30th December 2001

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Massive destruction in the hills

By J.A.L. Jayasinghe

The Central Province, the hotbed of polls violence in the entire country, has suffered damage and destruction to property running into several millions of rupees, a senior Kandy Police official said.

Reports of destruction of property in the area in pre and post-poll violence have been mainly registered from Patha Dumbara, Galagedera, Udu Dumbara, Talathuoya, Hewaheta and Harispattuwa.

Several politicians who were instrumental in this destruction are said to have disappeared from the area, while some politicians alleged to have been involved in killings, bombings, assault and arson are presently in remand.

Supporters of the PA have suffered immense damage to their properties. Some of the incidents did not even make it to the police complaints book.

Before the election PA supporters bombed the houses of UNP supporters, assaulted them and caused massive losses. UNP supporters allege that police stations in Kandy did not even record their complaints.

However, at midnight on December 5, polling day, all this changed. It is reported that some Police officers did not step outside their police stations when assaults on PA supporters were taking place.

It is learnt that some police officers in our highly politicized Police Department had even encouraged these assaults.

Along with the announcement of election results on the morning of December 6, reports were received that those considered to be PA bigwigs in the area were at the receiving end of assaults. One of the first incidents was the attempt to assault a PA provincial minister outside the Kandy Kachcheri. The attempt, however, failed due to the intervention of the police. It was also reported that the attack on houses of voters in his electorate also intensified.

It is reported that more than 50 incidents of post-poll violence were recorded by the Special Information Unit attached to the office of the Kandy Superintendent of Police. An official of the Kandy Police Headquarters reported that all these 50 incidents had been attacks carried out on houses of PA supporters, bomb throwing incidents and attacks on vehicles.

It has been reported that in the Gampola Police division 35 incidents of post-poll attacks on properties of PA supporters had been received.

In the Nawalapitiya Police division about 15 complaints had been lodged by PA supporters whose properties had been damaged, a spokesperson at the office of Nawalapitiya PA MP Mahindananda Aluthgamage said.

To date PA supporters in Nawalapitiya are reported to be receiving threats, while some are even hesitant to visit the police stations to record their complaints.

A bomb attack was carried out on December 10 on the residence of Mr. Aluthgamage at Galpaya. In Paragala in the Nawalapitiya electorate, it is reported PA supporters are still being assaulted.

Those politicians who had advised their supporters to retaliate to assaults have left their home towns and settled down in the safety of their residences in Colombo.

The residence of Ganga Ihala Pradeshiya Sabha Chairman Ananda Aluthgamage, in Patithalawa was torched and destroyed by mobs. A complaint in this regard had been lodged with the Gampola Police. The mobs reportedly entered the house, piled up its valuables and set them on fire causing losses running into lakhs of rupees.

On December 8 and 10, thugs are reported to have attacked and damaged the Dolosbage residence of a fruit vendor in Nawalapitiya, a staunch supporter of the PA. The mob had also set fire to the tradesman's lorry. He said although he did not know the assailants the attack was carried out by UNP supporters.

The Samurdhi Bank at Senarathwala was also torched by a mob. The lorry of Nawalapitiya UC member Asmi was attacked and his residence damaged. In the Pussellawa Police division the houses of 18 plantation workers who supported the Peoples Alliance had been torched. A powerful politician is alleged to have instigated this violence and it is reported that to date no arrests have been made.

Former Provincial Minister S.B. Ratnayake said that in Hanguranketa PA supporters had been assaulted and many motorcycles burnt. A vehicle in which supporters of MP C.B. Ratnayake had travelled also had been attacked.

It is alleged a bomb attack had been carried out on the residence of Central Provincial Council Minister Sunil Amaratunga, while a mob had reportedly attacked the residence of Provincial Council Minister Kamal Beligolla.

The Wattegama Police reported that the Thalawinna residence of Mahinda Wijesinghe who is on the personal staff of Mr. Anuruddha Ratwatte had been attacked.

Meanwhile, more than three weeks after the polls, it is reported that several PA supporters working in state institutions and corporations have still not been allowed to come to work.

Vigilante group continues to hold two key witnesses

By Shane Seneviratne

The two soldiers allegedly linked to the massacre of the 10 Muslim youth at Pallethalawinna on the day of the general election who are said to have helped to drive the vehicles involved in the incident remain in 'illegal custody' while the two sons of General Anuruddha Ratwatte continue to evade arrest.

The two soldiers were reportedly held at a location close to Kandy, but have so far not been handed over to the authorities making their detention illegal.

'The Sunday Times' learns that the persons holding the soldiers are extracting all possible information from them and are likely to turn the two men into state witnesses enabling the prosecution of those responsible for the killings and other election related violence in the Kandy district.

The names of the two soldiers are being withheld but they are said to be residents of Padukka and Ragama.

Last week 'The Sunday Times' exclusively reported the details of their illegal detention. The servicemen, one a corporal and the other a sergeant in the Army were being kept blindfolded and taken from one location to another and have been said to be disclosing details about the mission entrusted to them. The two men had been taken into 'custody' by a gang which had been following them from Kandy, at Uthuwankanda in the Mawanella area while they were driving two Defender vehicles involved in the Madawala massacre and heading towards Colombo the day after the election.

In a related development, one soldier who was with them escaped when his colleagues were held up at Mawanella had been arrested by the Police and was remanded on Friday.

The soldier identified as Corporal Rajapakse was taken into custody from the camp at Malay Street. A jeep driven by him which belonged to the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) had also been detained.

Earlier this week the issue about the two soldiers being held in illegal detention came up. Teldeniya Magistrate C.V.Rajapakse said he had read the news item and also seen the photographs of the two men being detained. He directed CID ASP A.Muthu–banda to obtain further details about the illegal detention of the two men.

Meanwhile 16 soldiers attached to the Boyagane camp and allegedly involved in election related violence in Kandy have also been taken into custody and remanded. Investigations were in progress yesterday to ascertain whether they were responsible for the use of some 29 T56 weapons which have reportedly been used during the election period and were subsequently recovered by the Police. The two sons of General Ratwatte, Chanuka and Lohan continued to evade arrest despite an order from the magistrate to arrest them in connection of the Pallethalawinna massacre.

Police are likely to obtain a search warrant shortly to search some of the locations where they suspect Ratwatte's sons are hiding.

Police believe that apart from General Ratwatte's sons there were also other wanted persons with them.

Taste of paradise tasteless

By Tania Fernando

As a further cost cutting measure the national carrier would not be serving bread rolls, butter and mineral water on certain flights.

A memo on the notice board instructs all flying staff of SriLankan Airlines to take note of the new changes.

According to the notice passengers flying on the Middle East sector, to Bangkok, Singapore, Bombay and Delhi are not to be served bread rolls, croissants and butter which were served earlier with the meal that was provided.

Passengers flying to Tokyo will not be served the meal they are normally provided just prior to landing in Tokyo. Passengers on the flight which leaves Colombo around 11 p.m. were served a meal on departure and another prior to arrival in Tokyo.

Provision of sandwiches for the airline crew on flights which leave between 5 a.m. and 8 a.m. has been discontinued.

Airline sources also said even the quantity of mineral water bottles, which were provided for the crew, has been reduced. Normally about 20 bottles were provided but now with the changes only six bottles per flight are provided.

Govt. to provide facilities to record complaints in Tamil

The Government has decided to provide facilities to entertain complaints in Tamil at police stations, Interior Minister John Amaratunga said yesterday.

He said all police stations are to be instructed that facilities should be available to the public to make complaints in Tamil by either providing officers to take down complaints in Tamil or enabling the complainant to come with a written complaint in Tamil and paste it on the information entry book.

Mr. Amaratunga said that in the event the complainant comes with a written complaint the complaint will have to take the full responsibility for the contents of such complaint which will later be checked by an officer.

He said more Tamil speaking officers will be recruited to overcome the present shortage.

He said the shortage of Tamil speaking officers will also be overcome to some extent by allocating the available Tamil speaking officers to all police stations evenly.

He said during the former UNP regimes recruitments to the police service were carried out in keeping with the ethnic ratio, but after the PA came into power hardly any Tamil speaking officers had been recruited to the police force.

'We can count the number of Tamil speaking officers.

They are so small in number', he said.

Mr. Amaratunga said the proposed measure will improve the confidence of the Tamil speaking people in the government.

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