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10th September 2000
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A multi-Barrel Rocket Launcher in action during this week's offensive 
in the north.

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CID upsets secret anti-rigging plan

By Chris Kamalendran & Shelani de Silva
A top secret project by Elections Commissioner Dayananda Dissanayake to print security stickers to be placed on poll cards to avoid forgery during the upcoming general elections has become public knowledge thus thwarting the objectives of the exercise.

This came after CID detectives raided the Grandpass printing press of a Tamil businessman who had won the Elections Department contract to print the stickers. 

They arrested the businessman, his partner who was managing partner of a hotel in the Sugathadasa Stadium and five others on Friday night after a tip-off that some suspicious documents were being printed. 

Whilst detectives verified the businessman's statement that the stickers were being printed on an order placed by the Elections Department, the seven remained in custody. They were released last night. That was after detectives visited the Department to ascertain the veracity of the businessman's claims and examined official documents placing the print order. 

R. Paramasivam, Managing Partner of Sports Lanka SSR Hotel told The Sunday Times last night, he had won a confidential contract to print the security stickers. He had passed it on to his business partner who ran the printing press. 

Since the contract was confidential, even the press employees had been told that the stickers were meant for export garments. He said two CID detectives visited his house and escorted him to their office. 

CID Director Keerthi Gajanayake told The Sunday Times last night "We had information that a businessman was printing fraudulent election material." 

He said detectives first searched a restaurant, which the businessman operated at the Sugathadasa Stadium and later the printing press. 

"We checked with the Elections Department and they confirmed the tender had been awarded," he said.

The CID director said 100,000 stickers that were seized were also being returned to the businessman. This was part of a print order running into more than three million. 

The Police arrest embarrassed Election Department officials. One source said the project was kept a top secret. The idea was to place a sticker on every poll card that would be posted. That way any forged poll card would be shown to be a forgery, the source said.

"With the secrecy lost, it will now be a futile exercise," the source said adding that the Commissioner of Elections was legally empowered to take such measures to ensure a free and fair poll.

The news of the CID raid angered the JVP, which suspected that the tip-off may have been staged by pro-government elements. 

Spokesman Wimal Weerawansa last night accused the Government of not allowing the Commissioner of Elections to carry out his duties. 

He told The Sunday Times "we believe that the Commissioner is making a genuine attempt to have a free and fair election. He has devised special methods but the Government is trying to put a stop to this." 

Minister Alavi Moulana told The Sunday Times he was unaware of details but he could not understand why the printing of the stickers had been given to a private contractor.

"If the ballot papers are done by the Government Printer why were the stickers also not given there?" he asked. 

Op. Rivikirana: Daluwatte offers to quit

Chief of Defence Staff General Rohan Daluwatte has offered to quit if he was held accountable for last Sunday's military offensive, which left at least 125 soldiers killed. 

The offer, The Sunday Times learns, came when the National Security Council on Tuesday discussed the conduct of the military operation codenamed "Rivi Kirana." It was launched before dawn last Sunday in a bid to extend the western defences of troops now holding the Jaffna town. 

General Daluwatte's offer to put up his papers for retirement came after Deputy Defence Minister Anuruddha Ratwatte raised issue over who was accountable for the military offensive. 

Troops holding the defence lines at Columbuthurai advanced in an easterly thrust towards the Jaffna-Kandy A-9 highway in the direction of Navatkuli. Another flank, from Sarasalai and neighbouring Nunavil broke out from the defences and advanced across marshland to reach the same highway near Chavakachcheri. 

Troops who broke out of Columbuthurai secured less than half a kilometres of territory in the same area and moved their defence lines. However, they halted their onward thrust amidst heavy mortar fire from the LTTE.

Troops from Sarasalai and Nunavil, who advanced over one and a half kilometres were, however, forced to return to their original positions by Sunday afternoon forcing military authorities to call off their first offensive in the new millennium, some eight hours after it was launched. 

While more than 125 officers and soldiers were killed, those sustaining scratches to serious injuries, Army sources said, were nearly 800 officers and men. 

Jayakody row deepens

The dispute in the SLFP over the omission of veteran minister Lakshman Jayakody from the national list has deepened with the Minister reportedly refusing to accept a diplomatic or governor's posting in exchange for his parliamentary seat.

The removal which, shocked senior members of the PA has led to at least three ministers making representations to President Kumaratunga on behalf of Mr. Jayakody who they said had faithfully served the party for more than four decades.

According to sources close to Mr. Jayakody, he met President Kumaratunga on Wednesday but did not get a favourable answer and was told to discuss the matter further with Presidential Secretary Kusumsiri Balapatabendi.

They said Mr. Balapatabendi had later inquired from the Commissioner of Elections as to whether a change could be made in the national list but was advised that it could be done only after the elections.

They said President Kumaratunga had told Mr. Jayakody that she believed he was ready to accept a diplomatic post, but the minister insisted he was not prepared to leave the country and especially the people of his electorate at a time of crisis.

Early in August, Mr. Jayakody had agreed to quit as party organiser for the Divulapitiya electorate, which he has served for several decades. In a letter to the SLFP secretary, he said he had agreed to this on the basis of an assurance from the President that he would be on the national list.

Meanwhile, reports say that a protest by Mr. Jayakody's supporters is to be held this week with the demonstrators planning to march from SLFP headquarters to Temple Trees. 

A similar protest was to be held at Attanagalle last Thursday when the President visited the electorate, but the Presidential Security Division stopped it. Adding to the controversy and mystery over why Mr. Jayakody was suddenly dropped at the last moment, is the speculation that it is linked to the recent Seva Vanitha row where Mr. Jayakody's wife and the wife of the new Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake fired at each other. In that row, Ms. Jayakody repeatedly accused Ms. Wickremanayake of misusing Seva Vanitha funds while Ms. Wickremanayake claimed the charges were linked to the race for premiership. 

The Sunday Times also learns that Mr. Jayakody's son also sought nominations on the PA's Gampaha ticket but he was not successful.

Speaker K.B. Ratnayake was also suddenly omitted from the national list but he has not challenged it publicly. 

UNP feels Ranil under threat

A request by UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe for additional security at election meetings has not got a response from the police, party spokesman Karunasena Kodituwakku said yesterday.

He said that providing additional security to party leaders at election time was a normal practice, but this time the request made three weeks ago to the police chief had been ignored.

UNP sources alleged that police might be trying to curtail the movements of the UNP leader, since the President also had restricted her campaign for security reasons.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickrema-nayake was recently brought under special security cover by the Presidential Security Division following intelligence reports of a possible threat to his life. Security for other ministers has also been increased, defence sources said.

Police chief Lucky Kodituwakku met ministers at Temple Trees on Wednesday and briefed them on the possible security threats. Ministers S. B. Dissanayake, Mangala Samaraweera and G.L. Peiris have been provided with bullet proof cars. 

Posters in ambulance

By Faraza Farook
Hundreds of government employees including soldiers in civvies are alleged to have been put into the election field while hundreds of state vehicles are also alleged to be used for election work.

Opposition party and union officials alleged that state resources such as photo-copying machines were also being misused by ministries for party work.

The Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) is said to have approved duty leave for more than 150 employees allegedly for election work. Opposition trade union sources also alleged that another 200 port workers had been released to work for one Colombo candidate.

They alleged the SLPA was hiring private vehicles for port work while official vehicles were being used for party work.

Similar charges have also been levelled against the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation and the Education Ministry. Opposition unions alleged that CPC workers and resources were being largely used in the Kandy district of Minister Anuruddha Ratwatte.

Trade unions in the Health sector also said at least four official vehicles were being used for party work. The most serious allegation was that an ambulance at Kalubowila was used to carry posters.


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