13th February 2000

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Police go ahead with the batti card

By Leon Berenger

Police in Batticaloa are going ahead with planes to introduce special identity cards for residents their despite reports in the state media that the matter has been put on hold following protests from Tamil political parties and human rights groups. "We don't know anything about these reports. We are going ahead with that plan," Senior Superintendent Upali Hewage told the Sunday Times.

The new ID system was to be launched from February 15, but due to administrative delays, it had to be put off for the end of this month, SSP Hewage said.

Under the plan, Batticaloa district residents, including those living in areas controlled by the LTTE, will have to obtain a special identity card for travel outside the region.

The move is aimed largely at keeping a tab on people leaving Batticaloa and Amparai. It will also help police and security forces in the screening of individuals.

The move to issue special identity cards come following intelligence reports that most of the LTTE infiltrators, including suicide bombers, were from Batticaloa district, more than half of which is under the control of terrorists.

Residents will be required to furnish details on their families, education, employment etc along with photographs that will be recorded with the local police and security authorities.

The identity cards are to be made by the Department for the Registration of Persons situated in Colombo.

The TULF in particular has come down hard on this processed plan saying it violated the fundamental rights of the people who will be technically segregated from the rest of the country.

Batticaloa Government Agent S Pathmanadan told The Sunday Times that his office had not received further instruction on the new card system after an initial briefing by the police two weeks ago.

Meanwhile the National movement Against Terrorists (NMAT) has hit out at the TULF for its adverse position on the proposed pass system.

An NMAT statement said: "The TULF claims that the fundamental rights of the people living in Batticaloa and Amparai will be violated by this move. In doing so, they seem to turn a blind eye to the destruction of human life and valuable property during the past 15 years and more recent stepping up of such activities on a wider scale by a large scale infiltration of the LTTE cadres and their supporters into Colombo, Kandy and suburbs.

"Has the TULF made any attempt to evaluate the effect on a comparatively minute group of persons subjected to some travel restrictions against the probes loss of life and property if such restrictions are not imposed? How many live do they reckon, may be sacrificed for a 'no-pass' system, and what are the alternative proposals of the TULF?"

Fight will go, say dissidents

By Roshan Peiris

Ministers and dissident UNP MPs Sarath Amunugama and Nanda Mathew, say they will stay put in the party and fight for the removal of party leader Ranil Wickremasinghe.

Dr. Amunugama in an interview with Sunday Times said as full fledged UNP members they would press for a new party leader.

"We want Wijeyapala Mendis, the most senior UNP parliamentarian as the UNP leader," he said.

Asked about suggestions made by some UNPers that party chairman Karu Jayasuriya be made the leader, Dr. Amunugama said: "Who is Mr. Jayasuriya when compared with Mr. Mendis? He is only a Johnny came lately. His only contribution to the party is being a mere yes man to Ranil. Grassroots UNPers were unaware of Mr. Jayasuriya's existence prior to being pitchforked by Mr. Wickremasinghe. In contrast, Mr. Mendis had been in the party during both its bad and good times." He said.

In a separate interview, Minister Nanda Mathew said he would neither resign from the UNP, nor would he quit his ministerial post in the government. "S. Thondaman who was sent to Parliament on the UNP ticket held a portfolio in the P.A. Government. If this rule can apply to the Thondamans, it should also apply to us. Why these double standards when it comes to the five who disagreed with the party leader?" he asked.

"I will stay within the party and fight for the removal of Mr. Wickremasinghe and make the UNP once again a democratic party," Mr. Mathew said.

Asked whether he would accept Mr. Jayasuriya as a possible leader, Mr. Mathew said the UNP chairman was hardly known among the general membership in the rural areas. "The better choice is Rukman Senanayake. He is the best choice," he said. Commenting on Anura Bandaranaike, Mr. Mathew said though he was a good politician, he did not seem to be serious about his political career.

TV, radio coverage under new election regulations

By Shelani de Silva

Based on a report setting out guidelines on election coverage in private electronic media, new regulations will be passed to ensure all parties contesting an election get fair and equal exposure, a senior minister said.

He said the report prepared by a presidential committee would be ready within two weeks and based on recommendations contained in it, new laws would be passed in Parliament, governing election coverage in both private and state-run media.

The new regulations would be strictly enforced because during the Presidential elections, a section of the private media did not act fairly in their coverage, the minister said.

Asked whether the new regulations would be another form of censorship, the minister said the new regulations would be aimed at giving equal opportunity to all parties.

It was only last week that President Kumaratunga appointed the committee to draw up proposals to govern the private electronic media in keeping with regulations that govern the state-run media pertaining to election coverage. This has led to speculation that the Government was preparing for an early general election.


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