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12th July 1998

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Where there's a wheel and a will, there's ever a way.
Two disabled children at Thalapathpitiya Siddhartha
Vidyalaya use wheel chairs while others use the normal ones
at a common table in their class room. These two inmates of
an orphanage want to be accepted as normal children
in the classroom though they have to be much more
committed and hardworking than others.
Pic by Sajeewa Chinthaka

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Forces under Joint Chief of Staff

Unified command under President Kumaratunga to fight terrorism

Government will bring the security forces under a unified command for future counter-terrorist operations.

It will come directly under President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, who is also Minister of Defence and Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces.

Such a command will be headed by a Joint Chief of Staff, who will be the longest serving service commander.

According to a decision made by the Government, the new security forces set-up will begin functioning from the end of this year. The Joint Chief of Staff will be above the Commanders of the Army, Navy and the Air Force.

The move will see the strengthening or the total replacement of the Vavuniya-based Joint Operations Headquarters, the joint military apparatus now directing counter-terrorist operations.

According to highly-placed Government sources, the new command structure is being established to bring about greater command, control and inter-services co-ordination. "We want to ensure the resources of the three services Army, Navy, Air Force are used to the maximum and the best professional talent is at the forefront of the counter-terrorism effort," one defence source said.

The source who spoke on grounds of anonymity told The Sunday Times, "once a task is handed down by the Government, it would become the responsibility of the Joint Chief of Staff to ensure it is executed." Even the Police, who are deployed in operational areas and counter-terrorism activity will come under the Joint Chief of Staff.

"Planning and executing counter-terrorism operations and all related activity will also become the responsibility of the Joint Chief of Staff," the source added.

Already a team of military officials have been detailed the task of identifying buildings and acquiring other requirements needed for the new unified command.

IA closes Colombo office

By Hiranthi Fernando

The London based Scandinavian funded NGO, International Alert, has vacated its Colombo office amidst mounting criticism over the controversial NGO's dismissal of its Colombo Programme Manager Frederica Jansz and the mass demonstration opposite IA's Bambalapitiya office accusing the NGO of being an LTTE front.

IA has given notice to the owners that it will be removing its belongings within next two weeks, The Sunday Times learns.

The move also comes on the heels of a statement by Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar that the government's National Intelligence Bureau (NIB) would be called in to investigate suspected LTTE front offices in Sri Lanka.

Kanaka Abeygoonewardena, an IA employee who arrived in Sri Lanka shortly after the controversial dismissal of Programme Manager Frederica. Jansz, confirmed that the Bambalapitiya office had closed down, but said she was too junior an employee to know if this was a prelude to IA's stopping operations in Sri Lnaka altogether.

The Sunday Times contacted Ms. Abeygoonewardena through the National Peace Council (NPC), another largely Scandinavian funded NGO operating in Sri Lanka.

Jehan Perera, Media Director of the NPC, told The Sunday Times that Ms. Abeygoonewardena operated from the NPC office in an unofficial capacity and that NPC was not in tow with IA, though.

IA funded the NPC in its first year of operations in 1995/96.

Meanwhile an IA sponsored project in Sri Lanka titled 'The Cost Of War' has been suspended.

Bradman Weerakoon, International Affairs Advisor to former President R. Premadasa, who was to chair the 'Cost of War' project, said the project had been called off after the recent controversy over the dismissal of Ms. Jansz..

Ms. Jansz was dismissed by International Alert after she contributed an article to The Sunday Times on LTTE fund-raising activity in Norway.

IA had apologized to both the LTTE and the Norwegian government for this article.

Dr. Elizabeth Nissan of Article 19, who was to write the final report on 'The Cost of War' also withdrew from the project earlier following the same controversy.

The Norwegian Ambassador in Sri Lanka, Jon Westborg, in an interview with The Sunday Times maintained that the dismissal of Ms. Jansz by IA was an internal matter but added that Ms. Jansz acted 'professionally' during an interview with him for the article concerned. (Please see full interview on page 9).

Mangala issue next week

The no-confidence motion against Minister Mangala Samaraweera is likely to be taken up when Parliament meets from July 21 to 24.

The motion which was submitted to Speaker K. B.Ratnayake last Monday by Rajitha Senaratne on behalf of the Opposition is to be given precedence in the Parliamentary agenda accommodating requests by both Dr. Senaratne and Minister Samaraweera.

Anura says 'I won't quit'

Anura Bandaranaike who is in the centre of a political controversy declared last night he will not quit the UNP.

"I will not quit the UNP and nor did I have any plans to do so," he told 'The Sunday Times'.

Mr. Bandranaike also dismissed as "idle talk"' reports that he was tipped to fill the highest diplomatic slot as Sri Lanka's Permanent Representative to the UN when he joined the Government shortly.

He said he knew no such thing, but had only seen a newspaper report on the issue.

MP aims gun at officials

A gun wielding MP is alleged to have threatened Water Supply Board officials who were disconnecting illegal taps in Kelaniya and Enderamulla areas, officials said.

They said the threat had been reported to the minister in charge who in turn had assured it would be taken up at cabinet level.

In recent weeks, the board has been clamping down on illegal users in several areas and the Kelaniya-Enderamulla operation was part of this.

The MP is alleged to have threatened to shoot the Water Board officials if they did not stop the disconnection of some 300 illegal taps in the area.

New military spokesman

The head of Military Intelligence is to function as military spokesman simultaneously. Brigadier Sunil Tennekoon will take over his new task from tomorrow.

Military spokesman Major General Sarath Munasinghe has been named General Officer Commanding the Army's 51 Division in the Jaffna peninsula.

'My mum's killer free in Lanka'

AG studies Italy's extradition request

The Italian government has called for the extradition of a Sri Lankan who is alleged to have murdered a 62-year-old Italian lady doctor and returned to the country.

Attorney General Sarath N Silva confirmed yesterday the extradition request by the Italian government for the Lankan who is wanted for the murder of Professor Erika Lehrer Grego, a heart specialist in Milan.

Additional Solicitor General K.C. Kamalasabayson said the department was studying the request.

According to media reports from Milan, the heart specialist's children, Susanna and Marco, are spearheading a campaign to bring the killer to justice.

"He is a merciless murderer and he is still free. I just ask that this man be tried," the daughter was quoted as saying in a newspaper

"A terrible murder," said a police officer who saw the scene. The professor had been stabbed seven times with two knives on the chest, the back and the arm.

Italian newspapers reported that the alleged killer was a heavy drinker and on the day of the incident, three months ago, the doctor found him drinking as on other occasions and reproached him. Then he allegedly stabbed her mercilessly.

Gianluca Maris, a lawyer hired by the suspect's family in Milan said: "I have no evidence as I have never been able to speak to him directly. I have written to him asking whether he was involved , but have not received an answer up to now."

The lawyer also said: "the story of the heavy drinker who kills because he is told off seems to me too simple a theory."

The alleged killer answered questions calmly when he was questioned in Colombo, the reports said. The Sri Lankan authorities have confiscated his passport but have not arrested him, the reports said.

Patrizia Toia, the Italian junior minister for foreign affairs said: "we must do all in our power to bring the killer to justice."

She has instructed the Italian Ambassador in Colombo to intervene at the highest level with the Sri Lankan authorities.

One Milan newspaper recently ran headlines saying, "My mother's killer is free in Sri Lanka."

Deva: 'I remember everything'

By Chris Kamalendran

EPDP leader Douglas Devananda, recovering dramatically after he was mauled by alleged terrorists at the Kalutara prison, spoke to The Sunday Times after the assassination attempt.

"I want to thank the doctors for saving my life" were the first words of Mr. Devananda who had been in critical condition after the June 30 prison horror but battled hard for survivial.

"In today's political situation, these types of incidents are not surprising. I can remember everything that happened at the Kalutara prison when I was attacked," he said.

Mr. Devananda was seated upright on the bed and ate a light stringhopper meal.

He could walk about on his own and is briefed by his cadres on various developments, including investigations on the attempt to kill him.

"I have a pain only at the rear of my head. Otherwise I am okay," he said with a smile.

National Hospital's Deputy Director Dr. Hector Weerasinghe said Mr. Devananda was fast recovering and all doctors and the staff at the hospital had put in their best effort to save his life.

Meanwhile police arrested a man who trtied to visit Mr. Devananda at the National Hospital.

The police stopped the youth, who claimed he was a friend of Mr. Devananda, at the entrance to the ward. They questioned him in detail but the youth was later released.

The youth possessing an identity card with a Sinhala name had claimed that he had been a friend of Mr. Devananda for a long time and said he was intorduced to the EPDP leader by one Nathan, a mutual friend, in 1984.

But EPDP cadres who were guarding Mr. Devananda at the ward told the police that during that period Mr. Devananda was in jail.

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