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2nd December 2001

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With two more days to go for Wednesday's general elections, tainted by unprecedented violence, one man who can give meaning to the voters' franchise is Elections Commissioner Dayananda Dissanayake. He is seen here busy with election work in his office at Rajagiriya yesterday. Pic by Gemunu Wellage

War erupts in Wayamba again

DIG ordered to take action; OIC transferred

President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga on Friday visited the Office of the Deputy Inspector General of Police (North Western Range), Seneviratne Banda, to order action into an incident where the son of a People's Alliance candidate was reportedly killed by the Police.

The Sunday Times learns she took this course of action after representations were made to her by Kurunegala PA candidate and former Deputy Minister Salinda Dissanayake, whilst she was in Kurunegala. He also accompanied President Kumaratunga to the DIG's office.

The Presidential order for immediate Police action, The Sunday Times learns, related to an incident in the Rambodagala Police area in Dodangaslanda, where 24-year-old Sisira Asantha Kumara, son of A. D. Wimaladasa, PA candidate in the Kurunegala district, was killed allegedly as a result of police opening fire. 

The incident is said to have occurred during a rally in support of United National Front's Kurunegala district candidate J.C. Alawathuwela, a former parliamentarian.

Last night, the officer-in-charge of Rambodagala Police, Inspector Sugath Weerasuriya, was transferred from his station to Kurunegala Police. With this move, inquiries into the shooting incident have been taken over by Criminal Investigation Department detectives. Senior CID officials were in Rambodagala last night recording statements. 

United National Front spokesman G.L. Peiris told a news conference yesterday that President Kumaratunga's visit to the DIG's office was unprecedented. 

He alleged that the President had ordered the arrest of three UNF candidates — Johnston Fernando, J.C. Alawathuwela and Major General (retd) Sarath Munasinghe. He said the trio would file fundamental rights applications in the Supreme Court tomorrow.

In another development in Kurunegala last night, one person was critically injured when a hand grenade was lobbed at the stage shortly after a meeting addressed by UNF leader Ranil Wickremesinghe ended.

Police said the incident took place about half an hour after Mr. Wickremesinghe left the venue. 

Actor in last minute drama

By Nilika de Silva
Actor turned politician Cletus Mendis contesting on the PA list from the Colombo district has withdrawn as a candidate, resigned from the party and left for Singapore last morning.

Mr. Mendis, chief organiser for Colombo North, in a letter to President Kumaratunga said he felt obliged to leave the party as even after seven years in government, the PA had been unable to give the people the principled and ethically rich political culture he wished to bestow on them. 

He said he believed the past seven years and the current election campaign were corrupt, anti-democratic and filled with lies.

"Madam, I can no longer remain as a candidate under your leadership in the People's Alliance," he said.

Sarath Dikkumbura who has taken over as PA organiser for the Colombo North confirmed that Mr. Mendis had withdrawn. 

Reports said that after Mr. Mendis sent his resignation on Friday, his vehicle had been attacked.

Govt. rejects LTTE's deban call

The Government last night rejected LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran's call for de-proscription of his guerrilla group as a prelude to future peace talks and declared it can be considered only "if and when the peace process has verifiably advanced to the point of irreversibility."

The Government's response to Mr. Prabhakaran's "Heroes Week" address last Tuesday was spelt out by Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar in a 11-page statement released to the media last night.

Mr. Kadirgamar said when Mr. Prabhakaran invited Norwegian representatives to meet him on November 1, last year, he did not ask for de-proscription as a condition for entering into peace talks. In his "Heroes Week" speech last year, he said twice that the LTTE was willing to enter into negotiations without preconditions, although the proscription had been in force since the Dalada Maligawa bombing in January 1998, Mr. Kadirgamar pointed out. 

Mr. Kadirgamar noted that the LTTE leader's speech dealt with five themes. The first is a complaint that the international community has not, in defining terrorism, distinguished between a national liberation movement and a terrorist movement. The second is the allegation that the Government of President Kumaratunga has refused to open the doors for peace negotiations despite the LTTE's offer to engage in constructive peace talks. The third is the aspirations of the Tamil people. The fourth is the stand of the LTTE vis-a-vis the forthcoming General Election. The fifth is the lifting of the proscription of the LTTE as a necessary prerequisite for the LTTE to participate in peace talks as the "legitimate, authentic representative of the Tamil people."

Referring to developments after the September 11 incidents in the United States, Mr. Kadirgamar said there was unequal condemnation of the use of violence to promote a political cause by provoking a state of terror in the general public. 

Pointing out that motivation was irrelevant, he said, international thinking had now reached the point, from which there would be no return, of rejecting conclusively the argument that an act which would otherwise qualify as a terrorist act was justifiable when committed in pursuance of a political or other type of cause or motive. 

"Judged by these universally accepted criteria can it reasonably be argued that the LTTE's massacres of unarmed, innocent civilians — men, women, children and monks; the assassination of a former Indian Prime Minister (the grandson of Jawaharlal Nehru) and a Sri Lankan President, and numerous democratically elected leaders, including Tamil leaders and the distinguished human rights activist, Dr. Neelan Tiruchelvam; the bombing of the Sacred Temple of the Tooth Relic (Dalada Mali–gawa) and then Central Bank; the attempted assassination and partial binding of the present head of State; the destruction of civilian aircraft at the international airport - were not terrorist acts. 

"Were these not acts of "indiscriminate violence" calculated to provoke "terror in the public," "intimidate the public" and "influence the Government" for a "political purpose" - the purpose being to advance the so called "liberation struggle" of the LTTE ?

"The bombing of the Central Bank by the LTTE in Colombo was conceptually and symbolically no different from the destruction of the World Trade Centre in New York by Al Quaida — in one case a large explosive device was driven into the building by a suicide driver, in the other a large aeroplane was converted into an explosive device and flown into the building by suicide pilots," Mr. Kadirgamar said.

Shoot-on-sight orders to police

By Chris Kamalendran and Faraza Farook
Amidst unprecedented violence and the worst-ever election campaign in Sri Lanka's history, Police have been given orders to shoot on sight anyone who tries to disrupt polling or tamper with ballot boxes on election day.

Police Elections Chief Gamini Navaratne told The Sunday Times yesterday they were being forced to enforce such tough measures especially in trouble-torn districts such as Puttalam, Anuradhapura and Ampara, which have been hit by the highest number of elections-related incidents.

In addition to the three districts identified by the Police, independent election monitors have raised an alarm about rising tension in the Kandy district which had been the worst hit by violence and malpractices at last year's general election.

DIG Navaratne said the Police would be assisted by the Army in maintaining the tightest security around polling booths to ensure the safety of voters and their unhindered access to booths.

He said tighter security would also be imposed when transferring ballot boxes with six policemen being assigned instead of two.

Senior Superintendent T.J. Miskin, who is second in command for election operations, said riot squads and troops were being deployed in potential trouble spots.

One of the main elections monitoring groups, the People's Action Front for Free and Fair Elections (PAFFREL), is deploying more than 10,000 local observers in addition to 80 foreign observers, especially in areas where violence has been rampant.

The Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV) has identified the coastal belt north of Colombo, Anamaduwa and Chilaw in the Puttalam district; Kalawewa and Kekirawa in the Anuradhapura district; Tissamaharama and Beliatta in the Hambantota district, Rambukkana, Mawanella and Aranayake in the Kegalle district; and many areas in Kandy, as potential trouble spots. 

With Puttalam district seeing the worst violence, the Human Rights Commission also intervened following scores of complaints that voters were being denied their fundamental rights because of violence, intimidation and threats.

SSP Miskin has assured the commission that tough security measures in association with the Army would be enforced to restore law and order in Puttalam.

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