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25th November 2001

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Kalutara: JVP leader Somawansa Amarasinghe greets party cadres with a victory sign on his return from self-exile before calling them to arm themselves. Pic by Gemunu Wellage 


Mahanayake ejects PA's Tiger cassette

By Chris Kamalendran and Shane Seneviratne
The Mahanayake Thera of the Malwatte Chapter said yesterday he could not accept as evidence a cassette given to him by a cabinet minister on alleged contact between a UNP member and the LTTE.

The Ven. Rambukwelle Sri Vipassi Mahanayake Thera told The Sunday Times he did not want to accept the cassette as evidence nor would he listen to it and he did not like the idea of politicians coming to see him to promote some political agenda.

The Mahanayake was responding to last Thursday's visit by a top-level PA delegation headed by Minister Mangala Samaraweera who presented a tape which he claimed was a conversation between UNP candidate Jayalath Jayawardena and an LTTE representative.

The Mahanayake said he did not know whether the voice in the tape was really that of Dr. Jayawardena while the candidate himself had strongly denied that it was his voice.

The Mahanayake said there were certain politicians calling over to meet him for their political agenda and to get his blessings.

"I will be issuing a statement shortly, calling on all these politicians to ensure a free and fair elections. They should co-operate to have elections without violence," he said.

In a related development, Mannar's Catholic Bishop Rt. Rev. Rayappu Joseph told The Sunday Times he was in no way involved in sending a letter sent by Dr. Jayawardena to the LTTE political wing leader Thamil Selvam, as claimed by the minister. 

"I have sent letters addressed to Thamil Selvam. They include letters sent by families of missing soldiers and others who want to visit the Wanni . One of the letters was from Minister Athauda Seneviratne. 

"I don't know how they claim that an unsigned letter was sent to me to be delivered to Thamil Selvam.

They may have picked it up from the dustbin," the Bishop said.

Mr. Samaraweera released the cassette at a news conference held at the Information Department auditorium, but Information Director Ariya Rubesinghe dissociated himself saying it was the Media Ministry Secretary Janadasa Peiris who requested that the hall be allocated.

Dr. Jayawardena has demanded that he should be given an opportunity to hold a news conference to explain his position at the same venue, but until yesterday there was no reply to a letter he had sent to Mr. Rubesinghe.

Meanwhile Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake has dissociated himself with the allegation that there is a secret pact between the UNP and the LTTE, but said there seemed to be what he called a "connection" between the two.

In an exclusive interview with The Sunday Times, Mr. Wickremanayake was asked whether he supported the charges that the UNP had a secret pact with the LTTE. He is quoted as saying "others may say so, but I don't say that - what I'm saying is that there seems to be a connection."

Despite repeated claims by some of the senior members of the party, Mr. Wickremanayake said he never claimed there was an agreement between the UNP and the LTTE, but added certain statements made by Tamil politicians showed a connection between the two.

Mr. Wickremanayake said he was trying to prove a connection between the two by the fact that the Tamil political parties who had now formed into an alliance were supportive of the no-confidence motion against the government.

He said he had urged the leader Ranil Wickremesnghe to disclose whether the ban on the LTTE would be lifted but had not received a reply to it. In addition the UNP had offered an interim administration for the north and east, he said.

But, in response to question about President Chandrika Kumaratunga making a similar offer in 1998, the premier said: "That was a long time ago. That situation has now changed. We have made our position clear." Mr. Wickremanayake also answered questions about series of other issues.

(See interview: 'I don't say there is a UNP - LTTE pact')

Somawansa speaks of armed struggle

Returning to the island after 12 years of self-exile, JVP 'godfather' Somawansa Amarasinghe called party cadres to "arm themselves" at the appropriate time.

"There is no other way", he told a massive crowd of cheering JVPers at an election rally at Kalutara on Friday evening.

The only surviving politburo member of the 1971 and 1987-90 JVP insurrection, 58- year- old Amarasinghe extolled red-capped party members to force their leaders to bear weapons if he is killed or the law and order situation breaks down in the country.

Thanking India and her one-time Prime Minister V.P. Singh for allowing him to escape from Sri Lanka during the government crackdown on the JVP, Amarasinghe told party cadres who at the same time had carried out a virulent anti-India campaign in the country, that other countries like England, France, Japan, Germany and Denmark have been helpful to the JVP and that even the UN was on their side.

(Please see: We'll take up arms: Somawansa)

Police defend use of state vehicles

Police have defended the use of CWE vehicles to transport stage equipment for a meeting addressed by the President, saying it was necessary for security reasons.

Police Elections Chief Gamini Navaratne gave the explanation on Friday at a meeting with party leaders who had earlier alleged large-scale misuse of state vehicles and other resources for party work.

SU accuses EU of interference

By Faraza Farook
The European Union election observers are waiting the arrival of their chief to decide their future following a controversy in the wake of allegations made by the Sihala Urumaya.

At a meeting with the EU delegation on Friday, the SU alleged that by giving funds to the National Peace Council to counter pro-war groups, the EU was interfering in Sri Lanka's internal affairs.

A similar complaint was made by the SU to Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar. The SU also made similar allegations at a meeting political parties had with the Elections Commissioner who asked the party to provide more evidence of such interference.

Andrews Ericsson , deputy chief of the 42-member EU observer team, in response told The Sunday Times they were awaiting the arrival of their delegation chief and were seeking directions from Brussels as to what they should do.

A SU spokesman said the NPC had sought upto Rs. 40 million from the EU for a project which had among its objective a plan to deal with pro-war groups to decrease their popularity. 

An NPC official had denied that its project dealt with political parties or elections in Sri Lanka, but concentrated on the protection and promotion of human rights and encourage the participation of women in various spheres of life.

The project is intended to increase the constructive participation of civil society groups in the peace process in Sri Lanka, he said.

Poll cards snatchers surface in Jaffna

By S. S. Selvanayagam
Incidents of snatching polling cards by unidentified armed persons were reported in the Jaffna peninsula.

On Friday, unidentified persons snatched 260 polling cards at gunpoint from a postal peon at Gurunagar.

Police acting on a complaint made by the peon, later recovered the polling cards from an abandoned house. 

In another incident on Wednesday, two youths who came in a black motorbike waylaid a postal peon, intimidated him with a hand grenade in Kokuvil area and got away with 351 polling cards. A complaint was lodged at Jaffna police station but the snatchers are still at large. 

After these incidents, troops provided security to postal peons who were engaged in the distribution of polling cards in the peninsula.

Major land grab, plunder near Horogalla

In a situation similar to forcible land grabbing in Zimbabwe, hundreds of PA supporters yesterday moved into high productive coconut plantations in the outskirts of Colombo and took control of section of the lands by putting up temporary sheds.

The encroaches backed by a PA candidate contesting the Gampaha district started moving into the estate situated in the Attanagalla electorate and by last evening they were occupying nine divisions of the estate.

The estate is owned by the Government controlled Kurunegala Plantations Ltd., of which the LH plantations is the Managing Agent.

The estate spanning over 1,000 acres of coconut also has two important research projects being carried out by the Coconut Research Institute (CRI).

The persons involved in the land grabbing told 'The Sunday Times' they were PA supporters and a politician in the area had told them to occupy the land. The politician himself had demarcated a part of the land before the encroachers started moving in.

Anula Ranasinghe, one of the encroaches who had occupied a section of one of the divisions situated opposite the Horogolla Samadhiya said they were told by a politician in the area to start occupying the land as it was state land.

She had already demarcated an area of about 30 perches while some others had put up sheds in other parts of the land.

Officials of the estate told The Sunday Times that already one and half tones of fertilizer and a load of timber had been removed from the estate.

There was also a threat of about 200,000 nuts which had already been harvested being removed from the estate divisions. Earlier in the day 1,500 nuts had been removed from one division.

Meanwhile Nittambuwa police Chief Inspector Lakshman Wijesuriya told The Sunday Times they had received a complaint and had visited the estates in front of the Horogolla Samadhiya and found that some persons had demarcated the land.

He said so far no action had been taken to arrest the persons as they were not permanently occupying the area.

Meanwhile the PA Provincial councillor, Sanjaya Siriwardena, who is allegedly responsible for the crisis, was not available for comment immediately.

The divisions occupied by the encroaches are Attanagalla (180 acres), Wiagolla ( 84 acres), Nedumgolla (50 acres), Sapugasowita (108 acres), Dammulla Hena (28 acres), Alawala Hena (130 acres), Thippaltenna (175 acres), Orchard (94 acres) and Ellakala (55 acres).

The encroachment came amidst attempts by the government to show that state-owned land had been distributed to relatives of UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe.

(Please see : L H Plantations replies to state-media "news")

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