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21st May 2000

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The Sunday Times on the Web

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..... blanket censorship .........

With the Government imposing a blanket
censorship on local and foreign media,
more and more people are surfing the Internet
to get access to BBC . CNN and other web sites
for uncensored and uptodate information
on the security situation.
Pix M A Pushpa Kumara

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In line with a blanket censorship imposed through an emergency gazette notification on May 3, the news stories, columns, pictures, maps and cartoons in this newspaper have been subjected to censorship by the Competent Authority. We hope our readers will bear with us. Censored


Lanka gears for battle at UN

Russia, China to block moves to pass resolution on Sri Lanka

By our Diplomatic Editor

Sri Lanka is gearing itself to face moves by a major international LTTE backed lobby which is trying to bring the country's internal conflict before the United Nations Security Council.

The Sunday Times learns that the Colombo Foreign office which was tipped off about moves by a European country to initiate a debate at the UN Security Council, has already canvassed friendly countries to block such moves.

The Foreign Office said it could confirm that Russia and China, two UN Security Council permanent members with veto powers, had already been approached by the Sri Lankan government, and that these two countries had responded positively to Sri Lanka's concerns.

A very senior spokesman for the Foreign Office said the government would "go to the ends of the world" to fight "tooth and nail" moves to bring any UN resolutions on Sri Lanka.

"We do not want ourselves turned into another mess like Bosnia or Sierra Leone through UN resolutions," he said.

Sri Lanka's tough stand came amidst a resolution passed in Brussels on Friday by the European Parliament calling on "the European Union member states in the UN Security Council to bring the situation before the UN as a matter of urgency."

The European resolution to be forwarded to the UN Security Council, the Secretary General of the UN and the Secretary General of the Commonwealth also welcomed the efforts of the Norwegian government and the Indian government to bring about an acceptable, peaceful political solution and urges the Commonwealth to use its good offices for high-level mediation in the Sri Lanka crisis.

The European Parliament has also been critical of the LTTE terrorism and urges European member states to 'take steps to proscribe organisations operating on their territory which continue to provide financial and other support to terrorist activities in Sri Lanka and in doing so to relieve the intimidation by the LTTE of Tamil people living in third countries'.

The Foreign office has naturally welcomed the provisions in the resolution that

condemn the LTTE, but believes that LTTE lobbies in European countries have 'tapped' their local MPs in a bid to bring the issue before the UN Security Council.

Meanwhile, a pro-LTTE human rights group's bid to seek consultative status within the UN system has been quashed after its links with the terrorist group were exposed, a report in the UN website said.

The UN Committee on NGOs has rejected an application from the Tamil Centre for Human Rights after Sri Lanka and the United States raised concern over its LTTE links.

The Sri Lanka's UN envoy John de Saram informed the Committee that the NGO was a well-known front for the LTTE.

The envoy said the centre published literature that promoted the division of Sri Lanka and its senior officials had participated in LTTE rallies.

It is well known that many groups in foreign countries worked as front organisations for the LTTE, collecting funds, carrying out propaganda campaigns and creating a wave of sympathy for a terrorist war back home, he said.

A Centre official addressing the committee, however, denied the allegations saying it was only concerned about the protection of human rights of Tamil people.

His defence of the centre appeared to be insufficient consolation as several delegates noted that the responses given were not sufficient to allay their concerns. The activities of the centre seemed inconsistent with the provisions of the relevant resolution and the principles of the United Nations Charter. As such, the committee members stressed they could not support the application of an NGO connected with violence and terrorist groups.

These developments come in the wake of intense diplomatic activities in India concerning the situation in Sri Lanka.

Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee said yesterday India was keeping a close watch on fighting between government troops and Tamil rebels and was ready to take any necessary steps.

"If we have to take any step, we are ready for it, if necessary," PTI quoted Mr. Vajpayee as telling reporters when asked about India's stand on the developments in Sri Lanka.

"The situation is changing rapidly. We are keeping a close watch," Mr. Vajpayee said, after inaugurating a meeting of officials of federal and state governments.


Defence expenditure soars by Rs. 12 billion

The escalating separatist war will push up Sri Lanka's defence expenditure in the current year by Rs. 10 to 12 billion.

This amount, Treasury officials explain, is over the annual budgetary provision of Rs. 53.4 billion (4.9 per cent of GDP).

Answering questions during an interview (The Sunday Times - May 14), Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar said the Government had to "pay up to about US$ 800 million" for military procurements. He explained it further during a news conference early this week. He agreed with a foreign correspondent that the current year's defence expenditure would total US$ 880 million US$ 730 million already allocated and an additional expenditure of US$ 150 million.

Treasury officials say Sri Lanka has successfully contained its defence expenditure in spite of the continuing armed conflict in the North. The national security and defence expenditure declined from 6.5 per cent of GDP in 1995 to 5 per cent in 1999.

Although military expenditure is expected to rise this year, officials explain the Government has already taken several measures to increase revenue through the National Security Levy and excise taxes to contain the situation. In addition to these revenue measures, Cabinet has also di

directed the Treasury to reschedule some of the non-priority expenditure programmes to generate internal savings to maintain the budget deficit below 8 percent of GDP.

The Government has also decided that such rescheduling and compression of expenditure will be done in such a manner that it will not impose any restriction on foreign funded development projects.

In spite of escalation of the armed conflict in the North the economy in recent months has shown improved performance. In 1999, the economy achieved 4.3 percent growth and the first quarter of the year 2000 has come up with over 40 per cent of growth in exports. Industrial growth supported by service sector expansion is expected to generate over 5 per cent growth this year.


Here is the Govt. version

The Sunday Times Situation Report by Iqbal Athas has been completely censored. Thus we publish verbatim only the situation report issued by the government's Special Media Information Centre yesterday. It said:

"Intense fighting broke out early this morning in Tanankillappu sector. Terrorists in large numbers attempted to penetrate the defences occupied by the troops. Troops earmarked for counter-penetration were employed in time to thwart the attempt by the terrorists to penetrate the defences.

"The counter-attack force went into action supported by heavy and medium artillery and caused many casualties among the terrorists. Further reinforcements are being inducted to Tanankillappu sector in support of the troops who are engaged with the terrorists.

"As a result of confrontations upto this morning nine soldiers have been killed in action and two officers and seventeen soldiers have been wounded. Troops had recovered seventeen bodies of terrorists along with miscellaneous military equipment including firearms.

"Sri Lanka Air Force and Navy continue to maintain a regular supply of all essentials to Jaffna through the Palaly Air Base and the KKS Harbour.

"All casualties who require further medical attention are being evacuated to Anura-dhapura and Colombo from the Palaly Base Hospital."


Police terrorise crime reporter

The government yesterday directed the police chief to hold an impartial inquiry into an allegation that some officers of the Dehiwela police threatened, harassed and illegally detained The Sunday Times crimes reporter Leon Berenger.

This came after a written complaint was made by Sunday Times Editor to Media Minister Mangala Samar-aweera.

The Special Media Information Centre in a communique said that as a government committed to maintaining a good human rights record, the alleged forcible removal of the journalsit's shirt, the illegal detention in a cell without charges and the subsequent threat to his personal life were a matter of great concern. It said the Government wished to reiterate its commitment to the safety of all journalists.

IGP Lucky Kodituwakku, The Sunday Times learns, has ordered DIG Jayantha Wickramaratne to conduct an immediate inquiry.

(Please see story on Police beat up our crime reporter )


Jaffna's Uthayan newspaper sealed

By Chirs Kamalendran

The printing press and editorial offices of the Jaffna-based Uthayan newspaper were sealed on Friday night by the government for allegedly violating censorship regulations.

The army moved into the office situated at Kasthuriyar Road in the heart of Jaffna town and ordered the journalists and printing section workers to leave the premises. Thereafter it sealed the office.

The newspaper had been given two warnings against violating censorship regulations which were promulgated on May 3.

The Uthayan group's Assistant General Manager N. Vidiyatharan who is also the Deputy Editor, said he had informed the military they were not able to comply with the regulations as there was no way to send their reports to the censor.

He said they had told the military to make arrangements to get their copies approved in Jaffna, as was done during the 1998 censorship.

He pointed out that in 1998, they had sent their reports to the Palaly camp where Major General Lionel Balagalla had acted as the competent authority.

Censored

Since the latest fighting erupted in March, the Uthayan has been publishing only a single sheet due to lack of newsprint.

When the army moved into seal the Uthayan yesterday's edition had already been printed and agents had come to collect their papers. However the army informed them that the newspaper will not be published until further notice.

The Uthayan was the only Tamil national newspaper published in Jaffna after the IPKF moved out in 1990 and claims a circulation of some 40,000 with the weekend edition selling more. Last year, the Sepala Gunasena award for courageous journalism was awarded to the Uthayan Group by the Editors' Guild of Sri Lanka.

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