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10th March 2002

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An army officer is in conversation with a young visitor to the Army's 'Ranaviru Mela' exhibition being held at the Viharamaha Devi park. Pic by J. Weerasekera

LTTE spreads its political power

Sets up offices in Govt-controlled areas
By Ranjith Jayasundara and Sunil Jayatillake
As rival Tamil groups began surrendering their weapons, the LTTE has embarked on a programme to open political offices in areas under government control.

The first such political office was opened at Kurukkalmadam, one kilometre from the Mannar road while two more offices at Chettikulam and Pavatkulam in Vavuniya district are to be set up shortly.

In Batticaloa, the LTTE sought army permission yesterday to permit 50 unarmed LTTE cadres to enter the government-controlled areas and carry out political work.

LTTE's deputy political wing leader Karikalan on Friday said they would open more offices in government-controlled areas in Vavuniya, Batticaloa, Trincomalee, Mannar and Ampara in the coming weeks. The entry of the LTTE members into Vavuniya town has seen the gradual fading away of other Tamil militant groups which had dominated the area for the past ten years.

Wanni Security Forces Commander Major General Chula Seneviratne yesterday held a meeting with Tamil groups and instructed them to surrender their weapons by Monday 10 a.m. 

He warned that raids would be carried out if these groups failed to disarm themselves. The EPDP did not attend the meeting.

The first handing over of the weapons took place in Jaffna on Friday when PLOTE members handed over 28 T-56 automatic rifles and 113 rounds of ammunition. Weapons handovers are due to take place in Vavuniya as well.

"We are expecting the government to provide us security and allow us to carry on with our political activities," a PLOTE spokesman said.

Despite the ceasefire agreement, the collection of 'taxes' by Tamil groups has not ceased in Vavuniya town while the LTTE is known to collect money in a more discreet manner calling it a 'voluntary contribution'.

The LTTE also collects a 30 per cent tax on goods taken into the Wanni area and no change has been made since the ceasefire agreement.

Meanwhile, a free-flow of goods continued into the LTTE-controlled Wanni area. A dispute over the opening of the A9 road for civilians is yet to be resolved with the LTTE insisting that the road should be opened passing the army camp at Eluthumaduwal close to Elephant pass.

LTTE chief Velupillai Prabhakaran during a meeting with the head of international monitoring team, Major General Trond Furuhovde, on Wednesday urged them to expedite the reopening of the A9 land road.

The monitoring process is expected to go into full gear within the next few days with the arrival of six more foreign monitors today in Colombo. The Chief of Staff of the monitoring mission, Hagrup Haukland, arrived on Friday. Kilinochchi Government Agent E. Aiyadorai told The Sunday Times that the last six kilometres of the road from Eluthumaduwal remained to be cleared. At present mines have been cleared on the road up to Pallai, he said. 

Prisons chief in trouble over chopper ride

By Tania Fernando
Interior Minister John Amaratunga has called for an explanation from the Prisons Chief on why former PA strongman was given preferential treatment including helicopter rides.

The Minister in a letter to the Prisons Commissioner- General Upali Samaraweera has warned that the Prisons Chief might have to pay out of his pocket for Mr. Ratwatte's helicopter trips and also face other disciplinary action if he was found to have overstepped his authority.

The Minister in his letter has drawn attention to The Sunday Times news report last week, which referred to the Ratwattes being provided with special facilities while in remand.

Mr. Ratwatte was flown to Teldeniya in an Air Force helicopter on Monday for the magisterial inquiry on the massacre of ten SLMC supporters on election day at Pallethalawinna. A bill has been forwarded by the Air Force to the Prisons Department, however the Minister of Interior, under whose purview the Prisons Department comes, has refused to pay this money.

The Minister told The Sunday Times that he had sent a letter to the Commissioner General asking for a report, however the Commissioner refused to comment.

Teldeniya Magistrate Inoka Ranasinghe has also called for a report on the special facilities being given to the Ratwattes.

DM won't do a Ratwatte

PA parliamentarian D. M. Dassanayake now in the Negombo remand prison and reportedly suffering from bedsores has refused to get himself admitted to hospital but is demanding that his case be expedited.

Mr. Dassanayake who is charged in several cases of election violence was allowed bail by the Court of Appeal in one case but is still remanded over another.

On Friday, Mr. Dassanayake joined about 150 remand prisoners in a protest fast, demanding that their cases be expedited.

Reports said Mr. Dassanayake had refused to do what former PA strongman Anuruddha Ratwatte and his sons had done. He said he would not get himself admitted to hospital nor did he want helicopters to carry him to courts.

President Chandrika Kumaratunga has intervened personally and assured she would push the matter with the Attorney General while Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapakse also visited Mr. Dassanayake in prison on Friday as a sign of solidarity. 

Later Mr. Dassanayake and others called off the hunger strike.

The remanding of Mr. Dassanayake and scores of other PA candidates or supporters has become a major issue at the ongoing local election campaign. The PA is accusing the UNF government of trying to gain the upperhand by imprisoning PA frontliners.

LTTE names 12 ceasefire monitors

The LTTE has named 12 representatives who will be serving on committees monitoring the cease-fire agreement between the government and the LTTE.

The names were disclosed as international monitors from Nordic states prepared to open their headquarters in the Kilinochchi district. 

The Government was yet to announce its representatives to the monitoring committees.

The monitoring mission will maintain its presence in the districts of Jaffna, Mannar, Vavuniya, Trincomalee, Batticaloa and Ampara, but will have access to other areas as well. The LTTE nominees for the six districts are as follows:

Jaffna: Pandatharippu Parish Priest Fr. Benedict Gnanaratnam, and Asai Pillai Kailasapillai, an audit accountant.

Vavuniya: Velupillai Sivanathan, an Engineer from Mullaitivu, and K Ratneshwara Kurukkal, a chartered accountant. 

Mannar: Fr. Anthony Xavier Cruz and Assistant Education Director Mariyanayagam Cruz.

Batticaloa: Retired administrative service officer K Chinniah and retired principal K Krishnapillai.

Ampara: Attorney S Soundaranayagam and Assistant Education Director R Shanmuganathan

Trincomalee: Attorney K Sivapalan and former TULF member and retired grama sevaka Selvarajah Dharmalingam.

Norway assumes 'mediator' status

Norway which played the role of 'facilitator' in bringing about peace talks between the Sri Lankan Government and the LTTE has now confirmed its role to being a 'mediator'. 

Norway's Foreign Minister Jan Petersen in a statement to the Storting on Foreign Policy said: "Norway has been a mediator in the process of reaching an agreement."

"We have indicated our willingness to assist the parties in new attempts, since we have noted a new will to make progress," he said referring to repeated efforts for peace talks made over the years.

Norway, as mediator, has also been asked to lead the international monitoring mission to observe if the parties fulfill their commitments, he said.

Mr. Petersen said Norway had agreed to continue to assist the two parties and had also asked the international community for political and economic support during this process. He said Norway has been an attractive mediator having brokered peace initiatives and addressed humanitarian efforts in conflict-torn countries. "We have found that the role we are playing in several of the world's conflict zones is making us an interesting dialogue partner for other parties."

Accordingly, Norway has had the responsibility to deal with conflict situations in Sudan and between Ethiopia and Eritrea while also playing a prominent role in guarding Zimbabwe's economic and political downfall to name a few.

Mr. Petersen said the prospects of progress in the peace process in Sudan seemed brighter than it had been for a long time following Norway's involvement. The improvement in the peace process, he said, was a result of the humanitarian ceasefire agreement reached for the first time in January. Here again, a Norwegian heads the international monitoring unit.

In Zimbabwe too, Norway halted all country-to-country assistance and along with other countries sought to exert much pressure on President Mugabe to stop him from destroying the country's economy and its democratic government.

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