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25th April 1999

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repair the track
Teams of railway engineers and others working
desperately to clear and repair the track at Balana,
Kadugannawa where the crash of a 40-foot rock
during Tuesday's deluge brought main line train
services to a standstill.
Pix by Lakshman Gunatillake.
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Upcountry running out of fuel

  • Balana calamity blocks rail supplies
  • CPC rushes tankers
By Chris Kamalendran and Shane Seneviratne

The entire Central Province is facing a serious fuel shortage because of the breakdown of train services and the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) is rushing huge bowsers to the upcountry areas.

CPC Chairman Anil Obeysekara told The Sunday Times that after an emergency meeting on Friday they were sending bowsers of 26,500 gallon capacity to upcountry areas to avert any fuel crisis.

The move to rush stocks by road came amidst reports that fuel stations in the upcountry were facing shortages and some of them have curtailed sales while filling stations in Nawalapitiya and Kadugannawa had closed in the wake of last Tuesday's calamity where a 40-foot boulder destroyed the main line railtrack near the Balana station during the heavy rain.

Reports said there was also a shortage of flour and other food items in Central Province areas but an official of the Food Commissioner's office said they believed there would be no major shortage as additional stocks had been sent for the new year.

Meanwhile, railway officials said more than hundred meters of the track had been destroyed by the falling rock and it would take at least three more days for normal services to resume, though a team of 80 engineers and others were working round the clock on repairs.

At least 40 goods and passenger trains which use the main line daily have been kept away seriously affecting the transportation of passengers between Colombo and up country and the food and fuel distribution to those areas.

"The bad weather is hampering the repair operations," Engineer J. Udayakumar who is heading the clearing and repair operations said.

A railway official last night said they would resume first goods trains services after they got all-clear signals from the engineers. Passenger services would begin after they were fully satisfied with the track.

Meanwhile, The Sunday Times learns that more than 2000 passengers on an Avurudhu train escaped death on Tuesday morning when their train was stopped at Balana after a linesman alerted the station, just six minutes before the huge rock came tumbling down.

"The linesman had spotted muddy water flowing at a rapid speed along small rocks. He alerted the nearest station and we warned the train not to proceed," Balana station Master. J.A. Dayananda said.

"The train was stopped at 11.34 a.m and six minutes later the boulder came down with a bang. Had the train passed the place all the carriages would have gone down the precipice," the station master said.

Brussels victor embarrassed by fiasco

UNP parliamentarian Mahinda Samarasinghe has expressed deep embarrassment over what happened when two Lankan nominees clashed at the election of the Asia Pacific representative to the human rights committee of the Brussels-based Inter-Parliamentary Union recently.

Mr. Samarasinghe who won the election with a thumping majority of 120 votes over the PA nominee Deputy Minister Anura Priyadarshana Yapa's 11 votes, said it was even more embarrassing that the Sri Lankan delegation was among the few who voted against him.

Mr. Samarasinghe said he had asked Speaker K.B. Ratnayake to withdraw Mr. Yapa's candidature. But the Speaker had said he had got instructions from Parliament to submit Mr. Yapa's name and that he would go ahead.

He said Mr. Yapa's campaign was conducted mainly by the Speaker, who had written personally to all the heads of delegations and was seen speaking to them, along with PA MPs Keseralal Gunasekera, Asitha Perera and T.B. Ekanayake.

He expressed the hope that this kind of embarrassing exercise would not be repeated and that the government would give positions to people on the basis of their suitability instead of stooping to party politics overseas as well.

"I hope we can learn something from this, and learn not to wash our dirty linen at international forums," he said.

The IPU committee monitors human rights records of member countries worldwide.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry clarified yesterday that the Brussels elections had nothing to do with foreign governments as reported in The Sunday Times last week, but involved IPU branches of respective parliaments.

He said the Foreign Ministry played no part in canvassing for this election.

Floods subside but more rains to come

With several districts still recovering from the Tuesday-Wednesday deluge, the Meteorological Department said yesterday occasional rain would continue in the Western, Southern, Central, North Western and Sabaragamuwa provinces during the next few days.

Met officials said thundershowers would occur in Uva and Eastern provinces.

Reports from Ratnapura, the worst affected region in last week's downpour, said the town and areas surrounding it experienced occasional showers but the flood levels were receding fast.

Though flood waters have receded in most areas, some roads were still impassable last evening.

Some roads in Kalutara are reported to be under two to three feet of water. However most of the main roads are clear, an official of the Automobiles Association said. See also pages 4 & 5

US again condemns LTTE as terrorists, calls for tough action

US Secretary of State Madeline Albright has forcefully reiterated the American view that the LTTE and certain other groups are terrorist organisations.

"Some say Hezbollah is not terrorist, because it has a political agenda. But that is sophistry. As long as it advocates indiscriminate violence and assassination, it is terrorist. The same is true of the other groups, such as Hamas, the P.K.K, and Sri Lanka's Tamil Tigers," she told a Senate Subcommittee on Commerce, State, the Judiciary and Related Agencies in Washington D. C. recently.

She was explaining US efforts to counter the forces of international terror.

Ms. Albright said: "For each the decision to use terror was a choice it did not have to make. Law abiding nations must unite in helping them realise that the choice they have made is wrong.

She said that terrorism was not a legitimate form of political expression, nor of religious faith, but 'plain and simple' homicide.

In a forceful statement, Ms. Albright went on to stress that not taking action against terrorist groups coming within one's judiciary was irresponsible.

She said that paying terrorists in return for not being targeted was cowardly, and financing them, whether specifically for terrorist purposes or not, was also cowardly.

She said that countries should bring terrorists to justice.

Emphasising that the war against terrorism was a global one and that every country should quell their efforts in every way, the secretary of state said their purpose 'is to weave a web of law, power, intelligence and political will that will entrap terrorists and deny them the mobility and sustenance they need to operate'.

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