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Among the devastated buildings in Kilinochchi town is a symbol that says the residents there, 14 years back had faith in democracy.
The cross mark beside a pot drawn on a wall is an indication that they were involved in the 1982 referendum held to decide the extension of Parliament.
Kilinochchi town now in the hands of the security forces is in the process of being transformed into a city where civilians who believe in the ballot could safely return.
The town is being secured to welcome back the residents, isolating them from the Tamil tigers.
Soldiers just out of their teens, motivated by the success of their seniors, were seen putting up the forward defenses and bunkers when a group of journalists were on a conducted tour, after being flown to Palaly from Colombo.
Tamil Tigers who were known to shift their headquarters after the set-back in the Riviresa operation in which they lost their stronghold of Jaffna town have obviously wanted to stay on there as the well-built bunkers and lengthy trenches indicate.
Some of the trenches criss-crossing the town were a clear sign that the LTTE were building up their defenses during the past ten months.
Journalists were flown in from Palaly again to Elephant Pass and thereafter taken on vehicles along roads on whose sides were houses and buildings totally or partially damaged. At Kilinochchi town itself there are hardly any shops, houses and government buildings undamaged.
Army sources said that some of the fittings of the buildings had been removed by the Tigers themselves before fleeing the area.
Other than the few stray dogs left behind, all civilians were reported to have fled the Kilinochchi town and the surrounding areas remain deserted.
With the intermittent mortar fire from distant ranges, the military is well aware that the Tigers want to capture the town again, as they have vowed to do so as a gift for Prabhakaran's birthday on November 15. But the soldiers are equally determined to hold on to the area and build it up to enable the civilians to return just like in Jaffna.
As in 1982 when almost 50 per cent of the voters in Kilinochchi cast their ballots showing their faith in democracy the military wants to create a climate conducive for the people to return and build up faith in the elections.
In the fight to restore democracy, the soldiers who are in the forefront also have their difficulties. A group of deserters who have rejoined the army told 'The Sunday Times' that one of the main problems which they faced was that they were not able to get home when on leave, as flights are limited.
As these pictures show, it is clear that the battle to capture Kilinochchi has not been easy and the battle to restore the town for civilians to return is also not going to be easy.
The Chief Minister of the Central Province has suggested that the SLBC's 'Kandurata Sevaya' should be taken over by the Central Provincial Council.
He said it would render a better service, if it is taken over. He stressed he would not turn the station into a political unit.
He assured that if it came under the provincial council, steps would be taken to keep aloof from party politics.
The upcountry service is one of the most popular of the local services broadcast by the SLBC.
The chief minister dismissed speculation that the service is due to be privatized. He said if it was handed over to the council, he would improve the service quality-wise and take precautions to avoid politicking, through the service.
The Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation, (SLBC), perhaps due to a lack of funds, has proposed to the three regional stations and three community stations to find their own funds to manage their own stations from January 1997.
Chairman/Director General Janadasa Peiris of the SLBC confirmed that the find-your-own-fund, proposal for these stations was being discussed, but no firm decision had been taken as yet.
However, 'The Sunday Times' learns that the regional stations have already been directed to be prepared to go it alone from January 1997.
Mr. Peiris said that this was a very hard decision but it would give these stations semi-autonomy and more freedom to choose the particular programs which suit their own regions. "We will be giving them certain incentives to increase their revenue," he added.
'The Sunday Times' also learns that the regional office in Anuradhapura will be sending their proposals next week regarding this new proposal of the SLBC.
Meanwhile the Kandy Regional Office has already set out a list of proposals to cut their expenditure from next year, and find their own funds to manage the 'Kandurata Service.'
The suspension of overtime from November 1, 1996, assigning of only one officer for a single unit for outside recording, and the suspension of payment to artistes and paying them only traveling expenses, are among the decisions taken.
They have also decided to charge the expenditure for out-door recordings from the relevant Organisation. The radio station will not pick the bill.
Three thousand workers who lost their jobs when the Marketing Department (MD) was closed down in 1989 are complaining that their services were terminated without any compensation.
They say this was another attempt of the previous government to destroy state institutions.
The workers who have formed an organization have made representations to the authorities without much avail. They have also appealed to the President, the Prime Minister and several Cabinet Ministers for redress.
In their appeal the organization has traced the history of the MD which was set up in 1932. They say it was a service-oriented department which was classified as an emergency service by the Government itself. From a retailer of consumer goods the Department became a wholesale trader in fruits, vegetables and supplied hospitals and prisons.
Registration of Persons Department has requested school principals to furnish complete details of National Identity Card applicants from their respective schools at their earliest.
The department has also invited teachers from each schools to assist in issuing the identity cards.
A department official said there were no back logs in the department at present.
International and local telex transmissions at a standstill since last Thursday due to a major breakdown in the telex exchange, a Sri Lanka Telecom official said yesterday.
The official told 'The Sunday Times' that so far the fault has not been detected and that a top engineer from Japan has been asked to look into it.
He said that until the fault is rectified, all telex lines would be out. "We are not sure when the service will be resumed," he said.
The financial crisis faced by the United Nations may affect development projects in Sri Lanka specially with donor countries cutting down on the funds.
Last week NGOs launched global protest calling countries which were in arrears of dues to the UN to pay up, before it goes bankrupt. The UN financial crisis has kept many countries wondering whether development programs and humanitarian projects would be curtailed.
However, the UN representative in Sri Lanka Arve Ofstad told 'The Sunday Times' that Sri Lanka would not be affected immediately but in the long run it would be felt.
Mr. Ofstad said since Sri Lanka received aid for development projects and humanitarian work through separate funding it was unlikely that the country would face a problem.
"However we have been asked to cut down on general expenses, which I personally think is quite acceptable. We have tightened our budget. But none of the development projects has been curtailed," he said.
It is learnt that among the states that owes the UN money, the US is expected to pay $1.6 billion.
Prime Minister, Ms. Sirimavo Bandaranaike will lay the foundation stone for a new hospital complex in Peradeniya tomorrow at 3 p.m.
The hospital with modern facilities is being set up to mark the 80th birthday of the PM.
The new hospital is estimated to cost about Rs. 200 million.
The three storied building will house among other modern high tech. equipment, a computer complex which will be of service to the people of Uva, Central, Eastern, North Central, Wayamba and Sabaragamuwa Provinces.
Some 600,000 public servants and their families making up a total of around 3 million people will benefit from an insurance scheme to be implemented from January next year, Minister Ratnasiri Wickramanayake said.
He said the scheme covering insurance payments for medical expenses, accident cover and debts would cost about Rs. 450 million annually.
Responding to this move which was decided on at a Cabinet meeting last Wednesday, public service trade union chief W.H. Piyadasa said they had been seeking such insurance cover since 1991 and appreciated the government's scheme.
He pointed out that the former UNP government had also tried to implement an insurance scheme for public servants but it had fallen apart because of problems over premium payments and other issues.
Sri Lankan expatriates in Hawaii are reportedly collecting signatures to a petition to be submitted to President Clinton, urging him to put a stop to LTTE activities in the US.
The Sri Lankan residents in Hawaii are signing the document which is spearheaded by students from Sri Lanka who are following postgraduate studies at the Hawaii University.
The Sunday Times learns that the step has been taken by the Lankan expatriates there to counter the misinformation campaign about the government's peace efforts, allegedly being carried out by Tamils who arrive in Hawaii as tourists.
Fifteen government MPs have complained to the President that they have been left out of foreign trips for the past two years. They had pointed out others had gone on a number of occasions depriving them of a chance of going abroad.
The MPs said the President should set out a clear policy on awarding trips to government MPs.
People of Wattawana, a village that lies across the Soraboraweva in Mahiyangana, could see all that happens on the other side of the weva. Yet, it takes more than four hours if they want to get to the town market.
The suspension bridge at the far end of the weva is the only exit from and entry to the village. To reach the bridge, one has to walk a long way along the bound for 90 minutes.
The villagers say they remain virtually cut off ever since king Dutugemunu built the Soraboraweva.
Across the weva there is no tarred or carpeted road. It is a mere pathway through the jungles.
Around 1000 families including some Mahaweli settlers live in Wattawana which has just one school. Farming is their main livelihood. Whatever they produce they bring it to the Mahiyangana town, trekking the near impossible terrain through the jungle . They return home early, for it takes another four hours to get there.
Wattawana is so unfortunate - or rather fortunate - that no politician has set foot on it for the past decade or so. The villagers say only the late Capt. C.P.J Seneviratne braved the journey to come to the village.
The villagers told me that political party organizers in Mahiyangana bring ministers and MPs to the top of the Soraboraweva bound and show them the scenic beauty the splendor of the weva and the ancient trees around it but they do not utter one word about the plight of those living on the other side of the weva.
Recently Minister Anuruddha Ratwatte visited the Soraboraweva. The bridge was renovated and expanded for the Minister to view the scenic beauty from there and speak a few words to the people who had been brought by the organizers.
A villager recalled the promise former Labor Minister Joseph Michael Perera made when he addressed the gathering at the weva. He pledged to build a strong bridge across the weva. "We have heard enough of political promises . The politicians are not concerned about us,'' the villager said with a chuckle. Another quipped, the mistake lies with political party organizers who do not care a damn about us. They benefit but they keep the ministers and MPs in the dark.
An elderly villager said no politician would dare coming to the village. "Even if any politician make it, he would collapse due to fatigue as soon as he reaches here."
Will any politician take up the challenge?
A lorry driver and a cleaner who allegedly raped a 16-year-old girl were arrested at a police checkpoint in Hasalaka while they were taking the girl in the lorry. The police had found the girl naked in the lorry surrounded by empty gunny bags to prevent detection.Continue to the News/Comment page 2
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