The Sunday TimesFront Page

26th January 1997




"Being in a ship is being in jail, with the danger of being drowned" seems to be what the weeping mother is telling her son who was one of the lucky survivors from the ill-fated ship which sank in the Mediterranean waters near Italy, killing nearly 90 Sri Lankans. Pic. by Lakshman Gunatilleke

Battle hots up for mini polls

New faces for top places
By Arshad M. Hadjirin and Chandimal Mendis

Both the ruling People's Alliance and the United National Party have dropped some of the old faces from the list of candidate for the coming local polls while the NDUNLF is having last minute talks to finalise its list.

PA General Secretary and Minister D.M. Jayaratna told "The Sunday Times" new and young faces were being introduced after some members were found inactive in their areas.

A UNP spokesman said the party would be contesting all councils and key changes had been made in certain areas. The UNP will be introducing Party Chairman Karu Jayasuriya for the mayor's post in Colombo while in Kandy, Harindranath Dunuwila, a former MP for the district has been picked to run for the Mayor's post.

The PA would be fielding Deputy Minister of Youth Affairs, Jeevan Kumaratunga for the Colombo Mayor's post, political source said.

The Sunday Times learns that the NDUNLF until yesterday had not been able to reach a decision on fielding its candidates on the PA list.

The PA General Secretary said they hope to finalise the list of candidates by Tuesday after a PA Executive Committee meeting tomorrow, but NDUNLF sources said they would not be completing their list by that day.

Mr. Jayaratna said the PA had yet not finalised its list for the Colombo, Kalutara, Galle and Ratnapura district.

Meanwhile the use of state vehicles for campaigning in the local polls is to be strictly prohibited and Government officials are to be held responsible if any of the vehicles are released for election activities, Mr. Jayaratna said.

"All Ministries and officials will be informed not to release any of the vehicles for election activities," Mr. Jayaratna said. He said the rule would also apply to vehicles now used by local councils many of which are held by the UNP.

The directions came in the wake of a tough warning by President Chandrika Kumaratunga that any SLFP member found manipulating polls laws at the coming elections, would be sacked immediately, he said.

The warning was given at a meeting of SLFP Members of Parliament last Wednesday.

Stringent measures and tight security are to be enforced for the elections scheduled for March 27.

Nearly 50,000 Police and Army personnel are to be deployed throughout the country and only a limited number of political meetings would be allowed, Mr. Jayaratna said.

CBK: war will end soon

By Shyamal Collure

President Chandrika Kumaratunga yesterday said the government had completed two-thirds of the task to end the north-east war and was working to end the balance one third of the war in a "short time".

President Kumaratunga speaking at the 45th annual convention of the Sri Lanka Freedom party at the R.Premadasa Stadium said the north-east war created by the previous government had been dragging on for the past 12 years, but the PA government, keeping to its promises, had talks with Prabhakaran for peace talks within 10 days after coming into office.

She said Sri Lanka probably was one of the countries in recent history, which had put forward peace proposals without any external pressure.

The peace process had been accepted by 60 per cent of the population, but Prabhakaran and his followers did not want peace, Ms. Kumaratunga said.

President Kumaratunga referring to the forthcoming local elections called for a three-fourth mandate from the voters.

Since the government came into office it had been able to work towards ending "state sponsored terrorism" and was able to restore democracy. "The government had been able to ensure the freedom of expression and media freedom."

The President said the country's economy was in a bad shape when she took over with no money in the Treasury, and if two months had gone there wouldn't have been any "economy".

The President said seven factories which were privatised will be re-acquired by the government by next Tuesday.

She also said the government was confident of bringing down the cost of living. Inflation rose to 13 per cent mainly due to electricity and drought problems. However as solutions have been found to these problems the cost of living could be brought down.

The President said that the government hopes to create 300,000 more jobs within the year, open three super highways, complete 950 small and medium scale projects.

TNL crew assaulted at SLFP convention

By Christopher Kamalendran

Two TNL TV crew members were yesterday allegedly assaulted and one of their cassettes was removed by persons claiming to be bodyguards of a cabinet minister at the 45th national convention of Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) held at the R. Premadasa stadium.

The crew which had been officially invited had reported to the Department of Information where they were screened and sent to the stadium along with a security officer. The TNL crew were videoing the main guests, including Prime Minister, Sirimavo Bandaranaike at the grand stand.

President Kumaratunga had not arrived by that time.

Later on, the crew had entered the ground to video pictures when a Cabinet minister is reported to have questioned their presence.

The TNL crew was then allegedly manhandled by PA supporters. One claiming to be a bodyguard had allegedly assaulted the journalist and removed the video tape.

The crew had left the stadium and lodged a complaint at the Maligawatta police station.

The journalist, Vajira Samaranayaka, told "The Sunday Times" that TNL had full authority to enter the stadium, but the minister was heard saying that they did not have permission.

In September 1996 TNL was accused by the government parliamentary group of preventing Rupavahini from giving coverage to President Kumaratunga's arrival to witness the Singer Cup finals between Sri Lanka and Australia. The TNL had purchased the rights for the telecast of the match.

CBK vs. Sunday Leader

State delaying case, says counsel

S.L. Gunasekera, senior counsel for the defence in the criminal defamation case filed on behalf of Ms. Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga against the editor and the publisher of the Sunday Leader, told the High Court on Wednesday they were of the view that a deliberate attempt was being made by the state to delay the trial.

The trial was put off by the High Court Judge Titus Cooray for March 5, following an application by State Counsel Palitha Fernando who said some documents relating to the prosecution case were not available. Mr. Gunasekera said he was admitting all those documents so there was no need to produce them, but state counsel said he would nevertheless wish to produce the documents.

The two accused in this case are Lasantha Wickrematunge, editor of the Sunday Leader, and its publisher Lalraj Wickrematunge.

Sellasamy factor sets polls poser for the CWC

With the local polls round the corner, the Ceylon Workers Congress is facing a dilemma.

The Elections Commissioner Dayananda Dissanayake told "The Sunday Times" that "as far as we are concerned M. S. Sellasamy is still the General Secretary of the CWC."

While the dispute as to who is General Secretary of the CWC, with both S.A.R. Thondaman and Mr. Sellasamy claiming the post in the largest plantation trade union, Mr. Dissanayake said that the court verdict as to who is the general secretary will be delivered on January 27.

However, he said "the Secretary of the political party is purely a matter to be decided by members of that party. It has nothing to do with me. When there is an election only, I will come into the scene and, only if there are any rival sections within the party, otherwise I don't intervene."

Mr. Dissanayake had called for written submissions from Mr. Thondaman and Mr. Sellasamy as there was a dispute for the post of general secretary of the CWC.

In his written submission Mr. Sellasamy had stated that "even though I am the secretary I will co-operate with Mr. Thondaman if he is willing to contest under the CWC. "

No rite to remember

Central Bank employees are angry over the refusal by the authorities to grant permission for them to hold a religious ceremony at the site where a devastating LTTE bomb killed or injured hundreds of people a year ago..

As the anniversary of the Jan. 31 blast approaches, an official of the Central Bank Employees Union said they had appealed to President Kumaratunga to intervene but there had been no response so far.

Bank authorities have refused permission on security grounds but the union official said that was an act of giving into the LTTE.

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