7th June 1998
Doctors and staff of the National Hospital Colombo are seen
donating blood yesterday following an emergency call by the
Health Ministry. Our pictures of injured soldiers were censored
by the competent authority.
Pic by Gemunu Wellage
The Government on Friday clamped down a total censorship on security related matters and for the first time appointed a Military Censor to ensure it. The clampdown for which no reasons were given came when President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga signed a proclamation promulgating the Emergency (Prohibition on Publication and Transmission of Sensitive Military Information) Regulations.
Copies of the Regulations were circulated to the media on Friday with an accompanying letter by Defence Secretary, Chandrananda de Silva, which said Major General Jaliya Nammuni has been appointed as the Competent Authority. This is the second time the Government imposed total censorship on both the local and foreign media.
In late 1996, during the conduct of Operation Riviresa for the recapture of the Jaffna peninsula, a similar censorship was imposed on both the local and foreign media.
However, a few days later the restrictions on the foreign media was withdrawn after it was pointed out that the move was counter productive.
At that time it was made known that as a result of the censorship, only LTTE news releases containing their own claims got distributed worldwide.
The Government did not say why the media clampdown became necessary all of a sudden. However, Information Department officials informally told media that the new regulations did not cover reportage on procurement - a provision which was expressly contained in the regulations in force in 1996.
One official said "the censorship will be for a short while but declined to say why it has been placed in the hands of the Army - the first time such a step has been taken in the 16-year long separatist war.
The Competent Authority, Major General Jaliya Nammuni, himself was taken by surprise when colleagues told him Friday afternoon that he had been named to that post.
Hurried arrangements were made that night for his office to receive media copy via fax.
Arrangements have now been made for media to present their copies at what the Army Headquarters calls a cell. It is located outside the main entrance to the headquarters and was earlier part of a reception area where the next of kin of soldiers were entertained. Media representatives have to wait there till the Competent Authority's staff examined the copy and returned them.
An Army Headquarters official said security considerations prevented them from allowing media personnel into the premises. Major General Nammuni and his staff have now located themselves in the Media Section of the Operational Headquarters of the Ministry of Defence. This section is located at the Army headquarters premises and comes under official military spokesman and Director, Media, Brigadier Sarath Munasinghe.
National Hospital stocks run out as casualty toll in hospitals rises
Health authorities yesterday made desperate appeals to the public to donate blood urgently needed to treat wounded soldiers among others. The appeals were made on radio and national television repeatedly in the past two days.
The Health Ministry on Friday appealed to blood donors to call over at the Central Blood Bank at the National Hospital and said it would be kept open daily from 8.00 a.m. to 8.00 p.m. 'considering the urgent need of blood and the convenience of the donors'.
They said donors from outstations are requested to donate blood at the nearest hospital with a blood bank.
National Hospital Director Dr.Terrence de Silva confirmed that the urgent blood supplies were needed to treat the injured soldiers.
Dr. Athula Wijesundara of the National Hospital who was involved in the blood donation campaign said that he expects a large number of hospital staff to come forward to donate blood.
Director of the Blood Bank, Dr. Mrs. R.M. Bindusara said the fresh campaign was launched to improve the stocks as the supplies had been reduced by a great extent.
He said that the Blood Bank had informed that the stocks at the Blood Bank had dropped and a campaign was organised by the OPD staff.
With uncertainty still hanging over the dates for next month's South Asian summit in Colombo, Sri Lanka is sending special envoys to all six countries to finalise arrangements and the agenda.
Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar over the weekend has left for visits to India, Bangladesh and Nepal. And will later fly to Pakistan and Maldives, while Deputy Minister Lakshman Kiriella will visit Bhutan.
The Foreign Ministry said, Mr. Kadirgamar and Mr. Kiriella would meet top government leaders in the six countries to finalise arrangements for the summit.
According to earlier plans the summit was to be held from July 20-22, but the Foreign Ministry had later suggested dates in early July. However, the war of words between India and Pakistan in the aftermath of the unprecedented nuclear tests put the arrangements in disarray.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Ravinath Ariyasinghe said the present consultations with South Asian leaders will help reach a consensus on the dates and other matters.
While in Pakistan, Mr. Kadirgamar in addition to discussing SAARC matters, will deliver the inaugural lecture in the Quaid-e-Azam series of lectures under the auspices of the Institute of Strategic Studies.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Maldivian High Commission in Colombo said he was not aware why President Gayoom has cancelled plans to visit India and Pakistan recently. Mr. Gayoom is the current Chairman of SAARC and the spokesman said, the cancellation of his visit was not likely to affect plans for next month's summit in Colombo.
Nuclear tests by India and Pakistan have hindered the finalising of dates for next month's SAARC summit in Colombo, sources said.
Consultations are on among the members of the South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation to decide on the dates, Foreign Ministry spokesman Ravinath Ariyasinghe said. The SAARC summit was earlier scheduled for July 20 to 22 and later advanced by two weeks.
However, five nuclear tests by India and tit-for-tat seven nuclear tests by Pakistan have hindered the finalisation of the dates.
The ministry is likely to stick to the original dates, The Sunday Times learns.
By Chamintha Thilakarathna.
The controversial deal over the privatisation of the Queen Elizabeth Quay of the Colombo Port has been put on hold due to a financial crisis faced by the Australian consortium which was expected to purchase it.
The Sunday Times learns that the Australian company, P&O, is facing difficulty in getting aid from donor institutions, for lack of guarantees.
The donors are also pressurising the government to commit itself to further privatisation in the port, if they are to grant aid to P&O, it is learnt.
QEQ, one of the highest revenue earners of the SLPA is to be privatised for 30 years to P&O for US$ 20 million per year.
According to SLPA sources, Ports and Shipping Minister M.H.M. Ashraff has told senior officials that if P&O finds it difficult to float a loan, he would consider giving a guarantee from the Sri Lankan government.
The deal was to be finalised last August, but besides the current financial difficulties, it also ran into strong protests, including token strikes and picketing campaigns by port workers' unions. They claim the deal would be a sell-out of one of the country's most valuable ventures to a multinational company.
Another TULF Municipal Councillor in Jaffna resigned on Friday bringing the total number of resignations of MMC's to four in four days and adding to the fear-psychosis gripping the Peninsula following recent events.
The latest to resign was S. Gowrythasan of the TULF. This came after TULF MMC Doneta Devial resigned on Tuesday, Deputy Mayor D. Thirunavukkarasu on Wednesday and Phillip Anthonypillai on Thursday.
The spate of resignations came two weeks after the assassination of Jaffna Mayoress Sarojini Yogeswaran, allegedly by a group identifying itself as the ' Sangiliyan Force', widely believed to be a front organisation of the LTTE.
Northern analysts see this as a major campaign by the LTTE to disrupt civilian administration in army controlled areas. In the wake of the assassination of the mayoress the killer groups are reported to have warned all local councillors and public officials they would face the same fate as Ms. Yogeswaran if they did not stop co-operating with the government.
Deputy Mayor Thirunavukkarasu in his resignation letter has said he supports the liberation struggle of the Tamil people and is ready to give up his posts and comforts to the cause.
Earlier the TULF had overlooked Mr. Thirunavukkarasu and nominated Jaffna lawyer P. Sivanesan to succeed Ms. Yogeswaran as Mayor, but the Elections Commissioner has still not gazetted this.
Some reports say, Mr. Thirunavukkarasu resigned because the TULF did not nominate him as mayor but others say he was under threat from the LTTE. TULF Vice President V. Anadasangari said, Mr. Thirunavukkarasu had been bypassed because he has not acted according to the goals of the party. Meanwhile, military intelligence sources say that some 30 LTTE pistol gangs are believed to have infiltrated to army controlled areas from the Wanni. This information was given by an LTTE girl who was captured by the security forces.
A UNP candidate contesting a co-operative Society election in the Maho area was shot dead on Friday by a gang believed to be PA supporters who also damaged the houses in the area in attacks.
Police confirmed that UNP candidate N.K. Yasapala was gunned down at one of his relatives' homes. A mob broke into the house and damaged the furniture and fittings.
The victim was a father of three and his wife works in a West Asian country.
Eyewitnesses claim PA Pradeshiya Sabha members were among the mobs which broke into the candidate's residence at Matiyakagama.
The co-operative society elections for the Karambe area were marred by violence and the forcible removal of ballot boxes. Elections were disrupted around 12.30 p.m. following high tension in the area after the killing of the candidate.
Chief Minister for the North Western Province, Nimal Bandara told The Sunday Times that a mob of 50 which included a Pradeshiya Sabha member assaulted the UNP supporters and the voters.
He claimed several houses in the area were also attacked and badly damaged. He added that most of those who turned up to vote were not allowed to vote and polls were eventually disrupted.
The chief minister claimed that the mobs were backed by a PA Politician in the area and some government vehicles were used by the gangsters to move about.
Maho Police said one person suspected to be involved in the shooting incident has been arrested and more arrests were imminent. He said that the weapon used for the shooting has also has been recovered.
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