8th April 2001
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Foreign airlines' wings clipped

By Tania Fernando and Faraza Farook
Rising operational costs due to the devaluation of the rupee and restrictions imposed on foreign airlines are likely to affect tourism here, industry sources said.

Several airlines last week suspended services to Colombo while a few opted to cut down on seat numbers in keeping with restrictions imposed by the Sri Lanka authorities. With the increased rates in fuel, handling and landing charges, industry sources said some airlines appeared to be looking for more profitable destinations.

But officials of SriLankan Airlines are confident that the national carrier could fill any gaps created by the exit of some airlines.

Travel Trade Association president Udaya Nanayakkara said the withdrawal of airlines would have a negative effect on the tourist industry. 

He said the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation's monopoly on aviation fuel should end and others should also be encouraged to enter the market in a bid to bring prices down.

Sparklink Travels chairman Nihal Perera said April-July period was generally an off-peak and a proper estimate of the loss could be made only when the peak season began in September.

He expressed the hope that most of the airlines which had pulled out would come back after some time. 

An official of one foreign airline said they were pulling out because seat restrictions had been imposed on their flights to Colombo. SriLankan Airlines manager Chandana De Silva said the national carrier was not responsible for any restrictions which was imposed by the Department of Civil Aviation.

Civil Aviation Director General Lal Liyanarachchi said it was not fair to let other airlines carry passenger while the national carrier was flying to or from the same destinations with empty seats.

While Russian airline Aeroflot and Martinair have pulled out of Colombo for various reasons, Kuwait Airways has reduced the number of flights per week from five to four. 

Lanka to host next Indian Ocean rim meeting

Sri Lanka will host the next meeting of the Indian Ocean Rim - Association for Regional Co-operation (IOR-ARC), it was unanimously agreed at the third ministerial meeting now being held in Oman, the Foreign Ministry said yesterday.

Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar was elected vice chairman of the grouping yesterday paving the way for the Sri Lanka chairmanship at the biennial meeting to be held in the first quarter of 2003.

The 19 member group includes Australia, Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Iran, Kenya, Madagascar, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mozambique, Oman, Seychelles, Singapore, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Thailand, United Arab Emirates and Yemen. The four dialogue partners of the association are Egypt, China, Japan and Britain.

The grouping's concept is to promote regional co-operation among the member states and has a tripartite structure comprising the government, business and academia sectors.

Point of view

Richard's JVP link: A new plot to whitewash UNP crime

By Amaradasa Fernando 
It is indeed very surprising that no one has come forward in defence of Richard de Zoysa. Where have all his friends who mourned his untimely death gone? I still have with me the dozens of appreciations written after his death. Why have they all let him down, particularly his friends in the media and drama circles? Why is he treated like leper? 

Had his mother lived she would have cried her heart out. 

The one reason one can think of is that people are too busy minding their business. One other is that there has been a concerted attempt at calumny to tarnish his image by alleging that he had been a JVPer supporting terrorism. The bourgeois circles that Richard moved in feel that Richard had let them down. The man at the bottom is this calumny and slander is none other than the senior journalist Victor Ivan, quandam revolutionary and terrorist (JVPer). I was of the belief that dog does not eat dog. But I have been proved wrong and so have thousands of others. But this animal not only eats its own kind but it eats its own vomit! That is not unusual for that species. Let readers be my judge. 

Victor Ivan who has, like the ostrich, buried his head in the sand for 11 years since the brutal murder of Richard de Zoysa has now come forward to caluminate the lily white soul of Richard de Zoysa. In a recent article in the "Ravaya" of which he is the Editor, he has unburdened what was hanging heavy on his chest, to drop a "bombshell", as C.A. Chandraprema, an author and regular contributor to the Island says. The bombshell being that Richard de Zoysa, who died a martyr during the Premadasa "Beeshanaya", was really a wolf in sheep's clothing - a JVP terrorist. 

Victor Ivan, who withheld this secret all these years, says that he did not wish to hurt Richard's mother's (Ms. Manorani Saravanamuttu's) feelings, perhaps because in this hard boiled ex-revolutionary's (JVP) heart, the pre-Victorian concept of chivalry was still not dead! However, since Ms. Saravanamuttu's death a few months ago, the veil of secrecy could he lifted and he could now come out boldly with his "new" truth. Chandra-prema, the political kitten that he was, had his eyes opened by this new revelation, making him jump out of his skin. 

Victor Ivan according to his own version had suppressed the "Truth" for 11 long years. He is now contradicting the story that during the election campaign of 1994, he had joined in presenting Richard de Zoysa as a victim of UNP terror. 

Can anyone believe in a man's honesty and integrity (now posing as an independent journalist) who on his own admission had suppressed and distorted the truth for 11 years, when he now comes out with his "latest truth"? As I mentioned before, his explanation about not wanting to hurt Ms. Saravanamuttu's feeling does not hold water. Can one ignore the fact that it was convenient to wait for the good lady's death, as dead men (women) tell no tales? Knowing Ms. Saravanamuttu as a courageous and formidable fighter (President of the Mother's Front) had Victor Ivan had the gumption to slander Richard, she would have made mince meat of him. It was not chivalry but discretion that deterred him from facing the wrath of a wounded mother. One has to consider the other possibility that Victor Ivan's "new truth" is an invention manufactured to serve his present purpose of whitewashing the UNP. This is all the more likely because Minister Batty Weerakoon in an article in The Sunday Times of April 1st has demonstrated that Victor Ivan is lying, when he says that there was no Commission of Inquiry into the Richard de Zoysa case because Ms. Saravanamuthu did not want one, fearing that her son's JVP connections would be revealed. Mr. Weerakoon, as the lawyer who appeared for Ms. Saravanamuttu, has shown that she did give evidence before 'The Disappearances Commission" relating to the killing and abduction of her son and that the Commission reported on the issue. 

Victor Ivan's so called bombshell opened the eyes of the political kitten, Chandraprema, or so he says. It was no bombshell but a damp squib to thousands of others who were not prejudiced. 

The facts are these: Barely a week after Richard's murder, the gossip was that he was actively supporting the JVP. This indeed came as a shock to the uppper middle class from where he came. But since this was only unsubstantiated gossip it did not appear to have tarnished his image. Again, Rajiva Wijesinghe writing in the Liberal Review, a few months after his death, while paying tribute to Richard had and lamenting his death hinted that Richard had unspecified links with the JVP, Then, a few years after that, the Daily News, covering up for the Premadasa regime, published excerpts from Rajiva's article and said categorically that this was the answer to those who portrayed Richard as a martyr, implying that he deserved to die as a JVP terrorist. This was the same logic of as Chandraprema's in response to Victor Ivan's bombshell. 

Surely Chandraprema, who had authored a definitive book on the JVP insurrection, would have certainly heard the wild allegation that Richard was a JVPer long before Victor Ivan's bombshell and, if honest, would have dismissed the so-called bombshell as baloney Furthermore, what is still more surprising is that Chandraprema who is no political nitwit should swallow hook line and sinker, such a stupid and spurious slander. Chandraprema in writing his books and articles, would have had access to secret official intelligence. Yet he seems not to have heard this allegation, which is unbelievable. 

Therefore there are two possible conclusions that arise: 

(1) He was an incompetent researcher, but this is not plaushible as the rest of his book shows his deep knowledge of the subject; 

(2) The only other possible explanation is that his support for the stupid allegation, which he pretends is a bombshell, is only an attempt to whitewash the UNP terror of that time. 

What is more likely is that both Victor Ivan & Chandraprema are working on a political agenda on behalf of the UNP, of which Chandraprema is an avowed supporter, while Victor Ivan is a camp follower, and no free independent media man as he pretends to be. The question that can be raised is why the reasons for Richard's murder has surfaced as an issue 11 years after his death? There is an obvious explanation. The recent publicity surrounding the Exhibition on the JVP terror of 1987/89 has renewed in the public mind concern about the events of those years. 

Richard factor in FMM

By Victor Ivan
The mention of Richard de Zoysa in one of my articles questioning the aim of an exhibition of photographs organized by the government has become a matter of great controversy.

The first comment came from C. A. Chandraprema in "The Island." Several days later the same newspaper carried an editorial with the title "Richard's Ghost." It seriously questioned my honesty and that of the Free Media Movement and the Alliance for Democracy. It also questioned why Mr. De Zoysa was depicted as a martyr of the freedom of expression while his killing could have been triggered by his connections with the JVP.

The editorial appeared on a Saturday. A reply by Justice Minister Batty Weerakoon appeared in "The Sunday Times." The main item in the SLBC news bulletin that evening was "The Island" editorial. The aim of the news bulletin was to attack the Alliance for Democracy, which the government hates on the basis of the contents of the editorial. Surprisingly, the news bulletin containing the editorial was broadcast by the SLBC as its lead story on Monday too. Without stopping at that the SLBC broadcast that night a special programme on the debate and the Subharathi programme. This was broadcast live on Tuesday morning too.

It is popularly be lieved locally and internationally that the UNP government assassinated Mr. De Zoysa because he was attached to the International Press Service. 

I knew the chief police officer who had conducted investigations into Mr. de Zoysa's assassination. He said a group led by Ronnie Gunasinghe at the government's instance had committed Mr. de Zoysa's assassination. He told me Richard was not a very innocent person and he had been actively involved in the JVP. I was able to stay aloof from the popular view about Richard. I refrained from publishing what I heard because it was not possible to do so on the basis of what I had got from one individual only. However, I have never called Richard de Zoysa a martyr to the cause of journalism.

By the time of the rebellion of '89-'90 Richard had come to a position in which he was emotionally involved in his work for the JVP. He had become an active supporter of the JVP rather than a journalist. Although his friends had told his mother about it, she had replied that it was not possible for her to go against his free will. At a time when a state officer (Ravinatha Ariyasinghe of the Foreign Ministry) was away from Sri Lanka, the person who rented his house was Richard. The house used by Richard had been turned by the JVP into one of its secret centres. It was also there that Somawansa Amarasinghe stayed before fleeing the country. When the fact was revealed at the investigation held after Somawansa had fled the country, the security forces wanted to bulldoze it. However, the family members of that state officer were able to use their influence with Ranjan Wijeratne and prevent the demolition of the house.

Richard was abducted when he was in bed. For the abductors his pair of spectacles was not important. However, with that pair of spectacles, there was also an important file near it. What that file contained was none other than a sheaf of papers in which Richard had been translating into English but had not finished the book which Rohana Wije-weera had published in Sinhala with the title "What is the solution to the question of Tamil Eelam?" Very early in the morning on the day on which Richard was abducted, a young man who had connections with Richard came to that house in a hurry, asked for and got that file which had been with the pair of spectacles and disappeared immediately.

After my article in question was published, a well-known person who had once served in the Rupavahini told me that my observations in that article were correct. However, he asked me whether any purpose was served by talking about those matters now, and told me that Richard had met him and made a terrible proposal to him too, but that he did not agree to it. When I asked him what Richard had wanted from him, he didn't want to say anything about it. He also said one of the brains behind the plan to paralyze the Rupavahini at that time might have been Richard de Zoyza.

The family members of Richard de Zoysa were close friends of Lalith Athulathmudali. Richard's assassination shocked Mr. Athulath-mudali. Mr. Athulath-mudali on one occasion had asked a friend of Richard whether he associated with Lalith because he was a close family friend or to get the secrets of the Security Council and the Cabinet.

I said although the government wanted to appoint a special commission on Richard's assassination, it was not done because his mother had objected to it. What I meant was not the kind of commission headed by Ms. Sarath Muttetuwegama as Minister of Justice Batty Weerakoon had mentioned. The commission that functioned under Ms. Muttetuwegama might have inquired into Richard's disappearance too. However, the PA government wanted to appoint a special presidential commission to inquire into Richard de Zoysa's killing as in the Vijaya Kumaratunga assassination. It was not done because Mrs. Manorani Saravanamuttu objected to it. I came to know about it for the first time from the then Media Minister Mangala Samaraweera. Later I came to know about it from other persons too.

All the persons including the police officer from whom I got information about Richard are still alive. However, I do not know whether they will declare these matters in public. Whatever Richard's politics was, his assassination cannot be justified.

His background might have influenced the fact that Richard de Zoyza became a special target after the rebellion had been defeated. 

It is difficult to understand why the Alliance for Democracy was dragged into Richard de Zoysa's case. Although I function as the convenor of the Free Media Movement (FMM) at present, the ideas I have expressed about Richard de Zoysa are purely personal. They are not the official view of the FMM. Although I was a founder member of the FMM, there was a long period in which I was out of it. I rejoined it in 1998. The FMM is confined to a group of media persons and stands for the right of expression. However, the Alliance for Democracy is a combination of a large number of organisations and stands for democratic freedoms. The FMM is also included in that combination. However, it is wrong to call it a project of the FMM. Batty Weerakoon's statement that the FMM came only after President Premadasa's assassination and not before is a fallacy. The first public meeting of the FMM was held at the New Town Hall on June 2, 1992. Among those who were present were Chandrika Kumaratunga, Mangala Samaraweera, S. B. Dissanayake and Nandimitra Ekanayake. 

( The writer is the Editor of Ravaya ) 

Crouching Tiger : Hidden Norwegian Dragon 

Solheim advocated the bombing of Serbia and the arrest of Milosvic for far lesser crimes than the LTTE's Prabhakaran.
By Susantha Goonatilake
"Truth and country" were the twin themes that I vowed to myself as I started writing journalistic pieces five years ago. Disgusted at the extensive falsification of Sri Lankan reality in writings on the ethnic issue, I diverged from my usual academic writing.

Well, I myself have now falsified. Unwittingly, I still erred.

A friend has forwarded to me, here in Vietnam, two messages. One is a reply by the Norwegian Ambassador Mr. Westborg to my last article and the other a request by a reader who does not believe my statement that our government was not responsible for the LTTE ban in the US.

First to the US query. The relevant information about the amendment by Mr. Toricelli banning the LTTE is in the Congressional Record Volume 143 dated Wednesday July 16, l997. Mr. Toricelli moved this through the urging of FOSUS, concerned Sri Lankans in his New Jersey constituency.

Mr. Westborg in his reply states that Norway did not vote against the UN resolution on Vesak. I had not quoted sources in my article, (as is my usual style) but depended on the 1998 memory of a US based monk who stated then that the Norwegians were obstructing efforts to declare the Vesak holiday. Second, was the distinct memory after the UN vote, of a Sri Lankan newspaper report, that Norway had not voted.

I do not have access to the newspaper report here in Ho Chi Minh City but I have made a few calls and found that indeed Norway had not voted against the Vesak resolution. It was an unforgivable error on my part. I consider facts as sacred which would clear the mess we are in. So, Mr. Westborg, an unstinted apology.

In his reply Mr. Westborg has also finally admitted that he, in his former role as head of Redd Barna, transferred the tens of thousands of up-country Tamils to the then virtually uninhabited jungles of Vanni. He thus implemented the traditional homelands hoax of the Tamils and changed the demographics of the country. Mr. Westborg says that he did this with the knowledge of J.R. Jayewardene. The latter is no longer with us, and it would be useful if Mr. Westborg now publishes the relevant request by Jayewardene. My source apart from a worker within Redd Barna itself is the revelations in Rohan Guneratne's book. Let me quote:

"The [Tamil] militants, particularly PLOTE, invited the Indian Tamils to settle along the borders of Mannar, Vavuniya, Trincomalee, Mullativu, Batticaloa and Amparai in northeastern Sri Lanka. Over 200,000 Indian Tamils in the plantations were settled with the help of SEDEC, OXFAM, NOVIB, TRRO, SCOTS, GTZ, Redd Barna and Sarvodaya." (page 97)

Now that Mr. Westborg, has at last come out of his covert mode, I think he should produce J.R. Jayewardene's letter authorizing Westborg to do large-scale population transfers. Because it is those groups that he transported who now are Tiger soldiers. They are as much Prabhakaran's as Westborg's soldiers.

This is not an "insane" conclusion as Westborg states in his reply. It is the most rational and obvious conclusion. These lands were jungle, virtually uninhabited since the irrigation systems built by Sinhala kings collapsed. It is the area where LTTE recruiters can today enter schools and push their pitch. It is also by these Vanni upcountry Redd Barna LTTE soldiers that the upcountry is getting infiltrated. In keeping with Norwegian efficiency, Redd Barna must be having records of those whom Westborg transferred to the Vanni. He should now hand them over to the Government because their links in the upcountry could lead to Tiger contacts in the estate regions.

And while he is at this, there are other questions he should answer if he does not want to be taken to be doing covert action for Tigers.

He should give (1) the ethnic ratios then and now in Redd Barna, an organization presumably serving the whole island, (2) the recipients of present Redd Barna aid in the North and East, especially in the Vanni, (3) the groups the Norwegians have funded on the ethnic issue and the monies involved, (4) the reasons for the Norwegian embassy protesting the events following a reporter Fredrika Jansz's article on LTTE activities in Norway, (5) the present State of aid given by Norway's University of Tromso through the documented Tiger supporter Professor Thurairajah for "the development of the Tamil Eelam-areas", Norway thereby unilaterally declaring Tamil Eelam.

There are other aspects that Westborg has not answered in his reply. These relate to the double standards brought by the Norwegian government in dealing with Sri Lanka. I will not refer to her internal matters like the exclusive Lutheran law etc., but to the treatment of the Tigers different from what Solheim has advocated in similar situations elsewhere. I had pointed these out earlier (I trust my translations of Solheim's Norwegian statements. They were done by a Redd Barna representative in a South-East Asian country).

Solheim advocated the bombing of Serbia and the arrest of Milosvic for far lesser crimes than the LTTE's Prabhakaran. Milosevic was arrested recently and it is expected that he would also be handed over to The Hague. Now my request is for both Solheim and Westborg who were given an award by Prabhakaran, to hand over the Interpol warrant for the arrest of Prabhakaran, a fugitive from international justice, the next time they meet him. They could also give notice of two easily documented crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing and the killing of 900 policemen who surrendered. Otherwise Solheim and Westborg could be charged as knowing accomplices of Prabhakaran in crimes against humanity. Possibly even in Norwegian courts.

And as I write this in a Saigon restaurant with Vietnamese techno blasting in the background, my Lonely Planet informs me that Vietnam, which Solheim admires, has had a past very relevant to us in Sri Lanka. Its Buddhist monks had over the centuries formed the bulwark of resistance for national independence. It also informs that Vietnam experimented for a short time with limited regional autonomy for ethnic minorities but because of security reasons has now rescinded.

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