21st December 1997


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Finance Sec. to give up office

By Dilrukshi Handunnetti

Secretary to the Ministry of Finance B.C. Perera is expected to relinquish office due to pressures from above in the aftermath of awarding the controversial ten locomotives tender to a French Company, The Sunday Times reliably learns.

Mr. Perera with a career spanning over the decades in the public service was appointed Secretary replacing A.S. Jayawardene who also stepped down following differences with Deputy Finance Minister Prof. G.L.Peiris.

According to reliable sources, the Secretary who was on his second extension will not be seeking a third, and had gone on one month’s leave from December 19. His second extension expires in February.

Mr. Perera who has been supportive of awarding the locomotives tender to General Motors Co., with which Sri Lanka has been transacting business for a long period of time has been severely criticised for being unsupportive of the offer made by the French Company, C.G. Alsthom.

General Secretary of the United National Party Gamini Atukorale in Parliament last week said that the Finance Ministry Secretary has come in for a lot of criticism from the PA leadership over the locomotives tender.

Hardy rag: police quiz 60 people

The condition of Hardy Institute rag victim Thushara Kelum Wijetunga is still critical as Police recorded the statements of up to 60 persons regarding the incident, sources said.

Hospital sources said the student being treated at the Kandy General hospital had shown little improvement and he was still not out of the critical list.

Police investigating the case have recorded the statement of the principal, the director of the technical institute, two female wardens and several others.



In a related development, a student union alleged that Thushara had contributed to purchase liquor for a party.

The student union in a statement claimed that Thushara had consumed liquor on his own will, but his parents denied it and said the student was not in the habit of taking liquor.

According to initial investigations, the student had been forced to consume liquor before being subjected to physical ragging.

Meanwhile The Sunday Times obtained a picture of the suspect in the rag-murder case of the Peradeniya University rag victim Selvam Varapragash.

Sivabalakrishnan Satheeshkaran, the chief suspect, is still evading Police. Seven other undergraduates linked with the case are in remand.

Varapragash, a fresher of the Engineering Faculty died of kidney failure following the ragging.

Port group issues 7–day warning to Ashraff

By Chamintha Thilakarathna

An action group has given seven days to Ports Minister M. H. M. Ashraff to reply its letter, warning that religious organisations, and port-related institutions will be drawn into its protest unless the P&O deal is reconsidered.

Waraya Surekime Sanvidanaya (the port protecting movement), an ad hoc group formed to protest the hand over of the Colombo Port to the Australian P&O Company, says it will get the support of the clergy and trade unions in the Customs department, shipping agencies and other institutions connected to the Port.

A spokesman for the group which consists of port trade unions said protests and work stoppages would be launched unless Minister Ashraff replies positively to their letter.

“Several political parties have objected to this deal in the national interest. Since this is a national issue, we feel it is only fair to explain matters to the clergy and get their support,” he said.

The spokesman said if the minister refused to invite them at least to discuss the matter, a joint action with the participation of political parties, trade unions from port-related institutions and the clergy would be launched.

Minister Ashraff said during the budget debate that no retrenchment would take place as a result of the P&O deal to be finalised in March. Ports Ministry Secretary M. N. Junaid said trade unionists should not interfere with government policies.

Cholera under control but alert still on

By Arshad M. Hadjirin

The number of Cholera cases is declining but reports that the disease might have spread all over the country has prompted health authorities to take special precaution in pilgrim areas such as Siripada and Kataragama.

Pilgrims and other visitors have been warned against taking river baths or drinking water from rivers in and around Siripada and Kataragama areas where hundreds of people gather during this season, health officials said.

New cases of Cholera have been reported in the Monaragala, Kegalle, Badulla, Galle, Anuradhapura, and Matale districts.

Health officials warned that, as several cases had been reported in the Kataragama and Siripada areas, people should take extra-precautions as sanitary facilities in those areas are far from adequate.

Eleven people have so far died and more than 380 confirmed cases of Cholera have been reported in the epidemic which began early October in Chilaw and then spread.

“Now we have substantial evidence the Cholera bacteria initially came from India”, a spokesman for the Epidemiology Unit of the Health Ministry said.

Health officials are now issuing leaflets to all passengers arriving at the airport giving the do’s and dont’s to prevent Cholera.

According to a report from the Health Ministry four weeks ago, Cholera cases reached a peak of 70 in a week and is now decreasing.

I just did it, says Arundhati

The God of the Weather was kind on Friday evening. The rain held off almost till Booker Prize winning author Arundhati Roy finished her reading from “The God Of Small Things”, her first novel that had brought her such startling success.

Roy and Dr. Manique Gunasekara

Roy and Dr. Manique Gunasekara

And as the reading concluded, the crowd gathered on the British Council grounds had no intention of letting the beautiful author go.

So it was into the adjoining hall that they swept, most standing, craning their necks to catch a glimpse of Roy. She did not disappoint. Questions were answered with her characteristic candour that had the audience, pin drop silent and rocking with laughter the next.

Asked what her inspiration had been for the book, she confessed she didn’t have any, just the urge to write.

Her childhood favourite author was Kipling, she didn’t care for the critics, she took to architecture at the age of 16 just to make a living though later she grew to love it, she carried her own copy of “The God of Small Things” and she it was, who had designed the cover of her book. “Had she any advice for a young writer?” ”Not to seek advice” she quipped, “like the Nike slogan, just do it.”

Earlier that morning, Roy had told journalists that she did not see the Booker Prize as the ultimate achievement for a writer. “It is what you want it to be,” she said, “I didn’t aim for a prize: when you write a book, anyway you do your best.”

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