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Despite calls of a ceasefire and peace talks, security forces
are still on full alert as seen here with a police commando
standing guard while the traditional police carol service
was taking place at Police Park on Friday.
Pic by M. A. Pushpakumara.


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Mirrror Magazine

Govt. rejects LTTE ceasefire offer

The Government yesterday rejected LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran's offer of a month-long unilateral ceasefire from midnight tonight and declared military operations would continue.

President Chandrika Kumaratunga, who is now in London, approved a statement setting out the official position. It was released last night by the Presidential Secretariat as a press release from Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremenayake and Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar. It contrasted sharply with a statement Media Minister Anura Priyadharshana Yapa issued on Friday night saying that the LTTE offer "could be a productive exercise."

In a statement issued in London on Thursday, LTTE leader Prabhakaran said the ceasefire was a "gesture of goodwill" and added that a positive response from the government "would create cordial conditions for stable ceasefire and direct negotiations".

Noting that "further gestures of goodwill are unnecessary", the Presidential Secretariat statement said "the government has clearly indicated its wish to engage in talks with the LTTE forthwith on the substantial issues involved, with a view to resolving the ethnic question, ending the war and constructing a durable peace."

The statement pointed out that "no reference to a ceasefire was made by Mr. Prabhakaran either at his meeting with Norwegian facilitator Eric Solheim or during his "Heroes Day" speech on November 27.

"The Government considers a ceasefire as a consequent step that would arise when negotiations proceed to the mutual satisfaction of both sides."

Here is the full text of the statement:

"It has come to the notice of the Government of Sri Lanka that on 21st instant the LTTE has announced, but not through the Government of Norway, a month-long unilateral ceasefire as a goodwill measure to facilitate the peace process.

"The Government has noted that no reference to a ceasefire was made by Mr. Prabhakaran either at his meeting with the Norwegian delegation on 1st November or in his speech on 27th November. The Government believes that further gestures of goodwill are unnecessary, when the Government has clearly indicated its wish to engage in talks with the LTTE forthwith on the substantial issues involved, with a view to resolving the ethnic question, ending the war and constructing a durable peace.

"The Government considers a ceasefire as a consequent step that would arise when negotiations proceed to the mutual satisfaction of both sides. The Government of Sri Lanka repeats its call to the LTTE to engage honestly in this opportunity for peace. Until then, military operations will continue."

No meeting with Tony Blair for Chandrika

From Neville de Silva in London

President Kumaratunga who has been on a European tour has not been able to meet British Prime Minister Tony Blair so far, The Sunday Times learns.

The President is unlikely to meet Mr. Blair during the current tour, sources in London said.

Earlier the Sri Lanka High Commission in London said that the President was due to meet Mr. Blair two weeks ago.

Had she been able to meet Prime Minister Blair, she could have taken up with him the issue of banning the LTTE in Britain.

But unfortunately Mr. Blair has had his own problems recently, fighting a French move to have an independent European military force free of NATO control and other issues too at the European summit in Nice this month.

The British prime minister was also tied up over President Bill Clinton's visit to Northern Ireland.

President Kumaratunga, however called on Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles during her extended stay in London. Her month-long stay abroad, particularly her long presence in London started off a series of rumours. One was that she was here for the engagement of her daughter Yasodara who is studying medicine at Cambridge.

A number of names were being tossed around —all of them Tamils — as the prospective groom. The latest to do the round in London is that she was getting engaged to the son of LTTE theoretician Anton Balasingham, though he has no son.

Meanwhile, eight senior ministers are also abroad with acting ministers not appointed in some cases.

Ministers Alavi Moulana, G.L. Peiris, A.H.M. Fowzie, Lakshman Kadirgamar, Mahinda Rajapakse, Jeyaraj Fernandopulle, Jeevan Kumaratunga and Rauf Hakeem are away on official or private visits.

Reacting to this, the main opposition UNP issued a stinging statement saying the country was in utter chaos and demanding that the President should return immediately.

To add to the situation, Opposition UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe is also on an extended tour of India.

Three dead, one dying at Kanatte

Only one of the four crematoriums at Kanatte is functioning and it handles only one cremation a day because it is also staring at its own death.

This has caused delays in funeral arrangements and created attendant problems to family members of the dead.

Mayor Omar Kamil said the crematorium that was working could handle only one cremation a day due to a overheating problem.

He suggested that those who want to cremate bodies could use the Jawatte or Madampitiya crematoriums which could handle about eight cremations a day.

However, the mayor said moves were underway to resurrect the other three crematoriums at Kanatte and things would be normal by next month.

Meanwhile, Public Health Department Chief Pradeep Kariyawasam said maintenance work had not been done on two crematoriums for eight years and when maintenance work was begun it was discovered that the inside bricks had to be replaced.

People were settling for the costlier wood pyres due to the limited opportunity of using the crematorium, Dr. Kariyawasam said.

Moves to set up Kalmunai district

By Nilika de Silva

On a request made by the National Unity Alliance, moves are underway to set up a separate Kalmunai administrative district carved out of the Ampara district.

The Ampara district has 17 divisional secretariat areas and The Sunday Times learns 10 of these will come under the new Kalmunai administrative district when legislation to this effect is approved by parliament.

Ampara Government Agent L.S.C. Siriwardena said a report on creating a new administrative district had been submitted to the Ministry of Public Administration. Ministry Secretary M. N. Junaid said the administrative change was being worked out and a motion would be presented in parliament.

The Sunday Times learns that a report submitted to the Ministry contains details regarding ethnic composition.

Aid package linked to peace

By Dilrukshi Handunnetti

The Sri Lanka Aid Group's final decision on allocation of aid for the forthcoming year has been delayed till a team from the donor countries ascertains the ground situation here, The Sunday Times learns.

Informed sources said the Aid Group, now known as the Development Forum — the main international donor community based in Paris — is also insisting on a positive peace initiative within a month.

They said the donors would scrutinize Sri Lanka's development plans and examine whether they would create a conducive atmosphere for peace before recommendations were made

They said the aid package would be decided upon by March after the ground situation and the peace process were closely assessed.

The sources said that at the Paris meeting on Monday and Tuesday, Sri Lanka was rapped on the Bindunuwewa incident and the failure to go ahead with media reforms and the setting up of three independent commissions. Donors also called for depoliticisation of poverty alleviation programmes, especially the Samurdhi scheme.

It is also learned that education, particularly at tertiary level, has been the earmarked area for immediate reforms.

Peace received the highest priority at the Paris meeting with the donor community expressing willingness to support a negotiated political settlement and to invest more provided there was a situation conducive for private sector-led growth.

A World Bank statement on the Sri Lanka Aid Group Meeting also reiterated the necessity for treating peace as the highest priority along with structural reforms, reduction of the fiscal deficit, private-sector led growth and macro-economic reforms.

It said that donors had commended the progress in privatization including efforts underway to sell controlling shares of telecommunications and the national airline, and urged similar steps in energy, ports and the banking sector.

It is also learned that as proposed two years ago, the inclusion of an opposition representative in the local delegation has been urged to obtain a more realistic picture of the ground situation.

President Kumaratunga who led the delegation to Paris however refrained from addressing the customary media conference, agency reports said.

With uncertainty over donor commitments on aid but with the war expenditure on the rise, increase in wasteful expenses and high cost of living affecting the country at large, analysts claim that a further erosion in the already depleted foreign exchange reserves could have a drastic impact on the economy.


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