The Sunday TimesFront Page

19th January 1997




Bars do not a prison make: the prisoners behind these beautiful works of art must have set their sights on the stars, despite the horrible conditions at the Welikada Prison where they live. These works of art by the Welikada prisoners will be on show at the National Art Gallery on January 31. Behind these 300 works of art is however a prison bursting at the seams in horrible sanitary conditions as exposed in "The Sunday Times" investigation today. Pic. by Lakshman Gunatilleke

CBK raps police for using PTA in TNL case

President Chandrika Kumaratunga has distanced herself from a police action against TNL in a move to head off mounting protests.

The President told a dinner meeting of the Foreign Correspondents' Association on Friday that police had erred in using Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) against TNL, whose news director was arrested and later released on bail.

"One does not need to use the PTA. That was not a decision of the government as such. It was an action taken by the police. In fact, I was not even in the country at the time.

"But the government is seriously looking at whether we should use the PTA or not under these circumstances. I believe that the normal law of the land is sufficient," the president said.

She said some police officers were loyal to the opposition United National Party and were trying to discredit her administration through excessive action.

President Kumaratunga said the TNL report had caused panic but felt that there was sufficient powers vested with the Media Ministry to deal with the problem rather than resorting to the PTA.

She strongly hinted that the charges brought against TNL under anti-terrorism laws will be dropped, ending growing protests from local and foreign media and human rights organisations.

The Paris-based journalists' rights organisation, Reporters Sans Frontieres, had accused Sri Lankan police of an "unwarranted display of force with intent to intimidate the media" in dealing with the TNL case. - AFP

Crackdown on paedophile trade

Child-sex homes to be shut

By Christopher Kamalendran

As Sri Lanka is gaining worldwide notoriety as a centre for child sex, all unregistered children's homes will be closed down this week as part of a major crack-down, the Child Care Chief announced yesterday.

"Orders will be given to police this week to close down all unregistered children's homes without warning," Commissioner Sudath Rannuge told The Sunday Times.

Around 50 unregistered children's homes would be forced to shut down under the directive which is being issued mainly to curb alleged nefarious activities at some of these homes, he said.

Mr. Rannuge said arrangements would be made to accommodate the children from the unregistered homes in legally registered homes.

Mr. Rannuge said a flood of complaints following the exposure of the child sex-scandal at the Beruwela children's home had led to this decision.

He said the Department of Probation and Child Care had then obtained information from its provincial offices and immediately found there were at least 10 unregistered homes.

The Sunday Times recently spotlighted the child sex scandal at the Beruwela Wijitha Lama Niwasaya where investigations have now revealed that at least 11 children below 15 had been sexually abused by both, locals and foreigners.

One of the key suspects involved in the scandal a hotelier in the Beruwela area, was produced before the Kalutara Magistrate on Friday and remanded till January 27.

The suspect was the president of the board of trustees of the home.

The Commissioner said the department was unaware about the functions or funding of the unregistered homes, most of them in the western and southern provinces.

Investigations by The Sunday Times revealed that most of the unregistered children's homes were funded by foreign organisations with their own interest and some of them were supplying children to paedophiles who visit Sri Lanka which is now being advertised as a centre for child-sex.

Meanwhile, a human rights activist and lawyer T. C. Rajaratnam who has been asked by Mr. Rannuge to assist in the investigations on the activities at the Beruwela Children's Home told The Sunday Times he felt the All Ceylon Buddhist Congress (ACBC), which was running the home should have provided adequate safety for the children.

He said he sent an urgent letter to President Chandrika Kumaratunga to appoint a special Presidential Commission to inquire into child sex abuse which is developing into horrible proportions in Sri Lanka.

Meanwhile, Police Superintendent M. Sivaratnam who is leading investigations charged that the Child Care officials and the All Ceylon Buddhist Congress (ACBC) had not taken prompt action when the racket was first revealed a year ago.

Air Force's hi-tech spy-in-the-sky plunges into sea

Sri Lanka Air Force has lost one of its Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) or the remote controlled "Spy-in-the-sky aircraft."

This small plane with on board computers and cameras plunged into the high seas off the Jaffna peninsula whilst on a mission.

SLAF officials remained tightlipped about what caused the incident but said the help of the Sri Lanka Navy was being sought to locate the area where it went down and retrieve it.

This UAV was one of a fleet the government purchased from the Israeli Aircraft Industries (IAI) at a cost of about nine million US dollars.

Controlled from a mobile panel, the UAV's on-board cameras transmit high resolution pictures from altitudes as high as 7,000 feet. One SLAF official said the UAV had the capacity to reflect the licence plate of a motor cycle.

AirLanka pilot saves 550 lives in mid-air drama

A pilot's intuition and his split second response saved the lives of 301 passengers on board AirLanka's flight UL 505 to London last week.

Captain Ramzi Raheem who was at the controls of the modern Airbus A 340 looked out of the cockpit window and spotted the strobe lights of an approaching aircraft. It was on the same flight path. He issued a prompt warning. First Officer Ravi Thampapillai, the Cruise Pilot, immediately switched on the landing lights thus drawing the attention of the approaching aircraft. It levelled off immediately.

Senior AirLanka and Civil Aviation Department officials learnt that split second response saved what might have been a worst air disaster. They were compiling a detailed dossier to be forwarded to the Indian Government under whose air space the incident occurred.

AirLanka's flight UL 505 on Saturday, January 4, took off at 10.50 p.m. Almost all passengers were asleep and the aircraft had been airborne for nearly two hours. In the cockpit, Captain Raheem and First Officer Thampapillai had gone through the routine of making radio contact with Air Control Towers which were handling their respective Flight Information Regions (FIR).

Having left Colombo, they spoke to Trivandrum Control Tower. Later Trivandrum handed them over to Madras on the high frequency and thereafter the Bombay Control Tower took over.

UL 505 was maintaining flight level 31,000 feet over the Arabian sea which came under the Bombay Control's Flight Information Region. The aircraft was on route Golf 462 - the west bound flight path through the Middle East. It was cruising at speed of 850 kilometres an hour.

It was just then that Captain Raheem resorted to his routine chore of looking at the horizon from the cockpit window. He saw an imminent tragedy staring in the face.

He spotted the strobe lights of an approaching aircraft and warned Cruise Pilot Thampapillai who immediately switched on the A 340's landing lights. During the next few nervous seconds, the duo saw the aircraft level off. As it happened the cockpit TCAS (Traffic Alert and Collision Avoidance System) got activated. A computer synthesised voice kept warning that the flight was on a collision course.

Captain Raheem immediately switched on to the emergency radio frequency and asked the pilot of the other aircraft to identify himself. He responded by saying it was Kuwait Airways KU 365 (an Airbus 300). The pilot of that aircraft said he levelled off immediately after seeing the landing lights of the AirLanka A 340.

It transpired that the Bombay Air Traffic Controllers had cleared KU 365 which was cruising at flight level 29,000 feet to climb to 33,000 feet. The pilot was climbing at a speed of 850 kms per hour when he spotted the landing lights of the A 340 and levelled off.

An AirLanka official said "If that did not happen within split seconds, 250 passengers on the Kuwait Airway flight and the 301 on board AirLanka would have certainly met with their deaths over the Arabian sea. We are taking this matter very seriously."

Captain Raheem is learnt to have complained to the Air Traffic Controllers at Bombay about the near miss.

When the KU 365 levelled off, it was 1200 feet below the AirLanka A 340.

Meanwhile, Chairman AirLanka W.T. Jayasinghe said the issue was a matter for Indian official as it happened in Indian air space.

He said they were expecting the Indian aviation authorities to call for certain reports in this regard but there had been no communication from the yet, to his knowledge.

Director General of Aviation M.L.U. De S. Malalgoda told the Sunday Times that this issue was beyond his authority as it had happened in Indian air space. "This happened in Bombay and so is not a matter for us but for the Indian aviation authorities to investigate," he said.

Mr. Malalgoda added there were no reports forwarded by the AirLanka authorities to him on this issue.

AirLanka media unit officials said on Friday that AirLanka media unit officials said on Friday that AirLanka flight No. UL 505 which was flying from Colombo to London on Saturday, the 11th, had received information on TCAS (Traffic Collision Avoidance System) when they were flying over Indian territory.

This instrument is designed to warn the pilots of any approaching object that may collide with the aircraft. The pilots acting on the information given by the instrument were able to avoid a mid air collision with a Kuwait Airways flight.

Meanwhile a spokesman for the Indian High Commission in Colombo, S.R. Tyagi, said he had seen no report of this near-mishap in any of the Indian papers so fat.

However news agency accounts from India had quoted press reports that the second 'near miss' in three days had happened southwest of Bombay.

A week after the AirLanka flight averted the near mishap the pilot of a Lufthansa flight taking off from Delhi had taken evasive action to prevent crashing with an Uzbek Airways flight.

The Lufthansa pilot flying a Boeing 747 carrying more than 300 passengers had reported that at a flight level of about 31,000 ft. The TCAS in the cockpit sounded an alert. The 'unidentified traffic' was at a lower altitude and the pilot taking evasive action climbed up about 500 ft., to bring about a vertical separation between his aircraft and the other.

Minutes earlier the German plane while at 31,000 ft. Had crossed an Uzbek Airways flight coming in at an altitude of 33,000 ft.

A report from India said that the German aviation authorities who have taken the matter seriously are pushing for an inquiry into the matter.

It was the third reported incident of 'airmiss' over India airspace for this month, other than the AirLanka - Kuwait Airways incident. An 'airmiss' was reported over the Indira Gandhi International (IGI) airport in Delhi on January 4 between an Indian Airlines flight from Mumbai and an Air India flight also from Mumbai. The other incident was reported over Calcutta last week between and Alliance Air flight between Calcutta and Dimapur and Jet Air flight from Jorhat to Calcutta.

23 policemen killed in attack on Kebithigollewa

Tamil rebels in a major pre-dawn attack on a remote police post off Kebithigollewa yesterday killed 23 policemen and homeguards and injured 18 others, a military spokesman said.

Terrorists armed with Rocket Propelled Grenades (RPGs) mortars and small arms stormed the Kanugahawewa area, eight kilometres north east of Kebithigollewa area and started attacking the post around 3.15 a.m. The attack continued until dawn.

Troop reinforcements and policemen from the Kebithigollewa and Thammennawa areas were rushed to the location.

A military spokesman said that the reinforcements had engaged the fleeing terrorists. But details of LTTE casualties were not known immediately.

The injured were removed to the Anuradhapura hospital.

Late in the evening a team led by a senior police officer had rushed to the area to look into the re-establishment of the police post which has been established to provide security to the nearby villages.

Local govt. elections on single day

By Chandimal Mendis

With the Elections Commissioner and the Police Chief giving the greenlight, Local Government elections in all provinces except the North and East are to be held on a single day rather than on a staggered basis.

Police Chief W.B. Rajaguru told "The Sunday Times" there was no difficulty on the part of the police in holding elections on the same day.

"We have handled the General Elections without difficulty when they were held islandwide in one day. The police will carry out the normal duties that is expected of them at local polls too. Using of police for election purposes will not affect the normal security of the country," he said.

Elections Commissioner, Dayananda Dissanayake said he was fully prepared to have the local polls on a single day.

Elections Department sources said the date for nominations for the local elections would be announced next week.

Elections will be held to all local bodies in the country, except those in the North and East. Elections will be held to 198 Pradeshiya Sabhas, 31 Urban Councils and 12 Municipal Councils.

Earlier the government was planning to hold the local polls on a staggered basis saying there were practical difficulties in having elections islandwide on the same day due to security reasons.

Meanwhile the UNP on Friday discussed matters relating to its list of candidates.

Party spokesman Karunasena Kodituwakku told "The Sunday Times" the UNP welcomed the decision to hold elections. "We just have to do some updating on the nomination list," he said.

The ruling PA is also finalising its nomination list, though the NDUN(L)F led by Minister Srimani Athulathmudali is yet to decide whether to contest together or separately.

The NDUN(L)F has asked for a proportion of seats in keeping with the large number of votes it polled at the last General Elections. Party spokesman Ravi Karunanayake also said the NDUN(L)F was unhappy about the governments failure to abolish the Executive Presidency as promised.

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