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MEP, UNP Alternative Group to contest on PA list
by Shan Wijetunga

The Mahajana Eksath Peramuna [MEP] and the UNP’s Alternative Group on Wednesday decided to contest the forthcoming parliamentary elections with the People’s Alliance, senior party officials said yesterday.

The MEP and the Alternative Group backed President Chandrika Kumaratunga at the last presidential election.

Senior representatives of the constituent parties of the PA were informed of the decision at a special meeting chaired by President Chandrika Kumaratunga. They said that discussions were taking place in a bid to include the MEP and the Alternative Group candidates in the PA’s nomination lists.

During the meeting, the President has said that the election would take place as scheduled and directed the PA officials to get on with their work.

They said that the constituent parties of the PA were expected to discuss the inclusion of the MEP and the Alternative Group candidates in the PA’s nomination lists before the PA’s Executive Committee takes a final decision.

Informed sources said that the top SLFP leadership fully supports the inclusion of these candidates in the PA’s nomination lists.

However, some senior PA officials have expressed concern over the SLMC’s decision to contest the general election on its own, the sources said adding that the PA would urge the SLMC to change its decision when its leader Minister M. H. M. Ashraff returns from Tehran on Tuesday.

The SLMC decision taken on the previous day, just hours before President Kumaratunga sent Minister Ashraff as a special envoy to Tehran angered some senior PA officials. However, they were confident that President Kumaratunga could persuade the SLMC to revert to the August 1994 arrangement.

The SLMC which contested Colombo, Kandy and Puttalam districts in the August 16, 1994 parliamentary election under the PA and five of the six districts in the North and the East region on its own wanted to contest the scheduled parliamentary election separately.

Asked to comment, the General Secretary and the Deputy Chairman of Committees Rauff Hakeem yesterday told ‘The Island’ that they decided to contest on their own with a view to securing some additional seats in the parliament. He believes that the party stood a better chance of winning more seats if it contested under its own symbol.

The SLMC’s decision has fuelled speculation that the party had major differences with the PA. Hakeem scotched reports, speculation and rumours of the PA-SLMC trouble. "We’ll continue to support the PA," he said yesterday .

Ashraff to Tehran as special envoy
President thanks Iran for help
by Shamindra Ferdinando

President Chandrika Kumaratunga has sent Minister M. H. M. Ashraff as a special envoy in Tehran to thank the Iranian President Mohammad Khatami for crucial support Iran extended to Sri Lanka during the recent crisis in the Jaffna peninsula, highly placed officials said yesterday.

They said Iran was among countries which promptly responded to Sri Lanka’s call for support when separatist LTTE terrorists threatened to regain Jaffna soon after the fall of the strategic Elephant Pass base in the third week of April. However, timely acquisition of new arms, ammunition and equipment helped Sri Lankan forces to check the enemy advance and mount a series of counter- attacks causing losses among the LTTE.

Minister Ashraff left Colombo in the early hours of Wednesday, the sources said adding that during the week-long visit, the Minister was scheduled to meet several senior Iranian leaders and officials. He was expected to return on Tuesday.

President Kumaratunga has sent Minister Lakshman Jayakody to thank the Pakistani ruler while Minister Mangala Samaraweera a week ago visited Prague where he thanked the Czech president for helping Sri Lanka during the Jaffna crisis. An aide to Minister Jayakody said that the Minister was scheduled to visit to more countries after meeting with the Pakistani leader.

Pensioners agitate for higher pension

Sri Lanka Pensioners’ Agitation Front yesterday held a meeting at Sugathadasa Indoor Stadium to discuss ways and means of forcing the government to increase their pensions. Front’s Secretary T. D. Fernando urged the members to meet with MPs in their respective areas and stress the need to remove pension anomalies by extending the privileges the MPs are now enjoying to the pensioners.

He said that the allocation for pensioners in the 1998 budget is less than 4.57% of the total expenditure. He also said that they have a voting strength of about two million persons including family members while stressing the need to fight for their rights.

Sworn-in as Acting Minister

Deputy Minister of Port Development, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Reggie Ranatunga took his oaths as Acting Minister of Port Development, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction, before President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga at Temple Trees yesterday morning.

British Under Secretary here to discuss ethnic conflict
by Franklin R. Satyapalan

The new British Under Secretary of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Mr. Peter Westmacott was due to arrive in Sri Lanka yesterday evening for a two day visit during which he was scheduled to hold discussions on a wide range of subjects including the ethnic conflict with government and opposition leaders, a spokesman for the British High Commission said yesterday.

Deputy British High Commissioner Mr. Martin Hill said that Mr. Peter Westmacott is on an informal familiarisation visit.

Mr. Peter Westmacott was to meet with President Chandrika Kumaratunga last night.

He is scheduled to meet Opposition and UNP Leader Ranil Wickremasinghe and Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar today.

The visiting British Under Secretary was to meet a cross section of Government, Opposition, political parties, Tamil political parties and business leaders before his departure on Saturday, Mr. Hill said.

Mr. Peter Westmacott’s visit to Sri Lanka follows earlier visits by US Under Secretary for Political Affairs Mr. Thomas Pickering, Indian Foreign Minister Jaswanth Singh and Norwegian Foreign Minister’s special Envoy Mr. Erik Solheim in attempts to help resolve the country’s ethnic problem peacefully.

British High Commissioner Ms. Linda Duffield and the Deputy Mr. Martin Hill will also be associated in the discussions.

Mr. Peter Westmacott was scheduled to meet with delegations from the TULF, PLOTE and EPDP tonight.

Sri Lanka Telecom to provide 100,000 more telephone connections by year end

Sri Lanka Telecom (SLT) is planning to install another 100,000 telephones by the end of this year, it said in a press release yesterday. SLT had installed an underground fibre optic cable connecting the exchanges of 15 major cities in four provinces at a total cost of Rs. 1.5 billion covering about 700 km to achieve faster and better transmission.

SLT plans to lay four more fibre optic rings in the Colombo Metro area and in the suburbs connecting 27 exchanges at a total cost of Rs. 400 million it said.

During the last four years SLT has provided 350,000 new telephones. At present Sri Lanka Telecom has 283 exchanges and it operates 186 transmission towers islandwide. According to the press release about 600,000 sites can now access the Internet and use the network to pursue e-commerce.

To ensure high quality international voice calls SLT has invested in an under sea cable which connects 30 countries. In the past 3 years SLT has invested Rs. 35 billion in developing the infrastructure, it said.

Major part of the funds for these development work comes from the revenue that SLT receives as the only authorized licensed operator to provide international voice telephone to and from Sri Lanka till August 2002, the press release further said.

New EFC— CMU Collective Agreement
Salary increase of 15% and further 5% next year

The Employer’s Federation of Ceylon (EFC) and the Ceylon Mercantile, Industrial and General Workers’ Union (CMU) yesterday signed the revised Collective Agreement which will be effective for a minimum period of 3 years from June 1, 2000.

Under the revised agreement employees in the supervisory, clerical and minor grades attached to the offices of the subscribing companies will receive a salary increase of 15% and a further 5% in June 2001. These employees also receive a Non Recurring Cost of Living Gratuity at Rs. 2 per point, E. F. G. Amarasinghe, Director General of the Federation said.

The first Collec-tive Agreement between the EFC and CMU was signed in 1961 and was preceded by an Award of an Industrial Court. The Industrial Court Award, which is popularly called the Canakaratne Award, was the result of the first reference to an Industrial Court under the Industrial Disputes Act of 1950. Since 1961 without a break there have been Collective Agree-ments which gives this particular agreement historical importance and value.

The agreement will cover twenty eight companies who have voluntarily subscribed to the terms and conditions contained therein. However, this agreement is also used as a standard setter by many companies in the private sector in Sri Lanka.

The agreement was signed on behalf of the CMU by its General Secretary, Mr. P. B. Tampoe and Mr. Costa of its Executive Com-mittee. On behalf of the EFC, the Agreement was signed by the Director General of the EFC.

Jaffna St. Patrick’s College celebrates 150 years of service to youth

St. Patrick’s College, Jaffna, a leading educational institution in the country, celebrates its 150th anniversary in this millennium year. It was established in 1850, as "Jaffna Catholic English Boys’ School", and up-graded as "St. Patrick’s College" in 1881.

St. Patrick’s pioneered many educational reforms and developments from its inception. Vocational subjects were introduced in 1889; and technical subjects in 1901. The College Library, as old as the College itself, was always maintained well, with up to date collection of books and periodicals. A well-equipped science laboratory was set up in 1911.

The efforts of its Rectors and Staff bore rich harvest from early times. At the Matriculation Examination of the University of London, the College produced the best results among all schools in the then vast British Empire, in the years 1922; 1932 to 1935; and again in 1937. Character formation in students was of utmost concern, and the loftiest ideals in life were implanted in their young minds. Sports and other extra-curricular activities were encouraged.

In the past, when conditions in the island permitted, St. Patrick’s had within its portals, students of all races and religions, from all parts of the country. Though managed by the Catholic Church, students of other religions were equally well cared for. The College was so popular with all that there was a special hostel for Non-Catholic students. Ample opportunities were given to the poorer children in the neighbourhood. The government of the country acknowledged the services of the College to the nation, when it issued a stamp in 1990, commemorating its famous Rector- Rev. Fr. Long O.M.I. - as a national hero.

Though the current troubled times present a formidable challenge for the College, it still continues to serve, with admirable success, in spite of such great impediments. With full hope in a better future, the College has drawn up plans to re-construct and re-vitalize itself, for its continuing mission, to serve the nation’s youth.

"Fide Et Labore" - faith in God, and sincere work by all Patricians, will see St. Patrick’s taking its stride, against all odds, to serve the future youngsters of the nation, as she had done during her glorious past.

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