The Sunday TimesNews/Comment

19th January 1997




Trinco residents get district Ids

The issue of district identity cards to all people above 14 years in the Trincomalee district is underway.

Upto now about 25,000 people have received these identity cards from the Army in the Trincomalee town and gravets.

The Army has told residents in the district they should have district identity cards in addition to the National Identity Cards.

Bus runs off road: 53 hurt

A private bus ran off the road in the Talwatta area injuring 53 persons, many of them suffering fractures.

The accident was the result of two buses trying to overtake the other. The bus involved in the accident was on its way to Digana and carried about 150 passengers at the time of the accident, some commuters said. The injured were taken to the Kandy hospital.

In soup over a cook

The Sri Jayawardenepura Hospital was inundated with telephone calls yesterday following a report in a state-run newspaper that two LTTE suspects injured in the Paranthan attack had accidentally been admitted along with army casualties.

Hospital staff were also panicky after the report which said that two people who could not speak Sinhala and were in military type uniform had been admitted.

The report said they were identified as "Cadar" and "Sundappillai" and that police were conducting an investigation, while special security had been deployed around the ward.

Director of the hospital, Dr. Lakshman de Lanerolle told "The Sunday Times" yesterday we have received only army casualties and there are no LTTE casualties here.

Other hospital sources said there had been a patient by the name of Cadar, but he was an army cook while there was no patient by the name of "Sundappillai".

Meanwhile Nugegoda Police Superintendent, Nihal Dharmadasa said he would be taking up the matter with the press council.

Human rights test for Army recruits

All new army recruits and officers seeking promotion will be required to sit a special test on international humanitarian law, sources said.

The test aims to improve the knowledge on humanitarian law and preventing cases of alleged cruel treatment or torture of Prisoners of War (POW) and detainees.

The measure is seen as one of the effective ways of educating soldiers and officers on humanitarian law since Sri Lanka signed the Geneva Convention in 1949, which bans any uncivil treatment of POWs and other war detainees.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) since 1989 has been pushing for a concrete means of eradicating torture and other forms of coercion of prisoners, by means of counselling both army recruits, at training centres and the LTTE and the security forces in operational areas.

"The compulsion to learn international humanitarian laws will enable the security forces to practice non-harmful methods of treating the POWs," said a spokesman for the ICRC. Harsha Abeygoonawardene, Information Officer, ICRC, says that their efforts were mainly to reduce the incidence of reported torture by both the LTTE and the security forces.

"In 1996 alone, we have sessions on International Humanitarian Law for 5000 combatants both from the security forces and the LTTE", Abeygoonawardene said.

Deputy Head of Delegation, ICRC, Marc Weli told "The Sunday Times" that last year over 2500 detainees were held by police and army from around the country, including a large population from Jaffna.

"We are permitted individual and confidential counselling of all detainees, but the type of interrogation done by authorities, and the status of their confinement cannot be revealed, due to an agreement reached with the government", Mr. Weli said.

Passport men reach out to Vavuniya

By Minna Thaheer

Officials of the Immigration and Emigration Dept. are on a two day visit to Vavuniya to issue passports and provide other facilities to people in the North, North-East and North-West areas.

Speaking to the Sunday Times about the visit, the first of its kind, Deputy Controller N. Bambarawanage said, "This is mainly to help those unable to travel to Colombo to obtain passports due to the security situation in the country. This mobile service would greatly relieve people of those areas."

Already about 200 applications for passports have been received by the department. The officials travelled to the north on the request from Vavuniya's Govt. Agent and will be based in Vavuniya Kachcheri. They will travel to the north as often as required.

Unrest brews in Postal Dept.

By Arshad M. Hadjirin

A powerful postal trade union has warned that if the Public Enterprise Reforms Commission (PERC) does not stop interference in the affairs of the Postal Department, it will take trade union action.

N. P. Hettiarachchi, a spokesman for the Union of Postal and Telecommunication Officers (UPTO) told The Sunday Times that they believed PERC activities at the department were to accelerate the privatisation process.

The recent appointment of a team of officials, including personnel from the PERC, to conduct a survey on the status of the Postal Department, has created unrest among some 24,000 employees most of whom oppose the privatisation of the department and say "the government was dancing to the tune of the World Bank."

Mr. Hettiarachchi dismissed claims that the department was running at a loss due to lack of funds.

"Lack of funds was cited for the closure of several post offices in Colombo. But we find the Posts and Telecommunications Ministry shifting to the luxury twin towers, paying a thumping Rs. 3.3 million a month," Mr. Hettiarachchi said.

He said the employees are ready to be a part of a programme to restructure the department and convert it into a profit-making body, but would oppose any privatisation move.

Airline says sorry to journalist

The recent intimidation and harassment of a Sunday Times journalist by the Duty Manager of Indian Airlines at Chennai (Madras) Airport, reported in The Sunday Times last week is being probed by Airline officials.

The journalist was harassed in the presence of senior supreme court justice of Sri Lanka, who at one stage had to personally intervene to stop the harassment.

The two Lankans were part of a delegation returning to Colombo after attending a judicial colloquia in New Delhi, held under the auspices of the National Judicial Academy of India.

Indian Airlines Colombo office General Manager Soundararajah told The Sunday Times that airline staff at the Colombo office had been negligent in not clarifying details of travel to the Lankan passengers upon issuing the tickets.

"It was clearly the duty of airline staff at the air port to assist stranded passengers in a courteous manner. We have initiated an inquiry," he said.

Meanwhile the Chennai Airport Deputy General Manager R. Krishnaswamy in a letter to The Sunday Times editor said,

"At the outset we tender our sincere apologies for the inconvenience caused to the passengers, because of the late operation of the incoming flight IC 439 from Delhi and also the alleged unhelpful and rude behaviour of the duty officer at Chennai Airport.

Due to extreme cold condition in Northern India during this month our morning flights out of Delhi were delayed quite a few occasions between December 25 and todate. Hence we shall be grateful if you could kindly give us the date of travel and the names of the referred Honorable Judge of Sri Lankan supreme court and the journalist which will help to carry out further investigations and correct ourselves.

May we also request you to give us the name of the passenger and the reservation particulars regarding the reported incident of January 01".

Chief Sec. insulted by MP, says SLASA

The Sri Lanka Administrative Service Association has condemned as insulting the manner a woman minister had treated one of their senior members attached to the North Cental Provincial Council.

The SLASA in a letter to the Chief Minister of NCP said that chief secretary N. W. Abeywickrama was unwarrantedly abused and insulted in the presence of other senior officers by a woman minister of the NCP.

Mahinda Moragolla, member of the SLASA Ex. Committee has requested that action be taken to prevent a repetition of a similar occurrence in future. "As a responsible trade union we have not resorted to any action but, that does not mean that our union is weak," he said.

CMC wants salaries to start at Rs 5,400

By Kumaradasa Wagista

A resolution calling on the government to pay public servants and provincial public servants a minimum salary of Rs 5400 with yearly increment of Rs 1000 was passed at the Colombo Municipal Council meeting presided over by Deputy Mayor M. Maharoof on Thursday.

Dr. Wickramabahu Karunaratna (NSSP) said that lower and middle grade executives received small pay hikes while higher grade officers got large increments. Dr. Karunaratna called on the government to formulate a salary scheme based on the cost of living.

Replying to PA's W. Ariyaratne who alleged that public servants did overtime without working, Dr. Karunaratna said that it was upto department heads to see that employees worked the full time.

UNP's Siripala Gintota Kapuge welcomed the resolution and pointed out the working class was undergoing hardship with the sky-rocketing cost of living.

Romesh de Mel (UNP) said that the disparity in the salary scale in the public service should be rectified.

Sunil Ananda Vithanage (PA) said Dr. Karunaratna has become the mouthpiece of the UNP. A clear 30 to 80 percent salary increase has been granted to public servants by this government.

UNP's Gamini Hemachandra alleged that thousands of youth voted for the P.A. as they were promised of an allowance of Rs 1500/. He asked why the government is not making this payment as pledged in the election manifesto.

The resolution was passed with 26 voting for and eight against. A few PA councillors voted for the resolution with the UNP, while some PA councillors abstained.

Counsel wants warrant issued on Minister

Kalutara Magistrate, Sunil Rajapakse has directed the Attorney General and Inspector General of Police (IGP) to investigate and report back to court regarding submissions made by the counsel that a warrant should be issued for the arrest of Industries Minister, C.V. Gooneratne in connection with the death of a remand prisoner who was being held for attempting conspiracy to kill the Minister.

The directive was given when the magisterial inquiry into the death of accused, A.A.D. Rohitha, was taken up on Thursday. Six jail guards allegedly involved in the death of the remand prisoner were identified by five other inmates of the prison and the wife of the deceased.

Counsel, Upul Jayasuriya told court on Thursday that the family members of the deceased feel the Minister was allegedly involved in the death of Rohitha.

Counsel also urged Court that as the senior police officer presently in charge of the particular division is a close relative of the Minister, an impartial inquiry will not be held and that investigations should be handed over to the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) or a similar body.

Mr. Jayasuriya pleading for the issue of a warrant to arrest the Minister said, it is quite obvious that Minister, C.V Gooneratne had a clear motive to eliminate Rohitha as the conspiracy case at the Panadura High Court was now nearing an end and there would have been chances of an acquittal.

The suspect, Rohitha had been taken to the Gangodawila Magistrates Courts on the particular day and on his return had allegedly been assaulted by prison officials. He was later taken to hospital and was pronounced dead.

Counsel told court that the conspiracy case against Rohitha had been taken up at the Panadura High Court and the witnesses did not turn up on behalf of the complainant.

Following counsel Jayasuriya's submissions, the Kalutara Magistrate directed the IGP, Attorney General and the Senior Superintendent of Police to investigate into the points made and submit a report to Court on the next day.

The six prison guards were remanded until January 31.

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