15th June 1997


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‘This free fire zone has to stop’: UTHR

By S. S. Selvanayagam

The deliberate and concerted attempts to evade credible and transparent investigations into cases of missing persons, has created an environment where a variety of human rights violations committed by the security forces and the LTTE have increased, a human rights group says.

The University Teachers for Human Rights - Jaffna UTHR(J) has said in its latest report that despite continuing promises made by the government no sense of normalcy has come to the communities of Jaffna.

The UTHR says that LTTE suspects, pointed out by masked informants, are reportedly shot dead by the security forces, but many of these suspects were known to be innocent civilians.

The report says arbitary execution of civilians by the LTTE continues. Anyone seen merely speaking with a member of the security forces is under threat.

Independent inquiries into questionable deaths of civilians, during and after battles, are urgently needed if the people are to believe that any type of honest rehabilitation is to occur in the future, UTHR says.

It points out that one of the disturbing features of many of these deaths is the alleged cover up by the Army. Victims were in a number of instances said to have been carrying grenades or involved in the offensive action, in an attempt to cast a veil over foul play whereas in several cases such claims have been denied by witnesses or family members.

If after shooting a person, the Army subjects the body to a bomb explosion, it would be difficult to determine the cause of death while civilian deaths due to military operations are further difficult to invstigate due to the lack of proper post-mortem facilities and experienced personnel in Jaffna UTHR(J) says.

Quoting a sample instance of faked injuries by the security forces, it said, “A body of a youth was sent to Jaffna Teaching Hospital by the Army who claimed that he had died in a shooting incident. On the surface this seemed acceptable. But later one doctor noticed that there was an entry wound but no exit wound”.

“He became suspicious and he found a knife left behind by a soldier who had been in the house. It was of the kind that was driven into a person and then given a twist. He got a technician to X-ray the corpse and found there was no bullet in the body. He concluded the youth had died from stabbing. But it is not known whether he has recorded his conclusion,” the report said.

“If the government continues in its failure to implement drastically needed institutional changes within the Army and the Defence Ministry, Jaffna will remain to be a ‘free-fire-zone’ for all parties to the war,” UTHR adds.

Ex-Navy Chief’s bodyguards on alleged rampage

Are retiring military top brass entitled to retain their bodyguards months after they retire ?

Perhaps there may be some justification, depending on whether threats against them persist. One would not grudge that.

But the whole issue has come up for review by the defence authorities after an incident recently at Payagala in the south.

Two bodyguards assigned to former Navy Commander Mohan Samarasekera are alleged to have stormed a house late at night. They banged at the door. When the inmates did not open, they allegedly fired into the air with their Uzi automatic weapons.

One member of the household managed to escape and alert the Police. A Police party arrived but the gang sped away in a vehicleThe Police were wise to it and they radioed the next Police Station along the highway the gang took.

Road blocks were placed and the Navy men were caught with their arms intact.

Now a probe is under way. Who ordered them to undertake this private job ? The answer will soon be known.

Maligawa slams brakes on Ratwatte’s cars

By Shane Seneviratne

A row is gearing up between the chief prelate of Asgiriya and a group backed by a cabinet minister over a proposed motor car rally round the Kandy lake on a route which covers the sacred area of the Dalada Maligawa.

Minister Anuruddha Ratwatte a powerful figure in the hill capital has written to Kandy’s Mayor Harindra Dunuwilla and the Diyawadana Nilame of the Maligawa requesting that all assistance be given to the Kandy Motor Sports Club for the rally on July 06 along with a rehersal the day before. The club is headed by Ruwan Ratwatte.

But the Venerable Palipane Chandananda Mahanayake Thera of the Asgiriya Chapter has expressed strong objections to the rally.The Mahanayake, who is in charge of Thewawa rituals at the Maligawa, said he totally opposed such a car rally at a time when so many were dying and otherwise suffering in the north-east war. Several other monks have also opposed the rally.

Mayor Dunuwilla said he had no personal objections to the car rally but it must be approved by the Mahanayake since the route included the sacred area.

Who’ll head Lake House?

A major shake up in the administration of three state-run media institutions is expected soon after the dissolution of the boards of directors of these institutions.

‘The Sunday Times’ learns that the new Media Minister, Mangala Samaraweera was still in the process of finalising the new Board of Directors of the Associated Newspapers Ltd. (ANCL) , Sri Lanka Boardcasting Corporation and the Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation with several names under consideraton for the top slots.

For the chairman’s post at Lake House a former chairman’s name and a retired Judge’s name were under consideraton leading to speculation that G. B. Rajapaksha who was holding the post would not be re-appointed.

The ANCL has had four chairmen after the PA government came to power in August 1994.

On Friday the media minister met the Editors of the Lake House newspapers.

Meanwhile the dissolution of the Rupavahini board of directors came as the Chairman of the Corporation was out of the country attending a seminar.

Moves were under way to send on compulsory leave three top officials of the Rupavahini Corporation including the Deputy Director General (Programmes), Lucian Bulathsinhala. They are due to be replaced.

Free Media against new regulations of Ministry

The Free Media Movement, in a statement has expressed dissatis- faction over regulations presented to Parliament by the Ministry of Cultural Affairs on cultural bodies.

Ther regulations relate to the National Cultural Sabha, Sahithya Mandalaya, Natya & Ranga Kala Mandalaya and Lalitha Kala Mandalaya. The statement alleges that the regulations tend to subject these bodies to political patronage, whereas even in British times, they enjoyed a certain amount of freedom from political intervention.

Coming as it did under various political influences, the free nature of operation of these cultural spheres, came under political clout the FMM says. They need freedom from political intervention, as was assured in the PA manifesto.

But the proposed regulations go against this assuarance of non- intervention. If the proposed regulations get under way, the Free Media Movement says that all cultural and literary activity will be directed by politicos, similar to the attempt the government had in mind, when it introduced the Broadcasting Bill, which is now aborted.

The FMM expect the government to give the same assurence it gave the media, to respect democratic and independent nature of these bodies.

Sathosa: high and dry on chillies

The CWE official have not carried out the President’s orders to go to farmers in Anuradhapura and buy potatoes, chillies and onions from them, government MPs have charged.

The Anuradhapura district MPs who met President Kumaratunga recently to discuss socio-economic issues of the area said chilli cultivators were still high and dry.

Recently amidst reports of thousands of chilli farmers being stuck with all their produce, the President ordered the CWE to buy all the stocks.

Some relief coming to the east

The issue of poor relief stamps will be resumed in the eastern province where some 70% of the people lived below the poverty line, a Tamil leader said.

TULF parliamentary leader Joseph Pararajasingham said Minister G.L. Peiris had given the assurance that poor relief payments would be issued after representations were made at a recent meeting of Parliamentary Consultative Committee.

Mr. Pararajasingham said the eastern province needed the poor relief stamp scheme as the Samurdhi benefits had yet not been provided there.

Poor relief stamps have also been withdrawn in the north but no word has been given about its resumption in that war-ravaged province.

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