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16th January 2000

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Burghers react to reports over alleged Tiger links

By Leon Berenger

The Burgher community in the Tamil-dominated eastern city of Batticaloa were last night up in arms over reports appearing in the Sinhalese language media suggesting links between members of their tiny community and the separatist Tamil Tiger rebels.

"We are a peace-loving community with friends and relatives on either side of the ethnic divide. Our people toil hard to keep themselves and families afloat, so it is foolish to even suggest such suspicions," President of the Batticaloa Burgher Christian Association Sunny Ockersz told The Sunday Times.

He strongly ruled out any links between the Burghers in Batticaloa and the LTTE for whatever reasons or gains.

Ockersz was reacting to reports that a Burgher male identified as only Rozairo and a resident of Batticaloa was picked up by the security forces for allegedly harbouring a suspected LTTE operative at his house.

'This may be so, but then there could be valid reasons if indeed this Rozairo had helped the Tigers. One interesting point the media appears to have missed is that Rozairo may have been forced to do so owing to threats or similar pressure' he said.

"As we all know Batticaloa is currently a city charged with high tension, where the Tiger cadres sometimes roam freely and carry out attacks on the security forces and government targets. Every single person living in this town is vulnerable to attack or could find himself facing the muzzle of a gun, he said.

'It is needless to repeat, since it is a known fact that the Burghers in Batticaloa or anywhere in the country have remained neutral in the country's ongoing ethnic conflict and there is no reason to change that opinion', Mr. Ockersz further said.

The defence authorities in Batticaloa echoed the comments made by Ockersz.


JVP protest against attack on media

By Shelani de Silva

The JVP is to carry out a campaign protesting against Government policy, especially the recent attacks on the media.

The decision was taken at the politburo meetingof the party and a poster campaign is to begin soon.

Party spokesperson Wimal Weerawansa said that after the Presidential elections, they saw an erosion of democratic principles.

"We will voice our protest on three issues democracy, the attack on the media and any move to hold a referendum instead of a general election. The protest will be carried out from village level. We will educate the people on all these," he said.

The protest would also go international and steps have been taken to inform the party offices overseas on the move, Mr. Weerawansa said.

He said the party's provincial councillors, especially those in the Western and Southern Councils, where the JVP was relatively strong, had been told to take up the matter at council sessions.


Further blows to terrorist coffers

Lanka tightens screws on LTTE

By Ayesha R. Rafiq

Sri Lanka having signed the United Nations Convention on the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism, is now finalising legislation with regard to money laundering, The Sunday Times learns.

Sri Lanka being the Vice Chairman of the UN Ad-hoc Committee on the Elimination of Terrorism, was the second country to sign the convention, which was also signed by France, USA, Britain, Finland, Malta and the Netherlands.

Political sources said Sri Lanka which is facing a prolonged terrorist war would stand to gain through this convention, as countries such as Britain and Canada which have until now been lenient with fund raising operations would tighten the screws.

The convention is said to go beyond existing conventions with regard to anti-terrorism in that it specifies details other than the extradition and prosecution of offenders.

Among the specifics in the convention are directives stipulating that all financial organisations should be transparent with regard to unusual transactions, the exchange of information among member states, prohibiting the opening of accounts by anonymous sources, as well as maintaining five-year records of all transactions.

It obliges states to closely monitor the collection or receipt of money by organisations in support of terrorist activities in another country, directly as well as indirectly through front organisations masquerading as charitable organisations.


CMC to streamline garbage collection

By Faraza Farook

The Colombo Municipal Council (CMC) has launched a massive project setting itself a target to do away with all the garbage collecting points in the city before the end of this year.

The Council is planning to achieve its target by co-ordinating with the private contractors who are already handling 50 % of the garbage collection of the city.

While the CMC is confident of doing away with the waste collecting points it is also faced with the dilemma of finding a place to dump the collected garbage.

"For the past ten years we have been facing a severe problem with garbage dumping," Lalith Wickremaratne, Director, Engineering, Solid Waste Management said.

With 600 tons of garbage being collected every day, the municipality has to find different places to dump its collection, he said.

Often there are protests by residents and thus the CMC is forced to look for another place. But todate, the Council has not been able to come up with a solution to overcome the problem.

Though the Government arranged for World Bank funding for a sanitary landfill site at Alupotha, Hanwella, the project never got underway. After tenders being called and discussions being held for eight long years (1991-1999), the project was cancelled for reasons known only to them.

But identifying that there were investors willing to invest on waste disposal, the CMC called for proposals. Mr. Wickremaratne said that they are now in the process of evaluating the proposals received from the investors.

Meanwhile the new project launched to do away with garbage collecting points has been categorised into two sectors the high income/middle income group and the low income group.

House to house collection, a method adopted in many developed countries has been begun for the high/middle income group and has already proved a success, says Mr. Wickremaratne.

The CMC has received 90 new vehicles for this purpose, under a grant from Japan.

According to Mr. Wickremaratne, the CMC had started the project last year but this was contradicted by some who said that the Municipality is not regular in its visits to collect garbage and often has to be reminded.

Mr. Wickremaratne said that the system would be regularised once the project is fully implemented in all the areas.

In some areas there have been environmentalists who are offering to dispose garbage in an environmentally friendly way.

This system, however did not prove a success in the low income areas which are the slums and shanties, Mr. Wickremaratne said.

Thus, a pilot project was launched for this sector. The CMC issued 50 litre bins to the low income earners free of charge. The people are instructed to bring the bins to the main road at a time specified by the CMC for collection.

To avoid clashes among the people over bins, the owner's name and address has been marked on them. However, Mr. Wickremaratne says that the people don't use the bins for garbage collection but instead use them for other purposes such as filling water or to store food. In order to make people use the bins for waste collection the CMC has drilled holes in the bin.

The CMC is planning on expanding this project. The Council has spent some three million rupees issuing bins to a hundred gardens. Mr. Wickremaratne said that the Council would spend a further seven million rupees to issue bins to 300 more gardens.

The earlier methods where garbage bags were issued had to be stopped due to the large cost involved, he said. The polythene bags were also said to pose a threat to the environment.

"The new project will restrict people from throwing garbage on to the roads or drains as the municipal employees will come right to their doorstep to collect the refuse," Mr. Wickremaratne said.


UC chief shot dead

Point Pedro Urban Council Chairman Vadivelu Wijeratnam was shot dead by a suspected LTTE gang outside his office on Friday night, military sources said.

The 49-year-old Mr. Wijeratnam, who represents PLOTE was gunned down as he was going home along with another employee who also died.

Friday's killing was the latest in a series where the LTTE has systematically eliminated local councillors who were cooperating in district administration and development in spite of rebel warnings.


More than 600 fraudsters behind bars

The Police Fraud Bureau in Colombo ended the old year on a high note after it was able to successfully prosecute some 600 cases where almost all the accused were sent behind bars, a senior policeman said.

Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) V. Kanthasamy and head of the CFIB told The Sunday Times that apart from nabbing and jailing the suspects the police were also able to solve nearly 1,300 cases. Among the suspects were at least 75 to 100 females, he said.

Nearly 75 per cent of the cases were mainly cheque frauds and cheating by licensed and unlicensed overseas job recruiting agencies which had fleeced millions of rupees from persons seeking employment abroad. Kanthasamy however added that there were still a few others on the wanted list. Many of them are believed to have fled the country.

SSP Kanthasamy and his deputies at the CFIB are looking forward to a more relaxed year 2000 because they believe that the bulk of the trouble makers are currently doing time, safely locked up in the country's jails.

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