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17th February 2002

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'Beware of mines - Death at your footstep' reads a sign board put up at the entry point to the LTTE-held area near Omanthai on the A9 Jaffna-Kandy Road which was reopened on Friday. The board depicts places where usually mines are fixed trees, sign boards, fences or the ground. Pic by by Gemunu Wellage

PSD chief faces conspiracy charge

Indictment soon as new evidence emerges in Maturata case

The head of the controversial Presidential Security Division, Superintendent of Police Nihal Karunaratne, a Parliamentarian and three others are likely to be indicted by the Attorney General's Department on conspiracy charges connected with incidents in Maturata during last December's Parliamentary elections.

They are being accused of aiding and abetting nine others who are to be indicted on a number of counts including mischief, unlawful assembly, destroying state property and for violating provisions of the Firearms Ordinance, Offensive Weapons Act and elections laws.

The nine include a sergeant and a constable from the PSD, an Army sergeant and two corporals attached to the PSD, three private security guards from Monaro Security Services and a civilian.

Besides, Superintendent Karunaratne, others who are to face conspiracy charges are Ajantha Soysa, owner of Monaro Security Services and now a People's Alliance Parliamentarian, Jayaratne Dissanayake, an unsuccesful PA candidate for the Nuwara Eliya district at last year's general elections, Sub Inspector Jayantha of the PSD and Mr. Sendanayake of Monaro Security Services.

Indictments by the Attorney General's Department are the outcome of investigations conducted by the Criminal Investigation Department. A team led by ASP Ravi Waidyalankara and Inspector Janaka Senanayake was tasked for the investigation by then Director Asoka Wijetilleka. The probe was supervised by DIG Rufus Solangaarachchi.

The probe report now before the Attorney General's Department, The Sunday Times learnt, has led to some startling revelations.

One is the finding that the persons allegedly involved in the incident had in possession two pistols. One of them had been allegedly in the hands of the sergeant attached to the PSD.

CID investigations had revealed that the two pistols in question had been purchased by Monaro Security Services from the Sri Lanka Navy's armoury in Welisara. 

The security firm's owner, MP Ajantha Soysa, had made an application on November 21, last year, directly to a VVIP. The VVIP had granted approval that very day and the Ministry of Defence had authorised the issue of the two weapons on November 23.

It had been purchased from the Navy on November 29. There has been no user permit for employees of the security firm to use the two pistols. This was said to be in marked violation of laid down procedures.

Though the weapons were obtained by Monaro Security Services, it had no documentary evidence to prove it had secured any ammunition. Yet, the weapons were loaded with 9 mm ammo.

During CID investigations, PA candidate Jayaratne Dissanayake is learnt to have claimed that the weapons were used by two Monaro Security Services men to escort him from Colombo to Maturata. This was after he had arrived at the party headquarters to collect Rs 200,000 for the polls campaign. 

However, the CID report now with the Attorney General's Department says the claim had been disproved since Mr. Dissanayake had been addressing meetings in the Nuwara Eliya district during the period he claimed he was in Colombo.

Another startling find is that the nine persons involved in alleged incidents had used two vehicles carrying forged number plates. CID investigations had revealed that the two vehicles belonged to the Samurdhi Authority. These were just two from a fleet of 13 vehicles which the Presidential Security Division had taken charge on November 16, last year, from the Samurdhi Authority. Directions to hand over these vehicles to the PSD had been made by Cyril Gunapala, Secretary to the Samurdhi Ministry.

The events leading to the CID investigation were sparked off following an incident on December 2, last year.

Just 200 metres outside a venue where now UNF Minister, S.B. Dissanayake, was to address a public meeting in Padiyapellala, the officer-in-charge of the Maturata Police had seen a group that arrived in two Double Cabs smashing up a green Defender Land Rover. They were trying to get away when SI Dissanayake had stood on the bonnet of the first one, aimed his pistol at the driver and warned him to get down. Thereafter the nine occupants in the two Double Cabs were arrested.

Subsequent events led to N.K. Illangakon, DIG (Presidential Security Division) complaining to Police Chief Lucky Kodituwakku that the Maturata Police had not conducted an impartial investigation. He urged Mr Kodituwakku for an unbiased probe.

CID detectives who were detailed for the probe first recorded DIG Illangakoon's statement. He had claimed that the PSD officers were sent to Maturata since the President was due to visit the area. He said that frivolous charges were made against the PSD men and that they were subject to harassment. He had said that the Presidential visit had later been cancelled.

But the PSD men and others are alleged to have been in possession of weapons including a grenade launcher - items which the CID contends are not required for surveillance.

Yet another 'logistics run' by LTTE

Whilst Navy top brass were at a cocktail party at the Eastern Area Headquarters in Trincomalee, Sea Tiger rebels carried out a successful logistics run from the deep seas off Mullaitivu on Friday night.

What the consignments contained is still not clear to the authorities. State intelligence agencies were busy yesterday trying to ascertain what it contained. Soon after the news of the logistics move reached Colombo on Friday night, Army Headquarters placed troops countrywide on full alert. Extra precautionary measures went into effect in the city and suburbs. Friday's logistics move, intelligence sources say, is the fourth since the LTTE declared a cessation of hostilities on Christmas eve last year. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, who is away in Singapore, is learnt to have been apprised of the situation. (See Situation Report by Iqbal Athas for details.)

Choksy considers VAT

The government is considering the introduction of the VAT as a replacement for GST and the NSL, among other tax measures, said Finance Minister K.N. Choksy. 

"The VAT (Value Added Tax) is among several measures being considered under plans to rationalize the tax system," he told The Sunday Times. 

The budget is to be presented on March 18

GST (Goods and Services Tax) and NSL (National Services Levy) were taxes at 12.5 percent and 6.5 percent, respectively, introduced many years ago. Officials said revenues under GST did not meet expected targets while there was criticism that it affected middle and lower classes though essential foods like milk and sugar were exempted.

But economists argue that introduction of the VAT is merely a name change and unlikely to widen or reduce the tax base. "GST covers most the items and replacing it with VAT may not bring in targeted revenues unless there is proper collection," one economist said. 

Mr. Choksy said the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had also made proposals on tax changes, noting that an IMF team in Sri Lanka last week on an annual budget review mission was satisfied with the reforms programme of the new government.

He said the team led by Jeremy Cater had two meetings with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and himself. The Finance Minister said the IMF Standby Credit facility, which had been partially disbursed, would be re-worked and ready for implementation after the budget.

Norwegians preparing their own truce draft

The Norwegian government will now provide its own draft agreement for a mutually-acceptable ceasefire between the government and the LTTE, The Sunday Times learns.

According to diplomatic sources, the Norwegian facilitators will come up with their own draft after earlier copies were leaked to the foreign and local media.

The document had leaked to the media while the Norwegian facilitators led by Deputy Foreign Minister Vidar Helgesen had still been in Colombo meeting government leaders.

Norwegian diplomats in Colombo had admitted that a seven page document containing provisions for a mutual ceasefire had leaked to the media. They believe it went first to a London-based news service, and diplomatic pressure had been applied to stop the story from being sent worldwide.

The embarrassed Royal Norwegian embassy in Colombo then denied last Sunday that there was a "formal ceasefire proposal yet presented to the parties", and that "various drafts of different character have been subjected to discussions".

The embassy statement said that only "parts of a draft" had been circulated in the media, giving rise to added fears that more provisions were to be incorporated into the agreement.

The Sunday Times learns, however, that three copies of the draft agreement were in fact given to Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. One copy, it is learnt, had been in the possession of LTTE's chief negotiator Anton Balasingham in London whom Mr. Helgesen had met before arriving in Colombo.

The draft agreement which provided for a detailed truce as a precursor to starting peace talks, attracted widespread criticism by nationalist groups such as the National Joint Committee, a federation of Sinhala and Buddhist organisations.

One of the criticisms was that the agreement recognised the LTTE as an equal party to that of the government. There were provisions also to ensure that the Sri Lanka government could only protect its sovereignty at sea from "external aggression".

The LTTE was permitted to engage in political work in government-controlled areas, and there was to be a freeze in the strength of the Sri Lanka Army as well as the LTTE.

The direct Norwegian intervention to draft its own agreement, dis-owning the previous drafts also by the Norwegians, and already given to the Sri Lankan government,comes in the wake of the unlikelihood of a mutually acceptable ceasefire agreement being signed before February 24, the date when the current unilateral ceasefire by both sides lapses.

This seemed to signal that there was no immediate possibility of any agreement being reached for a permanent or, long-term ceasefire, nor any signs of an early start to peace talks.

Both the government and the LTTE are expected to extend the unilateral truce by another month, but the Norwegians are looking at a long term cessation of hostilities in order to start substantial peace negotiations thereafter.

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