17th September 2000

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Wariyapola in whirl

Tension ran high in the Wariyapola yesterday following clashes between PA and UNP supporters and the lobbing of a handgrenade at UNP leader Ranil Wickramasinghe's car.

A PA supporter was shot dead by the bodygaurd of former UNP MP Amarapiyaseeli Ratnayake when he allegedly tried to approach the politician and her supporters wielding a knife, UNP sources said.

The PA supporter killed was identified as Lal Piyasiri, a suspect wanted in connection with a case where a woman UNP supporter was stripped during the Wayamba elections last year.

In another incident a PA group allegedly flung a grenade at the UNP leader's car yesterday when it was passing Wariyapola, but the grenade had gone unexploded.

Following this incident the UNP meeting in the area was called off.

The grenade throwing incident follows similar incidents in Galgamauwa and Galagedara on Friday with eight UNP supporters being injured, party sources said.

Opinion Poll

Quality of life takes a dipOpinion Poll

Conducted by: ORG-MARG SMART

We have received the results of the first of a series of opinion polls to be conducted in view of the upcoming general election. This series of opinion polls has been conducted by one of Sri Lanka's leading market and economic research firms, ORG-MARG SMART. The objective of conducting the polls is to understand the dynamics of perceptions and attitudes towards macro issues and to increase awareness and acceptance about this kind of polling in the country. The readers of the findings may keep in mind the margins of error and the possible favourable bias towards the ruling party when coming to conclusions based on the results.

The poll was conducted among an islandwide sample of 1,299 respondents, covering the 17 districts outside the North and East, to represent the entire voting population of the country in these areas. The field work was conducted from August 30– September 7..

In order to gauge the effect of the PA government's rule on the peoples' quality of life, the voter was asked how the quality of their family's life has changed over the last six years. The findings indicate a significant proportion of 40 p.c.say that quality of life has got worse while 42 p.c. of the respondents were saying that their quality of life has remained the same.

Trying to gauge the voter sentiment on the democratic system itself, they were questioned on the likelihood of voting. While two thirds of the respondents said they would definitely vote in the upcoming general election, 6 p.c. of the respondents interviewed said they would definitely not vote in the election. Similar to last year's presidential election, it is seen that the reason behind the decision,appeared to be dissatisfaction with the political culture in Sri Lanka.

"A newly elected government, most of all should somehow put an end to this never-ending war". This is the view of nearly 46 p.c. of the respondents when asked about the main issue that concerns them. Among these respondents 29 p.c. said the war should be stopped, and another 17 p.c.,said that a political solution be provided to the problem.

imageApart from the war, other mostly mentioned problems were related to economic condition of the country. Improving the state of the country's economy, solving the unemployment problem and reducing the cost of living were the most commonly mentioned economic issues. However, when the results from the last year's opinion polls were compared, it could be seen that economy was the main issue (35 p.c.) followed by unemployment problem (20 p.c.) at that time, but during a time span of 10 months ethnic problem had become the main issue of Sri Lankans.

Problems in the education system, bribery and corruption, child abuse, improving infrastructure and agricultural problems were some other commonly mentioned issues. However, one must note that however much people complain and argue on bribery and corruption, child abuse, media freedom or human rights, at the end of the day the major problem an average Sri Lankan faces today is issues concerning the country's economy.

In order to evaluate how voters rate the ability of the leading parties to handle the issues at hand, they were asked to rate the best party on each of the above characteristics. On certain issues, the People's Alliance (PA) was rated as the best while on others the United National Party (UNP) had a high score signifying the fact that both the parties have pluses and minuses to their credit. For example, on the issue of solving the never-ending ethnic problem, 41 p.c. of the respondents thought PA would be able to solve it as compared to 9 p.c.who said UNP could do it..Similarly most of the respondents thought PA had strong leaders and also would be most suitable in providing Sri Lanka with a stable government. On the other hand, on issues concerning the economy such as, who could best manage the economy, control the cost of living and reduce unemployment, UNP was rated equally or better than PA showing the people's perception that country's economy would be better in the hands of the UNP. Having said the above one should not forget the fact that there was 20 p.c.-30 p.c. of the respondents who thought that no party in Sri Lanka had any of the above mentioned characteristics.

ORG-MARG SMART is an independent private market and economic research agency undertaking research mainly in the areas of consumer goods and services. It is the country's largest employer of full time market research staff and works for a multitude of clients both private and public as well as local and foreign. It is a Dutch, Indian and Sri Lankan joint venture.

Keeping power within the family

By Chandani Kirinde

The United National Party was once called the uncle-nephew party but now nepotism has reached such an extent in Sri Lankan politics that not only uncles and nephews but fathers and daughters, sisters and brothers, father-in—laws and son-in-laws are among those running in the October 10 polls to get into the august chambers of Parliament.

When looking at the background of most candidates, it seems almost everyone contesting the general election, mainly from the two main parties, the UNP and the PA are somebody's somebody of Sri Lankan politics.

Many candidates who hail from political families readily admit that a large part of success is due to their family name rather than their policies while a large segment of the rural voters are mesmerized by a family name.

This is ironic that at a time when most voters seem to want a break from the tainted world of politics of today, the chances for a person gaining success from a non-political background seem almost impossible.

Among the members of prominent families in the fray this time are the father-daughter duo of Dharmadasa and Pavithra Waniniarachi, father-son duo of Alick and Ranjith Aluvihara, the two daughters of former minister P.B.G. Kalugalle, Indira and Champa, the father-in-law son-in-law duos of Karu Jayasuriya and Naveen Dissanayake, and J.P.Wijeratne Banda and Sanjeewa Kaviratne, brothers Mahinda and Chamath Rajapakse along with cousin Nirupama and brothers Vasudeva and Hemakumara Nanayakkara.

The others hailing from political families contesting for office include Rukman Senanayake, Susantha Punchinilame, Samitha Atygalle, Suranganie Ellawala, Janaka Mallimaarchchi and Sajith Premadasa among many others.

According to Indira Kalugalle, her constituents have assured her that they would vote for her not for any other reason but because she is Mr. Kalugalle's daughter.

Asked if it was easy for someone from a political background to follow in the same field, she said "Politics is in the blood"

As Samitha Atygalle of the UNP whose brother Athula, an MP, was a victim of political violence said," My grandfather, father and brother served the people and now it's my turn."

However, given the large number of candidates eager to jump straight into Parliament without contesting the local government or provincial council elections first, the question is whether their real motive is to serve the people or whether it is a more sinister motive to retain power within their families.

TULF blames ruling party

The TULF has appealed to the Elections Commissioner to disarm all Tamil groups contesting at the October 10 elections and to provide them with security.

The party also urged the commissioner to take measures to close down camps of Tamil groups in Kayts and other areas, pointing out that such steps were necessary to prevent election malpractices.

The TULF also expressed concern over what it called "unwanted interference of the ruling party" in the official functions of the commissioner and urged him to act independently.

HNB restrained from investing W/W and OP Fund in shares

Additional District Court Judge P. Wijesinghe on Thursday(14) issued an enjoining order restraining seven defendants including Rienzie Wijethilleke , Chief Executive of the Hatton National Bank, their agents, servants and all those acting under them from investing monies of the Widows/Widowers and Orphans Pension Fund in shares in public quoted companies after considering an action filed by an employee of the HNB.

The plaintiff Ruwan Sunjeewa Jayawardena cited Hatton National Bank Ltd, Rienzie Wijethilleke , Chief Executive of the HNB and six others as defendants.

The plaintiff stated he was a member and contributory of the W/W&OP Fund of the HNB and was elected at the first Annual General Meeting to the Management Committee of the said Fund.

The plaintiff stated that the Management Committee of the said fund is not entitled in law to invest sums of the said fund in shares in public quoted companies.

The plaintiff said he became aware of the facts relating to the take- over bid relating to Sampath Bank when he saw the article carried in Sunday Times newspaper on July 02, 2000 under the heading " The bank bombshell business thriller behind Sampath drama" stating inter alia that the HNB and Stassen Group of a businessman named Harry Jayawardena had launched a bid to take-over the Sampath Bank and gave the details of that take over bid, among which details was the fact that money belonging to the 1st defendant Bank including sums of the Provident Fund of the 1st defendant Bank had been utilized to purchase shares of Sampath Bank.

It further stated in the said article that the Sampath Bank shares had been bought in the name of the certain employees of the 1st defendant.

Consequent to the publication of the said article,the plaintiff became aware of the facts relating the take over bid relating to Sampath Bank and therefore states that the 2nd to 8th defendants without the knowledge and consent of the plaintiff, on tlhe 19th June 2000, purchased 1,902,500 of Sampath Bank shares at Rs 67 to the value of Rs 127,467,500 in the name of the 3rd defendant, utilizing the funds of the W/W&OP, whilst not being entitled to ultilize same in terms of the amendment to Rule I of the said Fund.

For this purpose money belonging to the HNB including sums of the Provident Fund of the HNB had been utilised to purchase shares of SB. It was further stated that the SB shares had been bought in the names of certain employees of the HNB.

The plaintiff asked court to declare that the defendants had a fiduciary duty to the members of the W/W&OP Fund and hold the money of the said fund in trust for its members and also that they had acted in breach of their fiduciary duties to the fund as well as in breach of trust as trustees of all assets of the fund by making the first investment out of the monies belonging to the fund to purchase shares in Sampath Bank Ltd.

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