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17th March 2002

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Prabha in the hills: A stage is being set up for a cultural show Vavuniya style at the Nuwara Eliya town today with cutouts of Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe, LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran and CWC leader and Minister Arumugam Thondaman. 

Allegations of corruption in Attorney-General's Dept.

By Laila Nasry
Several senior officers in the criminal division of the Attorney General's Department have called for a probe on what they have called corruption in its own den.

These officers met Attorney General K.C. Kamala-sabeyson P.C. on Friday and explained to him several instances of the peculiar manner in which prosecutions have been treated.

They have cited in particular a string of cases dealing with immigration and human smuggling cases.

This comes in the wake of at least two negative reports sent to the Attorney General by the CID on how the Department has been handling cases in a questionable manner, after citing 'lack of evidence' to drop charges.

The name of a former state counsel now in private practice has been linked to a pattern in these discharges which the senior officers have called to examine.

In the recent, 'Atlas Lanka' case, all accused were discharged by the Colombo Magistrate's Court after the state counsel informed court that the Attorney General's Department had no evidence to proceed with the case.

In this case, some persons from Jaffna were detected by Police with forged Peruvian passports allegedly provided by Sri Lankan 'human smugglers'.

The Peruvian immigration authorities had contacted the CID in Colombo and intimated their decision to come and give evidence in the prosecution.

But before the Peruvian officials could be contacted and a reply confirming their participation in the case be received, the state counsel had gone to court and asked for the discharge of the accused.

According to these senior officers in the AG's Department, no indictments are served in a number of cases, and a pattern has been established which was a cause for concern on the intergrity of the department. These officers have asked the Attorney General to examine all the prosecution files relating especially to immigration and human smuggling cases, and take suitable action.

LTTE wants ban lifted before talks

By Renuka Kumari in Oslo.
The LTTE wants the ban on the organization lifted before peace talks with the government, Norwegian chief negotiator Wider Helgesen said.

The LTTE feels it cannot participate in talks with the government as an equal partner if the ban is in place, Mr. Helgesen who is Norway's deputy foreign minister told our sister paper 'Irida Lankadeepa'.

He said it was left to the government and the LTTE to amicably settle this issue and move the peace process forward.

Mr. Helgesen said both sides had realised the value of peace and he believed the current ceasefire would gradually pave the way for substantive talks. He said that while government and LTTE leaders needed to be sincere, there was an equally important need for the people of both communities to take steps to rebuild trust and goodwill.

"Peace can only come to Sri Lanka through talks between the government and the LTTE. The Norwegian government cannot force anyone into anything. We are only a bridge that can bring together the two sides," Mr. Helgesen said.

He said ceasefire monitors and mechanisms were in place, but leaders of government and the LTTE also should take steps to ensure that no violations took place.

"It was President Chandrika Kumaratunga who first invited Norway to be a facilitator in the Sri Lanka peace process. She has said that she fully supports the cease-fire but she has misinterpreted one clause in it. We hope to clarify this matter to her. We have no intention of interfering in the sovereignty of Sri Lanka. We have nothing to gain from Sri Lanka or in the Asian region. Our only intention is to help usher in a lasting peace for Sri Lankans and to help in the development of the country," he said. "We know the JVP is protesting against us. It has a right to that. We have no problem with that but protests campaigns must be conducted in a peaceful manner.

"If LTTE cadres violate the ceasefire and carry arms and enter certain areas, government troops can stop them. This is provided for in the agreement.

"We inquired from the LTTE if it was conscripting children into the organization. It denied it. If it is doing so, it will earn the displeasure of the international community. According to the MoU, it has to respect international laws.

"Many countries, including the US, Britain, Canada, Australia, India and Japan have hailed the agreement. India is fully supportive of this process. This is a great encouragement for us," Mr. Helgeson said.

"It difficult to think the LTTE will violate the ceasefire and start the war again. It has said it is prepared to solve this problem under the framework of a united Sri Lanka. This is included in the agreement. If the LTTE resorts to violence, it will be disowned by the international community. 

"I am confident that there will be a lasting solution to the crisis this time. But there is a long way to go towards achieving this. It is difficult for both the LTTE and the government to bring all their troops in line with the agreement. Therefore there will be violations of the ceasefire on both sides but the leadership on both sides has declared determination to carry on the peace process despite setbacks.

"Both Sinhalese and Tamils have suffered as a result of the war. They are waiting for peace to dawn. This time, like the leaders, even the people have realized the need for an end to the violence.

"The country's economy has suffered as a result of the war. When this stops, many countries will assist Sri Lanka in its development activities. Lakhs of Sri Lankans who reside abroad will also return and they too will assist in the development of the country."

No polls in Colombo

By Shelani Perera
Despite heavy campaigning in the Colombo city, elections to the Colombo Municipal Council will not be held on Wednesday since Court is yet to give the judgment on the rejection of nominations of an independent group.

In contrast to other councils, the contestants for the CMC had been given their preferential numbers as the independent group had gone to courts 10 days after the nominations closed, a spokesman for the Elections Commissions office said.

Two groups had challenged the rejection of nominations and the judgment had been only in one case. The other judgment will be given tomorrow, but the polls will not be held on Wednesday.

The other areas where elections will not be held on Wednesday are Kesbewa Pradeshiya Sabha, Peliyagoda Urban Council, Katunayake -Seeduwa Urban Council, Nathandiya Urban Council, Panadura Urban Council, Kalutara Urban Council, Ratnapura Municipal Council, Ratnapura Pradeshiya Sabha, Moneragala Pradeshiya Sabha, Hali-Ela Pradeshiya Sabha, Mihintale Pradeshiya Sabha, Tirappane Pradeshiya Sabha, Tangalle Urban Council, Akuressa Pradeshiya Sabha, Galle Municipal Council, Ambagamuwa Pradeshiya Sabha, Buttala Pradeshiya Sabha, Ninthavur Pradeshiya Sabha and Tirukkovil Pradeshiya Sabha.

Meanwhile, some 400 polling booths in various parts of the country have been identified as vulnerable points and will be given extra security during Wednesday's local government polls, police said.

Police Election Chief Gamini Navaratne said more than 40,000 police officers would be deployed for election duty at some 10,000 polling booths while the Army would be on stand by and be called in if there was violence.

He said the election campaign had been relatively quiet compared to last year and he expected Wednesday's polls also to be relatively peaceful.

Campaigning will end at midnight today with 20 political parties and 300 independent groups all set for the polls. 

Elections officials said counting of votes was expected to begin around 8 pm on Wednesday and results were expected from midnight.

Meanwhile, some 3,000 election observers from two independent groups will monitor Wednesday's polls.

PAFFREL Executive Director Kingsley Rodrigo told The Sunday Times they would assign voters to monitor the situation in every booth while mobile units would move from place to place. 

CMEV chief Pakiasothy Saravanamuthu said they too would have at least one monitor in polling booths in addition to field units.

Protocol crossfire over Rocca visit

By our Diplomatic Editor
The United National Front and the People's Alliance are at great variance on protocol for visiting dignitaries.

The contrasting standards surfaced when Foreign Minister Tyronne Fernando not only cast aside protocol but also his official chores to rush to Bandaranaike International Airport to receive Christina Rocca, head of South Asian Affairs Bureau in the US State Department in Washington.

But, the US Embassy did not succeed, despite a written request, to obtain an appointment from President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga.

"The Assistant Secretary of State is equivalent of a deputy minister. 

The President cannot change her schedule to allocate time to meet a deputy minister," her spokesman Harim Peiris told The Sunday Times last night. He said he felt that a meeting of the President with a deputy minister was not significant.

But, that was in marked contrast to not only the appointment but also the dinner President Kumaratunga hosted to Vidar Helgesen, the Norwegian Deputy Minister now the Chief negotiator in the peace process.

Instead, Ms Rocca met former Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar, who had returned an hour earlier from a private visit to South India on Friday night. Apologetic US Embassy officials asked Mr. Kadirgamar to delay the meeting by an hour since Ms Rocca's return flight from Jaffna was delayed. He obliged.

Even by Friday evening, US Embassy officials had tried to seek a meeting with President Kumaratunga, either that night or on Saturday morning. Whilst she was busy during the night, officials at Janadhipathi Mandiriya, had explained she was leaving the following (Saturday) morning to Matara. 

Since she was travelling by road, they had explained, she would have to leave early for the three-hour journey.

However, The Sunday Times learns that President Kumaratunga chaired a meeting of service Commanders and acting Inspector General of Police. She later flew by helicopter to Matara.

US spells out formula for Tiger deban

The United States yesterday called on the LTTE to give up its demand for a separate state in Sri Lanka, if Washington was to consider a lifting of the ban on the rebel group there.

Christina Rocca, the US Assistant Secretary of States for South Asian Affairs, told a news conference in Colombo the lifting of the ban on the LTTE would depend on "the LTTE ending hostile activities, showing respect to humanity and accepting that an independent state is not a viable option."

US Ambassador Ashley Wills backed the call by Ms Rocca saying it was an ideal opportunity for the LTTE to show its commitment to the peace process and get the ban lifted.

He said the US would be happy to take the LTTE's name off the list of Terrorist organisations "when the conditions are right".

The comments from the US officials were seen as additional pressure on the rebels who have declared they would not waver from the peace process.

Ms. Rocca, before ending a three-day visit to Sri Lanka, reiterated US government's support to the peace process, but declined to elaborate on any action which it would take if the LTTE pulled out from the peace process.

Also in Sri Lanka was US marine commander General Timothy Ghormley who went along with Ms. Rocca to Jaffna for an extensive tour and talks with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe who was on a two-day historic tour there.

Ms. Rocca said General Ghormley's visit was intended mainly to discuss military co-operation, including training. 

Prime Minister Wickremesinghe soon after talks with Ms. Rocca said her visit was part of the ongoing military co-operation programme between the US and Sri Lankan governments.

Responding to questions at the news conference about the high-profile role played by the US government in the peace process, Ms Rocca said the international situation had changed and there was an ideal opportunity for peace now.

Commenting on a possible solution to the ethnic crisis, she said the US government did not wish to impose any solution, though it wished to point out that the federal system was working well in the US.

Ms. Rocca acknowledged the US was playing a major role in the peace efforts by saying "we have a much greater interest this time because this is at last a chance for a good news story to come out of South Asia".

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