CTB hobbling along on taxpayers' money
By Nilika Kasturisinghe
With privatization attempts stalled and the CTB running at a loss, the taxpayers' money is being spent to run the bus service on a day-to-day basis to tide over losses incurred by an inefficient programme which lacked contingency plans.

The proposed Public-Private Partnership for the bus sector was mooted by the Public Enterprise Reforms Commission (PERC) in June last year.
However, the programme which ran into much opposition is temporarily at a halt with a case having been filed by two CTB employees calling for a halt to the sale of shares.

The case is to be taken up for hearing on July 11.PERC Chairman Chrisantha Perera responding to The Sunday Times said "shares haven't been transferred, management hasn't been handed over". The 13 cluster bus companies are independently run by separate boards and employees while the Sri Lanka Central Transport Board acts as an authority, he said.

However, the CTB is reported to be facing difficult circumstances with severe financial constraints, and several payments from state bodies also very slow to come in.

"After the increase in diesel costs the loss faced by the CTB each month is Rs. 25 million on diesel," CTB chairman U. L. M. Farook said. "It is like tying a man's arms and legs, gagging his mouth and nose and throwing him into the sea, asking him to swim," he said.

The Treasury provides the CTB with Rs. 120 million each month, of which Rs. 63 million is spent on paying salaries and Rs. 57 million on EPF. None of this money can be utilized to maintain the buses.

More killings in the east
By Chris Kamalendran
Suspected Tamil rebels yesterday shot dead a rival EPDP member in Trincomalee hours after a member of another rival group of the LTTE was killed along with his baby daughter in the Batticaloa area.

Ramasamy Wijendranadan was shot dead in the heart of Trincomalee town while he was at his brother's restaurant last morning. This incident came less than nine hours after a father and daughter were killed in a grenade attack in Batticaloa on Friday night.

The man working with the TELO "Varathan' wing and his two-year-old daughter were killed soon after they returned from a festival in a Temple in the Ariyampathy area. The man identified as Sinniah Samuel was working as an army informant.
In another incident last night, a Kovil trustee and another man were injured in a grenade attack in Trincomalee town, reports said.

On Tuesday, a Tamil youth who was closely working with the security forces in Jaffna during the mid '90s was stabbed to death in his Colombo communication centre. He was identified as Dharmalingam Gunapalan of Thunkkai, Jaffna.

He was used as a 'masked man' to nod his head when Tamil suspects were paraded in front of him after being arrested in the north in the mid 1990s soon after the army captured the Jaffna peninsula.

The killling came a day after an EPRLF activist was shot dead in Trincomalee town by suspected pistol gang members of the LTTE. The victim was identified as S.Kirubairaja. He was a member of the EPRLF 'Varathar' Wing.

On Sunday night, Kalirajah Ramanan (35), a former TELO member of the Batticaloa Municipal Council was shot dead by gunmen in Batticaloa town. On dissolution of the Council, he quit TELO and joined the EPDP. Later he left EPDP and was functioning as a member of the EPRLF - Varatharajah faction.

More than 30 rival political party members and army informants have been killed after the government signed the ceasefire agreement with the LTTE. Most of these killings have taken place within the past three months.

Nurse who attended on HIV child under scrutiny
A nurse who accidentally suffered a needle prick while taking a blood sample from an HIV-infected child, fears she may possibly develop the virus, hospital authorities revealed.

The nurse who took a blood sample from a child-patient admitted to the Panadura hospital with fever and cough was panic-stricken when she learnt the STD (Sexually Transmitted Diseases) clinic in Colombo sent a HIV positive report on the child's blood sample.

The nurse was rushed to get an HIV test from the STD clinic, but the report proved negative. However, the nurse has been asked to report to the clinic periodically, Hospital Director Dr. Sarath Silva said.

Minister's threat to journalist under investigation
Police are conducting inquiries into a complaint made by journalist and former chairman of Lake House Lucien Rajakarunanayake who has allegedly been threatened by Minister Mahinda Wijesekara at a five star hotel a week ago.

Police are yet to record a statement from the minister with regard to the complaint lodged at Colombo Police Headquarters on June 1. SSP D.P.L. Dissanayake who is in charge of conducting the investigations said the police were treating it as a normal threat and abuse case and investigations were pending.

Mr. Rajakarunanayake told The Sunday Times that the police had asked him whether Minister Wijesekara should be warned for his alleged threat. Mr. Rajakarunanayake had said he had answered saying, " It is up to the police to determine the course of action that should be pursued against the minister and it is not my duty".

If a politician is threatening a journalist for something he has written against him two years ago, what is the fate of journalists who are currently writing against politicians in the country, he asked.

Mr. Rajakarunanayake told The Sunday Times that he has brought the matter to the notice of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe as a protective measure. He added that ordinary citizens in the country are not safe these days when they go to five star hotels.

This incident took place at the Chinese restaurant in the Hilton Hotel on the night of June 30 where Mr. Karunanayake was having dinner with a foreign journalist. Minister Mahinda Wijesekara who had been entertaining himself at the restaurant with some of his colleagues had come to Mr. Karunanayake and threatened him and his family with death over a column he had written in the Sunday Observer around August-September 2001.

The minister has allegedly lashed out verbally at the journalist saying " it is you man who slung mud at me, branding me as 'Kaluwara Mahinda' " and had added that he would finish off Mr. Karunanayake during the period of this government.

However Minister Mahinda Wijesekara told The Sunday Times that the complaint made by Mr. Rajakarunanayake to the police "is totally a false story" but declined to elaborate on the issue.

The minister was also recently at the centre of controversy over the chopping down of a 500 year old mara tree of immense historic value and the demolishing of a lawyers' complex in the Matara Fort.

In the latest incident, the minister was strongly criticised by the Opposition and even by the government politicians for allegedly breaching the bund of the Nilwala river which has caused havoc to Matara district during the recent floods.

Meanwhile the Free Media Movement said that it unreservedly condemns the alleged threat by Minister Mahinda Wijesekara and urged the Government to take appropriate action against the minister so that justice is done.

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