No pact with the LTTE, says Ranil
By M. Ismeth
UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe has categorically denied that there is
a secret pact between his party and the LTTE.
In his response to the query raised by Mahanayake Theras over the alleged
UNP-LTTE link, Mr. Wickremesinghe has said, "I assure you that there is
no pact or secret agreement between myself and the LTTE or any other agreement
between our party or the United National Front and the LTTE.He also assured
the Mahanayakes that the UNP and the UNF would protect Sri Lanka's territorial
integrity and safeguard the rights of the Sinhala majority while ensuring
the rights of all ethnic groups and religions.
"It is no secret that the war in the North -East has destroyed our economy
as well as social political stability. People living in the border villages
of the North-East and members of the security forces are severely affected
due to the curse of this war. This has also deeply crushed the lives of
innocent Tamil and Muslim civilians in the North and the East. You are
aware this curse has engulfed our entire nation and its social fabric.
"When the late D. S. Senanayake created the UNP, he did so by bringing
all the nationalities and religious groups under one flag. Distrust and
differences grew due to the decisions and actions of certain political
parties that took charge of the destiny of our country thereafter.
"When the PA came to power in 1994 under the leadership of Chandrika
Kumaratunga, she had the necessary background and international backing
to find a peaceful solution to the ethnic problem. But that golden opportunity
was missed by her own folly," Mr. Wickremesinghe said.
He also said there was no agreement between the UNP/UNF and any party
representing the people of the North and East, but said his party had extended
a hand of friendship to the people of the north and east to restore peace
and rebuild trust.
SPMC rocked by crisis
By Faraza Farook
The State Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Corporation (SPMC) has been plunged
into further crisis with the managing director also being sent on compulsory
leave by the Health Minister one week after the chairman was sacked.
Chairman Nihal Kiriella had been sacked by Health Minister Nimal Siripala
de Silva on the basis that there was evidence of improper tender procedures
and financial irregularities, though Mr. Kiriella claimed he was removed
because he stood against corrupt practices by some bureaucrats in the SPMC.
Managing Director Anura Jayasundera was also removed by the minister
on the same grounds, but Mr. Jayasundera also charged he was being removed
to make way for a political appointee who had earlier been interdicted
on corruption charges.
Meanwhile, the main trade union in the SPMC last Monday launched a black
band campaign protesting against the appointment of a new board of directors
and attempts by political elements to use corporation vehicles and other
resources for the current election campaign.
Like Mr. Kiriella, Mr. Jayasundera had also first been asked to resign
but he refused and was removed.
The removal of the chairman and the managing director followed a major
controversy over the import of the raw material, Carbamazepine, for the
manufacture of an epilepsy drug. The minister claimed the tender procedure
was irregular but Mr. Kiriella and Mr. Jayasundera said some officers at
the quality control unit of the SPMC had tried to manipulate the tender
to give it to a former supplier at a price which was about half a million
rupees more than another offer. Backing up Mr. Kiriella's charges, Mr.
Jayasundera also claimed there was widespread corruption in the SPMC and
both of them were removed because they stood against the corrupt elements.
Mr. Jayasundera charged that a former general manager who was interdicted
recently had been linked to several cases of fraud, including alleged forgery
of documents and extravagant expenditures.
In one instance, the general manager who was not entitled to an official
cell phone had been given one and run up a bill of tens of thousands of
rupees a month.
SAARC seeks EU link-up
South Asian Foreign Ministers are to meet the European Union hierarchy
in New York next week to explore ways and means of expanding ties between
the two geographical regions.
Foreign Ministers of the seven-nation regional grouping SAARC (South
Asian Association for Regional Co-operation) are now in New York for the
UN General Assembly sessions which began yesterday and are scheduled to
meet formally as a prelude to a summit meeting of heads of government in
Katmandu on January 4, 5 and 6 next year. The seven-nation SAARC comprises
Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka, the current chairman of the grouping, will hand over the
mantle to Nepal at the oft postponed summit, which could not be held due
to continuing differences between India and Pakistan over Kashmir.
In New York, the foreign ministers will also meet with Chris Patten,
EU Commissioner (External Affairs), and other senior bureaucrats at the
Brussels secretariat to discuss avenues of cooperation between Europe and
Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar had wide-ranging talks with Mr.
Patten and other senior EU officials in Brussels en-route to New York.
EU is reported to have expressed interest in engaging itself more in South
Asia by providing more financial assistance for economic development in
the otherwise impoverished region.
SAARC states have also initiated a dialogue with the economically advanced
ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations) states for markets and
trade, but an impasse at the highest political levels in the South Asian
grouping in the intervening years had impeded progress on this front.
SU starts from Borella
The inaugural campaign rally of the Sihala Urumaya will take place tomorrow
at 4 p.m. at Borella.
Prof. Oliver Abeynaike and Pandula Endagama will make their maiden speeches
from the Sihala Urumaya platform, while the party leadership including
Tilak Karunaratne, Champika Ranawaka and Dr. Neville Karunatilleke will
address the public. Singers such as Madu Madava Aravinda will perform at
the event, a party spokesman said.