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To mark the 80th birthday of Prime Minister Sirima Bandaranaike, a felicitation ceremony was held yesterday at the Sugathadasa Indoor Stadium where distinguished personnel who have rendered yeoman service to the nation were honoured. Veteran politician and LSSP founder member Vivienne Gunawardene is seen here receiving an award of honour from Ms. Bandaranaike. Pic by Gemunu Wellage
The LTTE has launched a major campaign in Canada to project itself as a group of freedom fighters amidst a growing world opinion that tends to classify it as a terrorist organisation.
The campaign comes in the wake of a trial of LTTE co-ordinator, Suresh (Manickavasagar Thayalan), who has been charged under Section 40 (I) of the Canadian Immigration Act, with illegal fund-raising for a group classified as a terrorist organisation.
Reports from Canada say a former Rupavahini Chairman Mr. Wasantha Rajah has come there from London to appear before Judge Mr. Teittelbaum as a defence witness.
Mr. Wasantha Rajah in his evidence has said that there was absolute freedom in Jaffna and that anyone could write anything even against the LTTE.
Mr. Wasantha Rajah at first testified in camera for one hour and then in open court, the reports said.
Judge Teittelbaum had asked the accused (Suresh) to provide evidence to prove that democracy existed in Jaffna. The defence had, it is said, produced video clippings showing police stations, courts and other administrative bodies functioning in the North.
Meanwhile, at the 52nd session of the Commission on Human Rights, Canada has called both the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE to respect human rights. "Canada encourages the government of Sri Lanka to strengthen its efforts to improve the human rights situation despite the ongoing ethnic conflict. We urge the LTTE to show respect for human life and human rights, and to join the Sri Lanka government in seeking a peaceful solution to the conflict."
A Canadian delegation was in Sri Lanka recently to study the human rights situation here.
The LTTE is also facing problems in Switzerland. Fifteen LTTE suspects were arrested in Zurich recently for extortion of money from Sri Lankan Tamil expatriates and also for fund raising.
According to sources, Murali who has been identified as the leader of arrested gang, and four others have been remanded till investigations are completed. The others were released. The sources said Murali was so powerful that he travelled about in a Mercedes Benz escorted by bodyguards.
Murali was recently charged with reckless driving after his car hit a Tamil expatriate who was seriously injured.
Swiss Embassy officials in Colombo confirmed the arrests of the LTTE activists but said they were unaware of the release of the ten LTTE members.
The crackdown in Zurich came only a few days after the Sri Lankan government agreed to sign the extension of the repatriation agreement with Switzerland which will send back several hundred Sri Lankan Tamils on a 'last to come first to be sent back' basis.
Reviresa II troops killed at least 50 LTTE rebels and wounded more than 80 on the first day of the major offensive underway in the North, a military statement said.
The statement said:
"Troops having commenced their advance into the areas not under the control of security forces were able to locate LTTE terrorists at three locations. Terrorists were taken by complete surprise and hence after offering resistance initially, ran away abandoning their positions. Troops however engaged the terrorists causing heavy casualties among them.
"Troops had advanced about eight kilometres from earlier held positions by afternoon on April 19, 96. A large number of civilians have stayed behind in their homes and were jubilant over the arrival of the army. Civilians who had gathered at places of worship, welcomed the arrival of the troops by ringing the bells of Kovils. They appealed to the Army to remain in the newly liberated areas. A safe passage has already been established for those civilians displaced from Walikamam to return to their home in Walikama from Thenamarachchi and Wadamarachchi.
"The Sri Lanka Air Force engaged identified LTTE bases in Wadamarachchi. The Sri Lanka Navy also provided Naval gunfire support.
"As a result of the confrontations on April 19 over 50 terrorists were killed and a minimum of 80 wounded. 32 dead bodies of terrorists were recovered by troops along with firearms, radio sets and other military equipment. Two soldiers were killed in action and eight soldiers were wounded.
Maximum precautions have been taken to ensure the safety of civilians. As a result, so far there have been no casualties at all among the civilians. Action has also been taken to provide urgently needed humanitarian assistance such as food and medicine etc., to the civilians. Operation continues."
A Defence Ministry communique also said that a goods train proceeding from Polonnaruwa to Batticaloa was caught up in a terrorist pressure mine explosion.
Yesterday evening the engine, compartments and two fuel tanks were damaged due to the explosion.
Seven civilians and a soldier received minor injuries and were treated at the Batticaloa Hospital, the communique said.
Under the censorship on military news imposed on Friday, publishing any statement related to the official conduct or the performance of the head or any member of the armed forces or police has also been prohibited.
This section is an addition to the earlier regulations imposed during the previous censorship which was in effect when 'Operation 'Riviresa' was in progress late last year.
Under the regulations announced on Friday, the foreign media has also been included, but the Government Information Department said foreign media would be exempted from the censorship
According to the regulations announced, the censorship covers news relating to:
Any operations carried out or proposed to be carried out, by the Armed Forces or the Police Force (including the Special Task Force);
The procurement or proposed procurement of arms or supplies by any such Forces;
The deployment of troops or personnel, or the deployment or use of equipment, including aircraft or naval vessels, by any such Forces;
Or any statement pertaining to the official conduct or the performance of the head or any member or any of the Armed Forces or the Police Force.
The British High Commission in Colombo has raised with the Foreign Ministry the issue of the arrest and deportation of British Scholar, Dr. (Ms.) Jane Russell without informing the mission.
A High Commission spokesman, told The Sunday Times, they had asked the Foreign Ministry to investigate the matter and report.
Dr. Russell, a resident here for 23 years was awarded a Ph.D. for her thesis on the political history of Ceylon at the University of Peradeniya in the 1970's as a Commonwealth scholar. She was arrested on April 11, 1996, in Kadugannawa by the police, and allegedly detained at various locations before deportation.
Dr. Russell who has been a partner in a BOI approved project had written to President Chandrika Kumaratunga about her arrest and called for her intervention. She had stated that her arrest and detention would create a great deal of concern abroad and it would tarnish the image of the country internationally.
Dr. Russell said the police had failed to give any reason for her arrest. She had first been told that she had committed a traffic offense and her licence had been taken away by the Kadugannawa police. When she called over at the police station to collect the licence, she was arrested, she claimed.
The police had told her that the British High Commission would be kept informed but the mission in Colombo had not been informed, Dr. Russell had claimed. She said she strongly felt that the events were connected with a personal vendetta by the family members of her partner in the BOI project following an ongoing property dispute between her business partner and their family.
Meanwhile, 'Women for Peace' movement in a statement said it was outraged and appalled to witness the arbitrary arrest, detention and subsequent forceful deportation of Dr. Jane Russell on April 17, when the government was celebrating the 80th birthday of the Prime Minister.
"We feel that she should have been honoured rather than deported on the day. We strongly condemn this capricious act of the bureaucracy. This act constitutes an instance of misuse of power of a sinister kind. Ms. Russell's lawyers were in the end, unable to plead her case in court which was due on April 18.
"The actual reason for her deportation, we are told, was her overstay of her visa. However, the Immigration authorities have so far failed to explain the reason for confiscating Ms. Russell's passport. How did this high handed action of the Immigration authorities go unnoticed and unquestioned? Does this mean, that despite rhetoric on good governance and transparency, a bureaucracy has its own institutional powers to punish individuals with impunity, it asked.
Ms. Russell's case, it must be pointed out, illustrates a deep malaise stalking our society. The police officers, Ms. Russell claimed, were abusive and threatening. She was threatened with acts of violence, should she disobey and was refused permission to record a statement.
There appears to be a mystery and conspiracy of silence shrouding the events that led to her deportation. The authorities have failed to ensure that justice prevails in this matter for Ms. Russell.
We, at 'Women for Peace' therefore, urge the government to redress the wrong done to Jane Russell and ensure her early return to Sri Lanka to continue her academic work," the statement said.
The curfew clamped in the district of Kilinochchi will be lifted at 6 a.m. from today (April 21). However the curfew will continue to be effective in the Jaffna peninsula until further notice, according to a Ministry of Defence press release.
Scotland Yard is to assist Sri Lanka in detecting booby traps, mines or arms caches hidden in various places by LTTE terrorists, an official said.
Top Scotland Yard detectives will come here for the purpose along with high-tech equipment.
The move follows CID chief T.V.Sumanasekera's recent meetings with several top defence and Scotland Yard officials in London
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