‘New life’ National Anthem facing the music

By Nilika Kasturisinghe
A well-meaning effort to give 'new life' to the National Anthem has run into an unexpected storm for the men behind the move - protests have come from all quarters, including the President's Office.

A CD prepared by the Government-controlled Lake House Group's 'Silumina' newspaper due to have been released to co-incide with the 55th anniversary of Independence next month, has given rise to charges ranging from playing up to the Eelamists to corrupting the original to commercialism. The nationalist Sihala Urumaya, the Marxist-nationalist JVP and the President's Office have protested demanding that no variations be made in the National Anthem.

Sihala Urumaya leader Tilak Karunaratne has said, "this is an initial step towards catering to Eelamist requirements" and in a letter to the Minister of Cultural Affairs, he has said that the next step would be to have a rendering of the National Anthem in rap or baila.

The JVP has said the National Anthem cannot be altered according to the whims of NGOs, and the President's Office has called for a copy of the CD while ordering that this rendering not be used during any State-sponsored Independence Day celebrations.

Lake House officials insist that the new CD was sung according to the words and music notes enshrined in the Constitution.

The Sunday Times was given a copy of the CD and found no deviation from the words and the general tune of the National Anthem, but the tempo had no doubt been somewhat upbeat with some extra oriental drum and some additional symbols in the rendition which indeed gave a tasteful 'pep' to the Anthem.

Whether such a 'pep' was a good thing or bad would be a matter of opinion, some would even appreciate it. But whether this is permissible is an arguable point.

No two renditions of any National Anthem, though, are likely to be identical. The CD's Music Director, Rohana Weerasinghe, told The Sunday Times that some of the country's best-known musicians - Amaradeva and Nanda Malini - together with a 25 piece orchestra took part in cutting the CD.

Mr. Weerasinghe said the words are the original words and the tune the same, only that the music has been "enriched" by the use of high-quality equipment.

Cultural Affairs Minister Karunasena Kodituwakku has somewhat distanced himself from the exercise by passing the ball to his cabinet-collegue, Home Affairs Minister Alick Aluvihare, the subject coming under the latter ministry.

But, Mr Aluvihare last night told The Sunday Times that he was not sure whether the issue should be taken up by his Ministry as only National Celebrations are organized by the Home Affairs Ministry. On listening to the CD, how the argument that the CD is the " initial step towards catering to the Eelamist requirements " is baffling to say the least, but there appears to some argument, even if this particular CD is not so, whether giving 'new life' to the National Anthem might end up one daywith a rendition bordering on baila music.

Critics say that any steps, however well-meaning, towards giving the National Anthem 'new life' must embrace a wider committee of persons and have the formal blessings of the State, while protagonists argue that as long as they have abided by the notes enshrined in the Constitution, they have not erred.

Meanwhile, the playing of the new CD during Independence celebrations is currently on-hold and sales of the new CD similarly held back until the controversy is settled one-way or the other.

Govt. Department, Pramuka deals to be investigated

By Tania Fernando

200 more go to court

By Chandani Kirinde and Shanika Udawatte

Following an initial petition by six depositors, about 200 more depositors of the now defunct Pramuka Bank will petition the Court of Appeal this week asking for an order quashing Central Bank's decision to liquidate Pramuka.

The petitioners who met on Friday finalized the petition in which they accused the Central Bank of failing to take the interest of the depositors into consideration.

The depositors have formed a union and a spokesman said they were ready to keep their money in Pramuka at a minimal interest if steps were taken to salvage the bank.

The petitioners charged that Central Bank officials had decided to liquidate Pramuka to cover up lapses on their part.

Meanwhile, a senior Central Bank official said yesterday they were going ahead with the liquidation process and people who had deposited less than Rs. 5,000 would be the first to get their money back.

He said others would be paid later depending on the assets of the bank.

An audit inspection that was carried out by the Central Bank with regard to Pramuka Bank has revealed that there have been irregular transactions by government departments.

The reports states that that gold certificates allegedly issued to government officials tantamount to violation of the Bribery and Corruption Act.

As such with the Bribery and Corruption Commission's ongoing investigations, the CID too, in consultation with the Attorney General's Department, is carrying out its own investigations to look into the possibility of criminal charges .

An official of the Criminal Investigation Department said there have been fraudulent transfers of properties and the granting of loans.

"There have been irregularities in pledge loans granted and no proper procedures have been followed with regard to EPF funds of the bank," the CID official said.
Meanwhile, the CID has decided to question more than 30 government officials for allegedly accepting commissions from Pramuka bank for transacting business with the bank.

Thirty-three government officials including the Public Trustee are due to be questioned with regard to some 40 million rupees paid as commission to officials from more than 70 billion rupees in State funds deposited with the bank between 1997 to 2002.

Some of the other high officials down for questioning include the chiefs of the Road Development Authority, Jayewardene Cultural Centre, Jayawardenapura General Hospital, Samurdhi Maha Sangamaya, Attanagalla, Agalawatte Rubber Research Institute, Sri Lanka Telecom Provident Fund, and Surgeon Officers Benevolent Fund of the Sri Lanka Navy, District Co-operative Rural Bank, Galle.

The CID is to question the Public Trustee this week after he requested for time to study available documents prior to continuing his statement with regard to gold certificates issued to government officials.

He was questioned for more than five hours last week.
Meanwhile, the CID is still awaiting details from Interpol with regard to the whereabouts of Pramuka boss Rohan Perera.

Hands off Muslim affairs, Hakeem tells LTTE

By Nilika Kasturisinghe
Brushing aside LTTE chief negotiator Anton Blasingham's comments regarding the legitimacy of the SLMC leadership, Minister Rauff Hakeem yesterday called on the LTTE to desist from "interfering unduly in civil administrative matters in Muslim areas".

"In the interest of the need for an inevitable rapprochement between the SLMC and the LTTE which is crucial for sustaining the peace process, I would like to forget about this episode altogether,."Mr. Hakeem said referring to the statement made by Mr. Balasingham.

The LTTE chief negotiator said that he did not believe the present SLMC leadership represented the Muslim community while pointing out the crisis within the party.

Mr. Hakeem said that at a subsequent informal meeting in Thailand with Mr. Balasingham, and other LTTE delegates, they were able to clarify matters in its proper perspective.

"I should say I perfectly understand the context in which Mr. Balasingham had to comment. His contention is that the LTTE wishes to meet a unified Muslim team rather than to deal with different factions.

"The LTTE should also be alive to the fact that this is being taken as an affront to the Muslim community, and more importantly seen as a very opportunistic and diabolic attitude. Another key factor which will assist in winning the confidence of the Muslims is for the LTTE to desist from any attempts to interfere unduly in civil administrative matters in Muslim areas," he said.

Landmine clearing needs hurrying up

By Faraza Farook
With the return and repatriation of refugees, mine clearing groups working in the North have begun to concentrate on clearing high priority areas in order to create an environment both conducive and safe for the resettlement of Internally Displaced Persons.

While much of the activity still concentrates around landmine clearing with surveys being conducted to determine the extent of the problem, identifying where land mines and Unidentified Ordnances (UXOs) are, steps are also being taken as an emergency measure to clear areas where there has been a voluntary return of IDPs. Location of mine fields are being demarcated and defined on a priority basis with special emphasis on areas with more accidents or voluntary resettlement is taking place.

UNDP Chief Technical Advisor (Mine Action) Alex van Roy said they were in a preparatory phase formulating the data needed for a fully-fledged project. "A consolidated, logical project needs data and we're working towards that," he said, adding that the rainy season had slowed down the work in the last month.

Jaffna particularly has been identified as a 'difficult' area with thick vegetation and gravel under which several mines are buried. It is estimated that about 20 in the Jaffna district contains well over 500,000 landmines.

HALO Trust which is working in Jaffna, Mannar, Vavuniya, Batticaloa and Trincomalee will concentrate on clearing landmines and UXOs in high priority areas from next month, desk officer for South and South East Asia Simon Comway said. So far 2500 mines have been cleared by HALO Trust as an emergency measure.


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