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16th May 1999

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pic 01
Be a feather in our cap was the call. Answering it, hundreds of school leavers from all parts of the country flocked to the Air Force Headquarters in Colombo  to be recruited as regular and volunteer airmen. An Air Force officer is seen extracting blood samples of a potential recruit.
Pic. by Dunstan Wickremeratne
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PLOTE-TELO showdown rocks city centre

By Chris Kamalendran

The long-standing rivalry between the two ex- militant Tamil groups was dramatically brought to the heart of Colombo last evening when gun-toting PLOTE members shot dead three top TELO cadres in an incident near the city's plush Majestic City shopping centre.

Two central committee members of the TELO were among those killed when the alleged PLOTE cadres armed with nine millimetre pistols opened fire near the beach on Bambalapitiya Station Road around 6.30 p.m. and escaped in a vehicle which had been waiting for them on the adjoining road, police said.

Just before the shooting incident, Bambalapitiya Police were given a false alarm that a bomb had been planted on the adjoining road. The anonymous call prompted the police to divert a mobile patrol jeep parked on Station Road to rush to the adjoining road.

Police believe that the call was given to divert attention from Station Road which was packed with vehicles as large crowds were still shopping at the Majestic City.

Eyewitnesses said when the TELO men were shot they made a desperate attempt to escape, but the two PLOTE gunmen had repeatedly opened fire at them.

The shooting incident caused panic and pandemonium among the Saturday evening shopping crowd, but police moved in fast to calm the people and restore order.

The two central committee members killed were identified as Sivalingam Sivadasan alias Das, Rajaratnam Kugaraja alias Kuhan who is also an area leader in Vavuniya and the third Mirukandan Jayakodi, a businessman and TELO sympathiser.

A TELO spokesman last night blamed the PLOTE for the killings and said they believed it was connected with the incidents in Vavuniya recently.

For the past six months, the two groups have been fighting in Vavuniya over various matters including the collection of extortion money from businessman.

Last week, TELO members had allegedly set off a bomb near a PLOTE camp at Uma Maheshwaran Road in Vavuniya, killing one PLOTE member and a 13-year-old boy. After the incident, some PLOTE members are reported to have moved to Colombo. 

Cricket test to get British visa

As part of a screening test, the British High Commission in Colombo adopted a novel method of having a cricket quiz for Sri Lankans who sought visas to go to England for the World Cup. 

The quiz included questions on the participating teams, the venues and related matters.

Not surprisingly, the High Commission had received nearly 600 visa applications, of which only about 25 were rejected. Nearly 575 visas were issued by Friday.

A High Commission official told The Sunday Times that measures were taken when issuing these six-month visas to ensure that the visitors would not overstay.

No comment for us, but column for Guardian

From Rangi Akbar in London

Sri Lankan skipper Arjuna Ranatunga said yesterday he did not wish to give interviews to Sri Lankan newspapers because they were often hacking him but he has agreed to write a regular column for the Manchester Guardian and run into a storm over it.

In the first article published in the highly respected newspaper on Friday, Ranatunga hit out at the attitude of some Australian cricketers, umpires and crowds, especially during the crisis over his star bowler Muttiah Muralitharan last year.

Ranatunga's outburst coincided with an equally strong attack by Australian spinner Shane Warne who also wrote in the London Times newspaper on Friday. Warne, named by the cricket almanac Wisden as one of the five greats of the past 25 years, singled out Ranatunga for a stinging attack. 

He said Sri Lankan cricket would be much better off without Ranatunga who besides his unsporting ways could not bat properly or field properly now.

But Warne's comments have put him in trouble with the International Cricket Council imposing a two-match ban and fine of Aus $ 1000.

Ranatunga yesterday hit back at Warne. He said his attitude and behaviour were based on a 2,500 year culture while the culture of People like Shane Warne did not have much to boast about. See also pages 18 and 20.

Angry crowd besiege police

A crowd of about 2,000 people besieged the Maligawatte police station, by burning tyres last night, after police took in six persons in connection with a killing of a police driver on May 1.

Police said the situation was soon brought under control though the protesters damaged a fire engine which had come there to extinguish the fire. 

Police driver M. Wijetunga of the Dematagoda station was stabbed to death at Maligawatte while he was returning home.

Perumal proposes interim body for NE

By S.S.Selvanayagam

Former North-East Chief Minister A. Varatharaja Perumal has proposed to President Chandrika Kumaratunga that an interim arrangement be made for the administration of the North and East until provincial council elections are held there, an official of his party said.

Mr. Perumal who met President on Thursday submitted a 44-page report on his proposals where he suggests that members of all political parties be included in the interim body. 

EPRLF Politburo member T. Subathiran told The Sunday Times the President after their 90 minute meeting had said she would consider these proposals

Mr. Perumal who headed the EPRLF administration in the abortive north-east provincial council also requested the President to present the proposed political package in parliament soon and she assured that it would be done.

Political observers believe the package would be presented by August.

On the President's orders, extra security is to be provided for Mr. Perumal who came to Colombo from India in mysterious circumstances some months ago and again last week for wide-ranging talks with the government.

Crackdown on state vehicles and ghost voters in the south

By Shelani de Silva

Strict curbs on the use of state vehicles for polls propaganda, and other measures to prevent ghost votes will be enforced by the Elections Department to ensure free and fair elections in the South, Polls Chief Dayananda Dissanayake has pledged.

Mr. Dissanayake told representatives of political parties that he would hold talks with the officials of the Ministry of Public Administration to prevent the misuse or abuse of state vehicles for party politics. 

He said he would request that a circular be issued to ministries and departments, warning against the release or the use of state vehicles for party work.

In the battle against impersonation, the commissioner said he had asked the Registrar General to give him a list of dead persons in every district to prevent anyone from casting the votes of dead people. This malpractice is known to be fairly widespread. 

The commissioner will also take further measures to prevent impersonation of hundreds of thousands of Sri Lankans who are working in West Asia and elsewhere. This also is believed to be fairly widespread and such illegal votes could significantly affect the outcome.

For the removal of illegal posters and banners, Mr. Dissanayake told Police that the Elections Department would provide the required labourers to assist the police in the removal of the offensive material.

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