Long Rangers' detention illegal
The long term detention of an officer and four soldiers — all members of
the once top-secret Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol — after the Police
raid on an Army Safe House at Athurugiriya has turned out to be illegal.
After their arrest on January 2, they had been detained in a remand
cell, normally used to house criminals and drug addicts, for three days.
This was on a Detention Order for three days issued by the Senior Superintendent
of Police of the Kandy Division under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA).
That is the maximum period an SSP is empowered to issue a Detention Order
under the PTA. Thereafter, the detaining authority is required to obtain
a Detention Order from the Ministry of Defence.
Mahinda Balasuriya, until last Friday DIG in charge of Central Province
West, which covers the Kandy Division, wrote to Defence Minister, Tilak
Marapana, that a Detention Order be issued for the period January 5 to
10 to cover the further period of detention. But Mr. Marapana has refused
to do so. Hence, the arrest of the Officer and four soldiers and their
detention after January 5 have turned out to be illegal.
The officer and the soldiers are to file a fundamental rights violation
petition before the Supreme Court, citing their illegal detention and many
other reasons. The country's leading lawyers have offered to appear free
of charge for them.
A Police party led by Kulasiri Udugampola, Superintendent of Police,
(Special Operations), Kandy Division, conducted the raid on the Army Safe
House at Millennium Park in Athurugiriya. It transpired at a top level
conference at Police Headquarters on January 7 that Mr. Udugampola had
neither briefed his immediate superior, DIG Balasuriya nor obtained his
clearance to carry out the raid outside his division.
Last Sunday, Mr. Marapana ordered the immediate release of the Officer
and soldiers. All of them barring one, a former Tiger guerrilla who surrendered
and became an Army soldier, were handed over to Brigadier B.H.M.R. Tammita,
General Officer Commanding the Army's Central Command. The former guerrilla
was held back for what was described as "further interrogation." Last Tuesday
night, Mr. Marapana ordered his release, too, after reports that he was
to be moved to another location.
The Sunday Times has learnt that no incriminating evidence whatsoever
about any illegal activity or conspiracy was found during investigations
into the safe house. All weaponry found inside the safe house has been
accounted for. Army authorities have also explained that they had arranged
to stitch a set of Tiger guerrilla uniforms. Though Mr. Udugampola had
contended the funds used were not approved, they explained that expenses
in instances like this were secret and not accounted for. As a result of
the raid and a massive propaganda blitz, the LTTE became aware of the operations
of the Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol and the men involved. Intelligence
services were not only able to confirm this but also learnt of witch hunts
Tiger guerrillas had launched to punish civilians in areas they dominate
in the Batticaloa district for helping LRRP teams.
In today's Situation Report, Iqbal Athas reports
on the aftermath of the probe and the degrading treatment meted out to
men of the LRRP.
Ceylinco boss offers to be peace envoy
Ceylinco Group Chairman Lalith Kotelawela has offered his services to Prime
Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe to be the Government's "Peace Envoy" at future
negotiations with the LTTE, The Sunday Times learns.
Mr. Kotelawela, lost an eye following the LTTE's suicide-bombing of
the Central Bank building in January, 1996 when the adjoining "Ceylinco
House" building was also destroyed. In a letter to the Prime Minister,
Mr. Kotelawela has said he is willing to be the chief negotiator for peace,
a company spokesman said.
He said their chairman had been hand-picked by the former government
as well to negotiate with the LTTE as a businessman's initiatives to settle
the country's 20 year old northern insurgency, but conceded that the process
could not be started.
Rubbish to the rescue
A proposal to take over the thousands of tons of garbage and produce electricity
to beat the power crisis has been made by a subsidiary of a British-based
The proposal, now being considered by the Ministry of Power and Energy
and the Ministry of Environment, involves the management of solid waste
in the Colombo city and two suburbs to generate energy.
At present, the CMC spends as much as Rs. 507 million a year for disposal
A company spokesman said they could produce electricity and sell it
to the CEB at about Rs. 7 per unit.
The total load of daily garbage collected by the CMC runs into 1300
tons whereas the quantum needed daily for such a power factory is only
The proposal comes as the government further extended the power cuts
with effect from yesterday while continuing its highly expensive mystic
project to bring down more rain. A Kataragama monk, well-known for his
chanting of mantras, has been given a luxury vehicle and a special escort
to travel hundreds of miles across the country to make the chants at the
reservoirs. He has so far exercised the mystic power at Victoria, Lakshapana
and Randenigala. Much was expected but little rain has come.
Meanwhile, the power cut was extended by two to two and half hours yesterday
with weather projections indicating there would be no substantial rain
till after the national New Year.
The new Power and Energy Minister Karu Jayasuriya, however, expressed
confidence the situation was a little better and he hoped that the short-term,
medium term and long term plans would help overcome the power crisis.
The minister has, however, insisted that public cooperation is vital
and urged house holds to switch off unnecessary lights and electrical appliances.
Flour subsidy slashed, says minister
By Faraza Farook
Consumer Affairs Minister Ravi Karunanayake said the new Government would
not be providing the existing subsidy on flour because it lacked funds
and accused the former government of reducing prices as an election stunt.
Mr. Karunanayake said the government was looking for other means of
reducing the price of flour — and consequently the price of bread which
had risen since the general elections.
The former government provided a subsidy of Rs. 5.75 a kilo of flour
which this government has reduced to Rs. 2.75.
The bad news for consumers came amidst accusations by the government
that Prima which had a monopoly on wheat flour processing had violated
its contractual obligations by exporting flour to the Maldives without
keeping a sufficient buffer stock in Sri Lanka.
Co-operative Minister A.R.M. Abdul Cader accused Prima of exporting
flour to the Maldives creating a shortage locally.
Prima had been exporting flour to Maldives for some months now.
Prima denied it had violated the agreement with the Sri Lankan government
saying a new agreement which came into effect in September permitted exports.
Prima Ceylon company holding the monopoly for flour milling and distribution
has allegedly violated its agreement with the government by failing to
maintain buffer stocks and exporting flour to Maldives.
"I have been receiving complaints from the public about flour shortages
everyday. Even today there is no market stock," Minister Cader said.
The issue about flour shortages was taken up at a meeting between Minister
Cader and representatives of the Prima Company. However the issue about
the violation of the agreement did not figure at the meeting.
Mr. Cader said he was informed about the exports and the alleged violation
by its officials after the discussion had taken place.
In addition to the shortages in the outstations the consumers have been
forced to pay high prices for flour as the transport charges incurred by
the distributors were now being passed on to the consumer.
Minister Cader said his ministry was considering the import of floor
to meet an emergency.
Contrary to the minister's allegations, Prima officials claimed there
was no shortage. However, they admitted that buffer stocks levels were
going down because of a delay in a wheat flour shipment to Sri Lanka in
December. Moreover, they said that the Government guarantee for war risk
premiums given for the Colombo Port did not cover the Trincomalee Port.
Earlier, the company was entitled to import, distribute and sell its
products only for the local market.
Commenting on the recent price hike in flour the Prima officials said
the decision by the Government to withdraw Rs. 3 from the subsidy triggered
the price increase.
Wheat flour prices in different areas varied as transport costs were
added to the final price. The factory price per kilo of flour was 18.50,
but retail prices were Rs. 20 and up.
The transport and distribution of goods was previously carried out by
the government's Food Department and the CWE bore the cost of transport
and labour. However, after the privatisation of the company, the agents
and dealers themselves handle the transportation.
Prima has also turned down a request by the Food Department to handle
the transportation after the privatisation, stating that the retailers
and agents preferred their own transport because the goods were delivered
to their doorstep. Earlier, the food department distributed to the Co-operatives
and the dealers had to collect the goods from there.