25th November 2001

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We'll take up arms: Somawansa

By Nilika de Silva

After 12 years in exile, JVP leader Somawansa Amarasinghe, sole survivor of the party's 1989 politburo, returned to Sri Lanka to join the party's election campaign on Friday, warning of an armed struggle if the law and order situation broke down.

"We have informed the United Nations that we will launch an armed struggle if there is a breakdown in law and order," he said.

"Our late leader Rohana Wijeweera has not taught us to develop hatred against any particular person. We don't have personal enemies.

"It should not be forgotten that it was the PA (SLFP) which began dumping bodies in the rivers. It was during their era that bodies floated in Nilwala and other rivers. They are the ones who started it.

"The killing of people in custody is against any law. Rohana Wijeweera was killed while he was in custody. He had told us that he won't die without giving us a message. Out of a 1 1/2 hour message they were able to broadcast only a few seconds.

"In the past the people posed the question whom should they vote for other than the two alternative parties but now that statement is no longer valid. Now there is the JVP which people should vote for. There are a large number of persons and professionals who are willing to work for the country and some of them are overseas because the country has not recognised their talents.

He said that it was the biggest mistake the voters made by voting for politicians who had little education.

"The UNP should also not be allowed to come back to power because the UNP is the party which ruined democracy. They should spend more time in the sun."

Mr. Amarasinghe described the PA-JVP agreement as a document which turned tables on the country. "This contained a programme which brought in a lot of changes, and thereby Ranil Wickremesinghe was exposed."

He claimed that all previous governments helped the LTTE, and armed it.

"Due to India's foolish leadership in which they mixed up short sighted foreign policy with strategic foolishness. They are good people but they have done a couple of foolish mistakes. They thought that this part of the land was prosperous and they helped the Tigers by training them and assisting them in all ways."

"We advised the Indian authorities not to act in this manner. Rohana Wijeweera is dead and gone but what he said became true. Whatever Wijeweera had said has never gone wrong. Thereafter I told India to send the Tigers out of the country, otherwise they would be dangerous to you'll."

"We asked Prime Minister Mr. V. P. Singh to send the LTTE out of the country. Although V. P. Singh was good the other leaders were unable to send the Tigers out of the country. Ultimately what happened is Mr. Gandhi was assassinated. "Even if Amarasinghe is killed the JVP will not stop," he said.

Sounding a note of warning, he said if the LTTE killed any JVP member, 50,000 volunteers would join the Army to fight Prabhakaran.

"When the war begins, there will be no intervals," he said adding, that what went on in the country was not a war. "This is not the way Hitler went to war. Everybody's abilities should be harnessed for the war effort," he said stressing that Tamil separatism must be militarily and ideologically defeated.

Denying the possibility of his being arrested and detained for more than 24 hours, Mr. Amarasinghe said, "They say we killed 6,000. But during that period 60,000 were killed. The proportion is ten to one." Quoting Mark Antony's speech at Caesar's funeral, he said, "I have come to bury the separatist alliance, not to praise the inefficient and corrupt PA."

Having paid a glowing tribute to his parents, former party leader Wijeweera, teachers and friends who played a decisive role in his life and survival, Mr. Amarasinghe said, "I was not born with a silver spoon. I am not a big man. I was born in a mud hut and not in a walauwa. Therefore, I understand the common man's predicament," he said.

Harking back to the 88/89 era the JVP leader said, "We have no animosity towards the police. The unfortunate events did not take place for personal gain."

Scotching rumours that he was staying in a five-star hotel, he said although five star hotels were important for Ranil Wickremesinghe, a small hut was more valuable to him.

Explaining the difference between the LTTE and the JVP, he said the Deshapremi Movement did not kill people indiscriminately. Referring to LTTE suicide cadres he said, "a liberation movement will never teach its members to commit suicide. Comrade Wijeweera taught us to live."

Dismissing reports from a former UNP parliamentarian that the PA arranged the passport for his return, Mr. Amarasinghe said he could come to Sri Lanka with or without a passport.

EPDP's double-talk

The Eelam People's Democratic Party (EPDP), a constituent partner of the ruling People's Alliance, last week called for a "Kingdom of Eelam" and pledged it would campaign for a fully autonomous administrative unit in the north and east with permanent merger.

After this appeared in the front page lead story in last week's The Sunday Times, the EPDP issued a statement in which it accused "certain quarters of the media" of "calculated mischief" in reporting the contents of its election manifesto.

Though no specific reference was made to The Sunday Times report in particular, the statement went on to say "These same mischief makers are deliberately misinterpreting statements made by the Secretary General Douglas Devananda."

The statement claimed, among other matters, "We had never used the word "Kingdom of Eelam". It said "only those illiterate in the Tamil language would arrive at such a translationů."

Even if the EPDP statement shied away from making any reference to The Sunday Times, for reasons better known to it and thought it fit to hide behind broad accusations of "calculated mischief," the facts speak for themselves.

Since the statement came immediately after The Sunday Times report and made pointed references to what was published, we asked Chief Tamil Translator of a leading government department, a Tamil gentleman himself, to do the honours. The Sunday Times readers may like to know how someone "literate in the Tamil language" translates the EPDP manifesto:

n Through our political activities, continue to actively promote and obtain an independent administrative unit with special powers for a "State of Eelam", North and Eastern Provinces never to be divided within a united Sri Lanka as put forward by the EPDP as a solution to the political problems of the Tamil speaking people.

n Steps will be taken to ensure the following through matter including special powers that are to be assigned to the "State of Eelam".

n To set up settlements in the state lands in the "State of Eelam" in order to eliminate the exploitation of the economic resources of the Tamil speaking people and provide for prevention of activities designed to alter the ethnic balance and weaken the political strength of our people.

n To make special provision to ensure the self autonomy of the Islamic people within the autonomy so as to safeguard and foster the political, democratic and cultural rights of the Islamic people is the "State of Eelam".

n To ensure that all matters regarding law and order within the "State of Eelam" be brought under the power of the "State of Eelam".

n To take steps to grant the same stance to the National Anthem in Tamil as the National Anthem in Sinhala.

CBK criminal libel appeal: Time allowed for settlement

By Laila Nasry

In The Sunday Times appeal against the conviction of criminal defamation of President Chandrika Kumaratunga, the Supreme Court last Monday agreed to the defence request for further time to finalise details of the settlement proposed by the Chief Justice.

The Bench comprising Chief Justice Sarath N. Silva and Justices S. B. W. Wadugodapitiya and Shirani Bandaranayake granted time till January 21, 2002.

Ronald Perera, Counsel for the Editor of The Sunday Times submitted to Court that more time was needed as senior counsel Tilak Marapana PC and the Editor had not been able to reach a finality in the settlement.

Deputy Solicitor General Rienzie Arsecularatne and counsel for President Kumaratunga R. I. Obeysekera did not object to the postponement.

On the previous occasion the Chief Justice suggested the Editor tender a general statement to Court and not to any person in particular taking into consideration the fact that the Editor had already admitted that the article was factually incorrect and that it was not written by him.

The Editor was convicted on two counts of criminal defamation of President Chandrika Kumaratunga for publishing a gossip column in The Sunday Times of February 15, 1995 and sentenced to one and a half years imprisonment suspended for seven years and a fine of Rs. 10,000.

The Court of Appeal upheld the conviction and the Editor appealed to the Supreme Court.

Tilak Marapana PC with S. L. Gunesekera, Ronald Perera and Upul Jayasuriya appeared for the Editor. R. I. Obeysekera PC with Wijaya Wickremaratne PC, Ashley Herat and A. W. Yusuf appeared for the virtual complainant President Chandrika Kumaratunga. Additional Solicitor General Rienzie Arsecularatne PC with state counsel Gihan Kulatunga appeared for the Attorney General.

Athas intimidation case: Defence witness says he misled court

An Air Force Officer, the only defence witness, testifying in the case where two other fellow officers are indicted for entering the residence of The Sunday Times Consultant Editor / Defence Correspondent Iqbal Athas, threatening, harassing and intimidating him has admitted he had misled the Court by making false statements.

The witness, Squadron Leader Eric Amaranath Weerasinghe, officer-in-charge of the Special Air Borne Force (SABF) in the Air Force, was giving evidence when the case was taken up on Thursday before High Court Judge Sarath Ambepitiya.

Two Air Force officers, Squadron Leader H. M. Rukman Herath, bodyguard of a former Air Force Commander and Squadron Leader D. S. P. Kannangara, then officer-in-charge of the SABF, are indicted in the High Court for committing criminal trespass, intimidation and unlawful entry with weapons into Mr. Athas's residence at Nugegoda on February 12, 1998.

Sqn. Ldr. Weerasinghe was responding to a question posed in cross examination by Senior State Counsel, P. P. Surasena.

The witness said he had been to the Gangodawila Magistrate Court, when the case came up there, only on one occasion. That was in official uniform after he was requested to assist the Air Force Legal Officer in an identification parade. He said he had not gone there on any other occasion, either on official grounds or otherwise,nor had he sought permission to do so.

However, when Mr. Surasena was showed photographs depicting him in civilian attire at the Gangodawila Magistrate Court premises, he admitted it was him. Asked whether he lied to Court, Sqn. Ldr. Weerasinghe said he could not remember the circumstances but added he must have gone to Court with the permission of his superiors.

Asked again whether he visited the Magistrate Court on more occasions than one, the witness admitted going there on several occasions though he had not obtained leave to do so.

Sqn. Weerasinghe said he knew that the two accused SLAF officers were expected to make statements before CID officers.

However, he was not know that the first and second accused had been arrested and produced before the Gangodawila Magistrate Court for an identification parade.

Senior state counsel drew attention to a farewell party given to Group Captain Asoka Samarabandu on his retirement at Commander of the SLAF base at Diyatalawa. This was held on November 3 at the mess located in the Air Force sports pavilion at Sir Chittampalam Gardiner Mawatha.

The witness admitted that he was present. So were the first accused Herath and second accused Kannangara. They had been conversing with each other. Asked whether they discussed the trial, the witness denied having done so.

Whilst admitting that he met the two accused at the party, where they sang and danced, the witness said he kept in touch with them through the telephone. He said on no occasion had he discussed any information pertaining to the trial.

Senior State Counsel Surasena questioned the witness on the previous trial date of November 12. Responding to summons delivered to his official address the witness had come to Court that morning. On that occasion he had been in official Air Force uniform. However, when the case was due to be taken up the same afternoon, he was in civilian attire.

Asked how that happened, Sqn. Ldr. Weerasinghe, at first explained that he had been advised by Air Force Headquarters not to come in uniform to Court though he had obtained permission from Group Captain Anura Silva. He felt he was coming to Court in his official capacity since the case concerned Air Force officers.

Questioned by Senior State Counsel Surasena Sqn. Ldr. Weerasinghe,admitted there was an Air Force inquiry that was conducted after they had found him missing on the day he attended Court. He also admitted he had not obtained permission in accordance with rules laid down for Air Force officers attending Court. He said in his written explanation he had apologised for not seeking permission and had assured he would not repeat the same mistake.

His superior officer, Chief Provost Marshal, Wing Commander, Saranath Rambukwela, had warned him about the need to obtain permission. He said he could not obtain permission since there was a change in the Chief Provost Marshal's Post. It had earlier been held by Air Vice Marshal Vijith Tennekoon who had then retired. He had been unfamiliar with the procedure. The witness had been told he could go to Court in civil attire since he was going there in his personal capacity.

When Mr. Surasena drew Sqn. Ldr. Weerasinghe's attention to the night of February 12, 1998, he said he had been a part of a team raiding a house in Kollupitiya where terrorist activity was suspected. He said he had carried weapons that night.

Asked how he could remember two months later, on April 16, when he made a statement to the CID that first accused Herath was at the Air Force Officers' Mess at Bambalapitiya, he replied that he had watched television with him. This was when he returned to the mess after conducting the raid. However, Sqn. Ldr. Weerasinghe said he could not remember anyone else present at that time.

Asked how he remembered only the presence of first accused Herath, the witness said he had gone through documents before proceeding to make a statement to the CID. Even then he had clearly remembered the presence of the first accused during the night in question.

Asked by Mr. Surasena whether his statement was not fabricated, the witness denied the suggestion.

Earlier, counsel for the first accused, Srinath Perera P.C. asked him why he had come in official uniform to Court on November 12 morning and in civilian clothes in the afternoon.

He replied that when he went back to Air Force Headquarters after appearing before Court in the morning, he had been told he could not attend Court in uniform. Asked whether Mr. Athas was present in Court that day, the witness replied that he saw him.

Sqn. Ldr. Weerasinghe said his statement to the CID on April 16, 1998, was recorded by Inspector Dhammika in the presence of Sub Inspector Wijesekera. He had thereafter made two more statements, on May 28 and July 24, 1998. He said the statement was read to him before his placed his signature.

Asked whether he was aware why he had been summoned to the CID for the recording of statements, Sqn. Ldr. Weerasinghe, said he was told that it related to the attack on the residence of journalist Iqbal Athas. He had remembered the details he had gathered from records and that was how he had made the statement.

Replying to questions raised by Anil Silva, counsel for the second accused Kannangara, the witness said he knew his client very well since they were members of the Special Air Borne Force. He said he was aware that the second accused's father was suffering from cancer at that time. Being a Catholic, the second accused patronised places of worship, such as, Kochchikade St Anthony's Church and Fathima Churches. Even after his father was cured, he had visited places of worship. The second accused had often told him about it. On the day of the incident, which was a Thursday, the second accused was at the Fathima Church, Sqn.Ldr. Weerasinghe said.

In a statement from the dock, second accused Kannangara said he had no involvement in the incident on February 12, 1998, though Ms. Anoma Athas had identified him as one of the intruders during an identification parade. He said he had gone to church with his wife and daugher.

Later he had proceeded to his home in Kandana. He told Court he was innocent. First accused Herath did not make a statement from the dock or take the stand.

The defence closed its case. Addresses by counsel to Court is to begin when the case will be taken up on January 3, 2002.

Daya Perera, PC with T. G. Gunasekera watched the interests of Iqbal and Anoma Athas. Senior State Counsel P. P. Surasena with state counsel Amendra Seneviratne appeared for the prosecution. Srinath Perera PC with Christopher de Alwis appeared for the first accused. Anil Silva represented the second accused.

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