Cold, but you won't freeze

The cold weather conditions are likely to continue till about mid February but they will go nowhere near the freezing points which have killed hundreds in other South Asian countries, a weather official said yesterday.

The Meteorological Department's Deputy Director, K.V.R. Abhayasinghe, said that current weather was a normal part of the Northeast monsoon though it was slightly colder than in other years.

Wife of ex-Associate Editor of Daily News dies

The wife of former Associate Editor of the Daily News, Nemsiri Mutukumaru, Esme Mutukumaru, passed away yesterday.

Mrs. Mutukumaru was formerly the Deputy Chief Supervisor of the CTO. After retirement in 1983 she took a keen interest in Buddhism and became a life member of the ACBC and worked at the Fellowship of Buddhism - Sri Lanka Regional Centre and the Bangkok-based World Foundation of Buddhist Dharmadutha activities. She was also the Executive Editor of the New World Buddhist.

The cremation will take place at 5.30 p.m. tomorrow (January 20) at Rawatawatte, Moratuwa.

OPA calls for views on ragging

The Organisation of Professional Associations (OPA) has called for written submissions from the public during this month on the ragging that has been taking place in the universities recently.

Views of the general public have been invited in an exercise undertaken by the OPA which plans to submit recommendations to the government by March after a careful study of the recent incidents of ragging in universities.

The public have been asked to send in their submissions before the end of January to OPA President, 275/75, Prof. Stanley Wijesundara Mawatha, Colombo 7.

The OPA also held one of its first seminars on the incident which took place at the Sri Jayewardhanapura University where ragging claimed the life of a young boy. This is the first in a series of such seminars to be held on ' Violence among youth '.

The OPA also called on the government to take immediate steps to prevent acts of ragging in order to control the violent behaviour of students, which is fast spreading to schools.

Sub-lease of UDA building in question

By Shanika Udawatte
The legality of the Cooperative Wholesale Establishment (CWE) opening a sales outlet in Colombo, in a building owned by the Urban Development Authority (UDA) has been questioned.

The building, which is owned by the UDA, is being used by the Colombo Commercial Company (CCC) on lease and a part of this building has been sub-leased to the CWE by the CCC.

Western Region Development Minister M H Mohamed under whose purview the UDA functions, said the CWE had moved into a UDA owned building without its authorisation and that the CCC had violated regulations of the lease agreement by subleasing the building.

However Commerce and Consumer Affairs Minister Ravi Karunanayake said all what the CWE had done was rented out a building for a sales outlet of the CWE from a private company which was willing to provide suitable premises.

According to the Deputy Director General of the UDA K V Dharmasiri the building which the CCC is using at Sir James Peiris Mawatha has been given to the CCC on lease by the UDA for a period of six years ending in 2005, and that it is a violation of lease regulations for the CCC to sublease any part of the building without the prior permission of the UDA.

Mr. Dharmasiri said that the CCC has subleased a part of the building to the CWE and also to some other private institutions without the authority of the UDA which had sent letters informing the CCC, with copies to the tenants, about the violation of the lease agreement.

The UDA would take legal action after a grace period if the CCC fails to take proper action regarding its tenants, he said.

CCC Chairman Clive de Silva told The Sunday Times that his company has not violated any regulations of the lease agreement.

He said that since this was a matter regarding two government institutions he has left it for the institutions concerned to resolve the matter among themselves.

Frustrated cops to appeal to Geneva

By Shanika Udawatte
A group of senior police officials who have not been promoted to higher ranks, in spite having fulfilled all the necessary qualifications, have decided to take up the issue with the Human Rights Commission in Geneva.

They are to complain that irregularities in promotions have affected them with their promotions being held up. They said that irregular promotions during the past decade have caused severe unrest among the Police officers.

"There is no proper and transparent, promotion and transfer scheme laid down in the police service and this has led to stagnation," a senior police officer said.

There are some officers in the 'senior gazetted' ranks (Assistant Superintendent of Police and above ranks) who have served in the same rank for over a period of ten years, he said.

Sources from within the police said that in certain cases junior officers have been promoted above senior officers and been given important portfolios due to political and various other influences and that this has led to hardworking and efficient senior officers being frustrated. Responding to these comments Interior Minister John Amaratunga said very soon the Police Commission will be conducting interviews and promoting qualified officers to the due ranks. He also added that a clear promotion criteria is being prepared so that there is no favouritism or influence peddling.

Food court stalls under fire from both sides

By Faraza Farook
The stalls in the food court of the Majestic City are alleged to have been violating both public health laws and agreements with the management.

The food court stalls were raided last week by Colombo Municipal's health officials with Chief Medical Officer Pradeep Kariyawasam describing them as places where disasters were waiting to happen.

Dr. Kariyawasam said they had ordered the MC food court stalls to close down and revamp the place or face cancellation of their licences.

He said four of the 13 stalls would be hauled before courts for selling unhygienic food prepared in makeshift kitchens.

"There is disaster waiting to happen with wires hanging around. If there is a fire, it will quickly spread and this is a place where several thousands gather each day," he said.

Majestic City Deputy Chairman J.C. Page said that according to the agreement, the stalls were supposed to bring pre-cooked food. "We were not aware that they were cooking in the food court," he said. Early last year too, during one of the regular meetings between food court owners and the MC management, instructions had been given to avoid cooking in the stalls.

"They say they won't do it, but it seems that it has been happening. The place has been rented out and the management has no authority to interfere in their activities," Mr. Page said acknowledging the food stalls were violating the agreement.

"We have asked them to stick to the terms and conditions. If they fail, the public health department will take appropriate action," Mr. Page said.

Otunnu to make direct probe

Amidst allegations of continuing child recruitment and abductions by the LTTE, UN Special Envoy Olara Otunnu is scheduled to visit Sri Lanka early next month for a first hand probe.

LTTE Chief Negotiator Anton Balasingham told a news conference after the latest session of talks in Thailand that the Tigers were no longer recruiting children. But reports of LTTE child recruitment persist and Mr. Otunnu is to make direct investigations.

Soon after the visit by Mr. Otunnu, who is the UN special representative for children in armed conflict areas, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan will be paying a two-day visit on February 26 and 27 - the first by a UN chief since U-Thant came in 1967.Foreign Minister Tyronne Fernando said Mr. Annan had expressed the wish to visit Jaffna also to give a push for UN programmes on demining and rehabilitation.

He said Mr. Annan was expected to hold extensive talks with the President, the Prime Minster and other government leaders.

Muslims MPs from NE ask for separate representation

By Nilika Kasturisinghe
The North Eastern MPs of the NUA, SLMC and UNP will ask the Government, LTTE and Norway for separate representation at the peace talks, Minister Assisting Wanni Rehabilitation Noordeen Mashoor told The Sunday Times.

Eastern Province parliamentarian M.L.A.M. Hisbullah confirming this said ten Members of Parliament have already promised to sign the letter with the others to follow. Mr. Hisbullah said the MPs would go in a delegation to meet Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and hand him their letter.

Meanwhile, SLMC leader Minister Rauf Hakeem said "It is certainly not satisfactory to confine the presence of a Muslim delegation to stage when political matters relating to Muslims are taken up. Certainly when the structure of the final settlement and constitutional changes relating to devolution are discussed the continued presence of Muslims are imperative." "Our contention is that the negotiations which are now underway should be confined only to the two main protagonists who have been engaged in this war, meaning the government and the LTTE, lacks sincerity," he said.

He said a specific assurance was given by the LTTE to accommodate a separate delegation to the peace talks when a written undertaking to that effect was embodied in the joint statement that he signed with Mr. Prabhakaran, on April 13. Mr. Hakeem said, it was subsequently ratified by the statement issued by the Norwegian Embassy in London after I met Mr. Balasingham prior to the first session of talks. "I observe unfortunately there is deliberate intransigence on this issue by the LTTE to put it mildly," he said.

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