The Sunday TimesFront Page

18th May 1997



This soldier certainly does not want to lose the battle for the want of a shoe. The picture was captured in the Vavuniya town where troops were preparing to leave for operation 'Jaya Sikurui'. Pic by Dexter Crusz


Jaya Sikurui breaks through Tiger resistance

Security forces yesterday overcame stiff Tiger guerrilla resistance and over-ran their front-line defenses at Omanthai but over 70 soldiers were killed and more than 325 were wounded on the fifth day of "Operation Jaya Sikurui" (or Victory Assured).

The breakthrough came after Overall Operations Commander, Major General Asoka Jayawardena, who is personally directing operations called for increased air strikes and guided a concerted assault on LTTE's forward defences. Under cover of heavy artillery fire, infantry units backed by battle tanks fought their way through the first line of defenses of the LTTE dominated Vanni yesterday afternoon.

The move prompted the Anuradhapura based Joint Operations Headquarters (JOH) to put into effect a series of counter measures to prevent LTTE strikes in areas outside the Vanni, particularly in the town and in the east.

In the town, troops and Police have been placed on maximum alert. The environs of the Colombo National Hospital where a large number of soldier casualties have been evacuated has been placed under heavy Army security. Security forces barriers have been setup on roads leading to the National Hospital and troops are conducting checks on those entering or leaving.

Yesterday's breakthrough came after earlier reports of "slow progress" at Omanthai on the fourth day of the operation. On that day troops were consolidating their positions.

In what turns out to be the biggest irony of the ongoing separatist war, the larger number of deaths and casualties to security forces was caused by weapons they acquired themselves and were subsequently seized by Tiger guerrillas during attacks on security establishments, particularly the Mullaitivu Military Base in July, last year.

They included the use of long range artillery, mortars and even Rocket Propelled Grenades. The LTTE which seized two sets of Direction Finding Equipment from the Mullaitivu Military Base has been using them to locate security forces artillery positions as they advanced on two fronts-the main one from Nochchimodai and the other from Weli Oya.

The Operational Headquarters of the Ministry of Defence, the only official source of information on the ongoing Operation Jaya Sikurui was exercising caution in the release of casualty figures. Until last night, it has not revealed the total casualties of troops during the past five days.

However, military sources told The Sunday Times last night that over 70 security forces personnel including "a few officers" have died during the past five days of the operation. These sources said more than 325 were injured, at least two thirds of them "walking wounded."

Sri Lanka Army's newly established 55 Division led by Brigadier Shantha Kottegoda is leading the main thrust from A 9 - the main Colombo - Jaffna highway. Another column of troops from the 53 Division led by Brigadier Vasantha Perera broke out from Janakapura is now fighting their way towards Nedunkerny.

(See also Situation Report)

Vasu derides CBK's dictatorship speech

PA parliamentarian Vasudeva Nanayakkara has written to President Chandrika Kumaratunga protesting against a speech which she reportedly made saying that a dictatorship was needed to rule the country.

Mr. Nanayakkara told 'The Sunday Times' that her speech was an indirect implication that a dictatorship was needed to rule Sri Lanka. President Kumaratunga had reportedly made the speech on May 11 at the Youth Centre at Mirigama.

President had reportedly said that countries which developed were those under a dictatorship.

Referring to Korea, she said anybody who went on strike was sacked, otherwise they disappeared. There was only one radio. one party, one newspaper. They did not ask for increased salaries or increased overtime.

Their motto was 'work and more work'. Mr. Nanayakkara had pointed out that a dictatorship would only mean the loss of democracy.

"Even the UN considers democracy as a part of development. Is it correct, as a leader for you to go beyond the mandate given by the people.

You do not have the right to go beyond this mandate. There are examples where without democracy development collapsed.

He pointed out that according to the mandate given, the President should try to implement the PA manifesto and if the manifesto cannot be implemented the President should resign.

Mr. Nanayakkara also had countered other statements reportedly made by the president.

Drawing reference to a statement made by the alleged involvement of police officers in timber rackets, Mr. Nanayakkara said that at group meetings the names of police officers who were found guilty of violating fundamental rights had been given but no action had been taken against them.

He pointed out that the President had not even taken action to send these officers on compulsory leave.

Lohan's statement not recorded yet

Police have still not recorded the statement of Deputy Defence Minister Anuruddha Ratwatte's son Lohan, in Joel Pera case despite an affidavit submitted by a shareholder of the Carlton making clear that Lohan Ratwatte was present at the time of the shooting, sources said.

The Police claim that they have no evidence to record the statement of Lohan Ratwatte.

A senior police spokesman said that they would not go ahead to record the statement of Lohan Ratwatte immediately.

"We are carrying out investigations and there has been no necessity to record his (Lohan's) statement," a police officer who did not want to be named said.

However in the affidavit made by Parakrama Sri Lal who was reportedly inside the Carlton Club while the shooting took place, had said Ratwatte was present at the time of the incident. Mr. Sri Lal is on bail now.

CID Deputy Director Bandula Wickramasinghe said that they had not made a breakthrough so far.

"We are carrying out a full scale investigation," he said.

At least 100 persons have been interviewed in connection with the shooting by the Police so far .

Political control over media institute

By Ranga Sirilal

Similar to the humiliating setback the government suffered over the now disgraced Broadcasting Authority Bill, it has now introduced a bill for the setting up of a national media institute which will be under the control of the President.

The Government had earlier promised that this national media institute, principally for the advanced training of journalists, would be an independent body, but the bill empowers the President to fire members without giving reasons.

According to a Gazette notification, the institute's executive council will be in charge of administration and it will appoint a director general who will be the principal executive officer who will handle day to day affairs.

The Director of Information will be an ex-officio member of the council while 11 members will be appointed from among working journalists, proprietors and managers of newspapers recommended by Journalists' Associations, The Editors' Guild and the Newspaper Publishers Association.However, the President can in consultation with the Media Minister remove any member from office without giving reasons. The President will also nominate one of the members as chairman of the council.

Among the functions of the institute would be formulating and providing training programmes in Journalism in the electronic and print media, providing advance training to journalists, undertaking research on improving the methods of education and training in journalism and advising the government on any matter relating to the profession.

Bitter pill from disgraced Bill

In the aftermath of a virtual political disaster over the Broadcasting Authority Bill, the government has appointed a cabinet sub committee headed by Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar to carefully study all bills before they are approved by the ministers and presented to parliament.

As question were raised regarding matters of responsibility and accountability, the cabinet in an apparent damage -control exercise appointed the committee, political sources said.

Meanwhile, political sources said the government is reviewing the Broadcasting Authority Bill and may soon introduce new legislation to regulate the private TV and radio.

Tamil emissaries bring LTTE peace letter

The LTTE has reportedly sent a group of Tamil emissaries to Colombo with a letter consenting to peace talks, as the rebels came under heavy pressure after the government this week launched its biggest ever military campaign to recapture areas beyond Vavuniya.

The letter signed by LTTE advisor Anton Balasingham and political Wing Chief Thamil Chelvam was brought to Colombo by a group of Tamil personalities domiciled in the United States and elsewhere, last week.One of the members of the delegation is reading for a doctorate in the US.

According to the letter, the LTTE is willing to have a dialogue based on the devolution package, which was earlier rejected by it.

Also the delegation plans to hold talks with President Chandrika Kumaratunga and Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe.

Meanwhile The Sunday Times learns that this group is finalising arrangements to hold its first round of talks with Mr. Wickremesinghe within the next few weeks.

Cooray, Karu deny leadership clash

By Roshan Peiris

Former UNP General Secretary Sirisena Cooray, with a cloud of mystery still over his position and plans, complains he is being harassed by the media and is so disgusted he is thinking of getting out of the country again.

Mr. Cooray, who returned suddenly on April 29 after almost one year of virtual self-exile said he was trying to make a comeback to the UNP high command were baseless.

With uncertainty still hanging over what the Lalith Athulathmudali assassination Probe Commission would do regarding him, Mr.Cooray who was earlier the Colombo Mayor and a powerful minister in the UNP said he had no intention of posing a challenge to Colombo's new mayor Karu Jayasuriya who is widely seen as the UNP's rising star.

''I keep stressing that I have no political clout now since I have left the UNP but I'm quite willing to help in solving any national issue, not only with the UNP but any political party," Mr. Cooray said.

''Interested parties in the UNP are planting stories that I am a possible rival to Mr. Jayasuriya. I am not a rival either to him or to anyone else,'' he added.

The Sunday Times also contacted Mr. Jayasuriya who was grappling with his task of rebuilding Colombo. We asked him whether he felt he faced a challenge from Mr. Cooray, as the media said is emerging as the alternative leader of the UNP.

" I have no, such ambition to be an alternative leader. I don't want to be anyone's rival or step into anyone's political shoes. I was invited by Ranil Wickremesinghe to do a job of work which I will do to the best of my ability.

''You say there seems to be inter party rivalry? Not to my knowledge. In any party different points of view can and will be expressed among intelligent men and women. You cannot interpret this to mean inter party rivalry as some seem to make out,'' Mr. Jayasuriya said.

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