19th March 2000

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Germany gets tough on Tamil refugees

By Chris Kamalendran

German authorities have begun cracking down on Sri Lankan illegal immigrants, apparently showing their disapproval of Tamil rebel activities, a group of Sri Lankans who were deported from there said.

The 20 deportees who included six persons over 50 years said that they felt that the authorities were cracking down on Sri Lankan illegal immigrants and taking action against them.

The deportees, except for two who are being held by the CID for further questioning arrived in Colombo on Thursday morning accompanied by 35 border policemen. Their applications for asylum were rejected by the German authorities.

'We felt that the German authorities have changed their attitude on the ethnic issue and are gradually taking tough action against the Sri Lankans', Thuraisingham Bavanandan, one of the deportees said.

'Otherwise there is no reason to deport me at the age of 63 years and after living there for nine years', he said.

He said that in particular after the change of the German government last year the procedures for asylum seekers has been stepped up and also checking of visas also has been increased in the recent months.

He said that he cannot blame the German government as they were allowed to stay on for so many years and most of the deportees who returned with him had stayed on for eight to 10 years while their applications for asylum were pending.

Mr. Bavanandan had gone to Germany through Singapore and Italy after paying Rs. 300,000 in 1991 after giving up his job in the film industry in Colombo.

He said that there were over 60,000 Sri Lankans living there and most of them are living in very good conditions.

Another deportee, Varadharaja Varadhakumar (28) told 'The Sunday Times' that he was arrested at the Home Office in Germany when he went to extend his visa.

'I was told to call over to extend my visa, after my second appeal was filed. But last Monday I was arrested, hand-cuffed and handed over to the police for deportation', he said.

He said he was unable to bring back any of his belongings.

'I returned to Sri Lanka the same way I left the country, empty-handed', he said.

He said he had an assurance that they would extend the visa as otherwise he could have escaped and continued to stay there.

'Most of the refugees had either been given short notice or arrested on the way side and deported. The Sri Lankans there are feeling that the authorities are enforcing the laws strictly on illegal immigrants', he said.

He said that during their flight they were not allowed to communicate with each other.

Andrew Thiraviyanayagam (29) who had been in Germany for over 10 years was another deportee.

'My application for asylum had been rejected and I was given only one month's notice to leave the country' he said.

He said that though he had the opportunity to slip out of the country he did not do so because it could cause other complications and he could be arrested elsewhere due to the close collaboration between the countries in Europe.

He said that after Germany has tightened its immigration regulations most Sri Lankans there, mostly Tamil youth, are slipping out of the country to other neighbouring countries.

The deportees on their return were questioned by the Immigration authorities at Katunayake and thereafter handed over to the CID for questioning.

All of them were produced before the Negombo Magistrate, Saman Wickramaarachchi on Thursday night.

Two of them were remanded until Tuesday while the others who were released on personal bail have been told to appear in courts on the same day.

The German embassy in Colombo had retained attorney-at-law, Raviraj who is the Jaffna Mayor residing in Colombo, but he was represented by his junior, Kumudini Kumarasingham.

PoW issue heading for crisis again

By Shelani de Silva

The Government is yet to decide on sending an official to the Wanni to seek the release of the 11 soldiers who are in LTTE custody amidst uncertainty whether the captives would resume their proposed hunger strike on Wednesday.

The soldiers who gave a two-week deadline to the Government was scheduled to start the hunger strike last week.

However there was no information on the action taken by the soldiers.

Up to Friday the ICRC had not received any information, and was planning to send its officials to the camps.

Meanwhile, three parliamentarians last week appealed to President Chandrika Kumaratunga to grant permission to visit the prisoners held by the LTTE.

The three MPs, Tissa Karaliyadde, Nandasena Herath and Dilan Perera, are yet to receive a reply from the President.

They have decided to send a second appeal if they don't get a positive reply by next week.

Meanwhile, the association for relatives of service personnel missing in action has appealed to the government to send an official to the Wanni and has vowed to carry out a hunger strike in Colombo if the Government fails to do so.

The association's President S. Nanayakkara told The Sunday Times that once they received information that the soldiers had begun the strike they would give the Government 24 hours to send an official.

"If the Government fails to do so the family members of the soldiers would go on a hunger strike in Colombo. We have no information on the soldiers. It is up to the government to look into this," he said.

UN concerned over violence against Lankan women

The UN has expressed concern over the incidence of violence in the form of gang rape, murder and political violence against women.

The UN Special Rapporteur on Women and Children has expressed her concern over the gang rape and murder of women by Sri Lankan soldiers and political violence in the South which is having its impact on women victims.

She also pointed out the lack of serious investigation of allegations of rape and murder of women and girls. In particular she highlighted three such cases where a 29-year-old girl from Jaffna was allegedly gang-raped and killed by Navy personnel in December last year and that despite an order by President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga to immediately investigate the allegations, 'very little was being done', according to reports.

She also cited the gang-rape and murder of a girl in Mannar in July last year, where five masked men had entered the house where she and her family were sleeping, taken her outside and raped and killed her, and the case of a 12-year-old girl who was raped by a soldier in Chavakachcheri.

Schoolboys wounded in LTTE attack

Two 16-year-old school boys were critically injured in an LTTE grenade attack on troops in Jaffna peninsula on Friday, the Defence Ministry said yesterday.

The boys, Sivanandan Dayanandan and Marakandi Kanagabavan, were admitted to the Chavakachcheri Hospital and later to the Jaffna Teaching Hospital in a serious condition.

The attack took place while troops were patrolling in the area North of Madduvil.


Who did what?

The LTTE's front website Tamil Net has quoted an official of the Norwegian Foreign Ministry as claiming that Oslo did not obtain permission from the Sri Lankan Government to provide medical treatment to LTTE theoretician Anton Balasingham.

President Chandrika Kumaratunga in a recent interview said she had given approval to the Norwegian Government to allow Mr. Balasingham to be treated there and that the LTTE in return had tried to kill her.

But the Tamil Net, widely believed to be the mouthpiece of the LTTE, has quoted Norwegian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Ingvard Havnen as saying that the decision to take Mr. Balasingham was made by Norway on its own for humanitarian reasons.

He, however, said that the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE had been told of the decision, indicating there was some communications.

President Kumaratunga in her interview said: "Even after I said 'yes' to his being operated on, they [Tigers] bombed me and wanted to kill me... Norway delayed in taking him [Balasingham] and helping him because they were naturally very angry.

Not that they have any special friendship for me, but they didn't believe in this kind of thing. And then they asked again, 'Do you want us to take him?' And I said,'yes, do it'."

Land: the issue at next round of talks

By Dilrukshi Handunnetti

President Chandrika Kumaratunga and Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe have agreed to take up for discussion the issue of land at the next round of talks aimed at finding a solution to the ethnic problem.

At the end of the previous round of talks at Temple Trees a joint committee was appointed to discuss a range of issues including the powers of the judiciary, fundamental rights, appointments of provincial governors etc.

At the three-hour meeting, the PA and the UNP have agreed that the appointment of the Provincial Governors should be done by the Executive without the chief minister's concurrence being a mandatory requirement. The two main parties have agreed that 'on the advice' of the chief minister was a criteria which could be dispensed with.

However, sources confirmed that it was agreed that this decision be immediately referred to the minority parties as they have originally opposed this move.

The citizenship issue was also discussed at length and prior to making decisions both parties have agreed to refer the matter to the Ceylon Workers' Congress (CWC) to make recommendations, sources added.

A discordant note was struck when the UNP delegation queried the President about her controversial interview to the "Far Eastern Economic Review" where she has linked the UNP to the LTTE separatists. With a special understanding having been reached between the parties to hold the peace, some contents of the interview have been held as a clear violation of the agreement between both main political parties in a bid to reach consensus on the constitutional reform process.

The source confirmed that the comments must have been slightly changed and hence the misinterpretation of facts and has assured that she would listen to the tape and make a clarification about these comments at the next meeting. Meanwhile, UNP General Secretary Gamini Atukorale has raised the issue of UNP Chairman Karu Jayasuriya and himself being questioned for a number of hours by the CID .

The government was represented by Ministers Ratnasiri Wickramanayake, Dharmasiri Senanayake, D.M. Jayaratne, Indika Gunawardena, Batty Weerakoon and M.H.M. Ashraff while the UNP delegation comprised of party leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, Karu Jayasuriya, Gamini Atukorale, Ronnie de Mel and K.N. Choksy.

Presidential Secretary K.Balapatabendi and lawyer Jayampathy Wickremeratne were also associated with the discussion.

Despite the seeming cordiality of the continuing talks, UNP General Secretary Gamini Atukorale has issued a strongly worded release critiquing the President for adopting double standards and for riling the UNP in her interview to the "Far Eastern Economic Review" recently.


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