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30th April 2000

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Senior military officers giving a final salute of honour to
a fallen colleague before his cremation at kanatte.
Pic by J. Weerasekara

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Military equipment sought urgently from 7 countries

Urgent multi-billion purchases

Government has embarked on a fast track multibillion rupee programme to re-equip the security forces as part of a modernisation move and to make up for losses during recent military set-backs.

Officials headed by Defence Secretary Chandrananda de Silva, have begun meeting manufacturers's representatives from Russia, Britain , Pakistan, Iran, Czech Republic, Israel and Singapore.

These meetings with individual suppliers, Defence Ministry officials explained, were to ensure all deals were Government to Government and no middlemen were involved. A note circulated by the Ministry of Defence to manufacturers in the seven countries has specifically declared 'local agents will not be permitted to represent principals'.

However, The Sunday Times has learnt that local agents have been in constant touch with representatives of principals who have flooded Colombo's star class hotels. Many of them have been assured of attractive commissions on deals they put through with the Government of Sri Lanka.

One of the important conditions the suppliers have been called upon to confirm is ex-stock availability and early delivery. The procurements include day to day items and state-of-the-art equipment.

These procurements come in the backdrop of President Kumaratunga's pledge to the nation on Friday night that she would continue the war effort to militarily weaken the LTTE.

May Day in distress

Security forces are taking no chances with some 7000 personnel being deployed to maintain law and order during the May Day celebrations.

The ruling SLFP has decided to call off its procession with floats and other displays. The SLFP will only have a rally at the Town Hall presided over by President Kumaratunga while its socialist partners in the PA will go ahead with their procession from Campbell Park and converge at the Town Hall.

The UNP is going ahead with its May Day rally in Nuwara Eliya, but a musical show has been cancelled.

The most colourful procession and rally in Colombo will as usual be the JVP May Day show, with a party spokesman saying upto 20,000 people including foreign representatives were expected to participate.

SB case: No action still

By Nilika de Silva

The Attorney General's Department is yet to act on the directive given by the Chief Justice to prepare a draft rule against Minister S.B. Dissanayake on charges of contempt of court.

Court sources said that so far the Attorney General's Department had only acknowledged receipt of the directive issued nearly a month ago. Sections of a speech made by Minister S.B. Dissanayake at the annual sessions of the Sri Lanka Institute of Architects were examined by a three member panel of the Supreme Court to determine whether there were grounds for contempt charges.

Mr. Dissanayake in the February 26 speech reportedly said the government would close down the parliament and courts if it did not get the two thirds majority to pass Constitutional Reforms. He had also reportedly said those judges who do not agree with these reforms could go home.

SLBC-BBC: confusion confounded

By Shelani de Silva

The dispute over the live broadcast of BBC Sandeshaya news on state radio appears to have been patched up but confusion still persists over whether the BBC will or will not abide certain rule and regulations.

Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation Chairman Janadasa Peiris told The Sunday Times they had come to an understanding with BBC officials on three conditions relating to the BBC Sinhala news.

The BBC had given no guarantee that the conditions would be adhered to but Mr. Peiris said he hoped things had been sorted out.

The conditions are:

*That LTTE claims will be double checked with the military authories.

*That the casualty figures would also be checked

* BBC would show concern for the ground situation in Sri Lanka and

*The BBC and the SLBC should ensure that extreme care is taken in reporting stories which could whip-up racial passions and create a backlash against ethnic minorities.

The dispute erupted last Sunday after the BBC Sandeshaya news- broadcast live on SLBC reported a withdrawal from Elephant Pass with heavy casualty figures.

An angry information director and chief censor Ariya Rubesinghe accusing the BBC of spreading LTTE propaganda ordered a ban on the broadcast of the Sandeshaya news. But SLBC officials took up the matter with media minister Mangala Samaraweera who ordered that the broadcast of Sandeshaya news be continued. The censor also revoked his earlier order.

Mr. Peiris said he expected the Information Department to monitor the BBC news. But an Information Department official said the SLBC would be responsible if censorship regulations are violated in the BBC news. Under the contract between the SLBC and BBC, the news from London has to be broadcast live and without any editing.

Indian Government speaks to Vaiko

By Our Diplomatic Editor

Indian External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh met Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar in New Delhi and assured him of his country's "fullest support" for a united Sri Lanka following a recent speech by a Tamil Nadu legislator supporting a separate state in the island.

The meeting came after Mr. Singh had summoned and called for an explanation from Gopalaswamy (Vaiko), General Secretary of the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnettra Kazhagam (MDMK) and MP for Sivakasi in Tamil Nadu. This came immediately after The Sunday Times published a report of a recent speech he made in Geneva where he had supported the LTTE's campaign to kill the Sri Lankan President.

Mr. Kadirgamar had lodged a strong protest with his Indian counterpart complaining that Mr. Vaiko supported a separate Tamil State in Sri Lanka and accused him of criminal conspiracy to murder President Kumaratunga.

Indian newspapers published excerpts from The Sunday Times report last week and an embarrassed Mr. Vaiko denied he had said President Kumaratunga should be killed.

Mr. Kadirgamar in his letter to Mr. Singh had quoted from Mr. Vaiko's recent speech at a pro-LTTE rally opposite the Palais des Nations in Geneva where he had said "she needs to be lucky every time but we need to be lucky only once."

Mr. Kadirgamar complained that this was undoubtedly a reference to the LTTE's attempts to assassinate President Kumaratunga.

The MDMK leader was also reported to have told the rally that "it is necessary for the Tamil nation to have a single language", and ended his speech with the words "long live Tamil Eelam".

Mr. Vaiko told the Indian media after his meeting with Mr. Singh that the speech has been taken out of context and that he was not insane to incite people to take President Kumaratunga's life.

The 52- year- old Dravidian leader who has, according to the Indian Press recently invited LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran's parents to his daughter's's wedding in Tamil Nadu was earlier (1989) in the centre of controversy for taking an illegal boat trip across the Palk Straits to Jaffna.

Mr. Vaiko claims that what he meant by her having to be lucky once was a reference to the IRA having made such a remark after attempting to assassinate British Prime Minister Maragaret Thatcher and that the British Government still decided to hold talks with the IRA so why shouldn't the Sri Lankan Govt.

He has said he could provide the tape of his speech. Political analysts however say that the Sri Lankan Government has already embarked on peace talks with the LTTE and therefore Mr. Vaiko's analogy with the British Government and the IRA was irrelevant.

Further, the point of holding peace talks contradicts Mr. Vaiko's assertion to the need for Tamil Eelam, a separate state in Sri Lanka for Tamils.

Mr. Vaiko has not denied those remarks. The "Eelamunism" a Tamil weekly published in France quoted Mr. Vaiko as saying at the Geneva rally "long live Tamil Eelam- may there be success to the leader Prabhakaran in his quest to win Tamil Eelam".

After his meeting with Mr. Singh however Mr. Vaiko has shortly altered his public stance. The Pioneer newspaper has quoted him telling a national television channel "we support the demand for Eelam, but not the violent method."

Meanwhile in Chennai'sAmbedkar College students burnt an effigy of Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadiragamar soon after Mr. Vaiko was summoned by Mr. Singh.

Unconfirmed reports from Chennai stated that Mr. Vaiko had a celebration party after the fall of Elephant Pass to the LTTE hands late last week.

In New Delhi Indian Defence Minister George Fernandes, reportedly an LTTE sympathiser met Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadiragamar for a one- on- one discussion. Mr. Kadiragamar is due to meet the Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee as well.

An official spokesman for the Indian External Affairs Minister has said that the LTTE remains a banned organisation in India, and that the country's official position is that it supports a peaceful resolution of Sri Lanka's internal conflict within the framework of the country's territorial integrity and sovereignty.

The Sunday Times however, has regularly published reports of Tamil Nadu being used as a supply and logistics base for the LTTE.Sri Lanka Navy has intercepted several boats, specially prior to the Wanni operation, with saline, field-dressings, pain killers etc.

Intelligence agencies here have learnt of senior LTTE cadres being evacuated to Tamil Nadu for medical treatment after battles.

Pro-LTTE bulletins and magazines are allowed to be distributed freely in Tamil Nadu.


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