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21st January 2001

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A CDB officer was not happy about this photograph
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Battle of Britain over LTTE

By Our Diplomatic Editor

The Sri Lankan government is to shortly launch a diplomatic offensive on its old colonial ruler Britain to have the LTTE banned in that country.

Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar has said that if Britain fails to proscribe the LTTE, it would be treated as an unfriendly act imposing "considerable strain on our relations".

"The Government and people of Sri Lanka will be bitterly disappointed and it would be a sad day for Anglo-Sri Lanka relations," Minister Kadirgamar told journalists.

The Minister's comments came in the wake of the British High Commission in Colombo beginning to ascertain the views of Tamil political parties on whether the LTTE should be proscribed in that country. The Sri Lanka desk officer at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London had also participated at these talks. 

The Minister said that the LTTE was involved in a series of assassinations of local politicians and also responsible for the attempt to assassinate President Kumaratunga.

He said the LTTE also had assassinated a number of MPs and politicians including a sixty-year-old lady Mayoress of Jaffna and her successor; a well known Tamil human rights activist Neelan Tiruchelvam, thousands of innocent civilians of all communities, women, children and monks.

"It bombed a most sacred Buddhist shrine in the world. It bombed the Central Bank and killed a large number of civilians for which the LTTE leader is on indictment in the High Court of Colombo.

"The LTTE's record of terror is long and horrible. In the light of this record the people of Sri Lanka will simply never be able to understand a failure on the part of the British Government to proscribe the LTTE, now that it has the power to do so," he said.

The Minister said he would be "astounded" if the LTTE was not banned by the British Government as it was so abundantly clear that the LTTE was a terrorist organisation within the meaning the UK Terrorism Act of 2000.

"I cannot bring myself to believe that the British Government of the day which had, together with Sri Lanka and other countries, laboured hard to put in place legislative measures, both international and national, to combat international terrorism the scourge of our times will deliberately refrain from implementing its own law in order to protect one of the most ruthless terrorist organisations the world has seen. This would be to the detriment of another sovereign state on which that organisation has inflicted grievous damage utilising funds raised in the United Kingdom," the Minister said.

Already India's External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh and Mr. Kadirgamar have conferred with Britain's Home Secretary Jack Straw urging the banning of Kashmir militants and the LTTE.

Meanwhile, LTTE spokesman Anton Balasingham who now lives in London has urged that Britain should not ban the LTTE. He has said that Britain's "neutrality" in the peace process between the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE would be in question if it proceeded to ban the rebel organization.

Britain's Labour government last year passed the Terrorism Act 2000 in a bid to fall in line with two United Nations conventions on global terrorism.

The Act seeks to outlaw in the United Kingdom any terrorist organisation that is using violent methods to achieve its political objectives.

One of the features of the law is that any organisation that uses violence in a country outside the United Kingdom, is deemed to have committed an offence in the U.K.

The excitement has intensified in recent days following news from London that under the new Act, the Home Secretary is due to name a schedule of organisations that would face the ban.

The Sunday Times learns that Tamil party leaders in Colombo had argued against a ban of the LTTE in the UK. Only the pro-government Eelam Peoples Democratic Party (EPDP) had wanted the LTTE banned. The other parties had pointed out that in the event of the UK banning the LTTE, it would hinder chances of talking to them when a negotiation is being worked out.

Earlier Mr. Balasingham also pointed out that the proscription could seriously hamper the current peace process.

However Minister Kadirgamar said he did not see how the proscription of the LTTE under the British law could undermine the current peace process being conducted by the Norwegians.

"On the contrary it should help to accelerate that process because it will strengthen the position of Sri Lankan Tamils who have renounced violence," he said.

Mr. Kadirgamar pointed out that "a number of Irish organisations have already been proscribed under the UK law, and that has not in any way undermined the Anglo-Irish peace process".

"Not so long ago the LTTE spurned any suggestion that Britain might have some role to play in the Sri Lankan conflict. Now, are we to believe that the LTTE has suddenly begun to appreciate the "status of British neutrality" and genuinely apprehends that proscription will undermine the current peace process and prevent Britain from playing a significant role in resolving the conflict or is it more likely that with the axe of proscription hanging over it the LTTE has now discovered that an appeal to the vanity of the British government might help to secure a reprieve? The LTTE must remember that in dealing with a sovereign state the distribution of roles in a peace process is not a matter of largesse for the LTTE." he said.

The LTTE is banned in India and the US, but its main overseas headquarters is in London, with Paris also used as a propaganda base.

Sri Lanka in 1991 expelled British High Commissioner David Gladstone from Colombo for interfering in a local government election by visiting a polling booth in the South.

Britain did not fill the vacancy for several months, but that has been the closest the two countries have come to breaking otherwise good relations.

A Foreign office source in Colombo said that the government was aware, and concerned, that expatriate Tamils now residing in Britain had "wormed their way" to local politicians, especially ruling Labour party MPs and were not only working for their re-elections, but also collecting funds for them.

With Britain expected to go for a general election in May this year, the Colombo government is worried that an effective parliamentary lobby might block the banning of the LTTE in that country.

On the other hand, a 'Friends of Sri Lanka' parliamentary lobby that exists is not expected to actively engage in the banning exercise.

The Foreign Office source said that the Colombo government believed that Britain was 'very keen' to be part of the Norwegian exercise to bring the LTTE to the negotiating table.

"They would not want to displease the LTTE at this very moment," the source said, but added that Britain would also have to deal with the displeasure of a Sovereign State on the other hand.


NUA leadership battle hots up

By Nilika de Silva

With three weeks to go for leadership elections in the National Unity Alliance, party members are being heavily lobbied by supporters of the co-leaders.

According to latest reports, the supporters of co-leader Ferial Ashraff, widow of the party's founder are now pushing for a postponement of the February 11 election amidst claim by the other leader Rauf Hakeem that he is confident of taking over. 

Digamadulla parliamentarian U.L.M. Mohideen, a Ferial Ashraff supporter, claimed 35 of the 66 politburo members were supporting a resolution to put off elections by at least three months. With its small but crucial number of seats in parliament, the NUA has since the October elections played a key role in the formation and stability of the government.


Police visit Uthayan

LTTE threatens war

The LTTE has warned it would resort to all-out war unless the government responds to its cease-fire offer which ends on Wednesday.

LTTE spokesman Anton Balasingham in an interview with the Jaffna-based Uthayan newspaper yesterday said if the government continued its current military operations the LTTE would not extend its unilateral cease-fire.

"Thereafter we will consider peace options only when we establish the status quo on the ground by pushing back the government troops to their previous positions," he said.

His comments came after a series of military operations in the north aimed at pushing back the rebels and recapturing some of the areas the military had lost earlier.

"If the government is determined to continue the war, it is meaningless for us to extend the cease-fire. We, for a great extent, came down for the peace process, having sacrificed several areas. We can't lose more areas. So, whether to extend the cease-fire or not, would be decided on the attitude of the government," he said.

The Government has reiterated its stand that there will be no cease-fire until substantive talks begin. Mr. Balasingham claimed that the LTTE was still committed to Norway's peace proposals.

"It is a constructive proposal for confidence building. It entails mutual reciprocal actions by which both the parties in conflict de-escalate the war and create conducive conditions for peace talks," he was quoted as saying.

The publication of the interview has sparked off a police inquiry. Uthayan's Associate Editor N. Vithiyadharan was questioned for nearly two hours by Jaffna Headquarters Inspector W. Umagiliya.

Mr. Vithiydharan was questioned about his contacts with Mr. Balasingham and how they got through to him. The Associate Editor had said the last contact was in 1995 before the Jaffna peninsula was liberated. Mr. Vithiyadharan had said that this was not the first time they had published an interview with Mr. Balasingham.

See details in Situation Report


CDB closure: corruption and politics 

Corruption, malpractices and other irregularities including politics forced the closure of the Colombo Detective Bureau the centralised police arm that handled crime investigations. The task will now be passed on to District Crime Detective Bureaus.

President Kumaratunga ordered the winding up of the Colombo Detective Bureau.

Among the irregularities that have surfaced are allegations that persons were "fixed" for a fee, investigations suppressed or seized weapons allegedly leaking to the underworld. 

The surprise closure, at a time when the crime rate is soaring, was also the result of repeated complaints from Government politicians that their supporters have been arrested or allegedly harassed on the pretext of investigating . But a former CDB official, who did not wish to be identified denied the charge and said that they came under repeated pressure and abuse when supporters of politicians, particularly those in the Government, were questioned, leave alone being harassed. With the closure of the CDB, Crime investigations will revert to police divisions and stations in whose areas the crime is committed. The move will mean enhanced responsibility for OICs, ASPs, SPs and SSPs in charge of divisions. Cases currently handled by the CDB are to be distributed to the respective Police Stations. Cases that require specialised attention will be forwarded to the Criminal Investigation Department. 


World funding for Red Cross suspended

By M. Ismeth

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) have decided to suspend funds to the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society for relief and development work till the local body gets back to applying international standards and fundamental Red Cross principles.

The Geneva-based international bodies in a letter to the SLRCS interim board of management said they were deeply concerned over the way the affairs were being run here. 

They said that until effective remedial measures were taken they had no option but to cease all transfer of funds to the SLRCS for both relief and development work. 

The international bodies said that to continue the urgent cyclone relief operation they would manage the relief work directly as the international donors would not sanction fund transfer to a self-imposed board.

The Sunday Times learns that upto Rs. 110 million had been set apart for cyclone relief and other projects but this will not be channelled to the SLRCS. 

The latest crisis in the SLRCS, which has been plagued by controversies for several years, erupted with the setting up of an interim board by the then Social Services Minister Sumedha Jayasena in August last year. This board functioned only for four months when the new Social Services Minister issued another gazette dissolving the interim board.

But the interim board went to court and got an interim order to continue functioning. 

The international bodies are insisting that the interim board be dissolved and that the SLRCS be run by properly elected officials. 

Giving some perspective to the crisis, former SLRCS Secretary Hervin Bulathsinhala told The Sunday Times that political interference had plagued the body since 1994.

He said that funding had been continued by the parent body despite the political interference, "but everything fell apart with the setting up of interim boards."

The non-availability of international funds also affects projects relating to people displaced by the continuing north-east conflict and places considerable strain on already depleted state funds for such projects.

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