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Peace moves hit rocky road as deadline looms

by Amal Jayasinghe
COLOMBO, June 16 —
Three months after President Chandrika Kumaratunga and her main opposition began talks to find a way to end the country’s decades of ethnic bloodshed the euphoria has given way to anxiety.

"The most contentious issues are now up for discussion," a source close to the talks said. "The road ahead is rocky and strewn with landmines. The big question is how to bring the Tigers into the process".

The government early in the talks had sought to hammer out a bipartisan approach with the United National Party (UNP) they could take to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) guerrillas.

The LTTE are fighting for an independent homeland called Eelam in the island’s north and east. Their bloody offensives have left more than 60,000 people died over the past two decades and recent battles have created more than 16,000 refugees in the northern Jaffna peninsula, where the Tamil minority is concentrated.

But now according to Tamil political sources, the government appears to have shifted gears and wants to go straight to parliament with a draft peace plan they will present to the Tigers as a fait accompli.

"At the last meeting with the opposition on Wednesday, the president made it clear that she was reluctant to send the proposals to the LTTE and instead wanted to go to parliament straight away", another source close to the talks said.

"This seems like a U-turn on the part of the government as earlier there was broad consensus that the proposals should be given to the Tigers and then move to parliament," the source said.

Any agreement between the two main parties must be presented to parliament and approved before the assembly is dissolved on August 24. Fresh elections must be held by mid-November.

Any plan will also face pressure to succeed since the LTTE rejected Kumaratunga’s previous peace initiative in 1995.

Diplomats said Colombo had been encouraged by the United States, the European Union and India to move towards negotiations with the help of Norway which was invited to act as a third party facilitator in the conflict.

US Undersecretary for Political Affairs Thomas Pickering said here late last month that Washington would like to see talks between the government and the Tamil Tigers start "straight away".

Oslo has been acting as a peace facilitator for more than a year, but so far there have been no direct talks between Colombo and the Tigers.

Kumaratunga revealed earlier this month that Tiger rebels had rejected an offer for direct peace talks, but said she would press ahead with a radical devolution plan aimed at ending the bloodshed.

"For six years we have tried to talk to them and for six years have lied", Kumaratunga recently told the BBC but adding that any future talks would be subject to unspecified "conditions".

"(The LTTE) have deceived foreign countries and governments on the pretext they are going to talk and up to date they have refused to talk and now there is no question of talking unless certain conditions are fulfilled", she said.

"Previously there were no conditions except we should finish talks in a limited time-frame because the LTTE is known to drag on until they can get better prepared to come back and assassinate and kill and chop villagers and kill soldiers and all kinds of things".

Diplomats say a bipartisan approach between Kumaratunga’s People’s Alliance and the main opposition UNP is crucial for any peace process to succeed since the parties represent almost all the majority Sinhalese community.

The opposition UNP holds the balance of power in parliament and can make or break Kumaratunga’s sweeping political reforms, which would turn the country into a de facto federal state.

Meanwhile, the rebels have within the past two months escalated their attacks forcing the government to pour an additional 175 million dollars into the conflict. (AFP)

Nine provincial councillors risk losing seats

By Franklin. R. Satyapalan
The National Union of Workers (NUW), an umbrella organisation of Lankans of recent Indian descent who ran a slate of candidates at the 1999 Provincial Council election, is seeking the removal of nine provincial councillors including two ministers.

It has already served ‘show cause’ notices on the elected officials and said that further action will follow once the explanations are in.

The CWC, DWC and several other plantation unions and NGOs came under the NUW (Indian Vamsavali Makkal Perani) umbrella led by the late Mr. S. Thondaman, to present a joint front of people of recent Indian descent at those elections.

Of the nine provincial councillors challenged, eight belong to the CWC and one to the DWC.

The dispute between the NUW and the councillors hinges on intra-party differences within the NUW. Mr. P. V. Kandiah, general secretary of the NUW, said that their executive council had met last week and decided to seek the removal of the councillors.

 Kandiah alleges that when the electors of the provincial councillors seek their assistance for any purpose, the voters are asked to join the CWC or the DWC as the case may be. "The NUW was an umbrella organisation of all parties and other organisations of the people of recent Indian descent. We ran jointly at the last PC elections under the Peacock symbol as a united front and not to further the interests of the different constituents,’’ he said.

Nine NUW candidates were elected at last year’s PC elections, six from the Central Province, one each from the Uva, Sabaragamuwa and Western Provinces.

As a first step to seeking vacation of their elected offices, the nine provincial councillors have been issued ‘show cause’ notices by the NUW hierarchy. Kandiah said that further action will follow the receipt of explanations. If these are deemed unsatisfactory, the party will communicate with the Elections Commissioner and seek the vacation of these seats.

CWC leader Arumugam Thondaman said that he did not regard these developments as a major problem. "We can handle it," he said.

Thondaman already faces a rebellion from five out of the party’s eight MPs. The rebels, who are also vice-presidents of the CWC, no longer recognise Thondaman as their leader.

SLMC sitting on the horns of a dilemma

The Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) is sitting on the horns of a dilemma with party leader M.H.M. Ashraff willing to run at the next parliamentary election under the PA banner despite an earlier party decision that the SLMC should go on its own steam in the Colombo, Kandy, Puttalam, Wanni (North) and the Eastern Province.

President Chandrika Kumaratunga who met the PA constituents last Tuesday said that they must fight the coming elections under a single banner and asked the different parties to indicate how many candidates they would wish to run.

PA sources said yesterday that Ashraff did not indicate any decision by his party to fight under its own banner in some areas.

There were indications that some members of the SLMC hierarchy will insist that their earlier decision to run as a separate entity at least in some areas should stand. The Wayamba Provincial Council elections precipitated this issue with an angry Ashraff stressing that they will go it alone in the future.

Many members of the SLMC believe that they have been short-changed by the SLFP at previous elections and they should not expose themselves to such treatment in the future. An SLMC leader who requested anonymity said that the leader cannot unilaterally change a decision of the hierarchy and any deviation from the ``go-it-alone’’ decision must be collectively taken.

PA General Secretary D.M. Jayaratne said yesterday that the PA is united. ``All constituents will fight together under a single banner,’’ he said.

On Tuesday, the president appointed a sub-committee to explore means of alleviating the effects of the cost living. This committee comprises of the secretaries of the PA constituents and Ministers S.B. Dissanayake, Mangala Samaraweera and Sarath Amunugama.

She also asked the PA constituents to make their proposals to the Manifesto Committee appointed for the presidential election. She stressed that the elections would be held in time and directed that this message be carried to the country forthwith.

She expected the government’s constitutional proposals to be finalised with the UNP by June 30. She said that she is scheduled to met the UNP on June 22 when Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe will be back in the country. (FRS)

Final decision on censorship delayed

The government appeared to have delayed, at least by a few days a final decision on the lifting of the existing censorship and the ban on The Sunday Leader, Irida Peramuna and Uthayan.

A senior UNP leader Friday night said that President Chandrika Kumaratunga indicated earlier in the day her inability to announce the final decision on Friday. "She promised to get in touch with the UNP in a few days," he said.

President Kumar-atunga during a recent meeting with the UNP at Temple Trees pledged to review the censorship and take a decision by June 16. The UNP said that they expected President Kumaratunga to announce her decision as soon as possible.

Government sources said that Media Minister Mangala Samaraweera has already assured a top delegation from the Committee to Protect Journalists [CPJ] during a meeting in Colombo last week that the existing censorship would be lifted before August 21.

The delegation which included CPJ Board member Peter Arnett who covered the US led operation Desert Storm to force Iraq out of Kuwait had talks with both ruling party and opposition politicians, the sources said.

Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar was among senior government figures who back easing restrictions imposed on the media. They privately admit that the existing restrictions could be eased in view of the improved security situation in the Jaffna peninsula.

The armed forces appeared to have stalled the terrorist advance on Jaffna and taken the upper hand with the arrival and the immediate deployment of new armaments. [SF]

Thai ambassador seeks to clear the air

Thai Ambassador Thakur Phanit has sought a meeting with editors and senior representatives of Sri Lanka’s national newspapers this week to explain his country’s position with regard to international and local media reports of the continuing LTTE activity in Thai territory.

In a June 12 dated letter the Thai ambassador has invited the media for a meeting to discuss and exchange views on the situation.

Last week, the Thai embassy in Colombo revealed the confiscation of the half built submersible, believed to have been ordered for use by LTTE terrorists at a ship yard in Phuket province.

The Royal Thai Embassy in Colombo on Wednesday revealed the detection and the subsequent seizure of the submersible when Pirawat Astavapranee, Second Secretary [Information] issued a statement in response to the article "LTTE honeymoon in Thailand as smooth as silk" appeared on the June 14 issue of The Island.

The Island in its June 3 issue reproduced a Bangkok Post report headlined "Mini submersible built for LTTE surfaces in Phuket shipyard."

The report described the sumbersible as a 10m long vessel capable of accommodating 2-3 persons. It was found at a shipyard on Koh-Si-lae partly owned by a Tamil separatist sympathiser and some parts had been ordered by Christy Reginald, a Jaffna born Tamil who holds a Norwegian passport.

"Thailand government could extend its co-operation to Sri Lanka by extraditing the suspect, if the request is made and when it is deemed to be feasible under the existing legal frameworks by the Thai Court," the Thai embassy statement added.

Sri Lankan officials said that they welcome Thailand’s offer to extradite the suspect.

Carpenter’s role still a mystery

A senior police investigator on Friday said that they were continuing inquiries into last Wednesday’s Wattala blast but so far have been unable to make a break through.

Although police have established that the person who rode the bicycle, used in the blast was a Sinhalese, investigators have been unable to explain why a Sinhalese accepted the "job" of blowing up a bus carrying wounded SLAF personnel.

Some believe the man was tricked by the LTTE. A senior policeman said that the man was probably asked to ride the bicycle to some point and the explosive device fitted on the bicycle was detonated by remote control. The target could have been anything including a vehicle carrying a ruling party politician to Colombo.

However, the amount of explosives, believed to be plastics used in the blast was not sufficient to blast a speeding car.

"We are baffled," another officer said adding thatthere was no indication to suggest that the mystery would ever be solved.

The body of the man who rode the bicycle packed with explosives had been identified by his wife as 39-year-old Yakkage Pathmasiri Meudis.

There was no doubt the attack on an SLAF bus carrying wounded personnel was mounted by a person, riding a bicycle fitted with an explosive device, DIG Daya Jayasundara in charge of the Western Province [North] said last week.

Two civilians were killed and 11 others injured in the blast near Gemunu Palace, a cinema situated close to the Wattala market junction.

Investigators were in a quandary after establishing the identity of the rider - a Sinhalese from Koralawella, a fishing village south of Colombo.

Initially, the bomber was believed to be member of the dreaded Black Tigers who carry out such suicide attacks.

Jayasundara said that officials of the Government Analyst’s Department and explosives experts, after inspecting the scene of the blast were convinced the man rode the bicycle fitted with the device weighing approximately 200-500 gms of explosives.

"We are yet to determine the type of the explosives used," he said stressing that it could not have been a roadside bomb detonated by remote control.

He scotched reports, speculation and rumours that the bicycle fitted with the explosive device had been detonated by remote control.

Police contacted the man’s wife at Koralawella within hours after finding his National Identity Card [NIC] found in his shirt pocket.

She identified the body as that of her husband, a carpenter and the father of two daughters and a son.

Police inquiries have revealed the man had been in financial difficulty. He had taken money from several persons.

Investigators believe the man could have established links with the LTTE during one of his visits to Wattala.

Police with the support of the army routinely conduct cordon and search operations in the Wattala police area where intelligence services firmly believe that there are many LTTE operatives taking refuge with people of the area.

"A number of key terrorist suspects have been taken during these operations," a senior policeman said adding that the latest attack will prompt more operations in the area. [SF]

Lebanon waives fines on Lankan over-stayers

by Shamindra Ferdinando
Labour Minister W. D. J. Seneviratne on Friday [16] said that arrangements are being made to bring back 55 women held at a "Beirut safe house" run by Sri Lankan embassy for women fleeing their employers for various reasons, from non-payment of their salaries to sexual harassment.

Lankan women regularly seek the safety of the safe house, he said pointing out that while arrangements are being made to bring them home, more were likely to seek refuge there.

In an interview with The Sunday Island, two days after he returned from Beirut, Seneviratne said that the safe house continued to provide safety and security for women in trouble. Seventeen of the 72 women held there accompanied the minister when he returned home last Wednesday [14]. "Some of them were provided air tickets by the Sri Lanka Foreign Employment Bureau," he said adding that action would be taken as soon as possible to bring back the remaining 55 women.

Seneviratne flew to Beirut from Geneva where he led Sri Lanka’s delegation at the International Labour Conference.

He said that he was also able to secure the release of 38 women and 14 men held at Lebanese prisons for overstaying without obtaining proper documents. Lebanese officials, after a series of discussions with the minister, have agreed to release the detained without fining each of them the standard 900 US dollars. Otherwise, Sri Lanka would have to pay 46,800 US dollars.

Seneviratne said that the Lebanese charge 900 US dollars, the stipulated visa charges for three years, from anyone overstaying even a day.

Seneviratne said that of the 52 Lankans released from prisons, 19 including three men accompanied him back when he returned last Wednesday with the 17 women who have been staying at the "Beirut safe house"

Seneviratne said that Sri Lanka’s ambassador in Beirut, Dr. Mohammed Ismail Mushin, and other officials helped during his three-day visit to explore ways and means of improving the working conditions in Lebanon where approximately 65,000 women and 15,000 men work.

Seneviratne said that he made inquiries dozens of Lankans, both men and women serving jail terms for serious crime. There were over 50, perhaps 60 persons in prisons, he said adding that some of them were in for rape.

He admitted that there was no way of obtaining their release as they have violated laws of Lebanon but did not rule out the possibility of Sri Lanka making representations on their behalf.

"They are Lankans, so we have to do something," he said reminding that both men and women working abroad, particularly the Middle East and the South East Asia must respect laws of the respective countries.

Island Capers
Banking on devious means

A fast growing & professionally managed bank that is in the forefront in introducing modern banking technology is being targetted by interested parties and strong business magnates.

They are acquiring shares through multiple entities under their control and various other devious means to circumvent regulations.

The minority shareholders — who constitute the backbone of the bank — now under serious risk are questioning the motivation of this group. Cornering the minority shareholders and obtaining complete control of the private banking system of the country seem to be the prime objective of the group.

Sadly, the Central Bank has been cautious in exercising its regulatory authority in this matter.

Puravesi Peramuna wants govt to implement ‘relief scheme’ to counter rising living costs

The Central Bank’s overall cost of living index has shown a downward trend despite prices of food items and other consumer goods and services sky rocketing, the Puravasi Peramuna charged yesterday.

The party while criticising the government over the run- away cost of living (COL) has urged it to immediately implement a ‘relief scheme’ to counteract the COL increase and also to grant an interim salary increase to government servants who get fixed incomes.

A statement by the Puravasi Peramuna further said that the latest bus fare hike by 15%, which is in reaction to the diesel price hike, comes at a juncture when the public is plagued by the increase in prices of gas and electricity.

It also noted that the public would be further burdened with the expected increases in telephone rates from July 1 in addition to hikes in water rates and the defence levy shortly.

Noting that a railway fare hike is also in the offing, the PP said that even an increase in the prices of petrol and kerosene in the next few days time, would not come as a surprise.

Though Sri Lankans have been forever bearing up price increases, they have never had the luxury of experiencing price declines, the Puravasi Peramuna added.

It said that except for an increase in the defence levy, which has now reached 6% of the GDP, other price increases are not related to the war.

In the light of the increasing pressure on the government exchequer, the Puravasi Peramuna has urged the government to cut down on wasteful expenditure".

The increase in salaries and allowances to ministers, parliamentarians, provincial councillors and pradeshiya sabha members is not warranted in a situation of this sort since others are not provided with similar relief, the PP said. (CdeS)

India strikes balance between domestic survival and regional stability

By Amal Jayasinghe
Colombo: (AFP) -
India appears to have changed its tack on neighbouring Sri Lanka’s military crisis amid a tight balancing act between domestic political survival and regional stability analysts said Tuesday.

Indian Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh’s overnight visit Monday was to reassure Colombo of New Delhi’s support for Sri Lanka’s unity despite a regional Indian leader calling for the partition of the island to end its ethnic strife.

"It is a diplomatic coup for Sri Lanka to have the Indian foreign minister say everything they wanted to hear and at the same time keeping out all the negatives mentioned earlier," a diplomat here said.

The joint statement issued at the end of Singh’s visit made no reference to India’s earlier offers to help evacuate some 40,000 government troops from the Jaffna peninsula where Tamil Tiger rebels mounted a major offensive in April.

Instead, Singh was offering a 100 million dollar credit line to cash-strapped Colombo which is on a major arms shopping spree to boost its battle against the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

"The money is a very big help at this crisis time," said Tamil legislator Dharmalingam Sidharthan who met with Singh Monday. "I think the visit is mainly to reassure Sri Lanka that India won’t support separatism."

The Ceylon Workers’ Congress which represents minority Tamils of recent Indian origin urged Jaswant Singh to use India’s good offices in helping to resolve the conflict which has claimed more than 60,000 lives.

Tamil politicians said there was no reaction from Singh to the mediation call despite India’s parliamentary affairs minister announcing last month they were ready to offer a "helping hand or a negotiating hand."

"It looks like India is moving from a piecemeal approach to a ‘lasting peace’ position", a politician involved in talks with Singh said referring to India’s call for "lasting peace" in Sri Lanka.

Singh’s visit came three days after Indian Premier Atal Behari Vajpayee forged a political consensus over the Sri Lankan crisis, after an Indian state leader suggested splitting the island to end its ethnic strike.

"It is a difficult act for Prime Minister Vajpayee to balance the interests of its Tamil coalition partners and at the same time to maintain its regional super power image which requires helping Sri Lanka," a diplomat here said.

After India ruled out military assistance to Sri Lanka in May, the Colombo government announced it was re-establishing diplomatic ties with Israel in a bid to buy weapons for its fight against the Tamil Tigers.

"Sri Lanka cannot hope much from India in its hour of need," the Sri Lankan daily, The Island, commented Monday. "We have to be pragmatic and look elsewhere for immediate assistance."

Officials, however, said the 100 million dollar credit line was a "godsend" considering the government was increasing prices and taxes to meet the additional expenditure for military hardware.

India’s Singh has specified the money offered was "quite clearly for humanitarian purposes" and at the same time ruled out a mediatory role for India in the current context of the Sri Lankan conflict.

Singh is the first Indian leader to visit Sri Lanka since New Delhi rejected Colombo’s call last month for military assistance to beat back a Tamil Tiger offensive that has since been stalled according to the military.

"The question of India’s military intervention is not an option we considered. We are committed to the restoration of peace... without India being seen to be interfering in the internal affairs of Sri Lanka.

"India will not get involved in a situation which involves a fire fight," said Singh.

Politicians here said India was nudging Sri Lankan leaders to press ahead with political moves to end the conflict because that could be projected at home as New Delhi’s contribution to protecting Tamil rights.

The 60 million Tamils in India’s southern state of Tamil Nadu have close cultural links with Sri Lanka’s 2.5 million-strong Tamil minority.

Tamil Nadu chief minister Muthuvel Karunanidhi raised concern here by calling for the partition of the island on the lines of the Czech and Slovak republics to end its bloody civil war.

Singh, however, said there can only be a political solution to the ethnic strife within the framework of Sri Lankan unity and territorial integrity.

President Ranasinghe Premadasa’s 76th Birth Anniversary
Cooray to deliver talk on ‘Some recollections’

B. Sirisena Cooray, former cabinet minister and the National Organiser of the newly recognised Purawasi Peramuna has organised a series of events to mark the late President Ranasinghe Premadasa’s 76th birth anniversary commemoration.

Cooray, Chairman of the Premadasa Centre said that this year’s Premadasa memorial lecture " Ranasinghe Premadasa and the Restoration of Liberal Democracy" will be delivered by Professor Rajiva Wijesinha at the Sri Lanka Foundation Institute [SLFI] auditorium next Saturday [24] at 4. 30 p.m.

Wijesinghe, the Professor of Languages, Sabaragamuwa University of Sri Lanka and President, Liberal Party, contested last year’s presidential election.

Professor Arjuna Aluwihare, Professor of Surgery, University of Peradeniya, former Chairman, University Grants Commission, former member, Human Rights Commission and former vice - chancellor, University of Peradeniya will be the chief guest.

Cooray was scheduled to deliver the opening address in Sinhala. He will speak on "Ranasinghe Premadasa : Some Recollections".

Political sources said that Cooray, a strong critic of the present UNP leadership would probably use the event to mount pressure on the party. The Commissioner of Elections on June 7 recognised the Purawesi Peramuna as a registered political party. The symbol of the party is the "bus".

Last year’s commemoration was held at the Sugathadasa Indoor Stadium. Cooray launched a trilingual poster campaign on the same lines of the famous "Who is he? What is he doing ? [Me kawda - Mokadanne karanne] a few days before the last year’s event to announce the 75th birth anniversary commemoration of the late leader.

The Premadasa Centre has sent invitations to many politicians including almost all the UNP MPs and other party seniors. The UNP dissidents who joined the government and others who back the PA outside the parliament too have been invited, the sources said.

They were expected to attend the event.

SSP’s ‘Police and Court’ book launched

Senior Superintendent of Police and attorney-at-law Gunasena Thenabadu recently launched his latest publication titled ‘Police and Court’ (Criminal Procedure Code), at the Sri Lanka Foundation Institute in the presence of a large and distinguished gathering.

This was his first book for the new millennium. The foreward of the book was written by Supreme Court Judge Ranjith N. M. Dheeraratna. A lecture on the book was delivered by former Judge of Court of Appeal and at present legal advisor to the Ministry of Defence, Dr. C. Ananda Grero.

Ball point paintings exhibition

The 7th ball point coloured paintings exhibition of Mangala Madanayake of Galle will be held at Laksala Headquarters Art Gallery No. 60, York Street, Colombo 01, on June 20 to 26 from 9.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m. each day.

These paintings of ball point pen consists of colours red, blue, green, black and brown will be exhibited. These paintings are similar to the paintings of oil and water colours. Most of the paintings depict the scenery of Yala and Sinharaja forest.

Seminar for SMEs

A one day seminar on Export and Import Procedures will be held on 24th June from 8.30 a.m. to 4.30 p.m. at the Nilani Hotel, No. 21, Dharmapala Mawatha, Ratnapura. It is organized by the Sri Lanka Export Development Board and Sabaragamuwa Chamber of Commerce and Industry for the benefit of potential and existing Small and Medium Scale Export Oriented Entrepreneurs.

Thirty-five participants from the SME sector will attend the seminar.

‘Mudupani’ to be screened at the Indian Cultural Centre

The Indian Cultural Centre will screen Balu Mahendra’s, Mudupani (The Mist) on 22nd June at 6.30 p.m. The film is produced by Balu Mahendra and features Prathap, Shoba, Prof. Vishwanathan, Mohan, Sri Premila, K. S. Jayalakshmi, Vijaya Chandrika, Saroja, Kanthimathi, Samikkannu and Master Rajah.

Minister opens new building

All Saints College, Galle, which was opened in 1867, managed by the Anglican Mission and has produced distinguished citizens will have its new two-storeyed building opened tomorrow by Richard Pathirana, Minister of Education and Higher Education.

The Godage literary festival

The Godage Literary Festival, organized to give awards to the novel and the collection and short stories selected by the readers from among the novels and collections of short stories published by Godage Book Emporium in 1998 will be held on 06 July 2000 at the National Library and Documentation Centre at 3.30 p.m. This Festival will be held under the distinguished patronage of Prof. A. V. Suraweera, Deputy Minister of Cultural and Religious Affairs. Prof. Pushpakumara Premarathne, Professor of English at the University of Peradeniya will deliver a special address at this Festival.

Literary works for the Godage Literary Award were evaluated by readers, writers and critics.

The award winning works will receive citations and trophies. Special "Readers prizes" will be awarded to two readers who participated in the selection of award winning works.

Godage Literary Award Committee cordially invites all readers and writers to this Festival which from now on joins the other Literary Awards awarded by leading book publishers in the world.

Godage Literary Award Committee.

Kandiah Memorial award winners

The Kandiah Memorial Award I, 2000 has been awarded to Dr. Kayalvily Alagesan in recognition of her contribution to research in Pesticidal Compounds from Sri Lankan Plants and the Effect of Host Plant odours on Aphids.

This award is given annually to commemorate the state Professor A. Kandiah, the first President of the Chemical Society of Ceylon and Professor of Chemistry University of Ceylon from 1932-1951. It is awarded for the best research contribution in Chemistry carried out by a postgraduate student for work carried out in Sri Lanka in Higher Educational Institutions.

Dr. Alagesan obtained her B.Sc. Degree from the University of Jaffna in 1991 and Ph. D. from the University of Peradeniya in 1999. She has worked as a Research Fellow at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Uppsala and Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden.

Anniversary of Institute of Chemistry

As part of the 59th Anniversary of the Institute of Chemistry, Ceylon the 29th Annual Session will be inaugurated by a Past President of the Institute, Prof. R. P. Gunawardena, Secretary of the Ministry of Education and Higher Education at 1.30 p.m. on Wednesday the 21st of June at the Auditorium of the Sri Lanka Foundation Institute.


The Ceylon Chamber of Commerce in association with the Centre for Policy Alternatives will organise a seminar on the Draft Consumer Protection Authority Act on 22nd June at 2.15 p.m. at the Ground Floor Auditorium of the Chamber.

The seminar will provide an unique opportunity for review of the salient features of the draft legislation as well as act as a forum for discussion and commentary on this vital piece of draft legislation which carries important implications for the private sector, the consuming public and the economic environment in general.

Resource persons will be drawn from the legal profession, private sector, civil society organisations and the public sector.

Stop leaded gasoline and introduce low duty for hybrid cars..." — Suren

On 27th April when the main technical committee on Mobile Air Emission Standards, Fuel Standards and Vehicle Specification Standards met under the chairmanship of Mr. Lionel Jayasinghe — Chairman, Central Environmental Authority, Mr. Suren Abeyagoonasekera — former chairman of Ceylon Motor Traders Association, stressed that, non-leaded gasoline should be made available, in at least 33% of the petrol stations islandwide by 31.12.2000, and should be increased to 50% by 30.6.2001 and 100% by 31.12.2001. He further said failing which the whole exercise of freeing the enviornment would be lost.

The Ceylon Petroleum Corporation representative argued that, leaving the lead content at 0.013gl is not harmful, but Mr. Abeyagoonasekera proved with documentary evidence that Euro II standards specify lead content as "non-detectable" hence CPC must follow Euro II specifications. He further pointed out even little lead in gasoline could ruin an expensive catalytic converter in modern sophisticated vehicles, while the environmentalist argued that lead in gasoline and high sulphur in diesel is causing serious health problems, specially brain damage to children.

At the request of Mr. Abeyagoonasekera, the committee agreed to recommend to the cabinet for a special duty rate for "hybrid cars" that runs on gasoline and electricity with almost zero emission levels. He further said if a duty around 5% could be introduced, he will work towards importing hybrid vehicles within 6 months, and will be a saving on fuel cost and foreign exchange.

The Public Interest Law Foundation has obtained a Supreme Court order, Case No: 569/98 before Justice Fernando, Dheeraratna, Wadugodapitiya, Gunasekera and Ismail compelling the authorities to issue a Gazette notification by 1st June 2000.

According to an advertisement by CPC in Ceylon Daily News on 27.5.99, unleaded gasoline is presently available in 7 stations in Colombo, 1 in Kelaniya, 1 in Negombo, and 1 in Kandy which is highly inadequate. All Japanese gasoline used cars and most European cars coming to Sri Lanka are equippped with a catalytic converter meant for lead free gasoline and if they use leaded gasoline the catalytic converter will be damaged.

It must be noted that Ceylon Motor Traders Association, after finding that policemen on traffic duty has more lead in their blood than normal policemen, launched a project to distribute dusk masks for school children on traffic duty near their schools. The launching ceremony was held at the office of the Inspector General of Police, and sponsored by Toyota and Mobiloil. In this meeting Mr. Abeyagoonasekera, said "The mask is not a total solution but an eye opener, of the imminent danger of exhaust emissions, and we can eliminate the danger by taking the lead and sulphur out of fuels....."

Toyota has already distributed 200 masks marked ‘Toyota Lanka for Clean Air’ for the school children on traffic duty in Colombo, and moved to Kandy for the 2nd phase in May.

Award of Excellence for Women Achievers

SAARC Women’s Association - Sri Lanka Chapter’s ceremony for ‘Building Bridges of Friendship’ and the ‘Award of Excellence for Women Achivers’ was held at the Russian Cultural Centre last week, under the patronage of Dr. Radhika Coomaraswamy, UN Rapporteur - Violence against Women.

President of the SAARC Women’s Association Aminath Panabokke and Project Manager cum founder President Mano Candappa were mainly responsible for the success of the ceremony.

The following won the ‘Award of Excellence for Women Achievers’:-

• Cultural Achievement: Upeka de Silva, Niloufer Piers, Sita Joseph de Saram, Nadine David, Christine Wilson.

21 soldiers remanded over attack on Minister’s security officers

by Kalinga Weerakkody
The 21 army personnel who were arrested last Friday by the Moneragala police in connection with the attack on some security officers of Social Services Minister, Sumeda G. Jayasena have been remanded till June 20.

Police claimed that investigations had revealed that the suspect army men were under the influence of liquor at the time of the incident.

Police said the attack had taken place following a dispute at a filling station owned by the family of the minister. The military personnel had come there in three wheelers to pump fuel and an altercation had taken place with the workers.

The security men who had been on duty at the adjoining residence of the minister had been assaulted when they intervened to settle the dispute, police said.

Two security officers who sustained injuries were admitted to the Moneragala hospital and one of them was later transferred to the Kandy hospital, according to the police.

The army personnel were attached to the Diyatalawa Training College, police said.

Trinco air attack kills seven terrorists

Special Media Information Centre said in a statement that troops sniped to death a terrorist at Colombothurai around 4 p.m. last Friday.

On the same day, a security forces patrol operating ahead of the defences observed a tractor, transporting terrorists in Tanankillappu area and brought down artillery fire.

In Trincomalee aircraft of the Sri Lanka Air Force attacked a terrorist camp in general area Kokkatti on 14th June. Monitored terrorist transmission confirm that a leader by the name of Vengades and six other terrorists have been killed and twenty terrorists have sustained injuries due to the air attack, it said.

British ship, aircraft including Tornados transit through Colombo

by Shamindra Ferdinando
A huge British forward repair ship, RFA Diligence tasked with supporting Royal Navy Ships deployed in world’s trouble spots arrived in Colombo on Friday [16], six days before the Royal Air Force begins using Bandaranaike International Airport [BIA] as the transit point for 47 aircraft and over 500 officers and men.

RFA Diligence, armed with 20 mm Oerlikon guns among other armaments and counter measures had been deployed with the British fleet during the Falklands’ campaign in 1982. The vessel had been deployed in other theatres including the Gulf during the Operation Desert Storm to force Iraq out of Kuwait.

Navy headquarters said that the vessel capable of carrying helicopters was previously scheduled to reach Colombo on June 12 and leave two days later. However, later the visit was rescheduled for June 16-18.

The recently modified vessel manned by 38 personnel including 15 officers could provide accommodation for naval junior rates and submarine crew.

The British Defence Adviser Lieutenant Colonel Robert N. Kendell said that the arrival of RFA Diligence was not anyway connected with the transit of RAF aircraft through BIA.

The Deputy British High Commissioner M. H. P. Hill last week revealed the arrival of RFA Diligence and RAF aircraft to avoid unwarranted speculation.

Movement of some elements of the US Naval Task Force in the Gulf late last month towards the Arabian sea fuelled speculation in Sri Lanka that it was timed for the arrival of US Ambassador Thomas R. Pickering, the US Under Secretary for Political Affairs. The US Embassy in Colombo denied this saying that the movement of ships was routine.

BIA will be the transit point for 47 RAF aircraft including Tornados, Nimrods, VC 10s and giant C 130s and over 500 officers and men on their way to Singapore to take part in a major bi-annual air exercise scheduled to begin late this month, Lieutenant Colonel Kendell said.

The aircraft will transit through BIA from next Thursday [22] to 31 he said. These aircraft will return to the UK via the BIA.

The joint air exercise, Flying Fish involving British, Australian, New Zealand and Singaporean aircraft is one of the major military exercises that takes place in the South East Asian region.

Airforce headquarters spokesman said the RAF aircraft transit through BIA almost every year.

However, the number of aircraft and personnel involved in this year’s exercise appeared to have been bigger than in the previous exercises. Apart from the British, American and French aircraft too transit through Colombo on other occasions.