27th February 2000

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PoWs vow to fast again

By Chris Kamalendran

The 15 military prisoners who called off their fast on Friday have warned that they would resume their fast if the government did not take action within two weeks to secure their release.

The warning came as the visiting family members of the POWs delayed their return to Colombo until tomorrow with the approval of the Defence Ministry which had given permission for their visit.

The 15 soldiers and naval persons in custody of the LTTE called off their fast temporarily on Friday morning on the request of the family members, the LTTE's clandestine radio 'Voice of the Tigers' said.

The warning by the prisoners was seen as a move by the LTTE to put pressure on the government ahead of possible peace talks.

In a rare event, 26 family members were allowed to the LTTE controlled areas with the assistance of the ICRC.

The family members were given a warm welcome on their arrival at Pudukudiirippu and they met LTTE leaders there. During their stay the wife of captain Ajit Boyagoda who is in LTTE custody had given an interview to the LTTE radio.

Among the visiting family members are a six-year-old girl who is a daughter of one of the soldiers and an 84 year old woman.

There was speculation that some of the prisoners would be released, but there was no confirmation from the ICRC about it.

Stop war on holy day

The Hindu Congress of Jaffna has called on the LTTE and the Sri Lankan government to treat Mahasivarathri Day on March 4 as a day of cessation of hostilities and to observe self purification.

Honorary Secretary of the Congress, S. Sakthigrivan has sought a relaxation of the curfew on this auspicious day for the performance of poojas and prayers. The Congress want to dedicate Mahasivarathri to Lord Shiva in the hope that he will help sink all differences, end enmity and free us from the clutches of this brutal and destructive war by which this land is smeared with blood.

Drug haul from pharmacies

By Faraza Farook

Food and Drugs Inspectors (FDI) and the CID on a special raid conducted last Wednesday confiscated drugs from pharmacies allegedly pilfered from the Colombo National Hospital, in addition to smuggled and unregistered drugs.

On the tip off from residents, the CID and the FDI launched a special raid in the Kotte, Pitakotte and Rajagiriya areas and seized drugs worth Rs. 59,482. The joint operation by the CID and FDI came following a complaint made by state hospitals that drugs have gone missing or have been stolen.

A Food and Drugs Inspector who wished to remain anonymous told The Sunday Times that drugs worth Rs. 17 lakhs have gone missing in the Colombo National Hospital.

"During the raid, we recovered some of the drugs that were stolen from the hospitals, unregistered drugs and also smuggled drugs," he said.

Meanwhile the Drug Authority has convened a meeting for Tuesday (29) to discuss the Action Plan that has been drawn to prevent stolen, smuggled or unregistered drugs being sold in pharmacies.

All authorised officers and Food and Drugs Inspectors are expected to participate at this 'special review meeting' where the plan for the year 2000 will be discussed.

10 years later still blowing in the wind

By M.Ismeth

If freedom of expression and thought are further restricted Sri Lanka could bid good-bye to democracy, Free Media Movement secretary Sunanda Deshapriya said.Candle light protest ........

Addressing a meeting at Nugegoda on Thursday to commemorate the tenth death anniversary of slain journalist Richard De Zoysa, he said 19 other journalists and artistes had been killed since then but the cry for freedom was still blowing in the wind.

He referred to the recent attack on actress Anoja Weerasinghe who was still living in fear and the night raid on the residence of Rukantha Gunathileka and Chandraleka Perera who were terrorised along with their children. He said journalists today were being warned or threatened when they wrote about wrong doings of VIPs. The latest case was where the Sports minister had allegedly abused the cricket Interim committee chief. If the media did not highlight such things the people would be denied of their fundamental rights to be informed of what their leaders were doing.

Actress Anoja Weerasinghe, Ravaya editor Victor Ivan and several others also spoke.

Case records of ENT patients

Patients asked to complain

Following a news item in The Sunday Times regarding patients' records going missing, National Hospital Director Dr. Hector Weerasinghe is expecting complaints from the patients themselves to take necessary action.

"Patients should come and complain to me about these things, only then can I take action," Dr. Weerasinghe said. Meanwhile a senior nurse in charge in the ENT Clinic denied any possibilities of the files going missing. However, she said, in September last year, some files were stolen and the attendants and nurses in charge at that time were interdicted after an inquiry.

"The files would have got lost during that time. The new staff in the clinic are careful now and the records that we receive are maintained well," she said.

No breakthrough in golf links killing

Police investigating the brutal murder of a teenage girl on the golf links in Nuwara Eliya yesterday identified the victim as a Tamil, but the whereabouts of her relatives or the killer still remain unknown. The battered and naked body of the girl aged around 19 was discovered in a thicket bordering the Nuwara Eliya golf course and close to the official holiday retreats of the President and Prime Minister.

The unidentified body which was also disfigured by a serious acid attack still remains at the local hospital mortuary although it was shown to several persons who had lost their loved ones and relatives, HQI Nuwara Eliya Police Chief Inspector Saman Yatawara said.

He said the girl was traced to be a Tamil after her name was found engraved inside a talisman which was worn around her neck. "Apart from that there is very little headway in the investigations", inspector Yatawara said.

Ripening fruits the healthy way

By Faraza Farook and Ayesha R. Rafiq

The Ministry of Science and Technology in coordination with the Industrial Technology Institute (ITI) (former CISIR) and the Department of Agriculture is planning to help traders come up with an improved and safer alternative to ripen fruits instead of the widely used calcium carbide.

Minister of Science and Technology Batty Weerakoon convened a meeting of top officials of the ITI last Monday, to discuss the current technology and the various methods being used by wholesale traders.

Minister Weerakoon said the meeting had been convened following The Sunday Times article last week on the use of calcium carbide to ripen fruits.

ITI officials said that at least 10 traders at the Pettah market had already begun using a different chemical, advocated by the ITI and used in the demonstrations at the Pettah market last week. The samples were being distributed until the end of this week, officials said.

One of the ITI officials had also been at the market daily to provide assistance to the traders with any problems they might face in the use of the new compound ethral, and he said the reception from the traders was encouraging.

The new treatment is however being used only on plantains, papaw and mangoes, whereas calcium carbide, a chemical potentially hazardous to human health is used on almost all local fruits.

The ITI together with the Department of Agriculture in Peradeniya is also planning to introduce the new ripening method into other wholesale markets around the country, as the response from the Pettah market was good.

Cold treatment for revellers in the hills

By Leon Berenger

April heralds the festive season in this hill station of Nuwara Eliya when thousands of holiday makers will throng the area to escape the heat, the hustle and bustle of their urban surroundings.

But when it comes to April this town, where life usually comes to a standstill shortly after dusk, will come to life as the revellers take to the streets in their thousands shattering the stillness with their deviltry and signalling the start of the much awaited season. From the wayside vendor and the eating houses to the dozens of lodging and guest houses and even the so-called star class hotels, all are set to fleece the outsiders and damn with the law and its regulations as long as the money flows in.

The biggest culprits or blood suckers are the lodge and guest house operators and the well known hotels. Some residents also join in the rip off as they rent out sections of their private homes to lodgers at rates equal to those of hotels in other parts of the country.

Now we all know that Nuwara Eliya is famous for its beautiful flowers and the month of April is bloom time, but sadly though much of this will not be seen this year because guest house operators and even most residents have opted to go green but with vegetables and money on their mind.

One former Mayor had once attempted to arm twist the lodge and guest house operators into growing flowers in their front lawns since it will be good for their business offering a pleasant sight to their clients.

Residents were also encouraged to do the same thing by this Mayor who put on offer various prizes and trophies for selected and well maintained lawns and hedges and there was some limited success. But this mayor has now quit and with him those lawns.

The present mayor Bandula Seneviratne hit out at the hotels and guest houses for the high rates and poor services. In addition they even do not make any meaningful financial contribution towards the seasonal activities and their attitude is extremely selfish, he said.

Commenting on the garbage problem he said this was largely due to red tape and bungling by the Urban Development Authority (UDA) and the Central Environment Authority (CEA).

A Rs.18 million ADB-sponsored project that was meant to incinerate the garbage at a site in Mipilimana far away from the town has run into hot water after the CEA cited serious threats to the environment and public health since the burning was set to be carried out close to fresh water springs that supply drinking water.

"The mistake here appears to be with the UDA since they had gone ahead with their project without apparent approval by the CEA. As a result the garbage will collect and there is very little we in the municipal could do about it but sit and watch and lament about the waste of money for nothing", he said.

But for their part the hoteliers and the guest house operators are staying put and in unison they declared that they would not change their rates and prices.

"Tourists or no tourists, season or not we get clients who are willing to pay our rates so the rest could go to hell", is what they said but did not want to be identified fearing it could hurt their individual establishments. In some cases four guests are put into a single room at the rate of Rs. 500 per head for the night without even providing them a cup of tea. During the season this rate could reach as much as Rs 1500 per head.

Another sickening sight is the main bus stand situated right in the heart of the town where animal droppings and left overs of beggars take centre stage in the commuters' shelters which offer little or no protection from the cold weather and is begging for some attention.

"Nuwara Eliya is now a city full of flies and garbage and all what the municipal bosses are interested in is the purchase of cars for individuals purposes while the town and its environment going to dogs", charged the former Mayoress of the town Nalin Thilaka Herath.

How can the Municipal be effective when there is no permanent Commissioner or even a fully qualified engineer? Most of the operations are in the hands of a technical officer and this is just not enough, Renuka Herath who held the office from 1991 to 97 said.

The taxes and rates have increased creating extra burdens for the ordinary man, but very little is given in exchange. First there should be law and order within the set up before any development could be achieved, she added.

Reacting to the high rates charged by the hoteliers, lodges and guest houses was the Tourist board office in Colombo which feels that the public should go ahead and complain before any action could be taken.

There are clear regulations which speak of grades and rates that cannot be violated. Offenders face stiff fines and other punishments and it could even lead to the cancellation of their licences.

But then the biggest offenders are the people who have been victimised. They must take the trouble to make an official complaint with our office and then some course of action could be taken, the Director General of the Ceylon Tourist Board told The Sunday Times..

UNP submits proposals: major step towards talks

The main opposition UNP yesterday submitted its long-awaited proposals to the government setting the stage for talks on the proposed constitutional reforms and a political solution to the ethnic conflict.

In the proposals, the party has called for the setting up of five independent Commissions to handle vital areas.

Laying out proposals for a process towards finding a solution to the North and East Conflict, the UNP asked that it be informed of any intention to start talks with the LTTE under the Liam Fox agreement or to open a dialogue with the LTTE with third party facilitator if required.

In one of the key propsoals, for constitutional reforms, the UNP has called for the setting up of a Constitutional Council including the Vice President (chairman), the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition, a chief minister elected by the Chief Ministers of the provinces and two retired judges of the Supreme Court or Court of Appeal to be nominated by the Chief Justice.

The term of office of the members should be five years and such members would not be eligible to be nominated for a further term nor should they be eligible to hold any public office thereafter.

All decisions of the council neet to be taken by a two thirds majority.

The party has said that the establishment of a representative Election Commission, responsible to Parliament, would strengthen public confidence in the electoral process. The commission should consist of five members appointed by the head of the gorvernment with the concurrence of the Leader of the opposition.

The members of the commissions are to hold office for six years and shall not be removed from office except by Parliament, with their Independence protected by constitutional safeguards similar to those that protect the independence of the judiciary.

The preparation of the Electoral registers and the conduct of all elections and referenda should be vested in the commission, which will be responsible and answerable direct to Parliament.

The UNP has recommended that the Constitutional Council should recommend five persons whom the President should appoint as members of the Public Service Commission . The term of office should be six years, this being the same term as Parliament which will ensure independence and impartiality of the Public Service Commission. Proposals have been submitted for the establishment of the Independent National Police Commission and Provincial Police Commission. The Commission should consist of five members of which two members will be appointed to represent the Tamil and the Muslim communities. They will be appointed by the head of the government with the concurrence of the leader of the opposition on the recommendations of the constitutional council.

Provincial Police Commission should be set up in each Province and the appointment of members should be made in the same manner as the members of the National Police Commission.

The party has proposed that the appointment of Judges of the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal should be by the President on recommendation of the Constitutional Council which shall consult the Chief Justice before making such recommendations.

President Vs. The Sunday Times appeal

Trial judge has judged his own article - Tilak Marapana

The Appeal of the Editor of The Sunday Times was taken up for argument in the Court of Appeal before Justices Hector Yapa and P.H.K. Kulatillake.

Mr. Marapana P.C. will continue his address on behalf of the Appellant when argument is resumed tomorrow.

It was Mr. Marapana's submission that the article in question in it's ordinary meaning as understood by a reasonable reader with average intelligence could in no way be construed as being defamatory of the President. The article merely seeks to convey that the President had "graced" a Birthday Party of Asitha Perera M.P held at his permanent suite at the Oberoi Hotel. Of course to make it interesting reading like the other articles in the Gossip Column, journalistic flourishes such as "in the heat of the silent night" and "epicurean tastes" have been used.

In the context in which they appear in the article these phrases do not in any way convey a defamatory meaning. It is not disputed that it was factually incorrect that Her Excellency did not attend such a party. Merely because the article was factually incorrect it would not become defamatory if the article was otherwise non defamatory. If the article was perse defamatory, by publishing a false article it may have been possible to impute to the author an intention to defame.

Mr. Marapana submitted that the Trial Judge instead of examining the article itself to determine whether or not it was defamatory had proceeded to examine a paraphrased version which read "Her Excellency spent 90 minutes in the heat of the silent night in Mr. Asitha Perera's permanent suite at the Oberoi Hotel." Mr Marapana submitted that this paraphrased version was nowhere close to the article itself. Whilst the paraphrased version had it appeared in that form by itself may have led a reader to think the worse of the President, the article itself was utterly harmless. It clearly refers to the President spending 90 minutes at a party. The paraphrase seeks to convey that the President and Mr. Perera were all by themselves. In the article the phrase "in the heat of the silent night" is used to describe the lateness of the night whereas in the paraphrased version these same words appear to relate to the President's mood during the 90 minutes.

The paraphrase was a mere collection of certain words as appearing in the article taken out of context and rearranged. To this paraphrased version, which by itself could even be defamatory, the learned Judge has added other embellishments such as the reference to "courting" as appearing in the head line, the reference to Her Excellency the President using the rear entrance, "epicurean tastes" and even the words "in the heat" from the phrase " in the heat of the silent night" to attribute a totally different meaning to these words as appearing in the paraphrase.

The accused, Mr. Marapana submitted was not charged for having written the paraphrase. The charge against him is for having published the article which is quite different to the paraphrased version. The Judge has in his Judgment reproduced the paraphrase on no less than twelve occasions. What the Judge has considered and determined to be defamatory is his own paraphrase and not the article in respect of which the accused is charged.

It was also submitted that there was no proof beyond reasonable doubt that it was the accused who made or published this article. This is a vital ingredient in count No. 1 the offence under Section 479 of the Penal Code. That there was and still exists a doubt on this is demonstrated by the fact that alternative to count 1 is count 2 the charge under the Press Council Law which alleges that it was someone else who made and published the article and the accused is sought to be made liable on the basis that he is the editor of the newspaper which published the article. Both counts remained on the indictment till the conclusion of the case. The Judge has convicted the accused on both counts. Mr. Marapana argued as to how the accused could be convicted on count 1 on the basis that it is he who made or published the article while at the same time finding him guilty on count 2 on the basis that it was someone else who made or published the article!

Stories you may have missed

Awards while fishermen languish

While more than a hundred fishermen languish in prisons abroad, and Sri Lankan and Indian fishermen fight on the open seas, Sri Lanka has just won the 'Margarita Lisaraga' medal for having introduced a code of ethics for the fishing industry.

The award was given by the world Food and Agriculture Organisation.

Another veta for Ran veta?

The Sri Maha Bodhi in Anuradhapura is to get a second 'ran veta' estimated to cost Rs. 530 lakhs. Why the historic tree which needless to say holds much significance for Buddhists requires a second 'ran veta' let alone a Rs. 5.3 million one is not quite clear.

A committee under the joint leadership of Berty Premalal Dissanayake Chief Minister NCP and Uva Chief Minister Samaraweera Weerawanni is working on this project.

The public has been invited to contribute towards this, and on February 29th at 4 p.m. work is to begin on this second 'ran veta'.

FR case of cameramen

PSD wants more time

By Ayesha R. Rafiq

The fundamental rights cases filed in the Supreme Court by photo-journalists who were assaulted allegedly by members of the President's Security Division have been put off for July 28, with the three respondents of the PSD being asked to file objections by March 10.

The Bench comprising Justices Mark Fernando, S.W. Wadugodapitiya and Lakshman Weerasekera gave the petitioners one month after that date to file counter objections.

Photo-journalists from the Ravaya, Lakbima, Yukthiya, The Sunday Times and The Sunday Leader filed FR applications in the Supreme Court following assaults on them allegedly by PSD members at the July 15 march by the UNP last year protesting against the Government's failure to abolish the Executive Presidency.

The PSD respondents are Director PSD Nihal Karunaratne and two other officers of the CID while the other respondents include the Attorney General, Inspector General of Police and the OIC of the Cinnamon Gardens Police.

For the violation of their fundamental rights as well as the damage caused to their cameras and equipment which affected their livelihood, the petitioners have asked for compensation of at least Rs. one million each.

President's Counsel L.C. Seneviratne, Srinath Perera and attorneys-at-law J.C. Weliamuna, Upul Jayasuriya and Sharmila Daluwatte are appearing for the petitioners.

House on fire at architects sessions

The roof caved in at the annual general meeting of the Sri Lanka Institute of Architects yesterday with top officials resigning after a row over the admission of two new members.

SLIA President Sri Nammuni, Senior Vice President Nihal Bodinayake, Vice President Lalith Muthukumarana, architectural board of education chairman G.A.P. Ganepola, senior council members Tilak Piyaratne and Upendra Randeniya resigned in protest against the majority decision to reject the new applications.

Mr. Nammuni said the majority felt the new applicants had not

fulfilled the required conditions of the Institute.

Their applications had been pending for about two years and he thought it would be a bad reflection on the institute not to admit them.

Before arriving at a decision to admit the new members, legal advice and opinion from the College of Past Presidents had also been obtained, Mr. Nammuni said.

An SLIA council member told The Sunday Times that an election of the new council is to be held within the next two or three weeks. He also said that the general body had called for the appointment of an interim council.

The institute has been holding its annual sessions, "Architects 2000" at the BMICH during the past few days along with an exhibition.

Car and money go up in smoke

The Rs. 3.6 million Benz car that a well known physician monk was travelling in, was burnt to cinders in a fire that suddenly broke out inside the vehicle.

The fire had broken out while Kusawala Veda Hamuduruwo and his driver were passing through Ella, on Wednesday afternoon.

Rs. 450,000 which had been taken for the purpose of buying a land in Ella was also in the vehicle at the time of the incident, and was burnt to cinders, a senior police officer said.

However, the monk and the driver escaped unhurt by leaping out of the vehicle. The police say that the cause of the fire was a technical fault in the vehicle.

Court stops transfer of Blue Diamond shares

The District Court of Colombo has issued an enjoining order restraining several directors of Seylan Bank and Blue Diamonds Jewellery Worldwide from transferring almost five million shares of Blue Diamonds owned by Gold Lada Ltd. of St. Vincents and Grenadines.

The petitioner company Gold Lada in its plaint stated that Seylan Bank director Lalith Kotelawala had used a purported proxy supposedly given by Seylan Bank and signed by its Director/General Manager R. Nanayakkara and one other to vote on 4.8 million shares owned by Gold Lada at the EGM of Blue Diamonds last month.

The petitioner said Seylan Bank had no right to sign a proxy on behalf of the Gold Lada in favour of Mr. Kotelawala and that the defendant Ceylinco Securities and Financial Services (CSFC) Ltd. had acted mala fide and without any legal right is accepted the proxy on purported representations by Ms. Nanayakkara.

The petitioner company also told court that it fears the said act of Seylan Bank is to interfere with its rights in the said shares and to falsely and maliciously implicate Mr. Senanayake, who is acting as attorney for the petitioner company, in criminal proceedings for ulterior motives and extraneous reasons.

Gold Lada also states that it found that the voting rights in respect of the 4.8 million shares had been exercised by the Chairman and Managing Director of Seylan Bank and Chairman of Blue Diamonds and CSFC Mr. Kotelawala to vote in favour of the purported resolution to remove Mr. Senanayake as Chairman and Managing Director of Blue Diamonds. Mr. Senanayake in his affidavit stated that if the said votes had been voted on by him, he would have had a majority of almost two million votes against the purported resolution.

Seylan Bank Ltd., however in a statement pointed out that 4.8 million of the 5.1 million shares of Blue Diamonds held by Gold Lada was pledged to the bank as security for a loan of US$600,000 taken by the company, for which Gold Lada had executed the necessary security documents required by the bank for this loan.

The statement says that as the loan was not repaid and was in arrears the bank had justifiably sold the shares through the Colombo Stock Exchange on 21 February 2000. It points out that the restraining order against Seylan Bank, its directors and others was obtained on February 22 after the shares were sold and transferred. It denies any knowledge of any action filed by Gold Lada on February 21 this year.


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