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22nd October 2000
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SL lashes out at Talebans of SU

S.L. Gunasekera, who recently resigned from the presidency of Sihala Urumaya and announced his retirement from active politics, explains the reasons for his resignation, in a conversation with Hiranthi Fernando of The Sunday Times. Excerpts:

On October 12, I was selected by the Central Committee to be the Party's nominee for its National List seat in Parliament, without a contest. About one hour later, a group among whom was Champika Ranawaka, descended upon Thilak Karunarante's office and sought to compel him to change that decision and nominate Champika instead. 

Another group of Champika's supporters invaded Prof. A. V. D. S. Indraratne's house (which was about 200 yards away), threatened and manhandled him, his wife and a female servant, having accused him of proposing my name. 

Pressure was continuously exerted on Thilak and me to change the decision throughout Friday the 13th. On Friday evening, at a meeting at the house of Gamini Perera, Champika, having claimed that he was entitled to the seat because he obtained the most number of preferences, said he was willing to settle the dispute if neither he nor I was nominated but a third person was. 

I refused to agree, saying that I would not bow down to threats, intimidation or pressure. However, if Champika and his supporters accepted the Central Committee (CC) decision unconditionally, apologised to Prof. Indraratne and behaved themselves for two years, I said I would then resign from Parliament and let the Central Committee nominate a successor. 

Champika did not agree. Accordingly, the Central Committee decision of the 12th stood. It was Thilak's duty to have sent a letter to the Commissioner of Elections nominating me, but he never did so. Thilak remained incommunicado on the whole of Saturday 14th and till the afternoon of Sunday 15th, when he fixed a Central Committee meeting for 9 a.m. on Monday 16th, a working day. 

At the CC meeting on the 16th, several allegations were made against me by Champika Ranawaka, Sujith Akkarawatta, Kamal Deshapriya, Asoka Abeygunawardena, the Ven. Athureliya Rathana Thera and the Ven. Udahamulle Sri Vimala Thera, all of whom are members of the NMAT. 

The allegations related to my not believing in any religion, my having refused to offer flowers to the Sacred Tooth Relic and my personal life style, all of which (except the refusal to offer flowers which took place at the end of April or the first week of May) were known to them before I was invited by Thilak and Champika to be the party's president. 

Chula de Silva then suggested that the seat in Parliament be shared by Thilak, Champika and me and views were expressed on this subject. I vacated the chair and when it came to my turn to speak, I said that I was not agreeable to sharing this seat as proposed, after the CC had unanimously decided to nominate me, since the proposed change would amount to a submission to thuggery, pressure and intimidation. 

Since the proposed change in the earlier decision as well as the nonsensical insults and vituperation to which I was subjected, indicated a clear lack of confidence in me by a section of the committee, I said I was resigning from the presidency as well as from my membership of the party.

I was compelled to take this decision because the sequence of events proved clearly that both Thilak Karunaratne and the members of the NMAT were utterly untrustworthy. The allegations suddenly made against me by NMAT members, of matters of which they had all been aware of at all times, and the sheer venom with which they were made, when considered in the context of their hypocritical show of goodwill and respect for me until that day, made patently evident the fact that they were totally untrustworthy and were people possessed of a fundamentalist Taleban mentality, who had only wanted to use me and my name to gain their own ends. 

Thilak Karunaratne in my opinion refrained from doing his duty of sending the letter nominating me to parliament in order to secure the seat for himself. Champika's offer to compromise by both him and me not being nominated but a third person being nominated showed clearly that the NMAT wanted anybody other than me nominated and dangled the carrot of nomination before Thilak. 

If Champika's original contention that he should be nominated because he got more preference votes than I, was a truthful statement of his state of mind, it is inconceivable how he agreed to Thilak's nomination. Thilak, having been an MP for the Kalutara District for 12 consecutive years, polled only about 10,000 preference votes in Kalutara while Champika and I polled 37,000 and 28,000 respectively. (Indeed, Wijayamuni Vijith Rohana, who polled 15,000 preferences but was not even considered for a nomination!) Thus, preferences had nothing to do with the issue. 

Secondly, though Thilak professes to have accepted the seat to strike a compromise, that contention does not hold water because by the time he was nominated I had left and there was no need for a compromise.

I did not leave the party because I did not get the seat. Had I been so anxious to get the seat I could easily have called for a vote and carried the day since nine of the 17 members of the CC (and probably 10) would definitely have voted in my favour. However, I did not want a seat in such circumstances because even if I had got the seat by taking a vote, I would still have had to work with Thilak and the others from the NMAT, on whom I could not repose a fraction of an atom of trust. 

Further, the NMAT members who were present had shown themselves to be not merely utterly untrustworthy hypocrites but also to be a set of equally intolerant Talebans. 

In the circumstances, if I had continued to work with them, I would have been misleading the country into believing that they and Thilak Karunaratne were responsible and trustworthy people who were suitable to hold high office in this country. Had I done so, I would have been misleading the people and committing an unforgivable act of treachery to the country as a whole.

I must emphasise that I did not resign through personal pique or because my feelings were hurt. I have no animus or grouse against any person such as Dr. Harischandra Wijetunga, who criticises or attacks me openly. That is his right. I can both live and work with such people though I disagree with their views. I cannot however live or work with people who conceal, beneath a veneer of friendship and goodwill, venomous feelings of hatred towards me or deceive me. I also cannot bow down to pressure. That is why I left Sihala Urumaya. 


The Americans who survived the blast

By Nilika de Silva
"I feel sorry for the Sri Lankan people who have to live with terror," said American tourist A. Verdonk who was an eyewitness to Wednesday's blast at Town Hall. 

She was a member of a group of Americans who were visiting the scenic places of Colombo on Wednesday. 

Reminiscing the terror and unable to believe that she is still alive, Ms. Verdonk said, "It's a miracle that we were not hurt." But the vehicle in front of her carrying three of her friends were injured in the blast triggered by an LTTE suicide bomber. 

With the deafening sound of the blast, the car Ms. Verdonk was travelling in was hit by flying pieces of glass and metal.

"The driver was fantastic. He was very collected, very shocked," Ms. Verdonk said. The car in which her friends were travelling in was badly damaged. She said the driver soon took control of the situation and told her, "Ma'm, don't worry, I can drive on."

Ms. Verdonk was all praise for the courageous policeman who was killed in the bomblast. 

"I hope the Government give them compensation and pensions.," she said.

The Americans injured in the blast have been identified as Nansie Jubitz, Barbara Baker and Daphne Monteleone all attached to the American Volunteer programme TIPS, which is winding up its operaions in Sri Lanka. They were first admitted to the National Hospital and later transferred to the Nawaloka Hospital.

The blast which took place outside the gates of the Town Hall on F.R. Senanayake Mawatha, was the culmination of a chase by police officers in a three wheeler and the Cinnamon Gardens Police mobile unit summoned to the spot. 

Lalith Wickremenayaka, a school van driver, was another person who witnessed the blast. Mr. Wickremenayaka had, as usual, parked his vehicle and was waiting there until school was over when he would collect the children. 

He had seen the whole drama unfold. "I heard someone shouting hands up, the next I saw was a blaze of yellow," he said describing the explosion which saw him admitted to hospital. 


MSD vehicle in hit-and-run case?

A 30-year-old man who was allegedly knocked down by a vehicle used by personnel of the Ministerial Security Division provididng security to Minister Richard Pathirana, died at the National Hospital.

The incident took place on October 6 around 11 p.m. near the Sri Sumangala Boy's school in Panadura when the victim, Bernard Nishantha, was returning home from his workplace in Moratuwa on a motorcyle. He was rushed to the Panadura hospital from where he was transferred to the Kalubowila hospital and then to the National Hospital, Colombo where he died on October 11. 

The MSD vehicle is said to have left the scene without any regard to what had taken place. However, some motorists gave chase to the vehicle and forced the Minister's body guards to surrender to the police. 

Nishantha was studying for his priesthood and had completed one year in that field at the time of his death.


Mystery shrouds Jaffna journalist's killing

By Chris Kamalendran
A veteran Tamil Journalist Mylvahanam Nimalarajan was writing an article while listening to the BBC's Thamil Osai programme which carried a news item he had sent about the shooting down of an Air Force helicopter in Jaffna.

Minutes before Nimalarajan and his wife Parimilarshanthi (30) had heard the sound of dogs barking outside the house and come out to see whether any stranger was around the house, but noticing nothing unusual they retired to their usual chores.

The area around the house situated behind the Jaffna Kachcheri was engulfed in darkness as the regular powercut was on while the routine night curfew was in force.

The journalist's wife, retired to bed with their youngest daughter. "I heard a loud explosion almost as I went to sleep. I rushed to Nimalarajan's room. I saw him in a pool of blood. I rushed to my father-in-law's room and again found him also in a pool of blood," Parimilarshanthi told The Sunday Times in a telephone interview from their Jaffna residence. The shots had been fired through the window. She alerted his friends by telephoning them and they had informed the Army who moved in to remove the injured to the Jaffna hospital. Nimalarajan succumbed to his injuries. 

His friends and relatives were puzzled as to how the assailants had entered the house situated in a high security zone during curfew hours

According to Parimilar-shanthi, two days before the killing he had told friends and a Tamil politician in Colombo that his life was in danger as an ex-militant group was unhappy about his reporting about election malpractices. 

Nimalarajan worked for the Tamil daily Virakesari, and the Sinhala weekly Ravaya in addition to being a regular contributor to the BBC's Sinhala and Tamil services.

Nimalarajan was one of the few sources of independent news from the Jaffna peninsula, where journalists are not allowed free access.

Police said they were unable to confirm about who was responsible for the attack, but other Tamil political parties and media organisations believe that it was the work of an ex-militant group.

One of the statements said that the EPDP which was accused of election malpractices in Nimalarajan's news dispatches was responsible for the killing. "The TULF has made a statement, blaming us for the killing. This is a baseless allegation. As a respected political party they should act in a responsible manner," an EPDP official said.

Newly appointed Media Minister Anura Priyadhar-shana Yapa describing the incident as a cowardly act of terrorism said that at a time when the Government had asserted the freedom of journalists, no responsible person would tolerate such acts which should be condemned unreservedly.

The Committee to Protect Journalists was among the International Organisations which condemned the slaying of Nimalarajan.

"Nimalarajan risked his life to serve as the eyes and ears of the world, reporting on the consequences of the civil war from a place where journalists are regularly denied access," CPJ Asia programme coordinator Kavita Menon said in a statement.

"Local journalists suspect that Nimalarajan's reporting on vote-rigging and intimidation in Jaffna during the recent parliamentary elections may have led to his murder. CPJ is continuing to investigate this case, and will issue additional reports as the details become clear," the statement said. 

Meanwhile, EPDP leader and Minister Douglas Devananda yesterday rejected what he described as "wild accusations" against his party over the killing.

Urging the government to conduct a full probe he said the charges against his party were made largely by those who fully knew the ways of the LTTE but were afraid to speak out. 

He said these sections had no guts to point a finger at the LTTE when TULF and EPDP leaders had been gunned down. 

Mr. Devananda said his party had been consistent in its support for the freedom of expression.

The JVP in a statement said the journalist had given an independent report, especially in the EPDP stronghold Kayts island, and faced death threats from this group. 

It pointed out that the journalist was killed on the night when the EPDP leader was elevated to the cabinet and thus the government also had to take responsibility for the killing."

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