Jungle Telegraph

17th June 2001
By Alia
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The long wait
Military strong man Major General (retd) Janaka Perera, makes his long awaited farewell call on President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga today.

As repeatedly reported in these columns , this is prior to taking up his diplomatic assignment as Sri Lanka's High Commissioner in Australia.

Since being named to the top post in Canberra, delays have dogged Maj. Gen. Perera's departure. Firstly, his agrement (or acceptance by the Australian Government) was delayed. It came only after Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar spoke to his counterpart Alexander Downer. He was to have met President Kumaratunga on June 4 but the appointment was cancelled since she was indisposed. It was rescheduled for today. The delays led to idle talk that Maj. Gen. Perera was, in what might have been an unusual, unprecedented move, to be named Security Forces Commander, Jaffna. Later speculation, again unfounded, was to say he would succeed General Rohan de S. Daluwatte, as Chief of Defence Staff. The news was to cause widespread confusion in defence circles.

General Daluwatte, now on vacation in the United States, is due in Sri Lanka on June 26. He is strongly tipped to take up a new diplomatic appointment but no firm date has been fixed for him to relinquish duties. Maj. Gen. Perera is the most embarrassed about the wild speculation though he is already armed with his credentials. More so because he cannot issue denials. The Foreign Ministry has advised that he should refrain from giving media interviews or comments for the time being.

Hence, he will make a quiet exit from Colombo next week for Canberra, with a four day stop over in Singapore. Perhaps that might end the unfounded idle platter over appointments to key diplomatic positions.

Inquiry wanted
Army Commander, Lt. Gen. Lionel Balagalle, has been advised to appoint a Court of Inquiry to probe an incident involving gem smuggling allegedly by an officer. The wife of a senior officer, following a course at that time in India, is reported to have obliged a young officer (following a different course in India) by carrying a packet said to contain coffee when she travelled to join her husband.

When the wife was questioned by Indian Customs, she had said she was carrying a parcel, the contents unknown, for a young officer. Upon examination, it was found to contain gem stones. The Indian Customs had confiscated the gems.

It is only now the investigations into the incident have been completed by Army authorities.

Close call
Air Force pilots at Hingurakgoda were on a training stint when the instructor switched off one engine of an Mi-24 Hind helicopter gunship.

The chopper remained airborne on one engine when it flamed (or stalled). With no power, those on board found themselves helpless.

But the instructor and staff skillfully made a crash landing causing partial damage to the helicopter gunship. "The men reacted calmly. Panic would have led to a major crash," a senior Air Force official said yesterday. 

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