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13th June 1999

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Lanka reacts coolly to food scare

By Chamila Jayaweera and Vimarshini Jayaweera

The Sri Lanka has taken precaution in the wake of a world food scare following disclosures that meat and dairy products from Belgium and other European countries were contaminated with a cancer-causing chemical.

During the past week, several Asian countries have banned or imposed strict checks on meats, poultry and dairy products, including butter, cheese and milk food, from at least four European countries.

This followed official disclosures that the products were dangerous because they were contaminated by cancer-causing dioxin in animal feed.

The Health Ministry's Acting Food and Drugs Inspector S. Nagiah told The Sunday Times they were in touch with the Sri Lankan mission in Belgium regarding the food scare and were taking precautionary action.

International news reports said meat and dairy products from France, the Netherlands and Germany were also on the danger list.

But health officials here appeared to be concerned mainly about items from Belgium while keeping a watch on imports from other European ports.

Trade Minister Kingsley Wickremaratne told The Sunday Times there was no reason to panic since 80 percent of Sri Lanka's imports of meat, poultry and dairy products came from Australia and the US.

He said the food security committee of the ministry was keeping a close watch on the situation and items from Belgium especially held back at the customs.

But Customs officials said they had not received any orders about food items from Belgium or any other European country.

This is the first time since the mad-cow scare that such large scale suspicion is being cast on imported food.

However, Secretary to the Ministry of Livestock Development Dr. P.Ramanujam said that guidelines on imported poultry and other livestock products had been tightened following the realization a month ago that certain local businesses had been importing "spent chicken" in place of broiler chicken.

Local importers repeated what the trade minister said there was no cause for panic because most of their food imports were from Australia and the US.

Raja Mendis, director of major food importer Stassens said their imports were mainly from Austria which had a good record and there was no cause for much concern.

Supermarket giant Cargills General Manager Sidath Kodikara said they generally did not import food items from Belgium but would take precautions since what had been revealed was a serious issue.

World news reports said chickens in about 400 farms in Belgium had been given feed contaminated with the toxic chemical.

Supermarkets and grocery stores in Europe and other countries immediately withdrew meat, poultry and dairy products from their shelves.

Schoolboy father?

A 15-year-old school- boy is being asked to pay maintenance by a 20-year-old woman who has named him as the father of her baby.

The boy who was in school uniform when he appeared before the Ratnapura Magistrate, is preparing to sit the O/L exam in December. The boy's father was ordered to pay Rs. 25,000 personal bail and another Rs. 1,500 on his behalf. The case has been put to trial. The baby, is more than a year old.

Excellence, not exams criterion for promotions

By Dilrukshi Handunnetti

Many disgruntled police officers have urged the police top rung to introduce a new scheme of promotions based on excellence instead of the routine examination system, police sources said.

According to the sources, the lower rankers have decided to make representations as they feel that the scheme of promoting officers was unsuitable to enable them to be promoted.

"This is not a job requiring academic excellence. We have no time to study and prepare for examinations. There ought to be a system to promote people on merit, by going by their performance and reward them for serious achievements by promoting them," a police source said.

However, a Senior Superintendent of Police while agreeing that there ought to be a better way to recognize acts of excellence, claimed that certain examinations were also mandatory to make sure that they possessed the required knowledge to hold high office.

Govt. docs warn of indefinite strike again

By Faraza Farook

Public hospitals were crippled yesterday and thousands of patients were forced to suffer more as doctors launched a token strike and threatened an all-out strike from tomorrow over an administrative dispute. However emergency services would be maintained.

A spokesman for the Government Medical Officers Association (GMOA) said they would launch an all-out strike from tomorrow if the government did not revoke its decision on provincial health administration.

GMOA Vice President Dr. R.P. Dayasena said they felt that it was the Wayamba Chief Minister who was mainly instrumental in trying to get provincial control over the health services, including appointments, transfers and disciplinary action relating to top medical officers.

The Chief Minister has filed a Supreme Court case invoking powers in the 13th amendment for provincial administration.

Dr.Dayasena said the GMOA feared giving such powers to the provinces could result in favouritism where unqualified people who were friends of politicians could be appointed to responsible posts.

The inter province transfers too could be made resulting in some getting postings to best places for life while others were denied of similar postings, he said.

Dr. Dayasena said the earlier Cabinet decision was that advertisement for the posts of Provincial Directors of Health would be done by the Central Government ministry, while interviews would be carried out in collaboration with the Provincial Ministry. Thereafter it would be put to the Public Service Commission which would decide on the appointment.

The GMOA believed the maintenance of the provincial health care system would be affected if the provincial ministry was given authority to decide on the appointments, transfers and other issues of medical officers, he said.

Mahanama Tillekeratne case

Judge reserves order, AG calls for case record

The Attorney General has called for the case record in the Mahanama Tillekeratne attempted murder case for which order has been reserved for June 18.

An AG's Department spokesman said the case record had been called for to examine the evidence closely, and determine if there was sufficient material for a charge of attempted murder. If not, a lesser charge might be initiated against high court judge Tillekeratne, he said.

Kesbewa Magistrate Munidasa Nanayakkara reserved order in the case for June 18 when the sole witness to the incident gave a different version of events to the one she had been maintaining since proceedings began.

The attempted murder case has been initiated against Mr. Tillekeratne after he along with an armed gang allegedly attempted to murder his neighbour G.H. Somacha-ndra.

Leave to proceed has also been granted to Mr. Tillekeratne in a fundamental rights case he has filed against the Attorney General in his personal capacity.

CID gets ten days to finish

By Ayesha R. Rafiq

The CID has been given ten days to complete investigations and report back to the Attorney General's Department in the Nimal Pathirana extortion and abduction case.

The Rs. 30 million extortion and abduction case involving Ratnapura millionaire businessman Nimal Pathirana came to surface in the aftermath of the much publicised abduction and extortion case of business tycoon G.C. Wickremasinghe in April this year.

Legal sources said the CID had been given the deadline because the Attorney General's Department felt there was enough material to serve indictments on the suspects.

Statements from Nimal Pathirana, his wife and son have already been recorded by the police.

Award for nine senior officers

Nine senior officers of the security forces will receive VSV (Vishista Seva Vibushana) honours from President Kumaratunga on June 25 at a ceremony at Janadipathi Mandiraya.

They are: Sri Lanka Army - Major General Siri Peiris (Retired), Major General Lionel Balagalle, Major General Asoka Silva (Retired), Major General Janaka Perera, Major General Neil Dias.

Sri Lanka Navy : Rear Admiral Terrance Sunderam, Rear Admiral A.H.M. Razeek and Rear Admiral H.R. Amaraweera.

Sri Lanka Air Force : Air Vice Marshal Donald Perera.

Stocks going Internet next year

Internet-driven trading might be introduced from next year, Colombo Stock Exchange Director General Hiran Mendis said.

"We are looking at certain controls that need to be put in place before full-scale internet trading," Mr. Mendis said at a meeting to mark the presentation of the CSE annual report.

CSE Chairman Rienzie T. Wijetilleke spoke out at the meeting, expressing concern over what he saw as a slowdown in the privatisation process.

Mr. Wijetilleke said a sizeable proportion of the GDP was still accounted for by the public sector, or the quasi-public sector. Listing of those public enterprises would considerably improve the liquidity in the market, he said.

He said that with national elections around the corner, they wanted the two main parties to spell out their privatisation programmes clearly.

Head on over head cover

By Nilika de Silva

Purdah issue stirs controversy in Badulla school

The Supreme Court order that two Muslim teachers be allowed to cover their heads while teaching in a Tamil school in Badulla has led to further controversy with students boycotting classes.

Badulla Tamil Balika Vidyalaya is heading for a showdown on this dispute after the principal requested the Muslim teachers to refrain from wearing the traditional head cover in school.

The boycott was followed by students of several other schools turning the dispute into one of national proportions.

The Supreme Court has ordered that the teachers be allowed to continue wearing the headcover until the fundamental rights case filed by them is determined.

The principal has expressed the view that the practice of 'purdah' or covering of the head in Muslim culture, is different from the wearing of a 'pottu' among Tamil Hindus.

The principal who has been in the profession for 20 years says she is not against Muslim culture but is asking for acceptable codes of dress and conduct in a multi-cultural environment.

She claims the parents of this majority Tamil school have also requested that the Muslim cultural practices need not be adhered to in a Tamil school.

However, the Supreme Court has granted leave to proceed in this case filed by the two teachers who were requested by the Principal to seek transfers if they were unable to conform to the norms of the school.

The Purdah dispute now surfacing in Sri Lanka has often come up in other countries, the most recent case being in Mulsim majority but secular Turkey where the government opposed a move by two women MPs to wear the head cover in parliament.

It also came up in France recently.

Poll win sets stage for Mangala

By Dilrukshi Handunnetti

In the afterglow of the PA victory in the south, the party's Matara strongman and Minister Mangala Samaraweera is likely to get the go-ahead soon for his appointment as General Secretary of the ruling Sri Lanka Freedom Party.

This is likely to come along with a cabinet reshuffle after two ministers Berty Premalal Dissanayake and Nandimithra Ekanayake resigned recently to become the chief ministers of North Central and Central provinces.

Two deputy ministers, Athauda Seneviratne and Samaraweera Weerawanni, also resigned to take over as chief ministers of Sabaragamuwa and Uva provinces respectively.

According to some sources, those tipped to be elevated to cabinet rank include deputy ministers Mahinda Wijesekera and Lakshman Kiriella while Dilan Perera and Bharatha Lakshman Premachandra are reported to be in line for promotion as deputy ministers.

With two ministers and two deputy ministers resigning from parliament also, one new MP was sworn- in last week and the other three are likely to take oaths soon. Those in line are: Janak Mahendra Adhikari, Bandula Yalegama, and H.R. Mithrapala. Last week L.B. Jayasundara replaced Mr. Weerwanni.

SLFP sources said changes in the party would essentially mean the infusion of new blood while the old guard would go down or out. Among those whose wings are likely to be clipped are Amarasiri Dodangoda, Mahinda Rajapakse, Dharmasiri Senanayake, D M. Jayaratne, Anuruddha Ratwatte and Richard Pathirane.

The ailing Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike is expected to step down from the party presidency which she has held for almost four decades to make way for President Kumaratunga to take over.

This is likely at a ceremony to be held on June 26.

Board seeks direction on Arjuna's position

The trouble-ridden Cricket Board is seeking clarification from Sports Minister S. B. Dissanayake on reports that he has asked Sri Lanka cricket captain Arjuna Ranatunga to step down in the aftermath of the country's World Cup disaster, a spokesman said yesterday.

Cricket Board Chief Executive Dhammika Ranatunga, younger brother of the captain, told The Sunday Times yesterday that the board needed clarification before acting in that regard.

Under the sports law, the Minister of Sports has the power to approve or reject the selection of national team members, including the captain, which means he has authority over the appointment or dropping of a captain.

On Friday the French news agency AFP in a Colombo datelined report quoted Mr. Dissanayake as telling the BBC Sinhala service Sandeshaya, he felt Arjuna Ranatunga had made a lot of mistakes and it was time for him to step down as captain though he could remain as a member of the team.

Only seven of Sri Lanka's 14 players from the World Cup have returned while the others, including Mr. Ranatunga, are still on some personal tours abroad, amid widespread concern and anger among millions of Sri Lankan cricket fans over the team's debacle in the World Cup.

Not only the national team, the Cricket Board also is in disarray following a court order debarring the Board president Thilanga Sumathipala and other top officials from carrying out their functions.

On Friday, the sports ministry, reportedly on the directions of President Kumaratunga, appointed five eminent personalities as an interim committee to administer the Cricket Board. The committee headed by Colombo Stock Exchange and Hatton National Bank chief Rienzie Wijetilleke, includes former captain Michael Tissera along with well known cricketers S. Skandakumar, Sidath Wettimuny and Asantha de Mel.

Since Sri Lanka's early ungraceful exit from the World Cup pressure has been growing among cricket fans and others for Arjuna Ranatunga to step down along with older or ageing players and for young blood to be infused.

More details on sports.

Gamini played ghost for 11 years

A fugitive who had been playing dead since 1988 has been killed in a street brawl in Pannala.

W. Leslie Gamini of Gonulle, had 61 cases pending against him in the Negombo courts which apparently drove him to feigning death in 1988.

Pannala Police inspector Athula de Silva said Gamini's wife had identified a floating corpse in the Ma Oya as being that of her husband.

She admitted they had obtained his death certificate prematurely in 1988.

It is believed that Gamini was hacked to death last Tuesday, eleven years after he was officially certified as dead.

Two suspects allegedly involved in the killing have surrendered to the police.

Media gag report ready for cabinet

By Ayesha R. Rafiq

Widely criticised moves to curb the reporting of cabinet meetings, are going ahead with the report of a special committee being handed over to the Justice Minister.

Justice Ministry Secretary M. S. Jayasinghe said yesterday the report of the three-member committee would be taken up by the cabinet this week amidst growing protest against what is seen as a fresh attempt to muzzle the free media.

The committee comprising the secretaries of the Media and Justice ministries and a senior official of the Attorney General's department was appointed last month after President Kumaratunga expressed serious concern over continuing leaks from cabinet meetings.

The committee was told to look into ways through which the Official Secret Acts of 1953 or Press Council laws could be invoked to plug the cabinet news leak.

The Editors' Guild of Sri Lanka and the Free Media Movement along with other media and civic rights groups have rallied together in a protest campaign against the move.

In a statement last week, Sri Lanka's editors accused the government of trying to muzzle the free media instead of disciplining ministers to abide by the principles of cabinet responsibility.

AA warns web drivers

Sri Lankans seeking international driving permits have been warned not to fall for a racket which offers such licences on Internet.

Automobile Association chief Anton Kandiah said the AA was the sole authority in Sri Lanka for the issue of international licences on behalf of the Department of Motor Traffic.

He said those who obtain international licences through other sources could end up in trouble with international police.

For Madhu students Royal was a palace

By Chris Kamalendran

Students from schools in the recently liberated Madhu area are currently on an educational tour to the south.

The tour organised by the Army was aimed at building relations between the north and south and is the second time that a group of children have been brought down from the north.

On Friday they were taken to the museum, zoolological garden and the Planetarium. They were also given a grand welcome by students of Royal College.

The group comprising 45 boys and girls will visit today the Dalada Maligawa, the Peradeniya botanical gardens and the elephant orphanage at Pinnawala.

Selvarasa Paralohanayagi, 18, said: "I had seen Colombo only on the map. I thought Colombo is another area like Wanni, but Colombo is different and it is an unforgettable day in my life."

Sivalingam Indumathi, 17, said when they entered Royal College they thought it was a palace. But for them, they had to undergo difficulties with their education. She said books were not available to carry on with their studies. "We hope that one day our area will also be developed like this," she added.

B. Jeganathan, a teacher who accompanied the students, said the students were keen to come to Colombo and they hoped more students would get similar opportunities.

Brigadier Madura Wijeyawickrama who co-ordinated the tour said they hoped to organise more tours from the north to build relations with the south.

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