24th August 1997


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Peace group seeks ban on landmines

By Chamintha Thilakarathna

A multi-religious peace group has launched an anti-landmine campaign, appealing to the Government and the rebels to ban production, storage and selling of landmines in Sri Lanka.

It also calls on the Government to sign an international treaty on their ban.

The group, Inter-Religious Peace Foundation is spearheading the campaign and will educate the public on the ill-effects of landmines and seek public support for the total ban on use of landmines in the country.

Ven.. Madampagama Assaji Thero, who earlier led a peace delegation to Jaffna, told “The Sunday Times” that they are in the process of collecting signatures to an appeal to be sent to the President and the LTTE through 1000 organisations, calling for the ban on mines.

Three months back, they collected one million signatures from around the country which they presented to the Sri Lanka representative at the UN., Mr. A. Afftad.

“In collaboration with 40 organizations we will carry on the campaign, till the government and the LTTE stop the use of landmines in Sri Lanka. While many other countries have signed the Treaty, Sri Lanka has not yet signed. The response from the Sri Lankan government has been very poor in the matter”, he added.

“Most of the soldiers coming under the ‘Ranawiru’ programme are landmine victims and landmines cause serious injuries both physical and mental, not only to soldiers but also to civilians. A study relating to the type of weapon used, it was found that on the average 10-20% was due to anti-personnel mines and 5% due to landmines according to research.

Nearly 70% of the soldiers suffered limb injuries, 10-15% chest injuries, 10-15% head and neck injuries, 5% abdominal injuries and 10% eye and ear drum injuries. Of the amputations of the lower limbs, 58% were due to anti-personnel mines, the research revealed.

According to Dr. Mathews George Chyankara, Secretary of the Anti- Mine Campaign in Asia resettlement or rehabilitation of the Jaffna people in their ancestral land is disrupted by the landmines in the North.

The locally made antipersonnel mine,’ Batta’ (Johnny Mine) consists of 50-75 grams of explosives and when triggered cause a powerful explosion which blow off the foot at the ankle joint and rip off all muscles of the leg exposing the tibia and fibula, sometimes upto the knee.

Of 272 victims, nearly 6% of the landmine victims develop an unusual pattern of symptoms characterized by agitation, restlessness, disorientation, confusion, tachycardia, and rapid shallow breathing of sudden onset and other symptoms which other war victims who have been exposed to explosions do not seem to suffer from.

“The Universal Declaration proclaims that “everyone has the right to life, liberty and security, everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence and everyone has the right to work and everyone has the right to adequate living standards.”

These are the minimum guarantees to protect life of human beings to safeguard them from denial or violation of their rights. But people’s rights are denied by the use of landmines everyday either by the military and government or by rebels in war,” Dr. .Chyankara said.

The use of landmines remains a major threat to human survival in several countries around the world. More than 25,000 people in 64 countries around the world are maimed or killed by landmines each year, while hundred million landmines are stockpiled and ready for use.

The UN Secretary General’s report revealed what there are already at least 250,000 landmine-disabled people in the world and that the number is growing.

Unfortunately, there are no organizations that keep records of the landmine victims in Sri Lanka, as a result of which the seriousness of their use cannot be statistically proved in Sri Lanka.

Lalith Front wants PSC to meet soon

The NDUNLF has urged Justice Minister G.L. Peiris to convene the Parliament Select Committee which has not met for over a month to discuss the proposed constitution.

Parliamentarian Ravi Karunanayake in a letter to Minister Peiris said if the new constitution was tabled in Parliament as said by the government, Lalith Front would be eager to discuss the proposed Constitution.

The party has requested the government to discuss the subjects: unit of devolution, unitary character of Sri Lanka, police powers, abolition of the Executive Presidency, including the independent election commission.

The last select committee meeting was held in July. According to Mr. Karunanayake government has stated that the proposed constitution would be placed in Parliament in November.

EPDP brothers challenge Deva

The EPDP rebel brothers who last Friday won their Supreme Court battle against their party leader have vowed to continue their fight till democracy is restored in their party.

Parliamentarians Rajendram Ramamoorthy and Rajendram Rameshwaran told The Sunday Times they were ready for a dialogue with party leader Douglas Devananda but insisted he must hold a party convention which has not been held for 10 years. Some months ago Mr. Devananda fired the two MPs from the party and sought their removal from the party on the basis they had failed to carry out their duties in their electorates but the MPs accused Mr. Devananda of being a dictator and petitioned the Supreme Court challenging his right to remove them from the party or Parliament.

Jubilant over court ruling on Friday, the rebel brothers said they would support the Govt. on vital issues including the extension of the emergency.

The two MPs who have held discussions with President Kumaratunga and other party leaders said they would support the devolution package and all-party talks including the LTTE.

They praised the approach of President Kumaratunga who they said seemed determined to find a just political solution to the conflict.

Child porn: Dutch sleuths here

By M. Ismeth

Detectives from Holland are due in Colombo today as a local magistrate begins a trial in absentia of an alleged Dutch paedophile who is accused of sexually abusing children in Pottuvil and making child porn films.The detectives will also carry out more investigations of the alleged paedophile Bernard Bos who is known to have run a prawn farm as a cover for his perverse trade.

The suspect arrested in Holland recently is now in custody according to lawyer Arun Tampoe, member of the Presidential Committee monitoring the crackdown on child sex abuse.

Nightmare ends for refugees

By S.S. Selvanayagam

Some 700 displaced persons who staged the hunger strike alleging they were being treated like prisoners in a transit camp fit only for animals are being provided with immediate relief.

As requested by them, about 280 of the people from this transit camp at an Uppuveli glass factory are to be transported to Jaffna by ship within the next few days.

Local officials said the military authorities had assured that the passenger vessel Tharaki, which underwent repairs at the Trincomalee port, would take the displaced people to Jaffna.

Reports said that due to lack of food, essential medicines and shelter the displaced families had faced a virtual nightmare when their temporary stay at the glass factory camp was prolonged due to the lack of ships to take them to Jaffna.

As the situation became desperate, the refugees launched a hunger strike last Monday till civil and military officials intervened to rescue them from what the refugees described as a “prison and a zoo”.

Prove JVP killings of 1989, says PA MP

By Dilrukshi Handunnetti

Hambantota District PA Parliamentarian Mahinda Amaraweera is to pursue the matter of appointing a special commission to inquire into JVP killings since 1989. Mr. Amaraweera told The Sunday Times the alleged killings by the JVP had so far not been investigated and the Police had shown lethargy towards arresting JVPers who are notorious criminals. “In the district of Hamban-tota, it is an eternal struggle to do democratic politics. The JVP has killed over 200 persons during the last two years in the Beliatta and Angunakolapelassa areas alone,” he said.

He added it was common knowledge that one MP with strong JVP connections has twice issued death threats to an MP from Ampara. If there was justice, that MP should be taken into custody for the alleged offence. The same MP is known to the public as a person harbouring thugs and criminals, he asserted. Mr. Amara-weera has on many occasions brought this matter up in Parliament .Wounded Tiger woman flown to Colombo

A woman Tiger guerrilla wounded in the latest battle with security forces has been air-lifted to Colombo for treatment, doctors said.

The woman, identified by doctors as Shanthi, was brought to the National Hospital, where several government soldiers are also being treated following the latest bout of fighting which began Tuesday.

The military found the woman wounded after a fierce battle near Puliyankulam, where some 360 people on both sides have been killed and more than 600 wounded since Tuesday, officials said.

Shanthi, a member of the LTTE women’s wing known as Freedom Birds, was unable to speak and doctors said she was still in shock. There were no visible signs of injuries except for a plaster at the back of her head.

“We are treating her well,” said army corporal S.M. Aziz, who was guarding Shanthi at the hospital.

“I don’t think she will want to go back even if she is allowed to.”

Government forces currently hold two more women cadres of the LTTE who were captured after an attack on the northern naval port of Kankesanthurai.

The LTTE has asked for the release of the two in exchange for navy troops in Tiger custody but the military says the two women have refused to go, fearing they will be killed for not taking cyanide.

Four Tamils in Canada jailed for 18 months

Four Sri Lankan refugees have been sentenced to 18 months in jail for having an AK-47 assault rifle, ammunition and a loaded sawed-off shotgun in their vehicle, a report from Canada said.

The Tamils, all first offenders were found guilty last month of possession of prohibited weapons and weapons dangerous to the public peace.

Dutchman’s plea: take Buddha statue back to Jaffna

By Chamintha Thilakarathne

A Dutchman who six years ago returned a historical Buddha statue that had been taken away from Jaffna some two and a half centuries ago by his ancestors, has requested that the statue be taken back to the war-torn Northern capital as a symbol of unity and peace.

Government and Museum authorities in Colombo however say the security situation in Jaffna is not conducive to comply with the request of Dutchman Danny Delano Muller.

About 250 years ago, a Buddha statue made out of ‘kalu madiriyia’ wood in 1742 A.D. by Sri Lankans following the Chinese style, was stolen by one of the great grandfathers of Dr. Muller and taken out of the country.

In 1991 his great- grandson, Danny Delano-Muller, returned it to the then President, R. Premadasa.

While on a visit to Sri Lanka recently, Dr Muller visited the National Museum to find out what had happened to the statue. As it was not on display at the Museum, he requested that it be taken back to Jaffna where he felt it belonged.

“I regret that it was stolen in the first place. It belongs to Jaffna and that is where it should be kept. None can see it at present,” he said.

Dr. Muller said the statue could be a symbol of peace.

FR case: English with tears

By K. M. Weeraratne

Seven English Instructors and two English Educational Assistants have been granted leave by the Supreme Court to proceed with a petition where they allege violation of their fundamental rights by the denial of a 30% allowance which was paid to others from March this year.

The nine petitioners say that even librarians and assistants not involved in the teaching of English have been granted the allowance by the University Grants Commision.

But the petitioners were deprived of it though they are involved in the teaching of English.

This disparity is arbitrary, baseless and a violation of their rights, they say.

The case will be taken up on September 23. The petitioners are O.V.J. Jansz, K. Sivasubramaniam, K. Lokumudali, Ms. Nalanie Mahesan, W.M.U.R. Wijekoon, Ms. C.D. Ellawela, Ms. B.K.P. Abeysooriya, N.T. Fernando and Ms. C.M. Udugama.

The Respondents are the UGC, the Education Minister and five universities.

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