The Sunday TimesFront Page

18th February 1996




Government Extends Night of Prayer for a Week

As island wide religious ceremonies under state patronage to invoke blessings on the country got underway last night, President Chandrika Kumaratunga requested to extend the ceremonies in selected temples to last for a week.

Buddha Sasana Ministry sources said accordingly 16 temples had been requested to continue the religious ceremonies at state expense. Originally the Ministry had made arrangements to have Pirith ceremonies for two days.

Earlier the Mahanayaka Theras of the Asgiriya and Malwatte chapters and the Diyawadana Nilame, Neranjan Wijeratne, appealed to all temples to organise Pirith ceremonies as the country was undergoing a bad spell.

The Sunday Times learns that the call for islandwide religious ceremonies came following requests made by the government. At least two Ministers had called on the Mahanayaka Theras in Kandy last week to discuss the religious ceremonies to invoke the blessings on the government and the country.

The main ceremony under the patronage of the government got underway at Kelaniya Raja Maha Viharaya. Similar ceremonies were due to be held at the Dalada Maligawa Kandy, Kirivehera Kataragama, Sri Maha Bodhiya Anuradhapura and the Raja Maha Viharaya Mahiyanganaya.

The government had issued instructions to District Secretaries (Government Agents) to provide state assistance to the temples holding the religious ceremonies.

The Mahanayaka Theras in their statement said the country's situation was worsening and public property was being destroyed. They said water levels in reservoirs were dropping affecting power generation and agriculture was being affected by the existing drought.

The Mahanayakas recalled that in the past whenever the country was undergoing a lean period, similar religious ceremonies have been held to invoke blessings on the country. The Mahanayaka Theras of the Asgiriya and Malwatte chapters in their statement also called on temples to continue their religious ceremonies for the next few days.

Some of the temples also were yesterday told that all expenses for the religious ceremonies would be met by the government. Meanwhile the National Christian Council has also called on all member churches to observe February 21 as a day of prayer for the nation.

"Please request all members of our congregation to use the day of prayer for peace and reconciliation in our land," a statement from the NCC said.

In recent weeks the government has been openly concerned about astrological forecast for the country. A prediction by a famous South Indian astrologer Kannan Parathasarathy was even taken up at a Cabinet meeting recently.

Watergate scenario in cement deal

The transcript of a telephone conversation where two business investors discussed how to bribe Sri Lankan politicians was filed in the court this week in the multi-million Puttalam cement case. The conversation between Jawaid Thawakkal of the Thawakkal Group and Ascanio Martinotti of Regent Pacific in Hong Kong was filed in the District Court of Colombo where action has been filed by a group of foreign shareholders, stating that Thawakkals were mismanaging the company, acting against the interests of the shareholders and the nation at large.

The shareholders have taken legal action to seek the removal of Directors representing Thawakkal Group which controls the company and the installation of their own Directors.

In 1993 Puttalam cement was sold to Thawakkal Groups of Pakistan.Following are excerpts of the conversation, which took place between the two investors.

Ascanio Martinotti (AM): And they told me that the rumours in Colombo.

Jaward Tawakkal (JT):Yes.

AM: Are that you... you paid much more... for getting that approval of the Cabinet....

JT: No, no.. that's... what it is.

AM: You paid twenty million?

JT: Thirty!

AM: Thirty. I had heard.. no because you know, I mean, we were discussing and this one... said... ah... no.. because the rumour is that... but that is incredible anyway... they asked like this?!

JT: You know... the English people say that.. "Money works, bullshit talks.."

AM: Yes.. money works, bullshit talks...

JT: It is like that... in Sri Lanka.. we can... everywhere, not in Sri Lanka, you can do anything if you have...

AM: No... but in any event you know... because I played down the thing. I think it is in our interest now to say that nothing has happened and no money was paid to the Government at all and... and... and is the middleman... the person you said you gave the money to... a person you trust or someone who can go around... and...?

JT: No... we know the person and I have the contacts of upper (...) that... top person also... I have met several times... and I know all of them, all Cabinet people... I am talking to... because it is two years that I am there and I know each of them very well... all top level and (...) secretary... every week, you know, we get together. They know me and I know them now... basically you know... the thing is "friend"... everybody is your friend... that is the thing now... and now they say... "Mr. Jawaid, you want anything in Sri Lanka?... just let us know... if you have somebody... that bothers you...." Even you, you know your case (i.e. the court action and the EGM requisition)... they said..."Ok! If you want we intervene... we'll sort it out... this is our problem, we'll sort it out..." Because I know... if I tell them something they will ask for more..."

AM: They will ask for more money?...

JT: Yes... you know... if I tell the Government... it will take me... "Ok, give us our side... 10 percent..." ....they will ask for something... and they will give this our side... you know..

AM: I understand...

JT: Because these (...) having vested interested, they are defeated now... I do not think they had to overcome me and Tawakkal, but...unfortunately it defeated them...they were aware that we are foreigners and they will threaten us... but they do not have much to... and we have...

AM: When... when was this?

JT: This year... you know... last year... sorry...

AM: 1995!

JT: 1995... that is why this Cabinet has got to give the approval and everything...

AM: Ah yes... that is for the famous Cabinet approval decision, that you gave me (i.e. the Cabinet Decision No. 95/0551/121/012 of 23 March)... it was to reverse that decision?...

Indian Navy Helped Attack LTTE Ship - Paper

Indian Navy sources have claimed they played a major supportive role in the attack on the LTTE arms ship off Mullaitivu this week, according to a Times of India report.

The report comes in the wake of denials from both Sri Lankan and Indian Defence Ministry officials that the Indian Navy had participated in the operation.

The Times of India report said an Indian flotilla comprising three vessels was reportedly involved in the operation. This included a Leader class frigate, a missile corvette (INS Kirpan) and a seaward defence boat (SDB-57).

The SDB was damaged in its super structure during a cross-fire between the LTTE vessel and the Sri Lankan Navy and has since returned to the Madras harbour, the newspaper reported.

Sources in Visakhapatnam based Eastern Naval Command claimed that on February 12 they had received specific intelligence from Sri Lankan authorities, which was routed to them from Delhi. The flotilla set sail from Madras and subsequently located the LTTE ship which had possibly originated from somewhere in the East. It is estimated that the LTTE ship was carrying about 4000 tonnes of arms, ammunition and explosives, the newspaper said. The report also said the ship, located within Sri Lankan exclusive zone, was escorted into Sri Lankan waters where it was handed over to the Sri Lankan Navy,

Independent Probe Sought

A military officer appointed to probe the massacre of civilians in the eastern Kumarapuram village left for Trincomalee over the weekend for on-the-spot investigation, but Tamil parties are seeking a probe by a Supreme Court Judge.

Major General E H Samaratunga will visit the village during the weekend and return to Colombo by tomorrow with the Defence Ministry vowing that strong disciplinary action would be taken against any security forces personnel found to be involved in the massacre.

The possibility of military involvement in the killing has been revealed by on-going police investigations and by eye-witnesses. TULF Trincomalee parliamentarian A. Thangathurai who visited the scene has appealed to President Kumaratunga to appoint a Supreme Court Judge to head the commission of inquiry, Mr. Thangathurai told The Sunday Times that after visiting the village he was certain that the massacre was carried out by some Army personnel.

"I spoke to the villages and they named the officers and even identified them. They told me that these officers had been coming to the villagers for some time. And they were certain it was the army. Thus appointing an army officer to head the investigation will not help. It has to be an independent judge," he said. According to eyewitnesses, a number of men in uniform had stormed the village and opened fire at the villagers while the other encircled the area. Mr. Thangathurai said the villagers had told him the whole story. But they were still afraid and he felt they would not speak to a military officer.

He said the TULF would press hard to get an independent judge and also seek compensation for the victims.

UNHCR Radio Row WIth Govt. Still Not Settled

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) is disturbed and helpless because of the government's delay in allowing it to set up radio equipment in Kilinochchi, an official said.

The government last month refused permission to install the US $20,000 radio equipment at Kilinochchi, fearing possible take over of the equipment by the LTTE.

Peter Meijer, Resident Representative of the UNCHR told "The Sunday Times" UNHCR was now using similar apparatus, in Jaffna and Madhn which are also controlled by the LTTE. "So far we have had no problems with the LTTE, and there have been no threats from them to remove the equipment.

"We can't find any reason why the government should be objecting to the setting up of the communication centre. Our security at the other centres is limited to a few guards but we find that the protection is sufficient," Mr. Meijer said.

According to UN resolutions there cannot be any operations without proper communication between the bases. The UNHCR said it all could serve the initially displaced persons by itself and not associate with the government until permission was granted for the installation of the radio equipment at Kilinochchi.

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