traders were unable to ship goods within the allocated time frame with countries looking at other options if the surcharge was beyond their capacity.
The surcharge on shipping lines would directly affect consumers who wanted to ship unaccompanied luggage.
"We envisage a problem to the people who want to bring something home, because we will have to increase our charges which will be passed on to them," TRICO chairman Ari Kannangara said. He said there would be a negative trend in the trade as people would not want to pocket out more sending goods home on top of their already heavy bills.
The Association of Clearing and Forwarding Agents chairman M. S. M.
Niyas said while the impact of the current crisis was to be seen in the
months to come, the instability of the economy has resulted in a drastic
drop of containers being cleared. An average of 1000 containers being cleared
a month had dropped to 600 in the past year with a further decline to 400
during the past two months.
All air passengers out of Sri Lanka are now forced to pay an insurance surcharge of US dollars 80 on each ticket irrespective of their destination. As a result passengers going to South India, once home to the LTTE, have to pay double for their ticket.
Passengers coming from London on return tickets have to pay 58 pounds extra on each return ticket if they are flying Sri Lankan Airlines or Emirates, but only 21 pounds if they come on Gulf Air.
Infants whose tickets cost 50 pounds have to pay the 58 pounds extra as well, doubling their cost.
But the most intriguing aspect of this is that all passengers who transit through Colombo's same BIA used by other passengers coming to Sri Lanka are exempt from this surcharge.
Originally, when the UK Government issued a travel advisory in the aftermath of the LTTE attack at the BIA urging its citizens, not to holiday in the Island they permitted its citizens to transit through the same devastated airport, mainly to the Maldives.
When it was shown that such a decision looked illogical, the UK Foreign Office quickly added the fact that transitting at the BIA was also not advised. Why ? Because a Referendum is on.
When the Referendum was postponed, the travel advisory again permitted transiting through BIA.
Now Sri Lanka's national airline has slapped an insurance surcharge
on tourists and Sri Lankans disembarking at the BIA, but exempted those
transitting through the same un-safe BIA. And unlike the disembarking passenger,
the transitting passenger spends more time in and around the BIA as well.
It's a funny world.
By Shelani de SilvaPresident Kumaratunga's decision to postpone the referendum would result in the Elections Department to spend more if the government went ahead with the poll, informed sources said.
They said the Election Department was given just 40 days to prepare for the referendum making it one of the most hurriedly prepared poll.
With the government announcing the postponement of the referendum on August 7 the Elections Department came up with another financial problem. Department sources said within a week following the announcement of the referendum the poll cards were despatched to assistant commissioners for distribution.
They said due to the short notice given for the preparation many Kachcheris had to work overtime to meet the deadline. Although the divisional secretaries had not estimated the cost, this would be another financial burden on the Elections Department.
An Election Department official said the cost of preparing the poll cards in all the 24 districts before August 7 alone had cost Rs. three million.
Meanwhile, the department had sent orders to all district election offices to distribute the poll cards. The official said with the postponement of the referendum the Elections Department would be compelled to collect the poll cards from post offices and sub post offices.
He said the poll cards would have to be re-written or a new date announced. An additional cost would have to be incurred to make payments if the changes were made on the card.
Election Department sources said the postponement of the referendum would leave the possibility of poll cards being removed from post offices illegally. They said poll cards had been pilfered from post offices in the past to rig the elections. They said no instructions had been received to collect the poll cards from post offices until Friday.
An Election Department official said it was necessary to use additional labour to check poll cards individually. He said it was a time-consuming and a tedious task. Another problem was to check whether any cards were missing.
Election Department sources said in most places the training of senior presiding officers had been completed. An allowance had been paid for those who attended the training sessions. They said this was in addition to the cost of fuel and allowances paid to drivers who had been utilised for transporting the poll cards.
Meanwhile, postal voting was due to commence on Thursday and all arrangements had been made for it. An official said instructions had now gone out to recollect the postal votes with specific instructions not to open the packets. He said the possibility of some of them being tampered with could not be ruled out.
A department official said within a few days the work pattern in Kachcheris had changed with officials claiming payments for their services.
He said it would take at least two weeks to assess the total cost of expenditure in the 24 districts and another month to settle the claims.
Meanwhile, the Government Printer who was informed of the postponement around 8.30 pm. has sent the ballot papers to the Kachcheris to be stored in a safe. He claimed as the ballot papers had been sent only to the Government Agent there was no danger of it being leaked. However, informed sources said the possibility of leaking the ballot paper sent for postal voting leading to reprinting of them had taken place in previous elections.
An additional financial burden the Election Department had to shoulder was the payment of money to various radio and television stations for the time allocated for political parties.
In previous elections the department had to pay nearly Rs. 2 million for each radio and television station.
Political parties which began to use their air time at the end of July were to continue until a day before the referendum. Each political party was assigned 15 minute slots which added up to the stipulated time of 90 minutes. However, of the 49 registered political parties, 17 parties were backing the "no' vote while 16 parties which were backing the 'yes' vote were allocated 90 minutes. Ten political parties which took a neutral stand received only one slot both on radio and radio.
Meanwhile, the postponement of the referendum had an adverse effect on commercial artists who agreed to work for both the government and the opposition parties.
They said their contracts came to a standstill on Tuesday night.
The postponement of the referendum also had an impact on school holidays and the G.C.E. advanced level examination. Before the postponement the examination was to be held in stages with a long gap in between.
This had not been changed even after the referendum was postponed later.
Schools also enjoy a longer holiday because of the referendum which was not held on the appointed date.
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