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With election fever running high the poster depicting a burnt body of a man tied to a mango tree is a common sight throughout the country. But a young girl fell unconscious upon seeing it.
The poster revived the mental trauma for the Jayasekara family of Hakmana. The man depicted on the poster is the father of the young girl Priyadarshani, who says since the appearance of the posters no one in her home could carry out their day to day activities.
"It's like a funeral house," Priyadarshani told The Sunday Times.
Incidentally it was The Sunday Times which published this picture first on July 3, 1988.
Priyadarshani's father, Buddhadasa Rupasingha Jayasekara, a businessman in Bengamuwa, Hakmana, was known to be a UNPer. It is believed he was brutally knifed to death by the members of the Deshavimukthi Janatha Viyaparaya (DJV) over an incident related to the 1971 political unrest.
"We can clearly identify that the photograph is of my father," Priyadarshani who now lives in Hiyaraya, Galle said.
Mr. Jayasekara had been removed from his house by a group and killed. His body was tied to a mango tree and given the notorious tyre pyre treatment.
"I first saw the poster near the Sambodhi Viharaya, Galle. No sooner I saw the poster than I fell unconscious. We know that this poster has been put up islandwide. Now when I go out I close my face with the umbrella fearing that I would see that poster again," Priyadarshani said.
The Jayasekara family has appealed to the government seeking the tearing of the posters.
But Minister Richard Pathirana whom they approached had said it would be a difficult task as thousands of posters had been distributed islandwide, the family claims.
"I am appealing to the government and President to remove this poster. If I am given a chance I will explain my plight to the President," she said.
During the previous government, the UNP published a supplement with the same picture saying, "Undaya Paradawanna Chandaya Demu (Use your ballot to defeat the bullet) and this time the PA is using the picture saying "Dahath Wasaraka Minimaru Palanaya Kuriru Padam Mathaka Thabagamu Semada" (Keep in mind the lessons of the 17 years of brutal and murderous administration).
The widow of Jayasekara told "The Sunday Times" that since she saw the poster her illness had increased.
She said that the same day her husband had been killed two of his brothers also had been killed.
"My only plea from politicians is that do not misuse the picture for their own gains," Priyadarshani said.
With the country once again caught in a crossfire of violent election rivalry foreign investors might be scared away unless effective steps are taken to curb the lawlessness, business leaders warned.
Patrick Ame-rasinghe president of the Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Sri Lanka (FCCISL) said the continuing violence would affect the economy and he hoped that all political parties, the security forces and the people take steps to ensure a peaceful and fair election on Friday.
FCCISL vice President Mackie Hashim said if those aspiring to be political leaders resorted to violence before they came to office then they were not fit for such office.
Dinesh de Silva Secretary of the National Chamber of Exporters said that if the violence continued and if a prolonged curfew brought about a work stoppage, foreign buyers would lose confidence in our exports.
Association of Business and Professional Women President Janaki Gunawardena said if some candidates were behaving violently now it was fearful to imagine what they would do when they came to office. She also referred to the defacing of the city with a deluge of posters and other election material, while public money was being spent on cleaning up the mess.
The business leaders appealed to politicians to set an example to society and act with responsibility instead of disturbing the peace and damaging the economy.
A concert of Indian Classical and Experimental Music by Pradeep Ratnayake will be held at the German Cultural Auditorium on March 19 at 5 pm. He first performed classical Indian ragas on the Sitar at the age of nine at Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation.
The Ladies' College OGA Thanksgiving Service for the life of Esme Muktha Mary Wijesinghe will be held today at the College Chapel at 5 p.m.
The presence of relatives, friends and old girls will be greatly appreciated.
The UNP which adopted a strict code of conduct in selecting 4600 candidates for Friday's local polls will continue that process by asking all winning members to declare their assets and pledge to avoid involvement in any tender deals, party leader Ranil Wickremesinghe announced.
In a wide ranging interview with The Sunday Times Mr. Wickremesinghe charged the PA was resorting to violence in a desperate bid to get the 62% it received at the last presidential election. But it would get nowhere near it. Excerpts from the interview:
Q: Do you fear state-sponsored violence against your party on election day?
A: The PA has already resorted to violence and it will carry on like that till polling day. The PA announced the elections without much notice giving as little time to select 4000 candiates. Under the UNP we gave a full two months for all parties to prepare. The PA wants to get its 62 percent but realizing it cannot do so it is resorting to violence. Acts of violence perpetrated by the PA are not only against the UNP but against all other parties. The state machinery is being put into use by the PA to garner the 62 percent, but it will get nowhere near it.
Q: What is your advice to party members in the event of violence on polling day?
A: UNP members are quite used to such situations since the Dedigama by-elections in the 1970s.
In 1988/89 we faced the Presidential and Parliamentary elections amidst widespread violence. We are for non-violence. The PA is using threats because it doesn't have the ground support. It is on the defensive. We have mass support and the PA's threats will not erode that base. Some of those who resort to violence in the PA are its candidates. Even if they cannot intimidate voters such candidates might use threats on polling agents or others in polling booths.
We will prepare counter measures for such threats. I will be meeting the Elections Commissioner before the polls and ask for maximum security at polling booths.
Many of the non-political organisations have appealed for peace on polling day. The PA must take effective action for peace but it is doing little or nothing. Instead it is trying to confuse the people in an apparent bid to keep the voter turnout low. I have told our party officials to advise people to go to the polling booths early. The PA which talks big about sovereignty is tying to prevent people from exercising their franchise. But I call upon the people to resist such tactics and to go without fear to exercise their sovereign power.
Q: Some of your party supporters say you are restraining them from hitting back?
A: An election should be peaceful, though the PA is provoking UNP supporters. I have asked party supporters to restrain themselves in the face of provocation and avoid confrontations with PA supporters. I've advised members to go from house to house and campaign, meet the people and explain to them what the PA is doing. That is being done now.
No election can be won through violence. It is not a war between two parties. Restraint is essential because I believe that will bring victory for the UNP.
Q: On what issues are you asking the people to vote for the UNP and not for the PA?
A: Only the UNP is contesting all the local bodies as a single party. Many of our top members today started politics from local bodies. They included former President J.R. Jayewardene and Ranasinghe Premadasa. Enthusiasm in local elections is a strong point of the UNP. I am confident of a UNP victory. The party under my leadership has changed a lot, and I will be directing the local bodies under the UNP to work in line with the aspirations of the people. The UNP has been careful in selecting its candidates. We have set the trend in not selecting more than one person from a family.
Q: The PA is harping on the UNP's past. The UNP is attacking the PA's present handling of the economy and government. But aren't these elections all about garbage collection, pot holes and mad dogs?
A: The UNP is not only talking of the PA governance of the local authorities but also of the candidates selected. We will appoint advisory committees with prominent personalities to advise the councils under UNP control. The UNP controlled councils will get expert advice on various matters, pertaining to the respective areas. UNP controlled local bodies will be community oriented. We will have a two-tier devolution of power at local level. Small hospitals, dispensaries, schools and other minor development projects, youth and sports will be undertaken by local bodies while other matters will be handled by Provincial Councils. We are trying to take government to the doorstep of the common man. As for mad dogs, it is no big problem.
Q: On what basis did you pick your candidates for this election?
A: We had assured the voters of a better process for the selection of candidates. We left out those with criminal records. Those who had been charged in Courts, those who had cases against them were not considered. Some were even suspended from the party.
We hope we have set an example to others by the way we made the selection. Every UNP member elected will be asked to declare his/her assets. They will not be allowed to participate in any tender deals.
Q: Are these guideline to be followed in other elections also?
A: The selection of 4600 candidates was done in a hurry. There will be more scrutinizing for the next Provincial or Parliamentary elections. This change had to be made. I have travelled to all parts of the country, met the people and listened to them. We have accepted our faults. A majority of the people are under 45. The UNP is a party blended with past and present, youth and 50 years of experience. We have changed with the times. The UNP is now in a period of transition with its vision on the 21st century. The youth want to come to the forefront of a new world and the UNP will take them there.
The US Committee for Refugees (USCR) - a US based institution closely associated with the US Congress and government on refugee affairs-has called on the Sri Lankan Government and the LTTE to resume talks and that it would be able to find a suitable third party to facilitate matters.
The USCR which recently undertook a research covering all aspects of the consequences of the north-east conflict, said there would be no end to the suffering of the innocent civilians who are caught in between the action, unless talks were held.
According to the author of the report, and USCR policy analyst Hiram A. Ruiz, there will be no peace, normalcy, or end to displacement in Sri Lanka until both parties accept genuine negotiations aimed at achieving a political solution to the fourteen-year-old conflict.
"The US Govt. which has brought to the negotiating table parties of other conflicts, could play a possible role by helping to find a third party willing to mediate in the conflict in Sri Lanka and by facilitating a first round of new talks with the participation of the mediator," the report suggested.
Mr. Ruiz said since military offensives in October 1995, April 1996, and July 1996, there had been relatively little independent or first hand reporting of the situation of either displaced people in the Vanni or those returned to Jaffna.
The report which was drafted after a full round of investigation and interviewing of masses of civilians in the Vanni region, Jaffna, and other northern regions in conflict, has recommended many areas of improvement.
It said the Sri Lankan military should put an end to the continued disappearance of civilians, and permit international and local NGOs to operate in areas of conflict, as simply the presence of NGOs would reduce the sense of fear among the civilians.
It said Govt. authorities shouldn't suppress the free flow of information in and out of Jaffna and permit visits by the media and human rights monitors.
Regarding the situation of the displaced people in the Vanni region, the report said the authorities concerned prevent the NGOs from offering assistance (medical, food, and shelter) to their full capacity.
"The tens of thousands of displaced civilians are at a high risk as the government will not provide them food aid, allegedly because, it views them as sympathetic to the LTTE; in such a circumstance at least the international community should be allowed to provide food," the report strongly urged.
The report quoted the civilians as saying that many groups and individuals from government ministries and the military, involved with the displaced were deliberately withholding or delaying supplies for the displaced.
Commenting on the welfare centres in Vavuniya, the report said 'it was and remains unfair and unnecessary for the government to detain the refugees. 'Those cleared of security screening should be allowed to move to their choice of destination as they are displaced citizens of Sri Lanka and not criminals.
The report says that the Sri Lankans who fled to India since mid 1996 appear to have done so voluntarily after carefully considering their options, and deciding that India provided the greatest opportunities for their families.
It has urged the Sri Lankan government not to prevent the refugees from crossing over to India, and the Indian government to continue to provide Sri Lankan asylum seekers refuge.
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