Helicopter row grounds Ratwatte
By Tania Fernando
With confusion and controversy roaring over the helicopter flights of Anuruddha
Ratwatte to face charges in a Teldeniya court, the Interior Ministry has
ordered that he should be taken by road for the next sitting tomorrow.
Interior Ministry Secretary M. A. Junaid said he had told the Commissioner
General of Prisons to take Mr. Ratwatte by road for the case where he is
one of the suspects in the Pallethalawinna massacre of ten SLMC supporters.
The directive came as the question on who pays the bills for the earlier
helicopter rides still hangs fire with claims and contradictory claims
swirling all over. The Interior Ministry is flatly refusing to pay the
staggering bill of Rs. 534,033.96 and has passed it on to the Defence Ministry.
Prisons Commissioner General Upali Samaraweera clarifying media reports
said he had not asked for a helicopter to take Mr. Ratwatte but he only
sent his prison guards for security.
Mr. Samaraweera said he had made arrangements to send Mr. Ratwatte by
road, amid speculation that the orders for the helicopter rides had come
from President Chandrika Kumaratunga.
The mystery was further confused by Presidential spokesman Harim Peiris
when he insisted that the President's Office was not ready to pay any such
bill and that it should be passed on to the Air Force.
The spokesman made the jigsaw more puzzling by saying the President
need not request any one but had the right to give orders as Commander-in-Chief,
though he did not specifically say she ordered the helicopter ride for
her former strongman.
Mr. Peiris said the helicopter ride for Mr. Ratwatte was not given for
a pleasure trip, but for security reasons, as he still faced a threat to
his life due to what he achieved on the war front as Deputy Defence Minister.
Adding to the confusion were comments made by Air Force spokesman Ajith
Wing Commander Wijesundera told The Sunday Times if a request was made
tomorrow and the Defence Ministry approved it, the Air Force would release
a helicopter for Mr. Ratwatte to be taken to Teldeniya.
Sons moved to Class 1 ward
By Shane Seneviratne
Lohan and Chanuka Ratwatte, remanded over the Pallethalawinna massacre,
have got themselves admitted to a class I paying ward in the General Hospital
in Kandy, Prison officials said.
The two sons of former PA strongman Anuruddha Ratwatte were first remanded
at Bogambara but then they got themselves admitted to the Prisons hospital.
Prison officials said that three days ago the Ratwatte brothers were
moved to the Class 1 ward of the General Hospital.
Earlier Theldeniya magistrate Inoka Ranasinghe had called for a report
about their medical condition.
They were produced before Kandy JMO Dr. A. Seneviratne who wanted them
to undergo medical tests.
The case is due to be taken up at the Theldeniya Magistrates court tomorrow.
General Ratwatte is also due to be produced in courts on the same day.
Meanwhile a pro-PA group including Buddhist monks are planning to stage
a protest near the courts, demanding the release of the Ratwattes.
Police said additional security would be deployed around the court premises
Unemployed graduates reject cat's-paw theory
By Sunil Jayathilake
Over 3,000 unemployed graduates who marched to Temple Trees on Wednesday
have dismissed charges that they are backed by the JVP and accused the
government of ignoring their demands.
The unemployed graduates charged that they were baton charged by the
police on Thursday while they were marching to Temple Trees. They claimed
the government was accusing them of trying to get into Temple Trees after
the alleged police assault.
The graduates who began a Satyagraha opposite the Fort Railway Station
last week decided to march to Temple Trees after the government failed
to address their problems. As the Prime Minister nor any other official
came forward they decided to begin a Satyagraha opposite Temple Trees,
a spokesman said.
Coordinator for the unemployed graduates Ven. Vakamulle Uditha told
The Sunday Times when they first carried out the protest in 1998 in Kurunegala
the then Opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe asked why the PA could
not give jobs for the graduates.
"We were told if the UNP came to power we will be given jobs. But now
the Prime Minister is avoiding us and has arranged a meeting with the Labour
and Education ministers. We were told that with the present situation in
the country it is difficult for the government to provide jobs for us,"
said Ven. Uditha.
He said that was the reason why they decided to hold a Satyagraha.
"Even after 16 days no one addressed our problem. We had the Satyagraha
opposite Temple Trees for the same reason. We were treated in the most
cruel manner around 11.00 p.m. The police closed the Galle Road from both
sides and assaulted us," Ven.Uditha said. He said around 17 protesters
were admitted to hospital and the government accused them of JVP backing.
Meanwhile, Education Minister Karunasena Kodithuwakku charged that the
graduates were backed by interested parties .
"We held a meeting with them and said the government was interested
in giving jobs. We explained to them that even in my ministry there are
vacancies. However, just because one has a degree you cannot fill the vacancy.
We asked them to give us a list of unemployed graduates but the union did
not do it. This shows that their motive is different," said the Minister.
Labour Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe said the government would open
a special unit to register unemployed graduates before giving them jobs.
LTTE- CWC at hill show
For the first time after the ceasefire agreement, LTTE sympathisers will
be openly in action in areas outside the north and east when they attend
a meeting in Nuwara Eliya town today to explain the peace process.
The CWC led by Minister Arumugam Thondaman is organising the event where
some 50,000 people are expected to gather. Mr. Thondaman himself has been
visiting the LTTE-controlled areas and holding discussions with their membership.
LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran's pictures have been put up in the form
of posters and cutouts in the Nuwara Eliya town alongside pictures of Premier
Ranil Wickremesinghe and Mr. Thondaman. The event is expected to be similar
to the recent 'cultural show' in Vavuniya where the LTTE used the event
to carry out propaganda work. A large stage was being constructed last
evening with Mr. Thondaman paying regular visits to the site.
Nuwara Eliya DIG, F.R. Alles told The Sunday Times that they did not
see any threat to the security in the area and around 150 police personnel
would be deployed for the event.
Blow-up over Kandy Basnayake Nilame
Clashes and disputes erupted yesterday at a meeting to elect the Basnayake
Nilame of the Vishnu Devalaya in Kandy.
Amidst allegations of vote-buying with bribes including cash and computers,
Mohan Panabokke won the contest by four votes. The election was held at
the Buddhist Affairs Commissioner's office adjoining the Dalada Maligawa
and concern was expressed over the commotion and near chaos in a high security
Mr. Panabokke replaces Dennis Ratwatte, brother of the controversial
ex-minister Anuruddha Ratwatte. The defeated candidates included T.B. Walisundara,
Gamini Athurupana and Jayampathi Heenkenda.
Thirty-four persons, including the four Basnayake Nilames of the four
main devalayas in Kandy, were eligible to vote at the election.
SLCTB official in billing trouble
By M. Ismeth
A top SLCTB official has been asked to explain an alleged overpayment of
over 40 per cent of the estimated charges for buses repaired at the Ashok
Transport Ministry in a letter to SLCTB superintendent engineer D. S.
Adikaram has called for a list of estimates relating to 23 buses repaired
by Ashok Leyland company.
Ministry sources said 24 buses sent to the Ashok Leyland workshop from
November 29, 2001 to February 21, 2002 for repairs had been estimated at
Rs. 14,087,091.41 but the SLCTB had been billed for Rs.18,842,303.09.