UNPs working committee will take a decision concerning chief opposition whip Wijeyapala Mendis soon after the party receives an official communication on the findings of the Special Presidential Commission on malpractices and irregularities in public bodies.
Party General Secretary Gamini Athukorale told The Sunday Times that so far there had been only a public announcement made by Minister Mangala Samaraweera and the party has not been informed about the matter.
The Commission has reportedly recommended the stripping of the civic rights of Mr. Mendis and two others for a period of seven years. Several opposition backbenchers said there was intense pressure brought upon the party leadership to support the government on this matter to wipe out corruption within its rank and file.
Similar pressure is said to brought upon Mr. Mendis to hang his boots at this stage by vociferous young turks within the party who want a cleaner party, and see this as the foundation of building a new UNP which can present a new image in place of the old.
However Mr. Mendis said that he believed that the UNP will not accept recommendations made by Commissions.
He vowed to stay on and fight despite the efforts to wreak political revenge on opponents and not succumb to campaigns by interested parties.
Fr.Tissa Balasuriyas case, which has shaken the Vatican in recent weeks produced the first reactions this week when the Vatican spokesman Joaqin Navarro Valls made a statement.
He said that the Vatican will now issue new guidelines that promise more rights and guarantees for dissident theologians under investigation by the Roman Catholic Churchs Holy Office.
This is another breakthrough in the Balasuriya excommunication which The Sunday Times reported on August 17 was to be reviewed. The head of Pope John Pauls media office, who publicised Cardinal Ratzingers excommunication decree to the world media, before the priest himself was informed, now says: New norms will guarantee that things will happen out in the open. The Vaticans decision to come out to the open follows overwhelming protests from all over the world regarding Fr. Balasuriyas case.
The Sunday Times scoop of Stefan Gigaczs findings that the excommunication was null and void had been seen by all members of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, and by Cardinal Ratzinger himself.
The present turmoil in the Holy Office was also triggered by a letter, which the participants of the Pax Romanass Asias First Human Rights Workshop sent to Pope John Paul from Bangkok. The letter was written by catholic lawyers and professionals working in the field of human rights, who met at the Faculty of Education at Chualalong Korn University, Bangkok.
They said: We are conscious of our right and duty under Canon 212-3 to manifest to our pastors our opinions on matters which pertain to the good of the church. The letter further pointed out that they were concerned that the declaration of Fr. Balasurityas excommunication may place in question some of their own theological convictions with the risk that they too may fall into error. They made it clear that they had known and worked with Fr.Balsusriya for many years through Pax Romana and other lay apostolates.
Pope John Paul was told: We are scandalised to hear that Fr.Balasuriya has been denied a judicial hearing by the Lankan Bishops, by the Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith, and indeed finally by yourself as Roman Pontiff. The letter went on: As Pontiff you are the supreme judge of the whole Catholic Church charged with the responsibility for ensuring justice for all Catholics, for upholding the law and for affirming your brothers and sisters in the faith.
The Asian Human Rights participants appealed to the Pope to constitute an international tribunal to declare: the invalidity of Cardinal Ratzingers decree on the grounds that there was no judicial hearing as required by Canon 1342-1: alternately a failure to hold a quasi-judicial hearing under Canon 1720. They also wanted reparation to Fr. Balasuriya of his damages caused by the illegititmate notification. They also insisted that the international tribunal should judge the members of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith under Canon 1457-1. This was for their refusal to judicially try a case, in which they are competent by virtue of Pastor Bonus-art 52.
The participants requested Pope John Paul to have on the international tribunal members not only competent in Canon Law, but also civil law and with experience of current standards of natural justice. They called for a convocation of Bishops of the region, an Asian Council to consider the theological issues raised by Fr. Balasuriyas case, which concerned the whole future of the Catholic Church and Christianity. The Vatican spokesmans statement promising more rights to dissident theologians, came in the wake of Cardinal Ratzingers rigid stand in the Balasuriyas issue.
A human rights group has expressed dismay that after feet dragging in the Attorney Generals department the cases of the Bolgoda corpses, the Kumarapuram massacre, and a number of cases involving rape and murder against the security forces are bound to be forgotten.
The Jaffna based University Teachers for Human Rights (UTHR-J) says in its latest review the deterrence against abuses is an area in which the government has shown a singular lack of conviction and whatever action taken on a number of well publicised cases under normal law, in effect, amounts to no more than a conjuring trick.
This is in sharp contrast to the legally sanctioned and uncompensated punishments ordinary civilians undergo under the repressive powers of the State, the group says.
In the matter of disappearances in Jaffna, in the past few months the government has not even got down to the business of fixing responsibility although there was a clearly defined military hierarchy, it says.
The Task Force office in Jaffna never materialised. Neither has Jaffna seen any signs of the new Human Rights Commission. These are serious lapses. In effect, Jaffna was deprived of the means to check violations when they were most needed, UTHR says. Acknowledging a steady improvement in Jaffna peninsula, UTHR says the general conduct of soldiers is fairly disciplined although there are exceptions.
Eelam Peoples Democratic Party (EPDP) leader Douglas Devananda is seeking explanation from the two rebel parliamentarians for the alleged statements said to have been made against him and his parliamentary Independent Group II.
He has notified the members of his parliamentary group including the two rebel parliamentarians that his parliamentary Independent Group II of the Jaffna district will meet on Tuesday at 10.30 a.m. at the groups chamber in the Parliamentary Complex.
At this meeting explanations would be called from the two parliamentarians for the alleged remarks made by them.
The group meeting would also discuss what stand it should take in regard to the voting on the extension of the emergency.
Meanwhile the rebel parliamentarians said that monthly meetings had not been convened so far to our knowledge but now we have got an invitation for a monthly meeting.
It is stated in the invitation that we had made scandalous remarks against the independent group leader and that explanation would be called for that conduct, the due parliamentarian said.
No tears, no flowers, is the general term used by seamen on board merchant navy ships who also earn the much needed foreign exchange for the country under trying conditions, at sea.
But this is the story of one such seaman who narrated the story of how difficult it is now for seamen to find jobs on foreign vessels.
P. D. Rajapakse with years of experience working as an electrician cum technician on board merchant navy ships told The Sunday Times that its the poor seamen who are at the butt end of being ill-treated mainly due to the countrys shipping laws and those manning the Shipping Masters Office (SMO) who do not work according to any set plan.
It is the normal practice that once a seaman completes his apprenticeship on a ship he is entitled for a Continuous Discharge Certificate (CDC) which was done about a decade ago. The SMO at that time even found jobs for seamen on foreign vessels.
He lamented that today the Shipping Masters Office comparatively is virtually a dead office which cannot provide even one such opportunity.
The CDC should be issued to those who had worked for 10 to 12 months on a ship, after verifying wages sheets, passport, air ticket, and a certificate obtained from the Captain of that ship.
But now the Colombo office ignores these once-followed-formalities and are now insisting on a telex from that company where the seamen had worked, which is not an easy task, as anyone discontinued have no dealings with that company thereafter he added. On such occasions those prospective candidates generally give up the chase to get the CDC and on the alternative think of greasing the palm of officers, he alleged.
Inspite of having worked for five years on a ship he could not get his CDC, he said.
The committee probing the alleged police attack on garment workers will submit the report to the defence secretary this week.
Last week, President Kumaratunga asked the Defence Ministry to appoint a committee to look into the attack where several workers were reported to have been seriously injured. The president has ordered the report be handed over in two weeks.
The management, which held discussions with officials of the labour dept, has claimed that they had to get new buyers and are scheduled to conduct a meeting next week with department officials. The workers of the Euro Asia Garment Factory in Mutwal were allegedly beaten by Police during a union action demanding wage increase.
The District Judge of Colombo, Tissa Ekanayake on Friday taking up an application for the issue of an enjoining order directed that the Teen International Sri Lanka 1997 contest, organised by Studio 9 which had earlier been scheduled to be held at the Galle Face Hotel today, be postponed until the application was finally heard and disposed of.
The plaintiff, Christine Keil, filed this application on behalf of her teenaged daughter, Karen Keil who has been selected to participate in the final contest alleging that certain conditions embodied in an agreement asked to be signed at the eleventh hour between the contestants, their parents or lawful guardians and the organisers were, inter alia, detrimental to the interests of the contestants.
The court was told that when those who had been picked to take part in the final contest went to the Galle Face Hotel for rehearsals last Thursday they and their parents or lawful guardians were required to sign a printed agreement stating the failure to do so would result in the contestants being disqualified.
It was stated that the defendants called for applications in the press from boys and girls between the ages of 13 to 19 for a contest organised by Studio 9 to select contestants to represent Sri Lanka at the corresponding international contests to be held in the United States of America.
The plaintiff further stated that for the final contest of Miss Teen International - Sri Lanka 1997' 12 girls including her 15-year old daughter had been selected and as a result, she had paid the defendants a sum of Rs. 3, 650 for the costumes and hairdressing in respect of the final contest in addition to other expenses she had incurred in this connection.
It was also said that the plaintiff refrained from signing the agreement on behalf of her daughter as she felt it was violative of the contestants rights charging that a particular condition had been inserted maliciously with a view to disqualifying them. She prayed, among other things, for a declaration to the effect that the defendants had no right to disqualify her daughter on account of her refusal to sign the agreement.
The court ordered the co-partners of Studio 9 Prasantha Dias and Christina Subashini Dias Abeyegunawardene, their servants and agents not to hold the contest until the final determination of the application.
In a move to introduce sweeping changes in the countrys media laws, Media Minister Mangala Samaraweera will present a motion in parliament on Wednesday to effect substantial amendments to the Parliamentary Powers and Privileges Act of 1978.
This came as a sequel to the setting up a Select Committee on Media to study the reforms that should be effected in order to create a more conducive media environment.
The draconian piece of legislation introduced by the J.R. Jayewardene government enabled the Parliament to assemble as a court of law, and pronounce sentences.
This power which clearly interfered with a function of the judiciary will be amended on September 10, vesting the powers to make such determinations once again with the Supreme Court.
The Select Committee which is meeting this week shall also take up several pieces of legislation which are largely accepted to have interfered with media freedom, namely the Official Secrets Act and the Public Security Ordinance and provisions relating to criminal defamation.
Coinciding with the white cane day the Sri Lankan Union of Blind Graduates has organised a flag week from September 8 to 15. This is in aid of the special scholarship scheme available for blind students who wish to pursue higher studies.
The theme of this years flag day is Independence Security and Co operation. The Blind Graduates Union seeks the utmost support from schools, higher education institutions and other organizations to help build an intellectual group of blind students.
An insurance scheme for migrant workers will be implemented within a few months to protect the interest of the Lankan maids.
This scheme along with other welfare programmes was discussed at a meeting held with President Kumaratunga and Ambassdors from twelve countries. The meeting which was organised by the Foreign Ministry included officials from the Ministry of Labour and the Foreign Employment Bureau. A policy options paper prepared by the Working Group was presented to the President.
Minister John Seneviratne told The Sunday Times that the President had also requested to have a welfare officer at Sri Lankan missions to help out the workers.
In the calamitous hangover of one of Sri Lankas worst ever liquor tragedies, all liquor shops and bars in Batticoloa have been shut down while investigations continue as to how some 56 people died and upto 250 were taken ill from alchohol poisoning.
The Eastern city was still plunged in mourning and shock while the Government Analysts (GA) Department has confirmed the shocking discovery that the adulterated liquor contained methyl alcohol an industrial solvent that is generally used in polish and paint.
Hundreds of people in Batticaloa were rushed to hospitals last Monday and Tuesday after consuming adulterated liquor brought from retailers in the area.
Medical sources said most of the victims developed symptoms such as nausea, dizziness, stomach cramps, difficulty in breathing and visual problems.
Amidst charges and controversy Excise Chief, Bandula Wijeyaratne said the unsettled conditions in Batticaloa had made it difficult for his officials to carry out their duties. He admitted that at the time of the incident the excise staff in Batticaloa was a mere one third of the required number.
Outlining remedial steps Mr. Wijeyaratne said more officials had been sent to the area now. While all the suspected liquor had been destroyed no fresh stocks would be sent until investigations were complete.
Answering questions about allegations that the Excise Department had failed to do anything constructive regarding complaints on the adulteration of liquor and duplication of labels of alcohol manufactured by reputed companies Mr. Wijeyaratne said the departmentss hands were tied as the retailers had resorted to legal action.
M.R.Peries, Operations Manager of the Distilleries Company of Sri Lanka (DCSL) one of the main liquor distributors said repeated requests by the company to the Excise Department to have better control over the public liquor sales had produced no tangible results.
He claimed there was no proper quality control by qualified chemists, thus allowing room for the tragedy that occured.
Previously it was merely the retailers who sold their licenses to those who did not qualify to obtain them, but now even manufacturers are resorting to these tactics. Moreover, some officials at the Excise Department have vested interests and overlook discrepancies, Mr. Peries alleged.
As investigations proceed people including managers and employees of the sealed liquor stores, have been remanded.
According to Government Agent A.K.Pathmanathan the licenses of some outlets from which the adulterated alcohol was bought lapsed on August 31. He agreed with the view of the DCSL that the people felt let down by the Excise officials who they felt were either negligent or covering up for the racketeers.
In LTTE controlled areas of the Batticaloa district strict measures are reported to have been taken afte three farmers died from apparent liquor poisoning some months ago.
Residents of those areas had been directed not to buy liquor from shops in areas under the purview of government troops.
Batticaloa residents say that under cover of the war, illicit liquor dealers had for a long time being carrying out a big racket but appeals and protests had been ignored setting the scene for this devastating bolt from the brew.
Continue to the News/Comment page 2
Go to the News/Comment Archive
| HOME PAGE | FRONT PAGE | EDITORIAL/OPINION | PLUS | TIMESPORTS
Please send your comments and suggestions on this web site to
email@example.com or to