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|Tapping to full human potential: Ranjit Kannan (18) who taps palmyrah toddy to earn his day's living in an extra ordinary way. He lost his left leg treading on to a anti personnel mine while playing football in the Vardhayogapuram beach in the Trincomalee district in 1992. Pic. by Lakshman Gunatilleke||
Lawrence Thilakar, a senior LTTE leader who has been acting as the movement's international spokesman, has secretly come to Sri Lanka in what is seen as a move to broker a peace deal with international support, political sources said yesterday.
Mr. Thilakar, based in Paris, using a fictitious name had come via Katmandu, across India and crossed over to Nachchikuda, in the Mannar district recently and later on briefed his leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran about the possible peace moves.
The LTTE's Chief spokesman who has been in touch with foreign governments and international organisations over the past few years, is said to have come with proposals about the possibility of resuming negotiations.
Mr. Thilakar is also reported to have had close contacts with Karikalan, the current political wing leader of the LTTE and who earlier took part in negotiations with the Sri Lankan government's team.
There was speculation that the LTTE had made indirect contact with the government during President Chandrika Kumaratunga's visit to Paris in late November last year.
However the LTTE in recent months has not given any indication about its willingness for talks with the government although there has been various moves including offers for third party mediation to bring the government and the LTTE together for talks.
Opposition MP Anura Bandaranaike has complained to Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike about the mounting violence in the Attanagalla area.
Mr. Bandaranaike told The Sunday Times that the Prime Minister was disturbed about the situation in Attanagalla and that she had promised to speak to the President regarding the matter.
"Never before at any local polls had so much violence taken place and it would definitely escalate in the next few days," an agitated Bandaranaike said.
"I just cannot understand why the PA has to resort to intimidation, thuggery, harassment and assault of UNP candidates and their supporters if they are so certain of winning the local polls," Mr. Bandaranaike who is also the Gampaha District UNP organizer said.
He said, "The PA is so scared of the colour green that they don't allow the UNPers to put up posters, flags or green buntings in the Gampaha district, leave alone the Attanagalla electorate. This is so in other places as well," he added.
"The most blatant violent incident in the Attanagalla electorate was three days back when Dr. Bandula Siriwardena was allegedly attacked by an official of the President's Coordinating staff. The doctor was putting up posters of his wife, who is a candidate, when this particular official with others had attacked him at the Thihariya junction.
"This is the first time ever that a President had taken over the campaign of one single district, Gampaha, which is now in the charge of President Chandrika Kumaratunga. Earlier Presidents Jayewardene, Premadasa and Wijetunga campaigned throughout the country and did not concentrate on one single district or electorate."
"If the government during the past 28 months had not told a lot of lies and deceived the people, then why does it have to fear the UNP or its supporters so much" asked an angry Bandaranaike.
"International polls observes had not been issued visas to come here to observers the local polls. The Sri Lanka High Commission in New Delhi had been very specifically told not to issue visas to polls observers" he claimed.
'If international polls observers are not allowed to monitor the local polls, then you can only expect thuggery and intimidation at the hands of the PA,' he added.
"The PA came to power saying it would put an end to violence but what its supporters are doing today is a blatant violation of what they preached."
"Look at the promises they gave the people in 1994 and how many of them have been fulfilled todate. For nearly two years they had been blaming the UNP regime. Nowhere in the world a government when it comes to power harps on the mistakes of the previous regime, but gets down to brass tacks and fulfil its pledges. They should be more practical and not blame the UNP for all its mistakes. This is the reason why the people are getting disillusioned with the PA today," he reasoned.
The Attorney-General has filed application in the High Court of Colombo to request the Magistrate's Court be directed not to release the three suspects in the murder case of the multi-millionaire businessman, S. S. Kumar on bail until final determination.
The Criminal Procedure Code sets out that suspects in this kind of a case can be released on bail if proceedings are not instituted against them before three months from the date of arrest unless the High Court on application made by the Attorney-General directs otherwise.
The suspects, Palitha Rohana Siriwardene, OIC, Welikada, Sriyani Wijeratne Rambukwella and W. Indika Dinesh de Silva are detained at Welikada. An application for bail on behalf of the first and the second suspects will be taken up for objections on March 18.
The AG has pointed out that the first two suspects and the third would have to be released on bail on March 11 and March 19 respectively if the High Court does not rule otherwise. He has stated that as investigations were not yet over it would not be possible to institute proceedings against them before the above dates.
The case will come up before High Court Judge Shirani Tillekawardene tomorrow.
Malaysian tycoon Yahaya Ahmad who was in Sri Lanka last year with a Malaysian investment delegation headed by former Malaysian Finance Minister Tun Daim, died in a helicopter crash last Monday.
His wife and the pilot also died in the crash.
Mr. Yahaya headed the DRB-Hicom group of companies. He was believed to have shown interest in buying Air-Lanka.
The businessman also headed the Malaysian national automaker of Perusahaan Otomobil Nasional (Proton).
The tycoon was on his way to visit his sick mother, who died last Thursday, the Reuters news agency said.
Investigations were still continuing but reports said the crash could have occurred due to a rotor blade coming off.
AirLanka pilots have threatened to go on strike and resort to Court action against a move by its management to upgrade serving Indian First Officers on the A 320 airbus.
The Guild is strongly opposed to the move which it says not only impedes the promotional prospects of local pilots, but is also totally discriminatory. "Nowhere else, not even in India, is this practice carried out", one irate official of the Guild said.
AirLanka management contends that a shortage of A 320 pilots had prompted the move. According to Captain Nihal Jayawickrama, Manager of Flight Operations, the Indian pilots are to pay for their command upgrade training and will not sign any bond. He contends this will enable Sri Lankan pilots to replace the expatriates within a month's notice given by either side.
One of the reasons that has angered the Pilots' Guild is the AirLanka management move to take into consideration the Indian Officers' experience when they were serving Indian airlines.
The AirLanka Pilots' Guild of Sri Lanka has made it clear that it had all along opposed the move to upgrade the Indian First Officers and charged that the management was going ahead with the move, paying no heed to the protests.
The Airline Pilots' Guild of Sri Lanka will meet today.
With the local polls nearing, sparks began to fly at the Govt. parliamentary group meeting on Wednesday when Minister C.V. Gooneratne said the NDUNLF led by cabinet colleague Srimani Athulathmudali could not go as a splinter group while being in the PA.
Making an obvious reference to Minister Srimani Athulathmudali, he said the NDUNLF was neither playing a straight bat nor a clean game in the campaign. It is alleged the NDUNLF is supporting an independent group in the Dehiwela-Mt. Lavinia Municipal Council elections. The cricket bat is its symbol.
Mr. Gooneratne told The Sunday Times the NDUNLF leadership must realise they were still a part of the PA. "We cannot have splinter groups. We must all go as one. If the NDUNLF can't do that it must get out of the PA and back the UNP which will be altogether a different ball game.''
The Sunday Times learns that Mr. Gooneratne, using symbolic language at the group meeting, indirectly accused Ms. Athulathmudali of trying to bat while sitting on a chair - thus undermining the PA campaign in Dehiwela-Mt. Lavinia.
President Kumaratunga said the issue would be taken up at the PA leaders' meeting. NDUNLF's Kesarilal Gunasekera, the only party member present, said he did not respond because no names were mentioned. Ms. Athulathmu-dali is in Naples, Italy attending an environment conference.
The Government's refusal to issue visas for three American consultants to take part in an election monitoring workshop in Colombo, has caused concern among diplomatic circles and opposition political parties raising doubts about the motive of preventing their entry to the country.
The visas had been denied despite clearance given by Elections Commissioner, Dayananda Dissanayake for the three-member team of the National Democratic Institute, an organisation funded by the US National Endowment for Democracy and which provides consulting services on electoral process.
Mr. Dissanayake confirmed that the team had sought permission and clearance had been given to come and help the local polls-observers - the People's Alliance for Free and Fair Elections (PAFFREL).
"The US team were not election observers, as reported in some sections of the press. They were only due to come to help the PAFFREL", Mr. Dissanayake said.
The US embassy in Colombo on Friday expressed disappointment over the failure to issue the visas.
A spokesman for PAFFREL told The Sunday Times they have been working with the NDI through the Sri Lankan embassy in Washington and the US embassy in Colombo had expressed its support for this request to the Foreign Ministry.
"We are not sure the exact reasons why these visas have been denied. It could be possibly due to the reason that the JVP had said they wanted to get foreign observers to monitor the polls as it was not being done properly by the government", the spokesman said.
On Thursday the Defence Ministry issued a statement in response to a complaint made by the UNP about the non-issue of the visas. It said the Foreign Affairs Ministry or the High Commission in New Delhi was unaware of the matter.
The UNP in a statement issued yesterday called on the government to expedite the issue of the visas.
The statement said:
"The Defence Ministry communique on polls monitors would be hilarious, for its serious implications. The Ministry wants polls monitors to come as tourists. There is emerging an extremely serious breach of free and fair elections. The Ministry considers this a matter of Rest and Recreation, a subject for tourist enjoyment.
When the Defence Ministry made this suggestion of tourists visas for polls monitors, it could not have been hallucinating. The inept government response once again reveals its inability to distinguish issues.
The UNP never requested the government to sponsor monitors. Nor did UNP invite them. It merely urged the government to facilitate their presence by the issue of visas.
For local government elections a specialist NGO, the People's Alliance for Free and Fair Elections (PAFFREL) invited distinguished representatives of the National Democratic Institute for international affairs of Washington, both to monitor polls and train local members for monitoring. The PAFFREL is a non-political body having a membership of distinguished Sri Lankans of all political persuasions.
The National Democratic Institution for International Affairs is extremely prestigious, having had such eminent people as Walter Mondale, Cyrus Vance, among others, on its Board of Governors.
Its nominees as polls monitors are persons who are eminent and recognized, who would not visit a country through devious pretext as advocated by the Defence Ministry.
Visas are required to be issued to them as polls monitors and not for tourist purposes. The Ministry has trivialised the issue
It is not surprising that the government fears an objective review of the local government polls.
Never has there been such a misuse of state power. Orchestrated violence has been unleashed on the UNP and their supporters and property destroyed.
State electronic media are engaged in strident electoral campaigning. The police have been cowed by overnight mass transfers.
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