30th April 2000

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Now Tigers move into Switzerland

M.Ismeth reporting from Geneva

With most European countries implementing the latest UN Convention on suppression of terrorist financing, the LTTE has moved its centre of operations to Switzerland.

In this backdrop Sri Lankans living in Switzerland and neighbouring countries have appealed to the Swiss government also to implement this convention and crack down on the LTTE.

This came in a petition handed over by Sri Lankans on Wednesday after a demonstration outside the UN office here.

The demonstration was organised by the committee for peace in Sri Lanka, Sri Lankans living in Switzerland and by the Sinhala Bala Mandalaya based in Britain.

The petition handed to the Swiss Foreign Affairs Dept. Chief Joseph Deiss said the LTTE was the main obstacle to peace by continuing its killings and bombings without trying to sincerely negotiate a settlement. The petition said the LTTE had one of its main offices in Switzerland and openely canvassed or extorted money from Sri Lankan asylum seekers here, collecting upto two million francs a month.These funds were being used to buy weapons and continue the conflict.

As most of the European countries become parties to the UN Convention against Financing of Terrorism, the LTTE movement has begun to shift its activities to Switzerland.

"We are concerned that Switzerland is becoming a 'safe haven' for their terrorist activities through the large number of Tamil economic migrants," it said.

The Sri Lankan committee has called for the expulsion of the identified leaders of the LTTE from Switzerland.

The Sinhala Bala Mandalaya in a letter to UN Human Rights Commissioner Mary Robinson has said that the failure of the international community to help Sri Lanka stem the Tamil terrorist activities is undermining the fight against global terrorism.

Bar Council concerned over CBK remarks

The Bar Council yesterday expressed grave concern over remarks reportedly made by President Kumaratunga regarding corruption in the judiciary.

In a statement it said President Kumaratunga's criticism of the judiciary and allegation that a Judge had taken a bribe in a Fundamental Rights application, could pose a threat to the dignity of the judiciary.

"We are gravely concerned over the most adverse effects the remarks can have on the independence and dignity of the Judiciary and in particular on the respect, regard and confidence reposed by our people in the highest Court of our land," the Bar Council said.

It said newspapers reported that President Kumaratunga had remarked about the judiciary in the presence of Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, Cabinet Ministers and Parliamentarians.

The Bar Council called upon the President to take necessary action against any member of the judiciary alleged to be corrupt and the Supreme Court Judge referred to by her and all others involved.

In the event that the President has not made such allegations, the Bar Council requested that a public statement be made to that effect to secure the dignity and the esteem of the judiciary.

Moves to oust Mayor still on

By Laila Nasry

Political manoeuvring continued over the week in a bid to seek support for a 'no confidence' to oust the Colombo Mayor Omar Kamil, but the Mayor expressed confidence that he cannot be removed from office.

Opposition member Sunil Ananda Vithanage who is initiating the no confidence motion is to seek President Chandrika Kumaratunga's support for it.

He is said to be the main instigator of the move, making a series of allegations and calling for the removal of the Mayor.

Mr. Vithanage has questioned the official decisions of the Mayor in matters relating to the administration of the Council and the awarding of tender contracts.

Mr. Vithanage's motion is currently being reviewed by the CMC's Opposition leader K. Ganeshalingam and is to be presented to President Kumaratunga in the course of next week.

"Once approval has been sought from the relevant quarters it will be presented to the opposition members in the Council," he said.

Despite all the allegations levelled against him the Mayor treats the 'no-confidence' motion as "a rumour which has no truth to it. There is no provision in the Councils Ordinance for such a motion," said Mr Kamil.

However he agreed that a resolution can be brought up by the opposition .

"It has to originate from the opposition. But when I spoke to Mr. Ganeshalingam he said he has no clue about it and felt that such a motion will only serve to jeopardize the relationship between the PA and the UNP in its efforts to find a lasting solution to the ethnic problem."

Meanwhile in a show of solidarity a confidence movement has been formed within the Council backing the Mayor.

However Mr. Vithanage alleged that their support has been bought over with promises of shop spaces in the Fort and Pettah areas.

War victims plead for truce

The families of the soldiers missing in action and Association of Disabled Ex-Service Personnel have appealed to the Government and the LTTE to call a truce in the North and to resume peace talks. The associations have called for the truce specially after the Elephant Pass debacle so that the bodies of combatants could be sent to their relatives or buried in a dignified manner.

"It is our fervent hope that the occasion of a temporary truce and the goodwill generated from it will lead the government and the LTTE to discuss ways and means by which further destruction and loss of life will not be necessary.

"Every crisis however disastrous it may be always has a window of opportunity. History judges leaders on how, using such opportunities, they have been able realise their statesmanlike visions,"it said.

Technical May Day

Technological Service Trade Unions Federation will hold its May Day meeting at the Kegalle Municipal Council Hall, with the theme being ' A satisfactory salary scale for the workers '.

From there the Union will come to Colombo to join the Hyde Park rally jointly organised by the workers and farmers.

In a May Day message the Federation states that the time has come for the workers to rise up against the politicians and those who exploit the workers.

Pensions for private sector employees

The Labour Ministry is to introduce a pension scheme for private sector employees, Minister John Seneviratne said yesterday.

The plan is part of a series of programmes drawn to improve the welfare of workers serving both here and abroad, he said.

He said all employees entitled to Employees' Provident Fund (EPF) benefits would be entitled to this proposed pension scheme.

The funds for this pension will be from the EPF to which all employees contribute . A certain percentage will be transferred from the EPF to this pension scheme.

He said that they were still working on the proportion that should be transferred from the EPF to this pension scheme which will be paid for a period of about 20 years.

Referring to the salary increase demanded by unions the minister said as a matter of principle the government has accepted that a policy should be laid down and a permanent commission appointed to look into salary anomalies of public servants.

The minister said that he felt that their demand was justifiable as their salaries were not in keeping with the cost of living.

"The private sector, too, whenever circumstances permit, should increase salaries of workers, considering the sustainability of the industry they work in", he said.

Mr. Seneviratne said that during his recent trip to Korea he had worked out a scheme for the setting up of a welfare unit attached to the embassy, to look after those who are employed in Korea.

The Korean government, the Korean Federation of Small and Medium Businessmen have also agreed to support this in order to create a better environment for those employed there.

The minister said the main reason for his visit to Korea was due to the large number of persons employed in Korea fleeing from their places of work. According to Korean law they have to be employed for a period of two years, but due to bad working conditions and physical abuse they flee.

He said that while there were those who were treated badly there were those who were content and happy in their places of work.

Talking about workers employed in West Asia, he said that 90,000 of the 125,000 employed there were housemaids.

After he took office as the Labour Minister three years ago he has set up safe houses in most of the West Asian countries for those who flee their work places due to various reasons. These safe houses which are maintained by the embassies spend around Rs. 150,000 a month for providing shelter and food for the runaways.

If these persons are not able to find alternate employment, they are sent back to Sri Lanka at the expense of the Foreign Employment Bureau.

He said if there are any labour problems now there are Assistant Commissioners appointed for each regional office to look into shortcomings.

PA partners want quick fix with UNP

By Shelani de Silva

Two constituent Left parties of the People's Alliance have expressed concern over the slow pace of the PA, UNP dialogue and are calling for the talks to be held on an urgent daily basis.

The parties, the LSSP and the CP have decided to write to President Kumaratunga urging the Government to reach a satisfactory settlement soon, LSSP leader and Minister Batty Weerakoon said.

He said the LSSP felt the PA, UNP talks should be held on a daily basis and planned out more effectively.

"President Kumaratunga gave us the assurance that the talks would be finalised by the end of May, but no talks have taken place for weeks. There is nothing as important as the new constitution," he said.

Mr. Weerakoon said that following the Elephant Pass debacle the need for a new constitution and a political solution to the conflict was more urgently felt.

"As long as we seek a military solution the war will go on and both sides will suffer," he said.

The constituent parties have decided to urge the government to speed up the talks with the UNP.

Ravinatha relieved

Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ravinatha Ariyasinghe has been relieved of his duties, temporarily, a senior official of the Foreign office said yesterday.

The official told The Sunday Times that Mr. Ariyasinghe who is currently on three months study leave has been relieved with immediate effect of all duties with regard to the media division of the Foreign Ministry for the duration of the remainder of his leave, and until further notice. Mr. Ariyasinghe is midway undergoing a course in South Asia.

The reason of the stringent action against Mr. Ariyasinghe has been for giving instructions from Islamabad to his assistant in Colombo to release a circular to all diplomatic missions here giving details of the fighting at Elephant Pass with a map of the Jaffna peninsula annexed to the circular.

The circular had indicated that troops wee consolidating to new Forward Defence Lines (FDLs). The Foreign office official said that Mr. Ariyasinghe had not been removed from the post but relieved from his duties until his return. No acting appointment had been made.

Vultures in fatigues prey on fatigued men

By Chris Kamalendran

A top military officer, other army personnel and private pharmacy owners have been implicated in a massive racket of smuggling drugs from the army hospital in Colombo, police said

A senior officer and three others allegedly involved were produced before the Fort magistrate on Friday and were allowed bail.

Police said the racket was busted when a military policeman at Army Headquarters questioned a civilian who was leaving the premises carrying a parcel which contained medical capsules.

The civilian was found to be a medical sales representative. He was accompanied by a private and a sergeant.

The military policeman had arrested all three who were subsequently handed over to the Fort Police

He said that there has been previous complaints about pilfering of drugs from the Hospital.

Police investigations have revealed that the modus operandi has been that the senior officer attached to the Army Hospital gives authority to collect the drugs from the stores and the collection is made by a junior officer and handed over to the civilian to be taken out.

During the past week the military hospital has been bursting at the seams with a large number of casualties from the Elephant Pass debacle.

Brig. Dudley Perera was appointed as the new military hospital director yesterday.

Sihala Urumaya for united Lanka

By Hiranthi Fernando

"The UNP and the SLFP are two sides of the same coin", said S.L. Gunasekera, President of the new party 'Sihala Urumaya', speaking at its official launching at the Sri Lanka Foundation Institute auditorium on Wednesday.

He said the necessity for forming a new party arose because today, there was little if any proper leadership in the country. The major parties have failed to fulfil the aspirations of the people. "Today, they are talking together to give over a part of our country. Did they ever join together to fight the separatist terrorists? Will Prabhakaran ever give up a single inch of territory for peace?"

'Sihala Urumaya' was launched with a flying start amidst a large gathering of people from all walks of life. The auditorium was packed to capacity. Every seat was occupied and many stood along the walls. People also thronged the lobby outside, where the proceedings were shown on television screens. The new flag of the party, with the lion in the foreground, was placed on one side of the stage along with the national flag on the other. The simple ceremony was characterised with a national flavour.

At the auspicious hour, a young girl and boy clad in white national attire brought in the sannasa bearing the official announcement of the party, accompanied by Kandyan drummers beating the magul bera. After the lighting of the traditional oil lamp, the members of the party Central Committee ascended the stage. The National Anthem was sung with much fervour and the proceedings got underway.

"Only the Sihalä Urumaya can save our land from this war", pronounced Tilak Karunaratne, General Secretary of the party.

He announced his intention of resigning his seat in Parliament at the next sitting on May 9, to work full time for the success of Sihala Urumaya.

"Älthough we speak today of the Sinhalese, we will not forget the other races and religions. We accept that all citizens have an equal place in this country. However, we condemn the notion that one third of the country should be carved out as a homeland for one ethnic group alone" he said. "Our aim is to build a united Sri Lanka and safeguard its sovereignty" he said.

The Sihala Urumaya vowed to restore to the Sinhalese people, their lost rights to live in any part of the country without fear. At the same time they assured the minorities of security and equality in developing the country according to a national policy.

Censor rebuffs cabinet

For a second week in succession, the censor has deleted most details pertaining to events at Elephant Pass, in today's Situation Report. The deletions include a factual account of how the troop pull out occurred, analytical comments relating to it and some general observations which are not governed by the provisions of the censorship.

This is despite an official announcement after last Wednesday's Cabinet meeting which said "several Ministers joined in the discussion and it was agreed that special attention should be given to media coverage on the developments in the war-front with the twin objective of providing correct information to the general public and refuting false propaganda by interested parties".

CBK meets

President Chandrika Kumaratunga yesterday met with cabinet ministers at Temple Trees marking her first meeting since she returned from medical treatment.

Earlier in the day the President presided over a meeting of the National Security Council where the current situation in the north was discussed. The President is due to meet opposition Leader Ranil Wickramasinghe on Tuesday where they will be discussing the security situation among other matters.

UN Pulling out of Jaffna

Heads of UN agencies are yet to decide on where to re deploy their staff who were withdrawn from Jaffna owing to the prevailing security situation, UN spokesman Mohan Samaranayake said yesterday.

All UN staff including local employees involved in rehabilitation programmes and demining projects were asked to withdraw from Jaffna last week to be re deployed elsewhere until the situation improves.

The first batch of staff brought to Colombo included ten officials who came here from Zimbabwe for a demining project in Jaffna.

The next batch is expected to leave Jaffna within the coming week.

The UN staff engaged in emergency relief assistance will remain.

Local ears boxed for foreign calls

By Tania Fernando

Telephone charges are due to be increased by 20 per cent from June to make up for losses suffered due to the reduction of foreign call charges in keeping with an international requirement, a Telecom official said.

Christy Alwis, Head of Group Customer Service of Sri Lanka Telecom said the charges were being increased to continue with their existing profit structure.

He said the 20 per cent hike wont necessarily be slapped on local call charges only, but could be included in installation and rental charges.

"The developed countries that control the telecom industry have come up with a regulation that international call charges should be at the same rate, irrespective of the country it is originating from, thus reducing the big margin that exists at present on international calls,"Mr. Alwis said.

He said that while 60% of calls taken in Sri Lanka are international the balance 40% are domestic.

Therefore, to continue with the profits, we have to increase the local call charges to make up for the loss of revenue from international calls, he said.

"This exercise while reducing the international call charges, will expire in the year 2002 as the SLT's monopoly on international telephone calls ends at that time. These revisions have been done in the past years too on the basis of 25% in 1998 and 1999, while a 20% hike is proposed this year, after the privatisation of SLT in 1997," he said

While this revision has been put to the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (TRC) for approval, its confirmation is expected sometime next week.

Peroxide swallower still in ICU

A Castle Street resident who burnt his vocal cords and upper respiratory tract after taking hydrogen peroxide instead of liquid paraffin is still receiving treatment in the intensive care unit of Asha Central Hospital.

The patient, an elderly gentleman, was given hydrogen peroxide erroneously instead of the laxative, liquid paraffin. He was said to be a diabetic patient. He had taken two tablespoons of the medicine which damaged his vocal cords and upper respiratory tract. He is said to be related to President Kumaratunga.


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