31st December 2000

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Norway wants Lanka to meet Tamil aspirations

Norway has said while a resolution to the ethnic conflict must be found respecting the territorial integrity of Sri Lanka, Tamil aspirations must be met in a substantial manner.

"A separate state is not viewed as a relevant option, but at the same time Tamil aspirations must be met in a substantial manner," a statement issued by Raymond Johansen, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Norway said on Thursday.

The statement was issued in response to an "Island" newspaper report which said the Norwegian mediator (Erik Solheim) had told in an interview televised on Indian TV that Sri Lanka should adopt a federal system of government in a bid to solve the ongoing crisis.

The newspaper quoted the pro-LTTE Eelam web site as its source and said the mediator had suggested that countries such as Switzerland, Northern Ireland and Canada be taken as examples which maintained eminently workable federal systems.

The Norwegian Deputy Foreign Minister's statement said it was not their role to find a solution to the conflict and the country did not involve itself in proposing models for solution.

It said Mr. Solheim, in the interview, only wanted to point out the fact that there were a number of different options although he did not propose any particular mode or specific solution.

It said the conflict in Sri Lanka was complex and deeply rooted in history and any solution would have to take these experiences of history into account.

"The Island" said the article was a direct reproduction from the web site Eelam which carried it under the heading "Norwegian mediator asks Sri Lanka to fulfill Eelam Tamil aspirations."

It said Mr. Johansen in his clarification had neither confirmed or denied the statement attributed to the "Norwegian mediator."

ACTC calls for common approach

The All Ceylon Tamil Congress is to initiate a dialogue with all Tamil parties to arrive at a consensus on the approach to the ethnic issue and other problems facing the Tamil community.

Appathurai Vineyaga-moorthy, the sole ACTC parliamentarian, told The Sunday Times the bargaining clout of the Tamil Community had been weakened by political divisions and therefore the ACTC had decided to work out a common approach that would strengthen their position.

He said his party would be sending formal invitations to other Tamil parties, except the EPDP, and the talks would start next month. He said the EPDP had been left out because the ACTC believed this party represented none but themselves.

"History has taught us some lessons, and the EPDP has disqualified itself many times before this final act of betrayal," he charged.

Commenting on the recent peace initiatives and the LTTE ceasefire offer, Mr. Vineyagamoorthy said his party believed there should be a ceasefire for any negotiations to begin.

"Both sides have erred and therefore suffered. At least when the war is at your doorstep, one must pause to think.

What kind of peace deals could be achieved when there is a barrage of accusations against each other and no mutual respect?" he asked.

CMC clinics face closure

By Faraza Farook

The Colombo Municipal Council will close down several maternity and child welfare clinics in the city owing to a shortage of staff — a move that will affect the poor people.

Only four of the seven maternity homes will be kept open from next year while the number of child welfare clinics would also be decreased from its current 13 as the cadre strength had come down from 150 to 50, the council's chief medical officer, Dr. Pradeep Kariyawasam, said.

"The few clinics that will be operated thereafter will be called 'centres of excellence' as the council is ecpected to provide better and quality service," he said.

UPA in the making

By Shelani de Silva

More than ten small political parties are looking into the possibility of forming an alliance to contest the forthcoming local government election.

The parties which are currently holding talks are planning to register themselves with the Elections Department by next month.

The Sri Lanka Muslim Party leader Abdul Rasool who strongly campaigned for the UNP during the general election has also decided to join the alliance.

Mr. Rasool told The Sunday Times the two major parties had not fulfilled the people's aspirations and it was time for another party to enter the fray.

"At the moment about seven parties have held talks and decided on the alliance and we are yet to meet the other parties. By mid-January we hope to form the alliance. We will take a new form, going on the lines of being more radical. This is what we need right now.

The UNP and the PA have not come forward to do anything. Even the main opposition UNP is silent on many burning issues," he said.

He said once the alliance was formed they would immediately begin campaigning for the local government elections.

The alliance is likely to be named as the "United Parties' Alliance" and will register it as a front by mid-January. The parties are optimistic about the success since they claim that most of them had contested the last elections.

Ms. Srimani Athulath-mudali, the Liberal Party, and the Puravasi Peramuna are likely to be partners in the alliance.

Ceasefire offer: what's what?

By A Special Correspondent

What is the Government's official position on the offer of a unilateral, month-long Christmas eve ceasefire by the LTTE?

Since the offer was made on December 21, at least five different Cabinet Ministers aired their own personal views, one contradicting the other. That was until the night of December 22 when Information and Media Minister Anura Priyadarshana Yapa issued the first official statement.

He said the "declaration of a ceasefire by the LTTE could be a productive exercise." In view of previous "unhappy experiences," he declared it was necessary to act with "great caution, proper inquiry and understanding."

Just 24 hours later (On December 23), Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake and Foreign Minister, Lakshman Kadirgamar issued a joint statement after it was approved by President Chandrika Kumaratunga, who was then in London. It contrasted with the statement issued earlier by Mr. Priyadarshana Yapa.

Responding to LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran's claim that the ceasefire offer was a gesture of goodwill, the joint statement said "further gestures of goodwill are unnecessary" and declared that "military operations will continue." It also made the point that the Government "considers a ceasefire as a consequent step that would arise when negotiations proceed to the mutual satisfaction of both sides."

Was the joint statement an acceptance of the LTTE's peace offer ? Or was it a rejection ? Or was it a mere re-iteration of a reported new Government position that it would consider a ceasefire only after peace talks begin? New, because the Government had only five months ago placed the nation on a "War Footing," allocated billions of rupees to modernise the Security Forces and vowed to destroy the LTTE militarily! If there was a policy shift to accept a cease-fire when talks begin, then that has not been explained to the public before. Hence, contrary to claims, there has been no re-iteration of that position publicly earlier.

Leading international TV stations, news agencies, radio net-works and practically every local newspaper (including The Sunday Times), quite rightly concluded that the Government had rejected the LTTE's unilateral cease-fire offer. So did political parties that issued statements as a sequel. So did the LTTE in a subsequent statement, which declared that the unilateral offer of a ceasefire would stand irrespective of the Government's rejection.

But on the night of December 24, Minister Priyadarshana Yapa issued "a communique." This undated communique, a further addition of an official account, faxed to the media last Sunday night, singled out the CNN for reporting that the Government had rejected the ceasefire. It charged that it was totally misleading and inaccurate.

This is what he said: " Govt. of Sri Lanka regrets the misrepresentations of the facts on CNN regarding a statement issued by Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake and the Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar in response to the ceasefire offered by the LTTE. It has been reported by the CNN that the Government has rejected the LTTE cease-fire offer. It is totally misleading and inaccurate. The statement by the Prime Minister has merely re-iterated the consistent position of the Government of Sri Lanka that it will consider a ceasefire only after a definite agreement on negotiations have been decided upon by the two parties concerned.

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

Why CNN was singled out for a response by the Government of Sri Lanka is not clear. However, other leading world media and even the Tamilnet, the widely accessed website, decided it was a "rejection."

Here are a few examples:

BBC television: The Sri Lanka Government has rejected the offer of a ceasefire by Tamil Tiger rebels……(South Asia -

Sunday 24 December 4.27 GMT)

Reuters: COLOMBO, Dec. 24 (Reuters) – Sri Lanka on Sunday rejected a unilateral ceasefire by Tamil Tiger rebels…..

Agence France Press (AFP) – COLOMBO, Dec. 24 (AFP)- Sri Lanka Sunday rejected a Christmas truce offered by Tamil Tiger guerrillas…..

Deutsche Presse Agentur (DPA) - COLOMBO, Dec. 23. - The Sri Lanka Government today rejected the unilateral ceasefire offered by Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam……

Press Trust Of India (PTI) – Colombo, Dec 24 (PTI)- Sri Lanka has rejected reciprocating a unilateral cease-fire offered by Tamil Tiger guerrillas…..

TAMILNET, December 23, 2000 20.13 GMT, a widely accessed Tamil website based in Norway: The Sri Lanka Government Saturday rejected the Liberation Tigers offer Thursday of a month-long "goodwill" cease-fire, asserting that military operations by the armed forces will continue…..

A mere offer of a unilateral cease-fire by Tiger guerrillas and the resultant response by various Ministers have plunged the nation into so much confusion. As one opposition politician remarked "changing postures from time to time whilst keeping people in the dark is plunging the nation into greater confusion."

"It was only yesterday that the Government said it would go for all out war and placed the nation on a "War Footing" to destroy the LTTE. Today it says it wants to talk to them. And today, it says its re-iterated policy is for a cease-fire when talks begin. When was this policy made public and when was it re-iterated ? Alas, the public is unaware of the rapidly changing postures from a Government that has assured transparency," the politician said.

Editors want probe on Island attack

The Editor's Guild of Sri Lanka yesterday demanded a full probe on the alleged abuse and threats to the editor of the Island and newspaper employees by the brother-in-law of the late JVP leader.

Employees of the Upali Newspapers Ltd., and the Editor of "The Island" were allegedly threatened by a man aiming a firearm, or what was purported to be a firearm, inside the premises of the newspaper group on Thursday, a statement issued by the Editors' Guild said.

The Editors urged the Media Minister, the Defence Secretary and the Police chief to conduct a full probe on the alleged attack by the person.

WPC chair battle may go to courts

The dispute in the Western Provincial Council is likely to be resolved in courts with both the UNP and the PA members refusing to come to a settlement in electing the Chairman.

The crisis which erupted two weeks ago during the PC elections took an ugly turn on Friday when the Council met to pass two supplementary estimates.Physical and verbal attacks were exchanged between the UNP and the PA members, threatening a possible dissolution of the council.

Western Province Chief Minister Reginald Cooray told The Sunday Times the crisis had to be resolved before the next council meeting schedule for January 8.

"We are willing to accept a court ruling, but it should be noted that the PA has no objections in having a chairman from the UNP. We suggested five names but not Dixon Perera's nomination," he said.

The Chief Minister said that there were three options to solve the crisis — to reach an amicable settlement through discussion, change the standing orders or to go to courts and obtain a verdict.

The crisis in the Western Provincial Council erupted after the election to the post of its chairman ended in a tie in the first voting and Mr. Perera won the election in the second voting by a majority of three votes. The council secretary refused to declare him elected on the basis that he had failed to get 50 percent of total votes. But the UNP disputed this assertion and claimed that the 50 percent requirement would come in only when there were three candidates.

Minister demands Rs. 900 m

In a bid to rescue the loss-making Cooperative Wholesale Establishment (CWE), Food and Marketing Minister Reggie Ranatunge has demanded a massive payment due to it from the Treasury.

The Minister said 900 million rupees was due to the CWE for the flour subsidy during the past six months.

PM's project begins sans EIA report

Construction work of the Horana Industrial Park — a project initiated by Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake in his home base — has begun without clearance from environmental authorities, environmentalists said.

They said the levelling of the 40-hectare park in Horana had begun disregarding the National Environment Act which stipulated that projects located outside the coastal zone should be subjected to the EIA requirement.

A spokesman from the Central Environmental Authority confirmed that environmentalists had complained about the flouting of environmental regulations.

Child abusers, beware

Tough action would be taken against those who abuse school children, said President Chandrika Kumaratunga.

In a statement the President said attention should be paid to the recent incidents highlighted by the press where school children had been abused by principals and teachers.

The President had ordered the National Child Protection Authority and the Department of Education to take stringent measures against the culprits, the statement said.

After The Sunday Times report of a child abuse, the principal of Moraeliya Primary School in Bingiriya has been suspended.

Nothing to do with Dr. Fernando, says JVP

The JVP yesterday dissociated itself with the incident of Rohana Wijeweera's brother- in- law threatening the Island Editor Gamini Weerakoon on Thursday and said it was the government which brought him down from England during the elections.

The JVP has disowned Dr. Chandra Fernando and claims that this was once again the government's sinister move to bring disrepute to the JVP.

JVP spokesman Wimal Weerawansa told The Sunday Times the government had to take the responsibility for his actions.

Dr. Chandra Fernando brother- in- law of Rohana Wijeweera on Thursday stormed "The Island" editorial office, allegedly abused the editor and threatened him with death protesting against the editorial which was titled "JVP and its heroes."

"The party cannot do anything. It is true he is our leader's brother- in- law but it was the government which got him down during the elections and even held a press conference where he spoke against the JVP. Now he is not going back to UK. The JVP has no control over him and will not be responsible for anything he does," he said.

He said Dr. Fernando had used an unregistered licence which caused further speculation. Meanwhile, OIC crimes of the Kotahena Police told The Sunday Times investigation was underway.

"We have recorded statements from both parties and the inquiry is currently underway," he said.


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