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Dy Transport Minister grabs Mental Hospital land

By Irosha Weththasingha
More than fifty acres of land belonging to the Mental Hospital of Mulleriyawa has been grabbed by Deputy Minister of Transport and Highways Banet Coorey to start a housing scheme, causing inconvenience to the patients the Government Medical Officers’ Association (GMOA) alleged yesterday.

The GMOA said in a press release that the land is being taken without any acknowledgment by the deputy minister to distribute among his supporters to win votes in the forthcoming election.

Hospital sources said that earlier, 12 acres of land belonging to the hospital were handed over to the National Housing Development Authority under the orders given by the President. "But now more than fifty acres of land which belongs to the hospital are being cleared and bulldozed under the directions of the deputy minister", a senior official of the hospital told The Islanad. He said that the authorities were not informed in anyway about this takeover. They alleged that the deputy minister is misusing his powers and grabbing the land which belongs to the hospital to win votes.

Hospital authorities said that they have even bulldozed the garage of the Medical Superintendent. "This is very pathetic because mentally retarded patients need a calm and quiet atmosphere", one official said insisting that if a housing scheme is built in these premises it would cause great inconvenience to patients.

GMOA alleges that robbing the land of the Mental Hospital is an indication of how seriously the government takes their promises about developing the Health Services. In the press release signed by the Secretary Dr. Anuruddha Padeniya, the GMOA had urged the President to take action against this land grabbing.

Meanwhile the Medical Superintendent of the Mental Hospital said that he had complained to the Health Minister and to the secretary of the ministry but no action has been taken so far.

Attempts to reach Deputy Minister Banet Coorey were unsuccessful because he was out of Colombo.

About 1400 resident patients are currently being treated in 25 wards of the Mulleriyawa Mental Hospital.


Midweek Politics
PA-UNP boxing continues

By Prasad Gunewardene
The People’s Alliance and the United National Party are likely to clash again over the issue of the transitional provisions of the President when talks resume next week to finalise the draft. At the conclusion of the talks last Friday, the government moved to retain the executive presidency till 2005 despite a new constitution being planned to come into operation in the coming months. The UNP stated that it needed time to think over the proposal. The government’s position was that the executive presidency should continue as the war was on.

The government’s position was made clear by Justice Minister Prof. G. L. Peiris who said that a strong executive president was necessary to face the war and pledged that once the war was over, the President would return to parliament as the executive Prime Minister. UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe said if the executive presidency continued after the implementation of the new constitution, the objective of a new administration would be lost. Both sides however, agreed to discuss the issue later.

The position taken by Minister Peiris that a strong executive presidential system was a need to face the war is now being analysed by many in the opposition. As the government wants the system to go on till 2005, the government will have to finish the war by that deadline. The UNP says that the PA has never kept promises and recalled the pledge to abolish the executive presidency given in 1994. It also claims that if the war is not finished by that year, the government may be forced to amend the new constitution to revert to the executive presidential system as Minister Peiris claims that a strong Executive President was a need to end the war.

UNP sources said that when the issue is taken up for discussion at the next meeting it would pressurise the government to follow the provisions in the proposed constitution if it wanted a new administration that would be a solution to the national problem. Already the two parties are at loggerheads over the subjects of the Independent Election Commission and the Electoral Reforms. While the PA has refused the set up the Independent Elections Commission before the next general election it is planning to introduce the electoral reforms in parliament next week. The UNP is prepared to support it if both issues are treated together in parliament simultaneously.

The government is keen to get the electoral reforms through to hold the general election on the first-past-the-post-system followed by a district PR list and a national list. The new system will increase the number of MPs to 270. For this exercise, the government needs a two thirds majority in the House. UNP cabinet Minister in the PA, Sarath Amunugama is working hard these days to grab more UNPers to support these reforms. Amunugama also had a hand in drafting the proposed electoral reforms.

With UNP senior parliamentarian Ronnie de Mel having gone half way to support the PA, Amunugama is reported to be successful in his attempt in tapping more UNP MPs during the last weekend. De Mel is expected to be in full swing with the PA on his return from London, sources close to De Mel indicated. Over the weekend, Amunugama met a group of UNPers at a venue in Colombo. If there is another defection from the UNP this week, it will be led by a young MP from the Galle district whose father supported President Kumaratunga at the last presidential election. Political sources said that UNP defectors who would support the PA in the electoral reforms to get a two thirds majority would be ‘handsomely’ rewarded.

Amunugama has assured Kumaratunga that he would definitely get the required sixteen votes from the UNP. So far, he has six men in his fold with Ronnie De Mel to walk the balance distance into the PA camp. That will make the number seven. The latest attempt during the weekend indicates that six more UNPers are likely to fall into the ‘handsome reward’ scheme. Among those six are two men from Hambantota and Kandy known to be severe critics of the President over the past six years but now full of praise for Chandrika in the corridors of the parliament. This ‘handsome reward’ scheme is popular in the political circles and the last occasion that competition was held was to bring in Ronnie de Mel and Gamini Dissanayake into Parliament during the Wijetunge era. Then it was heard that some members who agreed to make way were ‘handsomely’ rewarded.


79 Tigers killed in Jaffna - Govt.

At least 79 terrorists were killed in three separate confrontations in the Jaffna peninsula on Monday [10], the Special Media Information Centre [SMIC] said in a statement issued yesterday. The number of terrorists wounded in these confrontations which took place at Ariyalai near Jaffna, in general area Chavakachcheri and Poonari was placed at 118, according to the statement.

At least 19 soldiers including an officer were killed and 94 wounded in action at Ariyalai on the same day. Security forces did not suffer casualties at Chavakachcheri and Poonari.

Armed forces spokesman Brigadier Palitha Fernando said that terrorists suffered heavy losses when troops destroyed an enemy bunker line and captured a strong point ahead of the army’s defences. Of the 79 terrorists killed on Monday, 62 died and 118 were wounded at Ariyalai, he said.

The SMIC said that security forces mounted a limited operation against an enemy bunker line at Ariyalai. The offensive mounted from Colombuthurai resulted in the destruction of the bunker line and the capture of the strong point, situated approximately 750 m ahead of the army’s forward defence localities. The SMIC said that troops had to overcome minefields and other obstacles ahead of their bunker line.

The SMIC said that ground troops have observed more than 30 bodies of terrorists in the area. However, monitored enemy transmissions revealed that 62 terrorists were killed and 118 wounded.

At Chavakachcheri, troops assaulted a house and a bunker killing 12 terrorists while at Poonari, troops shot dead five terrorists, the SMIC said.

Meanwhile, an army fighting patrol operating in general area Otiyamalai in Welioya attacked a tractor carrying at least 12 terrorists on Monday. According to the SMIC all terrorists were killed. Troops did not suffer casualties.

Brigadier Fernando said that troops carried out a series of successful operations in the peninsula in the past few weeks. Last week over 50 terrorists were killed and dozens wounded in an offensive carried out in the Nagarkovil [south] area, he said.


Priest and 4 civilians killed in terrorist fire

Terrorists fired mortars at the Vilgamwehera detachment which is located close to the Vilgamwehera temple on Monday around 9 p.m., the Information Department said.

A priest received injuries and four civilians were killed due to the terrorist mortar fire. Reinforcements from the nearby detachment were dispached to the area.


UNP MP questions PA before crossing over

The following questions by the UNP Trincomalee district MP Ariyapala Walpitigama were listed on the parliamentary order paper for July 07, 2000, before he crossed over to the PA. The first set of questions were asked from Minister Anuruddha Ratwatte and the second from Minister Mangala Samaraweera.

a. Does he admit that according to the manifesto of the PA government it has been promised to give a promotion to everyone who has completed 15 years service in the police?

(1)

b. Does he admit that action has not been taken to fulfil the said promise although five years have elapsed since the PA government came into power?

c. Will he take steps to fulfil that promise?

d. If so, will he state from which date?

e. If not, why?

And [2]

a. Is he aware it had been promised in the 1994 PA Manifesto to strengthen the media and to create an atmosphere conducive for them to move freely without fear?

b. Does he accept that the media personnel who had been reporting the demonstration held on 15th July, 1999 demanding to fulfil the promises given on the day the government completed five years in office were assaulted by President’s Security Division personnel?

c. Will he disclose to this House whether the press conference held to convey cabinet decisions on 10.09.1999 justified the attack on media personnel?

d. Will he disclose to this House the action taken against the persons who assaulted Mr. Lasantha Wickremathunga, the editor of the Sunday Leader?

e. Will he take steps to eliminate the threat posed to the freedom of the media personnel by the present PA government?

f. If not, why?


‘L series passport still valid’

by Dilanthi Jayamanne
The L series passport is valid till year 2006 and is accepted by the embassies of the United States, United Kingdom, Australia and Japan and many other embassies in Colombo the Controller Immigration and Emigration, Passport Division, N. Bambarawanage said.

He told The Island that the Government of Sri Lanka has not recommended that travellers abroad acquire the M series passport so that they may get their visas at the relevant embassies.

He further added that the Indian High Commission in Sri Lanka is acting on an order issued by its government.

According to Indian Embassy sources the M series passport is recommended as it is machine readable. Therefore travellers going to India are advised to get the M- series passport. They were aversive to the question as to whether or not they would issue a visa for an L series passport.

A new passport costs around Rs. 2,500.

It takes around three weeks to obtain it. The F Form should be filled and handed over to the passport office. Assistant Commissioner Immigration and Emigration, A. P. G. Kithsiri stressed that only the F Form was required to get an all countries passport. He added that the traveller had to pay Rs. 2,500 for it. If he or she wanted it within one day the cost was Rs. 5,000.

Considering the cost of a new passport, and the cost of the air ticket to India, which is around Rs. 18,000-19,000; a normal traveller would feel the pinch. "Middle class people like us find it difficult to face the expenses when we get there," said Vimala Kumarie, who had come to the passport office to get her passport made. "I am a retired officer who worked for a well known bank in the country, that does not mean that I have been producing money," a man who was digressed at the trouble he has to go through to get his passport and then to have it rejected by the Indian Embassy since it was an L series passport said.

According to embassy sources they only advice the traveller to get the M Series passport, "we don’t reject it." The Indian High Commission is prompt in issuing visas on time they said. The source further added that their main aim was to go in for a better series passport.


Project to determine DNA basis of SL’s ethnic differences

by Sumadhu Weerawarne
Plans are afoot to compare the genetic make-up of the different ethnic groups in the country. The project the first of its kind will first map out and then compare the DNA of a sampling of the populace.

This project will be funded by the Department of Archaeology and carried out in conjunction with the Chemistry Department of the University of Colombo.

Archaeological Commissioner Dr. Siran Deraniyagala said that the intention of the project is to find out whether there are any distinct differences in terms of DNA make-up that make one ethnicity different from the other. "This will shed light on the genetic distance between the different groups in the country, if there is such," he said.

All groups including the aboriginal people, the veddahs of the country will be covered under the study.

He added that the project will involve not only the study of the DNA of sections of the current population, but also comparison with findings related to skeletal material of early population. The skeletal material of the 19th century Sri Lankan aboriginal population will be compared with the skeletal material of early population.

The definition of the term ethnicity includes race as a component of such definition. The term race denotes a division of humankind, each having distinct physical characteristics. What the DNA mapping will establish is whether the different "ethnic" groups are such in real terms.

The biological function of the DNA or deoxyribonucleic acid is the preservation and transmission of a genetic message, encoded in the sequence of its bases. It is the chief material in chromosomes, the cell bodies that control the heredity of an animal or a plant.

The initial funding for the project is half a million rupees.


Bread, pastries and flour
Internal Trade conducts extensive survey on prices and weight

The Ministry of Internal and International Commerce & Food announced on Tuesday that the Department of Internal Trade conducted an extensive survey, last week on the prices of bread, pastries and bakery products made from wheat flour in the thickly populated districts of Colombo, Galle, Kalutara, and Kandy. Simultaneously, checks were made on the weight of bread sold consumers.

This survey was directed by Minister Kingsley Wickremaratne.

The inspectors in Kandy district reported that the prices of bread had been reduced by 50 cents. Other bakery products such as pastries have not been reduced as yet.

Galle and Kalutara reported that prices have not been reduced yet as they were still using previously acquired stocks of wheat flour. It is expected that when they purchase new stocks that prices would be reduced. Colombo and its suburbs reported similarly as bakers reportedly said that they had not received stocks at revised price of Rs. 15:15 per kilo.

Bakery owners said they were not in a position to reduce the prices of other bakery products because of the high prices of sugar, yeast, margarine (Hyco), diesel fuel, gas and vegetable oil, the prices of which had all increased recently.

The Ministry directed the Internal Trade authorities to conduct this survey in order to get a clearer picture of ground realities. The object is to find ways and means to cushion the effect of price escalations on the cost-of-living and reduce the burden imposed on citizens. Minister, Kingsley T. Wickremaratne, is keenly monitoring the situation and will continue to direct measures designed to afford maximum relief to consumers.


If demands not met
Tamil teachers to take TU action from July 21

by Franklin R. Satyapalan
Over 20,000 members of the All Ceylon Tamil Teachers’ Association yesterday threatened to resort to trade union action from July 21 unless their six demands were met, General Secretary T. Mahasivam said yesterday.

The association demands that the government calls a halt to the war and to find a political solution through a dialouge with the LTTE with the mediation of Norway and India.

Mahasivam thanked all teachers and principals who made the earlier one day token strike a success.

More than 1,600 Tamil and Muslim schools did not function last Friday due to the token strike and 535,000 Tamil and Muslim children were affected.

"We have forwarded the six demands to President Chandrika Kumaratunga and Minister of Education and Higher Education Richard Pathirana before we embark on a non-violent "Ahimsa" mode of struggle to obtain our demands", Mahasivam said.

"We have no political affiliations nor objectives and our trade union action is solely to seek redress to problems faced by our membership", he said.

"We have also proposed to keep away from marking Advanced Level answer scripts due next August if our demands are not granted", he added.


Pilgrimage of peace to Madhu from Ratnapura

Four hundred and ninety eight pilgrims, including priests and religious belonging to both the Sinhala and Tamil communities, and drawn from the parishes of the diocese of Ratnapura led by His Lordship Bishop Malcolm Ranjith returned after their annual pilgrimage to Madhu on Saturday, states a press release from Bishop’s House, Eheliyagoda.

This year’s pilgrimage was especially oriented towards praying for peace for the country torn apart by war and violence. Permission for the pilgrimage was granted by the Ministry of Defence and after the security checks facilitated by the Sri Lankan Army the pilgrims crossed over in to the uncleared area of the Wanni. They were received by the officials of the LTTE and after due checks were allowed to proceed to the shrine. All facilities were arranged by the administrator, Rev. Fr. Stan Philip O.M.I. During their stay in the shrine religious services for peace and reconciliation were conducted. The pilgrims had the opportunity to interact with the refugees resident in the UNHCR camp at Madhu numbering 10,000. All religious services were conducted both in Sinhala and Tamil.

Bishop Malcolm Ranjith in his sermon appealed for immediate cessation of hostilities between the contending parties and the initiation of the process of negotiations in order to arrive at a just and permanent solution to the crisis. He expressed sadness that there is an increased militarization of the conflict and reiterated that peace can come only through negotiations.

The pilgrims who went to Madhu expressed sadness at the sufferings these refugees have to undergo as a result of the war and at the offertory procession during the Holy Mass offered items such as exercise books, pencils, pens and the other items for use by the children in the schools at the camp. They noted that the refugee children had to make many sacrifices in order to get their scholastic education. The classes are being conducted under trees with minimum facilities. The entire pilgrimage was arranged by the Ratnapura Diocesan Office for Human Development, Justice and Peace, headed by Rev. Fr. Dudley Attanayake.


15 tons of geuda taken out of country
Lack of know-how severe loss to country, says Prof Dharmaratna

Ratnapura: In the last 15 years over 15 tons of geuda have been taken out of the country. This variety of gems is mostly found only in Sri Lanka. Had we known the technical know-how of turning geuda into gems, it would have been 15 tons of valuable gems sent out instead of geuda stones.

This was stated by the Chairman of the Gems and Jewellery Authority Professor T. G. R. Dharmaratna at a seminar held at Hotel Nilani, Ratnapura, organised by Professor Mahinda Rupasinghe, Chairman of the Gems and Jewellery Research Institute.

Professor Dharmaratna said geuda has been specified as diesel geuda, ottu geuda, red and yellow geuda. At the start geuda was heated only in Japan. Today we are able to heat geuda and transform it to blue sapphire. When these stones are exported to America it is obligatory that we issue a certificate to confirm whether these stones are original or treated ones.

Prof. Mahinda Rupasinghe addressing the seminar stated some years ago a villager from Elahera gave him a stone which he called ‘Benz katta’ when he examined this stone at the Sri Lanka Scientific and Technical Development Board he noted a glistering portion inside the stone. Mr. Rohitha Perera who is running a gem cutting centre in Ratnapura and earns US dollars one lakh per month.

Prof. Mahinda Rupasinghe said sequence to a request from the Chief Minister of Sabaragamuwa classes are conducted on gemmology at the Sabaragamuwa University. Students will be taught scientific methods of gemming, cutting and polishing. A knowledge on gem trade would be taught.

Prof. Dayananda Somasundera, Vice Chancellor of the Sabaragamuwa University related about one of his school friends who used to roam about the streets of Ratnapura, with the small scale gem traders, during his school vacation. Fortunately for him he could not enter University. Today he is a millionaire and an internationally reputed gem merchant. On his part he was unfortunate to take up university education and has to contend with a monthly salary.

Chief Minister Athauda Seneviratna said that present and future generations should be equipped with a scientific knowledge of gems and mere hereditary or traditional knowledge was not sufficient. Our university can be of assistance in this sphere. We had to face a colossal loss as we lacked knowledge in the value of geuda. There may be other varieties which are treated as valueless but may possess such potential values like geuda. Our researchers should direct their attention on such stones. The results of such research should reach the gem pit workers as well. Those in the gem trade should be honest. It was late Dr. N. M. Perera who established the Gem Corporation in 1970 when he was a minister. Those in the gem industry in Ratnapura benefited most. They should as a gesture of gratitude erect his statue at Ratnapura. It is regretted to note even a street is not named after him.

Governor Salia Mathew also spoke.


Lunar eclipse on July 16

Three eclipses occur in this month, two solar and one lunar as a result of sun earth and moon aligning to a near straight line position. Though the two partial solar eclipses (on July 2nd and July 31st) were not visible to Sri Lanka, the total lunar eclipse due on July 16th full moon poya day is visible to us from 07.02 p.m. onwards in the Eastern horizon after the sunset.

This eclipse is especially noteworthy due to the fact that the moon passes almost dead center through the earth’s shadow.

July 16th, 2000 lunar eclipse is the longest total lunar eclipse visible to the world since August 13, 1859. The next lunar eclipse that lasts this long occurs on June 9, 2123!

The eclipse starts at 4.47 p.m. the totality begins at 7.02 p.m. with mid-eclipse reaches at 7.56 p.m. The total eclipse ends at 8.49 p.m. with moon being gradually uncovered by the earth’s shadow and the eclipse ends up at 11.04 p.m.

Astronomers predict that total lunar eclipses in the future including this one would not be seen in dark brown or reddish black colour, as what we have seen in the past several decades.

Due to the pollution and less clarity of the earth’s atmosphere, the refraction of more reddened sun light into the earth’s shadow might result a bright orange-red moon during the totality. Watch out and observe it by yourself says Dr. Chandana Jayaratne, Senior Lecturer in Physics, University of Colombo.


TULF in talks with President wants LTTE included in peace process

A press release from the TULF stated on Monday .

"On the invitation of the President a delegation of the TULF comprising R. Sampanthan Secretary General, V. Anandasangari Senior Vice President, Joseph Pararajasingham, M. P., and Mavai S. Senathirajah, M.P., met the President at Temple Trees on Monday July 10. Prof. G. L. Peiris Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, along with Ministers M. H. M. Ashraff, Indika Gunawardena and Batty Weerakoon were present.

The President explained to the TULF delegation the outcome of the discussions held with the UNP.

The TULF impressed upon the President the vital importance of the proposed constitutional formations being acceptable particularly in regard to the structure of the State, the Unit of Devolution and Powers relating to State Land. The TULF also expressed their strong objections to the proposal to hold a referendum in regard to the unit of Devolution.

The TULF also impressed upon the government that the LTTE should be involved in the negotiating process in order to bring an end to the war and an effective resolution of the conflict.


President tells diplomatic community
'We have opened the doors for talks with LTTE'

President Chandrika Kumaratunga met the members of the diplomatic and a delegation of the European Commission and briefed them on the security situation in the North, the state of the economy and steps taken to resolve the North East crisis.

The President stated that she had met 13 of the 14 political parties representing Parliament to discuss the national crisis and described it as an achievement at a time of crisis.

She disclosed the details of the talks she had with the UNP and noted that she should meet the UNP again after her talks with the Tamil parties.

The President pointed out that she would place the new constitution in Parliament during the first week in August.

"We have opened the doors for talks with the LTTE and they would join", the President stressed.


Army search for Tigers in Ariyalai

by Norman Palihawadane
The army on Monday launched an operation to search and destroy LTTE terrorists in hiding at Ariyalai, Jaffna, military sources said.

The Airforce launched attacks on a number of enemy targets, military sources said.

Reports said the operation led by a senior army officer has caused heavy damages to the terrorists.

The operation was being continued at the time this edition went to press.

Meanwhile, security forces conducted a limited operation to destroy a terrorist bunker line in Ariyalai area. Early this morning troops advanced from their forward defended localities in Colombuthurai area and after successfully destroying the terrorist positions, concluded the operation by noon.

Ground troops had to negotiate a very large number of anti-personnel mines planted by the LTTE which resulted in troops having to spend a considerable time before assaulting the bunker line. One officer and eighteen soldiers were killed in action while ninety four security forces personnel were wounded.

Troops who assaulted the positions held by the terrorist confirm heavy casualties to terrorists. Figures are not available at this point of time.

Meanwhile, LTTE transmissions have declared names of fifty three of their cadres killed during the operation launched by the security forces south of Nargarkovil on July 4.


NJC to Govt., UNP
‘Let public know proposals discussed secretly’

by Saman Indrajith
National Joint Committee (NJC) calls upon the Government and UNP to disclose immediately to the public the contents of proposals on constitutional reforms discussed in secrecy, a spokesman of the NJC said.

Dr. Piyasena Dissanayake, the Secretary of the NJC on Monday said that according to media reports, PA-UNP talks on constitutional reforms ended last Friday with both parties reaching consensus on "virtually" all aspects of the proposed constitution. "The talks were held in very strict secrecy. The public at large who would face the consequences of the constitutional reforms, are totally unaware of what is in store for them when these proposals eventually become the fundamental law of this country," he said.

"This is a strange practice alien to democracy. Such a practice unheard of in democratic countries where such issues are discussed and debated openly," he said.

Dr. Dissanayake in a press communique says "However, from what little bits and pieces of information that has appeared in the press, it looks as the age-old unitary character of the state has to give way to a complete federal system with autonomous regional councils enjoying much wider and far-reaching powers than Indian states." The proposed Interim Council for the North and East appears to have been designed to meet the Tamil demand for the recognition of these provinces as their traditional homeland at the end of a five year period. It is also learnt that both parties have agreed to delete the existing provision in the Constitution which granted "the foremost place" to Buddhism.

Clearly these are calculated to radically alter the political and social structure of Sri Lanka and call for very close scrutiny. The government must resist all temptations to hurry them through Parliament however advantages these may appear to them in political terms, he said.

"We therefore call upon the government and the UNP to release these proposals immediately for the information of the public," he added.


CWC rebels to support UNP if govt. takes no action

The five rebels in the Ceylon Workers Congress will support the United National Party if the party’s internal dispute with Minister Arumugam Thondaman was not resolved by the government, a member of the CWC dissident group said on Monday.

Senior member of the group, S. Sathasivam said they were monitoring the developments within the CWC to take necessary action about their political future.

He said they met UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe last week to discuss the constitutional reforms. (FRS)

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