9th January 2000

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Jayalath J denies secret talks with LTTE

Member of Parliament Dr. Jayalath Jayewardena has denied charges made against him by President Kumaratunga that he had held secret talks with the LTTE in the Wanni.

Allegations were made that Dr. Jayewardena is having secret discussions over the telephone with the LTTE.

"These are false and baseless allegations to destroy my political image. I have never had any discussions with the LTTE at any given time," he said.

He said that his trips to the Wanni for development projects were with the permission of the Defence Ministry but after 1998, the President has been making allegations that his visits were purely to hold secret talks with the LTTE.

Despite repeated denials and explanations Dr. Jayawardena said, the President continues to make the allegations over and over again. A statement has already been made to the CID too in this regard, he said.

Dr. Jayawardena in his statement said that the Government had to pay compensation for keeping the driver (who took them to Madhu) under CID custody for over nine months.

He quoted his letter to the Defence Ministry asking for two officers from the CID or the National Intelligence Bureau to accompany him to Madhu in order to clear their doubts about his visit.

Though Dr. Jayawardena was granted permission once again by the Defence Ministry, his request was not approved.

The letter to the Defence Ministry referred to the work carried out by Dr. Jayawardena in the North and East. Organisation of free medical camps and providing the refugees with basic needs was some of the work carried in the war-torn areas, he said.

"When I go to the Sinhalese villages I am labelled as a Sinhala communalist. When I try to help innocent Tamil people I am accused of having talks with the LTTE," he said. He said that the President was trying to gain petty political mileage by making these allegations.

Desmond denies

Former President of the International Bar Association Desmond Fernando PC yesterday denied reports in the State media about comments he had made on President Chandrika Kumaratunga's health but informed that he had brought relevant matters to the authorities of the Chief Justice at the same time. Following is the full text of his statement:

"Today's Daily News reports the President to have said that I appeared on MTV and said that the President's brain had been smashed to smithereens (molay kuduwela) in the bomb blast and that she was unfit to carry out her duties as President any longer.

"I wish to place on record that I did not appear and make a statement in this connection either over MTV or any other television or radio station," he said.

"I did write to the Chief Justice drawing to his attention the relevant constitutional provisions applicable in the event of the President being temporarily unable to perform her functions or to appoint another person to do so, and requesting him to consider acting under these provisions in the best interest of the nation. I at no stage made any assertion as to the President's actual condition, a matter which was not within my knowledge, let alone that she was unfit to act as her brain had been damaged,' he said.

"At no stage was I motivated by a desire to advance the candidature of the UNP nominee, as suggested in the news report. I acted solely in what I considered to be the public interest at a time of uncertainty and speculation, both as to the actual situation and as to how it might develop,' he said.

President's Ramazan message

President Chandrika Kumaratunga in a message to mark the celebration of Id-Ul-Fitr, the festival of Ramadan has said it is heartening to note that the Muslim community stands for peace and is supportive of our government's efforts in finding a lasting solution to the ethnic crisis.

'I am fully conscious of the fact that Muslims in some parts of our country have had to make sacrifices and undergo severe hardships due to terrorist activities', she said.

President Kumaratunga said that the norms of discipline voluntarily observed during this month of fasting, strengthen their will to lead a purposeful life in a spirit of mutual understanding, accommodation, tolerance and forbearance as enunciated by Islamic teachings.

She added that she was aware of the noble principle of charity practised by the Muslims during this month for the welfare and betterment of their poor brethren, irrespective of creed or religion and wished that the Ramadan festival this year heralds a new era of peace and tranquillity for all Muslims in Sri Lanka and the world over as well as for all mankind.

Peace mission of religious leaders to North soon

A peace mission comprising of religious leaders of all religions and the public is scheduled to visit Madhu, this year.

Bishop Malcom Ranjith told The Sunday Times that plans for visiting the Madhu area and Tiger controlled areas was set for March but postponed.

'We want to go on a peace mission. We are inviting the people from all walks of life to join us. This mission will leave from the South and visit Madhu. We also hope to visit areas outside the control of the Army,' he said.

The Bishop added that the visit which was postponed due to the elections and the security situation will be worked out soon.

Vasu motion crying foul

Presidential candidate and MP Vasudeva Nanayakkara is to present a motion in Parliament questioning the conduct of the recently concluded Presidential polls and the role played by the Acting Elections Commissioner D.M.P.B. Dassanayake.

The Parliamentary motion to be moved in the next two weeks is expected to include specific allegations levelled against the Commissioner by various candidates and political parties.

Mr. Nanyakkara who contested the election, finished at sixth place and lost his deposit.

FMM concerned at attack on private media

Allegations made against independent media organisations and journalists by President Chandrika Kumaratunga during her speech on television on Monday have received much criticism from several media groups.

The following is the text of the statement released by the FMM.

The Free Media Movement (FMM) is extremely concerned by the unprecedented attack on the independent privately owned media in Sri Lanka by President Chandrika Kumaratunga. In a three hour discussion on State television the President accused the independent media of "ganging up" against her and said she would no longer tolerate such criticism.

The President also launched a vicious attack on owners of media organisation and editors of all independent newspapers by name, threatening to take every action possible other than killing them.

The President's remarks and the tone in which she made them is a clear indication that the government is planning to bring in new laws to further restrict media freedom and freedom of expression.

"The FMM condemns the defamatory statements against journalists made by the President hiding behind the immunity granted to her by the Constitution.

"The President's outburst was preceded by senior ministers and officials of her government and state owned print and electronic media launching a relentless hate campaign against the independent media since the government's election victory three weeks ago.

"In any democracy the media is not merely an instrument of disseminating information to the public but also plays the role of a watch dog. In playing that role the independent media continuously comes into conflict with those wielding power. It is also the responsibility of the media to highlight corruption, mis-management and bad governance.

It is an accepted norm in any democratic society that those who hold public office come under closer scrutiny than others and pre requisites to holding public office is the ability to tolerate criticism.

The FMM would also like to print out that Sri Lanka has more legal protection than most countries in the world to those who feel they have been wronged by the media such as the Press Council and criminal and civil defamation laws.To further strengthen the rights of those who cannot afford legal remedy the Free Media Movement, The Editor's Guild of Sri Lanka and the Sri Lanka Publishers Association are finalising plans to set up a voluntary Press Complaints Commission, (PCC), in line with such institutions in England and South Africa. The three organisations are also discussing the setting up of a media training institute to improve the professional standards of journalists.

"At the dawn of a new millenium when the rest of the world is shifting the emphasis from cold war politics and totalitarianism to greater democratic freedoms it would indeed be sad to see our country drifting back to the dark days of elected dictatorship intolerant of criticism."

Right of reply

Kelaniya Police Superintendent W. Abeynayake in a letter to The Sunday Times states :Reference is drawn to caption, "S.P., attack our cameramen" appearing on page 2 of The Sunday Times dated December19, '99.

I have to categorically state and keep you informed that, no such incident as described took place and no such utterances presumed to have been made against the Leader of the opposition and Presidential candidate, Ranil Wickremesinghe were made by me.

To clear matters I would like to keep you informed, I was placed in charge of investigations to be carried out at the scene of the bomb blast at Ja-ela, the venue of U.N.P. Presidential Meeting, which claimed several valuable lives including that of Major-General Lucky Algama.

You will appreciate, emergency situation duty arrangements, as well as prudence demanded, to cordon off the scene of the incident, after which the remains of Major-General Lucky Algama could be despatched. At this stage while the body was to be loaded into a lorry, an unknown person entered the scene without permission and started photographing the scene displaying scant respect to authority. Since the identity of the cameraman was not revealed and was a disturbance which would hamper the ongoing investigations at the scene of blast I was compelled to stop his photographing. He revealed his identity later at which stage I requested him to leave the scene if he had completed his photographing.

It has to be pointed out that Ranjith Perera has caused the publication of a distorted version relating to the whole incident and such publication is in my opinion tantamount to tarnishing the image in the Police Service Career.

Therefore, as a Senior Gazetted Police Officer holding the rank of Superintendent of Police with an illustrious career I shall be thankful if you make a correction to this publication extending the same prominence, so that this issue be resolved graciously.

-W. Abeynayake

The Sunday Times photographer Ranjith Perera says he is standing by what he reported about the incidents on December 18.

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