28th November 1999
As we see this picture, we may be moved — that
By Leon Berenger and Chris Kamalendran
Amidst fresh moves by two main Presidential candidates to woo the minority Tamil votes, the main Tamil political parties remain undecided about their support to these candidates
The Tamil political parties are stressing that they are more interested in the plight of tens of thousands of displaced people in the Wanni and their eventual decision might be based on what is done or not done for those people.
Both main parties have targeted more ethnic-related issues in their run up to the poll indicating that the issue will figure prominently in the election and would influence the voters.
LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran himself remains mum about the upcoming Presidential elections.
Mr. Prabhakaran making his annual speech to mark the end of the heroes' week made no reference to the elections.
TULF parliamentarian Mavai Senadhirajah said his party would take a decision within a week but stressed their main concern was the desperate situation of the refugees in the Wanni region.
Leaders of the PLOTE and the TELO also said they would take a decision depending about how the government acted to meet the urgent needs of civilians displaced from the Wanni region.
The EPRLF leader Suresh Premachandra said his party had decided not to support either of the main candidates, because both had failed to provide a solution to the crisis of the Tamils.
However former Northeast Chief Minister and EPRLF member of Varatharaja Perumal who is being accommodated at a VIP flat in Colombo by the government has decided to support President Kumaratunga.
Elaborating on the crisis of the displaced people, Mr. Senadhirajah said food supplies had not reached them since November 1.
He said the TULF had been assured by the President at a meeting last Monday that supplies would be sent immediately, but little or nothing had come by the end of the week.
Both main parties have been trying to woo the minority votes with indications that their votes would be a decisive factor for the PA and UNP candidates.
All Ceylon Tamil Congress leader Kumar Ponnambalam said Tamils should not vote for either of the two main candidates as they had failed to resolve the ethnic conflict.
Meanwhile, reports from the north indicate that most people there are showing little interest in the upcoming elections.
The campaign for their votes comes in the wake of a mass refugee crisis in the north where at least 25,000 people have been displaced in the latest rounds of fighting. See also pages 6&8.
By Shelani de Silva
The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) is going international with its protest against military censorship, rising election violence and attempts to curb coverage on private television and radio.
Party spokesman Wimal Weerawansa said they were organising campaigns outside the Sri Lankan missions in, Germany, Italy and Thailand as an initial step.
He said the aim of the JVP was to bring international pressure on the government to act fairly and democratically during the run-up to the upcoming presidential elections.
He said the party's international organisers were working out the protest campaign and they hoped to draw a big crowd.
He said election violence appeared to be directed mainly against JVP members and police seemed to be largely inactive again.
In this situation, the JVP felt it necessary to internationalise its protest and its web site also would be used for this purpose.
LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran yesterday reiterated terms for peace talks and disclosed that President Chandrika Kumaratunga had sent a message through a third party to hold 'secret talks' while continuing the war, but he had rejected it.
Mr. Prabhakaran in his Heroes' week message broadcast live over the clandestine 'Voice of Tigers' last evening said the message was conveyed to the LTTE after he made the last year's heroes' week speech.
"Chandrika (Kumaratunga) conveyed to us a message through third party sources that she was prepared to hold secret talks with certain conditions while continuing the war effort. We rejected her proposal. It is absurd and practically impossible to hold peace talks on one side while engaging in a bloody war on the other side," Mr. Prabhakaran said.
The LTTE chief called on the government to de-escalate the armed conflict and initiate peace talks under "conditions of normalcy" for a negotiated political settlement of the Tamil conflict.
Mr. Prabhakaran in a 15-minute broadcast said that peace talks would be held in a cordial atmosphere of mutual trust with the assistance of international third party mediation.
He insisted that talks should be held in the "absence of economic blockades."
He recalled that during last year's heroes' week message, he had called for third party mediation and emphasised the necessity of creating certain "objective conditions conducive for peace talks."
"We explained very clearly that these objective conditions entail a situation of normalcy free from military aggression, occupation and economic strangulation of the Tamil nation," he said.
The LTTE chief said the government refused to accept their proposal for creating a congenial peaceful atmosphere for peace talks. He accused the President of trying to implement a military scheme during the past five years, He believed she did not reflect seriously about peace nor had she taken any constructive steps towards peace talks.
He said the LTTE did not want to engage in a negotiating process with conditions and time frames. Mr. Prabhakaran said they had not abandoned the path of peace. "We wish to reiterate that peace talks should be held in a cordial and peaceful atmosphere of mutual trust and good will with the assistance of international third party mediation," he said.
Mahanayake calls for probe
The Mahanayake of the Malwatte Chapter, Ven. Rambukwelle Sri Vipassi Thera, has called on the President to probe charges surrounding the outburst of Deputy Buddha Sasana Minister Ediriweera Premaratne on a live TV programme last week.
The Mahanayake told the Sunday Times that the deputy minister's conduct was improper and the government should conduct an impartial investigation.
Parliamentarian Ravi Karunanayake, the other panellist in the 'Rathu Ira' live programme on Swarnawahini, had questioned Mr. Premaratne's alleged involvement in a shady deal regarding vehicles. This was followed by a question posed to him by a caller who asked the Deputy Minister whether he had been charged with the murder of a chief priest in a temple where he was also a monk. The Sunday Times learns Mr. Premaratne was discharged due to lack of evidence. An angry Mr. Premaratne had then accused moderator Chandana Sooriyabandara of having a pre-organized scheme to allow only anti-government questioners on air.
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