6th January 2002

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SU debunks LTTE ceasefire

The LTTE's motive to have a ceasefire is to get itself listed as a liberation movement at a time when the world is distinguishing between terrorist organisations and liberation movements, Sihala Urumaya has charged.

"The sudden urgency to enter into a ceasefire was therefore prompted by the upcoming UN programme to list terrorist organisations which is for the LTTE a deadline looming in February," party spokesman Udaya Gammanpila said.

Even as Norway stepped in as facilitator once again in London, local nationalist party Sihala Urumaya this week set up a centre to monitor ceasefire violations by the LTTE.

"The government is suppressing information regarding ceasefire violations to give the impression that all is well but the reality is not so," said Mr. Gammanpila addressing a news conference at the party head office on Thursday.

He called upon the public and security forces personnel to contact the centre and provide information on ceasefire violations to 596821, 507636, 072-255643, or on fax numbers. 596820, 074-722374.

Central Committee member Kamal Deshapriya said already information had been received from the people in Batticaloa, Trincomalee, Ampara and Kantale that taxes were being collected by the terrorists as the security had been relaxed.

Meanwhile, the Sihala Urumaya which has always stood for a military solution cautioned that the LTTE has in every instance entered into peace talks with a view to gaining military ends.

"Already thrice the so-called ceasefires were put in place by the LTTE to gain military advantages," Mr. Gammanpila said.

One of the primary demands of the LTTE was that it be considered the sole representative of the Tamil people, Mr. Gammanpila said, adding that for talks to take place "There is no need for ceasefire, no need for withdrawal of Army camps and no need for sending banned goods to the North."

No entry for bank professionals

An entire team of private sector professional bankers employed by the People's Bank since the beginning of last year to formulate and implement a restructuring programme have been prevented from entering their office since last Friday by members of the bank's Jathika Seveka Sangamaya (JSS).

The Sunday Times learns 13 professionals have been allegedly threatened and chased away by JSS members after the recent change of government.

Only the British national Derek Kelly who heads the restructuring team has been allowed into his office, bank sources said. They said the matter had been brought to the notice of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and the Finance Ministry secretary Charitha Ratwatte who are reported to have expressed displeasure at the behavior of JSS members and asked them to allow the team to get back to work.

However, bank sources said this had not happened.

The private sector team was called in to save the bank from collapse due to heavy losses it was incurring due to mismanagement. With the restructuring done in the new year, the bank is set to close the year 2001 with profits.

Reliable sources said the threats against the professionals were being backed by a coterie of high ranking and long-standing managers who felt threatened by the new performance-oriented management culture that had been introduced at the bank.

JVP attracts young blood

By Shelani Perera

The JVP is going for young blood in preparing its list of candidates for the March 1 Local Government elections.

JVP spokesman Wimal Weerawansa told The Sunday Times the party had already started briefing district organisers. 'The Local Government elections would be decisive in electing representatives to local bodies. With peace talks in the offing the people have to be informed of what the government is planing to do. Our campaign starting at village level will address important national issues," he said.

Mr. Weerawansa said the JVP would go it alone in the elections. He said the party would consider joining any party showing an interest in solving the N-E conflict.

University calls for trouble-free environment

The Colombo University has decided not to open the Law Faculty until the students give an assurance that they will not resort to violence.

Vice Chancellor Savithri Goonasekera in a statement said the decision was taken on the recommendations of the Law Faculty lecturers who had demanded a violence-free academic environment. The Law Faculty was declared out of bounds for students after violent demonstrations.

Right of reply

The Media Manager of SriLankan Airlines has written to The Sunday Times in response to our story of December 16 titled "Ticket shock for Sri Lanka's retired employees", stating that "a few months ago an overpayment of meal allowances was made to the Cabin Crew due to a computer error. Among the crew were 49 who took the Voluntary Retirement Offer made by the Airline".

She also says the ticket facility was not withdrawn, but suspended till the money was returned by the former employees.

She said the airline could not get back to The Sunday Times when an official response was sought by the newspaper due to the time factor which prevented her from obtaining an immediate reply on behalf of the airline.

Musharraf extends hand to India

KATHMANDU, (AFP) - Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf scored a diplomatic coup yesterday when he upstaged India's premier at the highest-level meeting between the two countries since a crisis erupted last month, analysts said.

Despite India's repeated insistence that no bilateral meetings would be held with Pakistan at the Kathmandu summit until Musharraf cracks down harder on anti-Indian Islamic militants, Pakistani Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar and his Indian counterpart Jaswant Singh reportedly met yesterday evening at their hotel.

The meeting, which came under intense international pressure on India to agree to talks, came after Musharraf dramatically walked on stage at the summit and reached for Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee's hand, telling him he wanted to pursue dialogue.

Musharraf's abrupt gesture forced Vajpayee's hand, figuratively and literally, compelling him to explain why India did not want two-way talks with Pakistan at a time much of the world is pushing for just that.

It was the latest skillful move for the commando-turned-president, who in September radically changed his image around the world by quickly and staunchly backing the US-led war on terrorism and dropping his long support for Afghanistan's Taliban.

Diplomats here said Musharraf's gesture at the summit had caught the Indians completely off-guard, leaving them scrambling for a way not to be perceived as the intransigent party.

"This was brilliant, it was diplomatic magic for Musharraf," said a diplomat from one of the smaller members of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC).

"Listen to the way the crowd was cheering when the general went to shake Vajpayee's hand. Did anybody cheer when Vajpayee went up to speak?" the diplomat asked.

Musharraf's simple gesture was all the more striking because it did not alter the fundamental positions of the two countries but turned around the power dynamic, a Pakistani diplomat said.

"At the session Musharraf did not change his position, that he is open for talks, and the Indians did not change their position either," the diplomat said.

But instead of India taking action against Pakistan _ such as its withdrawal last month of its ambassador from Islamabad for the first time in 30 years _ Pakistan was forcefully showing its stance that dialogue had to begin with New Delhi.

When Vajpayee rose to the podium, the Indian leader explained how he has been disappointed each time he has moved to make peace with his country's longtime enemy.

"I went to Lahore with a hand of friendship. We were rewarded by aggression in Kargil (in Kashmir) and the hijacking of an Indian Airlines aircraft from Kathmandu."

"I invited President Musharraf to Agra. We were rewarded with a terrorist attack on the Jammu and Kashmir assembly and last month on the parliament of India," he said.

The parliament attack December 13 has sunk Indian-Pakistani relations even lower, with the two sides massing forces at their border.

The United States and its allies have urged the two sides to talk, all the while publicly defending India's right to self-defence after the attack.

Musharraf similarly used the media spotlight at his July summit with Vajpayee in the Taj Mahal city of Agra. While the Indians were berated for remaining tight-lipped, Musharraf told newspaper editors that New Delhi had to "wake up" to Kashmir's status as the chief obstacle in bilateral relations.

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