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Peace groups, religious movements, political parties, trade unions and ordinary people yesteray hailed the historic agreement between the PA and the UNP as a major step in finding a just solution to a crippling war.
The Sunday Times spoke to various groups and individuals who were full of praise for the dramatic move by President Chandrika Kumaratunga and Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe to rise above party or personal differences in finding a solution to the conflict.
An official of Sri Lanka's principal Hindu movement the All Ceylon Hindu Congress said the noble effort of the two leaders would be a blessing to the whole country. "We appeal to both of you to manifest your sincerity and commitment to solve the problems of the Tamils in fulfilment of their aspirations by declaring a cease-fire before the national new year", he said.
The National Peace Council of Sri Lanka said, the PA, UNP agreement was a major step in the search for a negotiated political solution to the on going war.
"It is encouraging that specific mention has been made in the letters of agreement signed by the two leaders about negotiating with the LTTE", the Council said.
Sri Lanka Progressive Front leader Ariya Bulegoda said the agreement was a positive move and he hoped genuine steps would be taken to rise above party politics and solve the conflict in a manner that was fair to all the people.
Mr. Bulegoda whose party has been linked to the JVP, said such a bipartisan approach should have been adopted years ago but it was better late than never.
The leader of the Public Services Trade Union Federation said differences and disputes between the two major parties had for decades buckled efforts to settle the ethnic conflict.
Union leader W.H. Piyadasa said the war now crippling the country and little economic development or national growth would be possible unless the ethnic conflict was addressed at the roots and remedied. He said the working class were happy that the leaders of the govt. and the opposition were at last now getting together to restore peace and rebuild the country. Mr. Piyadasa said special thanks were due to Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe for stepping forward to co-operate with the govt. at a time of national crisis.
The Sunday Times also spoke to ordinary citizens. Garwin Ranwala a bank officer from Dehiwela said after so many years of violence and conflict, the two major parties getting together provided a ray of hope for peace in Sri Lanka soon.
H. Bandara also from Dehiwela said that on at least three previous occasions in 1957, 1967 and 1987 when govt's proposed a solution to the ethnic conflict, it was buckled or sabotaged by the Opposition. But now, perhaps for the first time, the Opposition had come forward to positively co-operate with the govt. in settling the ethnic war and thus much praise must go to Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe.
Jaffna bound refugees say they are suffering untold hardships on their train journey from Vavuniya to Trincomalee.
They take the Rajarata Rajini train at Vavuniya at 3 a.m. with a packet of bread and seeni sambol issued by rehabilitation officers. Two compartments have been allocated in the Colombo bound 'Rajarata Rajini' train for these refugees. Each compartment has seating accommodation for only 88, but more than 125 refugees travel in one compartment which has no water facilities, refugees say.
The Rajarata Rajini proceeds to Colombo leaving the refugees at Maho to await another train to Trincomalee which is invariably late, and often it is 5 p.m. by the time they get to the transit camp in Trincomalee where they get a little lunch. They are then shipped to Jaffna in batches.
A Japanese consultant working on a water supply scheme was robbed of Rs. 50,000 in a hotel in Kandy, he told Police. The money was in a bag at his room in the Kandy hotel. He claimed the robbery would have taken place when he locked his room and went out to dine.
Armed and masked men are alleged to have terrorised villages at Kalapura in Kundasale in a dispute over the selection of the head of the area's Pradeshiya Sabha, Police said.
They said the gang had shot in the air and even exploded a bomb around 10 p.m. in a bid to force people to support their candidate.
The staggering figure of more than half a million rejected votes in the recent local elections has raised questions as to whether the voting procedure is too complicated or whether many people were simply disgusted with all parties.
Final figures show that of the 6.9 million votes cast in the March 21 elections, more than 500,000 votes were rejected for various reasons. For some the voting procedure including a cross for the party and one to three crosses for prefered candidates apparently proved to be too complex, casting doubts on our much talked of 80% literacy rate.
Most others whom The Sunday Times spoke to, it was a case of deliberately spoiling the vote to prevent impersonation or to express a protest over the humbug of all parties.
The Jathika Sangha Sabhava reacting to the PA-UNP agreement to follow a common approach to settle the ethnic problem yesterday said the main aim of the agreement should be to secure the unitary status of Sri Lanka, rejecting the concept of Eelam and the separate state demand.
The Sangha Sabhava pointed out that the Tigers have always come for talks when they were weak.
"Our main responsibility should be to prevent the country falling into trouble again as it did in the past when the present government, the Premadasa government and the Jayewardene government held talks without proper plans," a statement signed by the General Secretary of the Sangha Sabhava, Ven. Itthepane Dhammalankara Thera said.
"It has been the request of the public that the main parties unite on the ethnic issue taking it into consideration that it was a national problem, rather than seek political benefits. It would have been appreciated more by the citizens of this country if the agreement was reached without any outside party involvement," the statement said.
"As Buddhist monks we have always stated that it is the duty of the political parties to join in defeating terrorism," the statement said.
"We believe that the public would appreciate if their intentions remain genuine and all political parties unite to secure peace in the country," the Sabhava said.
They pointed out that the government and the UNP should come to a common agreement before any talks are held with the LTTE.
A doctor and three employees attached to the Batticaloa hospital were taken into custody by the army yesterday for allegedly carrying medicine to the LTTE in uncleared areas, police said.
The suspects were nabbed at an army check-point along the Batticaloa-Badulla road. They were carrying IV fluids and injections.
They were handed over to the Eravur Police for further investigations.
An exhibition of photographs and a cultural programme organised by Women for Peace will be held on April 10 and 11 at the Public Library auditorium from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
The event is organised to mark International Women's Day.
The Old Girls' Union of Gothami Balika Vidyalaya, Colombo, the first government girls' school in the country established in June 1946, has organised a special medical clinic for the benefit of all its retired teachers.
The clinic will be held at the College Hall from 9.30 a.m. to 5.30 p.m. today.
This clinic organised in view of the school's golden jubilee will be conducted by both Western and Ayurvedic doctors who are past pupils of the vidyalaya.
The following office bearers were elected at the AGM of the Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association held yesterday.
President: Rohana Wettasinha (Lake House), Secretary: Mahinda Abeysundara (Sumathi Group), Treasurer: Chandrasena Ranaweera (Lake House), Vice Presidents: Thilakaratna Kuruwita Bandara (Lake House), Ajantha Ranasinghe (Lake House), Assistant Secretaries: Dushyantha Samarasinghe (Wijeya Publications), Gunasiri Withana (Lake House), Two Assistant Treasurers. A Committee of 19 members were elected uncontested earlier.
Former Colombo Mayor Ratnasiri Raja-pakse has submitted to the Elections Commissioner that the appointment of his successor K. Ganeshalingam was completely invalid, irregular and illegal in view of the Supreme Court decision given in his favour on Feb. 25.
Mr. Rajapakse has pointed out that as the Supreme Court exonerated him and found the action of the Local Government Minister of the Western Province who removed him from office illegal, he should have continued as Mayor upto January 25, the date of dissolution of the Colombo Municipal Council. He was dismissed as Mayor on 19.05.1994 on the report of a committee of inquiry appointed to probe charges that had been levelled against him.
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