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0th April 2000

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A young Buddhist monk running back to the procession
with a partially burnt Norwegian flag. He broke through
the barriers outside the Norwegian embassy premises to
pick up the flag after a demonstrator threw it at
the embassy premises.
Pic by Lakshman Gunatilleke.

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Unceasing fire for New Year

After 12 days of bitter fighting, security forces are continuing to offer stiff resistance to attempts by LTTE guerrillas to isolate Elephant Pass and mount increased attacks in the Jaffna peninsula.

The task has become a daunting one with periodic losses of men and material as the country gets set to celebrate the national New Year.

On Friday night, LTTE guerrillas attacked two Fast Attack Craft (FAC) of the Sri Lanka Navy killing at least 12 on board including the two captains. The incident came soon after dusk when an Israeli built Dvora moved some 600 metres off the coast of Nagarkovil. It is said to have come under fire from a recoilless gun mounted on a truck parked near the coast. The craft caught fire and began to sink.

A second Dvora, locally built by the Colombo Dock Yard, had moved closer to help the stricken vessel. It too came under fire. This craft which lost control hit a sand bank, some 50 metres from the shore. Tiger cadres had boarded the vessel, removed guns and other equipment on board.

Officials at Navy Headquarters said 18 sailors and an additional officer were rescued from the scene of the incident.

For the past 12 days troops have made several attempts to evict LTTE cadres from some eight kilometres of the A-9 Jaffna-Kandy highway they are holding. LTTE guerrillas who at first held a stretch from Muhamalai to Pallai, Censored have extended it further Censored. The nearly six kilometre stretch now extends from Eluthumaduval to Pallai.

At one point, LTTE "Task Force Commander" Balraj was trapped in the open but made good his escape after bitter gun battle. A Main Battle Tank (MBT) and other armoured vehicles were destroyed in the attack.

See Situation Report by Iqbal Athas on Page 11 for details.

NMAT slams BBC as voice of Tigers

While denying chargesof attacking BBC's Sandeshaya correspondent, the National Movement Against Terrorism has branded the radio as the voice of Tigers in the Sinahala medium.

In a statement , the NMAT Sandeshaya correspondent Elmo Fernando had obstructed the protest on Thursday even after he was asked to move, leading to the supporters pushing him away.

The NMAT has also called upon the people to protest against what it sees as the BBC's LTTE propaganda campaign while stating that it is more important to safeguard the independence of the country rather than Mr. Fernando' independence.

Citing one instance of alleged BBC propaganda for the LTTE, the NMAT said that during the Oddusudan battle, Sandeshaya claimed about 800 soldiers were killed a fabrication which damaged the morale of the army.

"The Sandeshaya programme has become the voice of the Tigers in the Sinhala medium.

The station wants to weaken the security forces and destroy the Sinhala nation," it said.

The NMAT vowed it would continue the campaign against the Sandeshaya and it would take action against any journalist who it believed was working for the LTTE.

The NMAT also denied reports that Buddhist priests were involved in burning the Norwegian flag and said it was a Buddhist priest who removed a half burnt Norwegian flag from the roadside.

President to meet Mahanayakas

By Shelani de Silva

Amidst growing pressure from monks and Sinhala groups regarding the proposed constitutional reforms, President Chandrika Kumaratunga has called for a meeting with the Mahanayakas tomorrow.

The President has informed the prelates that due to security reasons she is unable to meet them at their temples and invited them to Temple Trees.

The meeting comes amid a campaign carried out by the Mahanayakas and Sinhala groups regarding constitutional reforms and proposed peace talks with the LTTE through Norwegian facilitation.

The Mahanayakas were due to meet over the weekend to take a decision on their response to the President's invitation.

Meanwhile, a member of the Jathika Sangha Sabha said copies of the seven conditions they decided upon on Thursday would be handed over to President Kumaratunga and Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe.

He said their campaign would be extended to villages with the temples taking the initiative in making people aware of the need to safeguard national interest. They would go even to villages in the east.

More than 1000 monks including Samaneras took part in Thursday's possession and rally where they decided upon the seven non-negotiable conditions relating to the unitary state, the supremacy of Parliament and the independence of the Judiciary, the maintenance of existing constitutional safeguards for the National flag, the National Anthem and the Buddha Sasana, devolution of power not to be used as a means to the resolution of what they see as a non-existing ethnic problem and the abolition of the executive presidency and the Provincial Council system.

The Mahanayakas of the Malwatte, Asgirya, and Ramana Nikayas did not attend the meeting though they were expected to but the Mahanayaka of the Amarapura Nikaya, the Ven. Madhiye Pannaaseha attended the meeting.

Organisers said the Malwatte Mahanayaka was unable to attend due to a family funeral, while the Asgirya Mahanayaka is hospitalised and the Ramanna Nikaya Mahanayake is out of the country but is expected to return over the weekend.

Humps on expressway

By Hiranthi Fernando

The multi-billion rupee Katunayake expressway project has run another block.

The tender which has been evaluated by the Cabinet appointed Technical Evaluation Committee (TEC) has not yet been awarded.

Cabinet approval is still awaited on the selection made by the TEC.

Four parties tendered for the massive expressway project. The lowest bid was reportedly 9.5 billion rupees, submitted by a Chinese contractor.

The next bid for 13 billion rupees came from Euro-Lanka Consortium, which is made up of a French company named Bec, together with ten construction companies in Sri Lanka.

Highways Minister A.H.M. Fowzie said the Treasury was reviewing the tenders to make sure every thing was in order. He said a decision would be reached within two weeks.

Highways Ministry Secretary G. Hewagama said even though initially they had been looking for foreign funding for the project they have now decided to look for local funding which is causing a delay.

Avurudu for ministers only

By Nilika de Silva

Ministers and Deputy Ministers are being paid 26-month arrears following the recent salary increase before the New Year but MPs will have to wait a little longer as the Treasury has not allocated sufficient funds, officials said.

Parliament Secretary General Dhammika Kitulegoda said that the MPs had not been paid their arrears so far and would not be receiving it before the New Year.

Expectant MPs turned up in the parliament offices on Friday hoping to get their cheques running into lakhs, but they were told that the Treasury had not yet finalised the allocation. Only those of ministers and deputies were ready.

Meanwhile Government Chief Whip Richard Pathirana has lashed out at PA members who failed to turn up in parliament on Wednesday when the resolution to abolish the Paddy Marketing Board (PMB) was defeated by three votes.

Mr. Pathirana said the members were getting big salary increases with arrears but they were not turning up to do their basic duties. He warned that action would be taken against PA members who failed to turn up without valid reason.

President Kumaratunga has also cracked the whip, ordering all PA MPs, including ministers and deputy ministers that they must be present in parliament when a vote is taken on any matter.

While other public servants and people are protesting against the massive hike for politicians, local councillors are also squabbling over what they are getting or not getting.

Heads of Municipal, Urban Councils and Pradeshiya Sabhas are protesting they have not been given the duty-free vehicle privileges given to provincial councillors.


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