3rd February 2002

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Hakeem enters peace talks with protest note

By Nilika de Silva 
SLMC leader Rauf Hakeem who this week reiterated his intention of being party to the peace talks, yesterday met Norwegian Ambassador Jon Westborg to convey his concern regarding the alleged extortion of money from civilians by the LTTE. 

Minister Hakeem met the Norwegian Ambassador who returned to the country early this week after talks in London with the LTTE's chief spokesman Anton Balasingham about the peace process, and briefed him on the alleged extortion of money from civilians by the LTTE.

Speaking to The Sunday Times last evening, Mr. Hakeem said he had told the Norwegian ambassador that the confidence the Muslims had in the peace process would get eroded if such acts continued. 

Mr. Westborg had during half hour meeting assured the minister that he would convey these concerns to the LTTE.

This would be the first time that the issue about alleged tax collections by the LTTE has been taken up with the Norwegians who are trying to bring the government and the LTTE to the negotiating table.

Minister Hakeem expressed much concern regarding recent reports from Kinniya, a majority Muslim village in Trincomalee, that LTTE cadres were roaming the streets extorting vast sums of money from the villagers. 

The extortion ranged from Rs. 50,000 to Rs. 5 million according to the paying abilities of the innocent victims, he said, adding that it even extended to vehicles. 

While the people were rising up against this action and preparing to hold hartals, Minister Hakeem said he was trying to restrain these reactions.

There has been wide spread reports from the eastern and north eastern parts of the country about conscription of youth and children to the LTTE, cases of collecting taxes from civilians and propaganda activities of the LTTE during the period of cessation of hostilities.

Tapping expatriates' expertise 

By Nilika de Silva 
The Ministry of Science and Technology has embarked on an expensive programme of bringing home expatriate scientists to obtain their expertise. 

The first two expatriate scientists Dr. Lareef Zubair from the International Centre for Climate Prediction based in New York and Prof. S. Sotheeswaran working in organic research who arrived in Sri Lanka have just completed their stints, while another is expected in the country in April. 

The payment is in the region of Rs. 200,000 for a one month contract which covers return airfare and special allowance. Director Planning of the Ministry, Ms. W.A. Mahawewa told The Sunday Times that 52 applications were received from expatriate scientists and selection was carried out by a committee which short-listed six scientists. 

The programme invites expatriate Sri Lankans to return to the country with the objective of obtaining their expertise for the benefit of the local scientific community and scientific research institutions. The maximum duration of a contract is three months.

There was no comment from local scientists.

Minister raps CBK's visit to prison 

Blasts police over massacre probe
Minister and SLMC leader Rauf Hakeem yesterday questioned the President's recent visit to Bogambara prisons where she visited suspects charged with election violence. 

"What is the example she set to the country when the head of state goes to prison to speak to the very people who are suspects not in petty election violence cases but murder and attempted murder cases," Mr. Hakeem asked addressing the Colombo District SLMC convention at the Public Library auditorium.

"I would say shame on the President," Mr. Hakeem said.

Commenting on the probe on the Pallethalawinna massacre where ten SLMC supporters were gunned down allegedly by supporters of a former minister, Mr. Hakeem asked: "What is happening to the investigations? Is there one rule for powerful ministers in the past regime and another for innocent parents?" 

He said the whole country knew those responsible for the Pallethalawinna murders, but the police were silent, he charged, questioning the very credibility of the police force for ignoring incriminating evidence which have been unearthed. 

"People are looking forward to some action. Action without any discrimination whatsoever. Action that would normally be taken by the police if those crimes were to be committed by a common citizen of this country," Mr. Hakeem said. Pic by J. Weerasekera

DIG Bodhi Liyanage aims to eradicate crime in Colombo

By Tania Fernando
The newly appointed DIG for Colombo, Bodhi Liyanage, said he intends eradicating crime in Colombo, drug trafficking in particular. He said he is taking steps to make it compulsory for trishaw operators to display stickers that would identify the respective police division they belong to. He said the stickers displayed in the trishaws would be of different colours to facilitate easy identification of the relevant police division. They would also be required to display their identification cards.

DIG Liyanage said that security will be provided in certain vulnerable areas in Colombo. "More security will be given at junctions like Bambalapitiya, Kollupitiya and near banks," He said he has plans to start a Women's and Children's Bureau at selected Police Stations and to deploy motor cycle squads at night. "I also intend to re-activate vigilance committees," he said.

US now calls LTTE, 'insurgents'

The United States government has given the LTTE a new official classification - insurgents.

The term was used for the first time yesterday in a statement Richard Boucher, spokesman of the US Department of State, regarding discussions in Washington between Minister of Economic Reforms and Information Technology, Milinda Moragoda, and U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage.

The U.S. policy on the deproscription of the LTTE, their support to fight terrorism and bilateral issues on defence, treasury, agriculture, the USAID and other agencies were topics that were discussed during the visit, the sources added.

Mr. Armitage in support of the peace initiatives in Sri Lanka facilitated by Norway said both parties should engage in a productive dialogue leading to a peaceful settlement.

In the event that Sri Lanka decides to deproscribe the LTTE, U.S. policy in this regard would remain unchanged, Mr. Armitage said. He thanked the government of Sri Lanka for supporting the global effort to eradicate against terrorism, ministry sources said.

Elections Dept. goes ahead with mini poll

The Elections Department is to go ahead with preparations for the local government polls despite the Government bringing in proposals to amend the Local Government Act to confer more powers on the Elections Commissioner to postpone or cancel polls.

An Elections Department official told The Sunday Times that the Department will go ahead with its work as scheduled.

'Nominations commenced on Friday and all District Returning Officers have been informed to accept nominations till February 8,' he said.

The Elections Commissioner has to announce the date for the polls which will be between five and seven weeks after nominations close on February 8, he said.

The official added that the Commissioner is yet to take a decision on holding the local polls in the North and East. Meanwhile Government Printer Neville Nanayakkara said the printing of polling cards has been completed.

'Printing of ballot papers will commence after nominations close on February 8. We are facing a problem with time since a large number of candidates would be contesting.

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