Date Month 1997


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Mirror Magazine

Navam Raja donated to the temple by the dayakas of the Gangarama Vihara was offered to the Dalada Maligawa at the conclusion of the Katina Pinkama yesterday. Inset: Chief Priest of Gangarama Vihara Galaboda Gnanissara with Dalada Maligawa Diyawadana Nilame Neranjan Wijeyaratne


With 10% off, more will take to computers

By Arshad M. Hadjirin

The removal of import duties on information technology products, will set the stage for Sri Lanka to enter the next century as a computer literate society, industry analysts said.

The prices of computers, software and accessories would come down by some 10% giving more people access to information technology they said.

IT Concepts Managing Director Nalaka Devindra hailing the budget proposals said customers would now be able to go for better quality products at lesser prices, thus avoiding the use of low quality computers.

He said that even after sales services would become less expensive, while small time software programmers would be able to purchase their material at lower rates.

Mr. Devindra said for the first time customers would be able to go for original software packages at affordable prices. "Singapore removed duties on all IT related products a decade ago, on it's way to a high-tech era, and it was time that Sri Lanka did it," he said.

East West Information Systems Managing Director Sanjeewa wickramanayake, said customers could expect a 10% reduction on all IT products, but there might be problems due to fluctuations in the dollar rate.

Informatics Managing Director Gamini Wickramanayake, said this is an ideal time to popularise the usage of computers, and to encourage more software developers.

Saudi Government gives free seats for deportees

By Mohammed Qassim In Saudi Arabia

As a humanitarian gesture the Saudi Government has agreed to provide free passage to the illegal Sri Lankan overstayers who sought assistance from the country's consulate in Jeddah for their repatriation, the Consul M.U.M Sabry announced here on Friday.

On a request made by the Sri Lankan mission, Saudi Arabia would soon airlift the 78 Sri Lankans who have overstayed their visas in the Kingdom.

Last week, some of these Sri Lankan's staged a violent demonstration at the consulate in Jeddah demanding their speedy repatriation. The protest has led to damages estimated at Rs. 1 million .

Mr. Sabry told The Sunday Times , the mission was able to provide whatever possible assistance to the illegal Lankan residents who sought his assistance. He said immediate relief could not be given to these people since they did not have their air tickets to Colombo. The mission took some time in negotiating with the Saudi Government and the International Migration Organization (IMO), to assist the stranded Lankans to reach their home station, Sabry said. In the process, the consul added that the detainees lost their patience and staged the demonstration causing heavy damage to state properties.

He said the group leaders who were arrested by the police would be dealt with according to Saudi law. The Government of Sri Lanka is making every effort to provide these Lankans with food and other requirements during their stay before their departure from the Kingdom.

Bar in office

An employee of the Zonal Education Department at Kalutara has been interdicted for consuming liquor while working.

The employee, who was the officer in charge of the record room was hosting two of his friends when two directors of the Education Department along with Provincial Councillor Jagath Angage visited the record-room.

Upon finding a bottle of Arrack, several Wades and a bottle of Soda on the table in the record room, the man was interdicted with immediate effect.

Port project: CMU declares action week

A week-long, island-wide protest campaign against the handing over of the Queen Elizabeth Quay to P & O Company is being organised by a powerful trade union.

Ceylon Mercantile Union (CMU) has declared a 'CMU week of Action' from November 20 to 26 to protest against the handing over of the Quay and to express solidarity with Colombo Port CMU members who were being harassed by authorities, union officials said.

All Ceylon Mercantile Union (CMU) members will hold island-wide picketing during the lunch break from November 20.

The protest campaign will culminate in a one-day strike and a public rally on November 26, the official said.

The government has decided to hand over the development of the Queen Elizabeth Quay to the P & O Company on BOO/BOT basis and the trade unions, especially the powerful CMU are opposing the move, describing it as a privatisation process of a vital and strategic institution of the state.

New route to Vanni

By S.S. Selvanayagam

Security forces and the LTTE have agreed to allow civilian movement on a new route that connects Vavuniya and the uncleared Vanni regions, a senior Red Cross official said.

The Government Agent, Vavuniya, recently said that this route was safe for civilian passage and vehicle movements.

But contrary to such reports residents said the new route through Poowarasankulam on the Vavuniya-Mannar Road had still not been safe for civilian traffic.

Sivanathan Kishore, Sri Lanka Red Cross co-ordinator for North and East told The Sunday Times, the road would be operative from this week and NGO vehicles and ambulances would be allowed in the first week and gradually civilians and food convoys too would be permitted through this route, he added.

Security check points are now being set up at Poowarasankulam to prevent any banned items from reaching the terrorists.

Mahasara for PPA

Dr. Ediriweera Sarathchandra's drama, Mahasara, will be staged at Lionel Wendt on Thurdsday to raise funds for the Colombo branch of the Past Pupils Association of St. Anne's College, Kurunegala.

Microsoft to set up tech lab here

Microsoft Corporation, the American software and information technology giant, is coming to Sri Lanka.

Under a new transfer of technology agreement, concluded with the government yesterday, Microsoft will set up a software development and programmer training laboratory at Moratuwa University.

The memorandum of understanding, touted by both sides as guaranteeing Sri Lanka full control over its intellectual property rights while developing its scientific talent, was signed in Colombo last night.

"The understanding is that they will set up an Advanced Technology Lab," said Trade Minister Kingsley Wickremaratne. "It will have no small effect of training the trainers so that we could train more programmers in our country and have the software exported to other countries."

According to Microsoft's South Asia Director Sanjay Parthasarthy, who flew in for the signing, his company plans to invest Rs. 3mn a year in the project initially. Microsoft is banking on Sri Lanka's high literacy rate and wealth of technological talent to help take the information revolution into the next century.

"We are prepared to invest in education to take advantage of those resources," he said.

To this end, the Seattle-based company is placing a premium on nurturing local talent, while safeguarding the country's rights over trademarks, patents, and copyrights. In past experience, Microsoft had discovered that these went hand-in-hand, he said.

"In software, there is only intellectual property, and our request for having solid protection for intellectual property when it comes to computer software is based on our experience in several other countries...," he added. "We have found that with adequate protection of (this), for every dollar that a multi-national stands to make, local industry stands to make twenty dollars."

Kalutara media out of bus

By H. P. P. Perera

Last week, the media reported that Kalutara bus depot officials who were interdicted by Transport Minister A. H. M. Fowzie were still reporting for work.

This week, Kalutara based journalists were told their free passes to travel to Colombo had been suspended.

Journalists now ask whether the suspension of the passes was connected to the Sunday Times story headlined 'Out but still in'.

The journalists said they had been enjoying the free-travel privilege for the past two years and they were given no reason for the suspension of the passes.

The Sunday Times report last week said that two directors and eight technical officers of the Kalutara depot, who had not reported to work by 10 am when Transport Minister A. H. M. Fowzie made a surprise visit to the Kalutara depot, had been interdicted.

Expo delegate urges fairer trade

By Imran Vittachi

Islamabad's top emissary to Expo '97 has warned that Pakistan and Sri Lanka will perish in a Western-dominated world economy, unless they consolidate their trade and investment ties.

"With the rapidly changing economic conditions and growing complexity in the international financial set-up, Pakistan and Sri Lanka are extermely vulnerable to manipulations by trans-national companies, financial giants, and speculators," said Mian Abdul Mannan, a Member of the Pakistani National Assembly and head of Islamabad's 25-member delegation to the trade and services fair, during the opening ceremony at the BMICH yesterday.

"This situation cannot be allowed to persist for long," he added.

"There is an urgent need for the disadvantaged nations to work in close cooperation to find ways and means to overcome their economic and financial difficulties."

Richer nations, through the World Trade Organisation and other institutions had demanded and set lop-sided standards and terms for global commerce, Mr Mannan said. In his opinion, the West expected Third World countries to open up their markets to free trade, while engaging itself in increasingly sophisticated methods of domestic protectionism.

Main ragging suspect expelled from Varsity

By Shane Seneviratne

The main suspect in the Varaprakash ragging-murder case has been expelled from the Peradeniya University, Vice Chancellor Leslie Gunawardena announced.

He said a three-member university committee which probed the incident where engineering student Selvanayagam Varapragash was allegedly forced to do hundreds of sit-ups which led to his death has found the suspect Sadheeharan guilty.

This suspect is still evading arrest though family members had said he would surrender to the police last week. The other seven suspects, also engineering students, were produced in a Kandy court last Tuesday and remanded till November 18.

Meanwhile, calls are growing for the university to expel the other seven suspects also.

UNP Parliamentarian Dr. Jayalath Jayawardena in a statement regarding the ragging issue which has now hit the national headlines, said the Varapragash family was expecting the university authorities and the government to take action to ban ragging.

Meanwhile the Tamil students of the Engineering Faculty of the Peradeniya University have decided that they would not indulge in any act that could physically or mentally harm new students.

The decision follows several rounds of discussions other student representatives had with engineering faculty Tamil students.

Who's telling the truth?

A top UNP member has accused the government of making utterly contradictory statements about the state of the war and the strength of the LTTE.

UNP National List MP Anura Bandaranaike opening the debate in parliament on Thursday on the extension of the emergency, said Deputy Defence Minister Anuruddha Ratwatte had told a Sunday newspaper last week, that the LTTE strength had now been reduced to 2,500 cadres. But Army Chief Rohan Daluwatte had in an interview with the international defence magazine Janes Weekly put the LTTE strength at around 7,000.

Mr. Bandaranaike said President Kumaratunga, Gen. Ratwatte and Minister G. L. Peiris had given varying time-frames for the ending of the war, ranging from this year to mid next year. But Lt. Gen. Daluwatte had told Janes Weekly that it would take a few more years. Referring to conflicting reports on the LTTE's 1-4 base, Mr Bandaranaike, said. "LTTE 1-4 base complex somewhere in the jungles of Nedunkerni, is a complex of bases in very thick forest. LTTE had abandoned this camp nearly 11/2 or 2 years ago.

They keep shifting their bases. They had done the same thing at the 1-4 base. Gen. Ratwatte claimed proudly that he had demolished this base.

There is nothing to demolish in an abandoned base.

"If you can produce an aerial photograph of a bombing of a ship recently and release it to all the papers, why don't you release photos of the demolished 1-4 base, if it has been demolished.

Rain in lighter vein

Saving her jokes for a rainy day, President Chandrika Kumaratunga told journalists they could either learn to swim or buy a boat as a short term solution to the problem of waterlogged city roads in the aftermath of the heaviest rain in years.

President Kumaratunga made the comments at a post-budget news conference she held on a rainy Thursday at Temple Trees.

Answering a query by a journalist, Ms. Kumaratunga said excessive reclamation of marsh lands by the former regime was one of the main reasons why the city roads were flooded.

The govt. was now as a long-term solution clearing canals and small waterways to improve drainage of rain water. With a sunshine smile, the President made the quip about learning to swim or getting a boat which incidentally could now be obtained duty-free.

LSSP calls for support By S.S. Selvanayagam

The LSSP, a constituent party of the PA, has called on the UNP to co-operate with the government in finalising a political solution to the ethnic conflict.

In a statement LSSP General Secretary Batty Weerakoon said if there was basic agreement on matters of principles regarding devolution, reservations on any practical issue they could be resolved through dialogue. He said the LTTE and other Tamil parties would respond positively to any political solution only if it was jointly proposed by the PA and the UNP.

The PA had now put forward its proposals for constitutional reforms and devolution of powers. Thus it was time for the UNP to clearly state its position and propose alternatives in areas where it had reservations so that talks could be held to find common grounds, Mr. Weerakoon said. Regarding the unit of devolution for the North-east, Mr. Weerakoon pointed out that the UNP under the 13th amendment had provided for a temporary merger of the two provinces.

New pilots: is someone pulling strings?

AirLanka has flown into another storm over the recruitment of cadet pilots, amidst allegations that qualifications and age limits have been lowered to accommodate candidates who are pulling political strings. In June this year, AirLanka had called for applications and some were shortlisted.

But last month the recruitment process was cancelled and fresh applications were called with the age limit reduced from 35 to 27 and educational qualifications also lowered to GCE O/levels with credits in English and mathematics.

Candidates who were earlier shortlisted but now are out on the age limit said political influence appeared to be flying high.

Dairy not Daily

Dairy Lanka (Pvt.) Ltd. Managing Director Aidan Coleman, clarifying a reference in our Special Assignment page last week states:

"We refer to the article regarding Lanka Dairies on page 6 of The Sunday Times dated November 2, 1997. The article refers to Daily Lanka (Pvt) Ltd., a subsidiary of New Zealand Milk Products.

"The Company name is not Daily Lanka. It is Dairy Lanka (Pvt) Ltd., and there is no relationship between Dairy Lanka (Pvt) Ltd., and the product "Daily" which is produced by Lanka Dairies.

Dairy Lanka (Pvt) Ltd., is a subsidiary of the New Zealand Dairy Board which is the producer and marketer of Anchor brand full cream milk powder.

Dairy Lanka (Pvt) Ltd., is the producer of Meadow Fresh, fresh chilled milk, Zap long-life drinking yoghurt and Newdale yoghurt.

Customs files case after 13 years

Two directors of a garment export firm who are alleged to have defaulted Customs payments to the tune of Rs. 93. 5 million in a case that was detected in 1984, have been allowed bail by a magistrate. Uni Royal Garment directors, H. M. Ashraff and Mohamed Saleem were fined by the Customs in relation to a consignment of textiles imported in 1984. Their Counsel M. L. M. Ameen told Court that though the alleged detection was made in 1984, the Customs inquiry was held only seven years later in 1991 and the case filed six years later in 1997.

Mount Lavinia Magistrate Nirupama Sannasgala ordered that the two directors be released on surety bail of Rs. 500,000 each. Customs Director A. C. S. W. Jayatillake prosecuted.

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