The Sunday TimesNews/Comment

25th February 1996




ETv will not be closed without inquiry

ETv took media minister Dharmasiri Senanayake to court over an alleged threat to take over the TV station, if it telecast World Cup cricket matches but State Attorney had assured such an action would not be taken without a full probe.

ETv(Extra Terrestrial Vision) sued the Media Minister after an alleged threat by the Minister that the station's license would be canceled if it defied his orders.

The problem arose when ETv decided to show Wills World Cup cricket matches through Star TV. The state run TV station, Rupavahini has claimed it has obtained exclusive rights from the organizers for telecasting the matches in Sri Lanka.

Earlier, ETv had obtained an injunction preventing Rupavahini from stopping them showing the matches.

Minister Senanayake had accused ETv of piracy, but ETv lawyers have contended saying it was only showing `Free-to-air-signals' that were not violating Sri Lankan intellectual property laws.

Deputy Solicitor General K. Kamalasabesan assured the Court of Appeal this week that Minister would not cancel ETv's license without a proper inquiry.

How Many In Liberated Areas ?

An exaggeration in number of people living in the recently cleared areas in the Jaffna Peninsula was acknowledged on Friday by Rehabilitation Co-ordinator S. M. J. Senaratne.

Mr. Senaratne told 'The Sunday Times' false reports were coming from the northern area District Secretariats and other responsible officers to the authorities in Colombo giving excess number of people living in the areas captured by the Operation Riviresa, and in other welfare centres.

"We don't blame them for this, for it is the general tendency of human beings to exaggerate figures to gain financial or other benefits. As a result, here we are informed that large number of people are in these areas, thus enabling the government to send enough and more food items to the internally displaced or the war shattered people of Jaffna", he said.

According to reports that had reached Mr. Senaratne there were 200,000 civilians living in the captured area and a further 500,000 around areas and at other welfare centres, where the people sought refuge during Operation Riviresa.

However, Mr. Senaratne believed that these were not correct for according to the latest available census report released in 1981 there was a total of 800,000 inhabitants in the Jaffna district, of which large proportions fled the country frequently since the 1983 insurgencies. "We saw many more people fleeing the country in 1991 as well, and figures from Sri Lankan missions abroad testify this," he added.

Over 300,000 Jaffna civilians are living abroad while another large proportion is living outside the north-eastern provinces and the 13 year old war has also reduced the number. Mr. Senaratne said that with the natural growth of the population there could still be a reasonable number of people left.

He said that 10,000 metric tonnes of food were reaching the Jaffna peninsula every month of which 20 percent was reduced recently due to the mass exodus of civilians following Operation Riviresa. But this is compensated by the provision of additional food to welfare centres.

"So far we have had no complaints of any shortages of food or medical items out of these centres, however we may say that the level of sanitation is very poor for, we understand that school buildings are home for thousands of civilians," he said adding that it was evident that the few toilets meant for the school children in these areas could not possibly serve large numbers of families spending the entire time in those buildings.

Asked about the civilians returning to captured areas, Mr. Senaratne said that most of the displaced civilians were subject to LTTE threats and they were keeping back. "If this situation continues, the people will have to find other remedies by withstanding these threats and make a claim for their legal properties for which they are entitled", he said.

But, Mr. Senaratne maintained that the government would not be able to do much if the people are reluctant to make this move. "The government has only won 10 percent of the war, I should say, for the territories gained are of no importance without people in them. It is the popularity of the displaced civilians which should be won in order to establish victory over Jaffna.

The government however considering the welfare of the people set up two CWE outlets and three People's Bank branches.

Meanwhile, the ban on cash flow will continue until further notice in uncleared areas, to ensure that public servants are not deprived of their dues as a result of bank robberies or money being drawn on fake vouchers of these employees.

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