Friday, 16 May 2003  
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News in brief

Vesak celebrated islandwide

With the whole country celebrating the Vesak festival in a peaceful atmosphere, a large number of pandals and other decorations will be exhibited throughout the next few days in Colombo, its suburbs and all principal towns.

Buddhists throughout the island participated in religious programmes at their temples yesterday. Dhamma programmes, vesak plays and Bhakthi gee recitals were also held. Our correspondents reported that thousands of devotees flocked to many of the well-known temples in Colombo and other areas. Buddhist homes and business establishments displayed colourful lanterns and other Vesak decorations.

In the Colombo city alone, nine Vesak pandals have been erected and nearly 200 Dansalas will also be held. Vesak Pandals were switched on last night at Fort Bo Tree, Borella junction, Thotalanga market, Kosgas junction, Fort market, Dematagoda Playground, Bastian Mawatha - Fort, Slave Island, BMICH and Peliyagoda.

Vesak lanterns were exhibited opposite Lake House, Bauddhaloka Mawatha, Viharamahadevi Park, Town Hall, Torrington Place, Vihara Mawatha - Wellawatta, Purvaramaya and Siddhartha place -Kirulapona.

A giant Vesak pandal which stands almost three storeys high will be exhibited at the lobby of the World Trade Centre.Nearly 200 Vesak dansalas offering rice and curry, noodles, soft drinks, coffee, pineapple and porridge are being held around the city. Outside Colombo, a number of pandals are exhibited at main towns. The famous Ratmalana Vesak lantern will be displayed held opposite the Kelanitissa Power Station.

Vesak amnesty for 1,500 prisoners

Prison authorities released 1513, prisoners on Vesak Poya day, who had been convicted for minor offenses following a special amnesty from President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga.

The President's special amnesty was communicated to Interior and Christian Affairs Minister John Amaratunga and Prisons Commissioner General Rumy Marzook. Prison Commissioner Administration, Upali Banduwardena said that 421 prisoners were freed from the Welikada prison yesterday and 165 prisoners were freed from the Bogambara, 143 from Mahara and 176 from Anuradhapura.

During this years 2,686 prisoners, convicted for minor offences, had been freed including 1,173 prisoners on Independence Day, Commissioner Banduwardena said.

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