Kuwait, Lankan mission under fire
A group fighting for the rights of Sri Lankans employed abroad has hit out at Kuwait authorities and the Sri Lanka embassy for their lack of cooperation in the probe on the missing organs of a Sri Lankan housemaid who died in Kuwait.

The Solidarity Organization of Foreign Employment(SOFE) denounced the Kuwaiti authorities for their high-handed action and the Sri Lankan Embassy for its indifference to the sensitivity of the case..

If the government and the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment (SLBFE) failed to take suitable action immediately, the lives of Sri Lankans working in Kuwait will be in danger and there is always a possibility of hearing about more and more 'accidental' deaths from Kuwait, the group said in a report to a regional seminar in Colombo.

In its report to the Regional Summit on Issues Relating to the Protection and Welfare of Migrant Domestic Workers in Asia, the group urged the government to institute a comprehensive inquiry into the death of S.A. Somalatha. It also called for an inquiry into the alleged indifference shown by officials of the Sri Lankan embassy in Kuwait.

The report said that Somalatha, a resident of Digamadulla, left Sri Lanka in May 2002 through a Kurunegala job agency and had been employed as a domestic aid in Kuwait.

UNICEF, LTTE to hold regular meetings on child recruits
By Faraza Farook
UN child rights agency UNICEF is to obtain the release of more child recruits in LTTE custody, UNICEF's Sri Lanka Representative Ted Chaiban said.

He said the LTTE had agreed to hold regular meetings with UNICEF, to investigate into pending cases and cases that would be brought before it and encourage the release of children. Already two batches of children have been released from LTTE custody after lobbying from local and international NGOs and UNICEF.

"We requested a regular meeting with the LTTE to deal with cases and complaints parents bring before us," Mr. Chaiban said.

The review meeting is intended to be a monitoring mechanism to ensure that all children are returned to their family, Mr. Chaiban said.

"UNICEF is particularly interested in encouraging the LTTE to release the children regardless of why they are there, whether they volunteered or whether they were taken. We don't want to get into that debate. That's not important. What's important is that children should not be in a military surrounding. They should be in school," he said.

During the past weeks 85 children between the age group of 14-17 were released from LTTE custody. These children from Jaffna, Mullaitivu, Mannar and Vavuniya were in LTTE custody between February and July this year. Trauma usually associated with child recruits had not been evident in this group as they had not seen combat due to the ceasefire in place. Moreover, some children had been with the LTTE for not more than one day or three months which was considered too short a period.The first batch of children, according to UNICEF had been released in November last year.

Mr. Chaiban said the LTTE reiterated its commitment to Olara Otunnu, UN Special Rapporteur on children in Armed conflict, that it would not recruit children below the age of 18 for combat or non-combat activities.

The LTTE had claimed that it was unable to establish the age of some children as they joined the group, but once it was discovered that the child was under 18, he or she would be sent home, Mr. Chaiban said.

However, he said that UNICEF urged the LTTE to look at the issue more systematically and more periodically.

Mr. Chaiban's visit to the North was part of a familiarisation tour of the country after taking over his posting as the new country representative a few weeks ago. Child protection was discussed at length among three other issues that were raised with the LTTE.

Mr. Chaiban who has wide experience working in conflict areas in Africa said a lot of children suffered from trauma affected by war. He said that physical and sexual abuse of children also increased in conflict situations because the family in itself was under stress.

Mr. Chaiban said UNICEF was focusing primarily on two issues - poverty and the lack of education opportunities which were factors that pushed children to join the LTTE.

The UNICEF chief said they were taking some steps to help these children get proper education. Uniforms, lack of transport facilities, and the problem of catching up with the education level of their age group are some of the areas the UNICEF is reviewing to help ex-child recruits get education.

Poverty is another area UNICEF is tackling with the help of agencies such as UNHCR, WFP. "Some of these children are not having three meals a day at home and they believe that by joining the LTTE they will be better cared for," Mr. Chaiban said. Thus nutritional programmes, food programmes were part of UNICEF strategy.

"We are taking these issues seriously now," Mr. Chaiban said adding, that a UNICEF was setting up a committee with certain other UN agencies and international NGOs to draw up a plan of action to how these children resume a normal life.

Besides education and poverty in reintegrating the child , another aspect that is being looked into was the psychosocial support which involved a variety of activities to allow children to be children again, he said.

CWC seeks debate on Upper Kotmale
The Ceylon Workers Congress is seeking a parliamentary debate on the Cabinet approved Upper Kotmale hydropower project before work on it starts. The project was approved by the Cabinet two weeks ago, despite protest from the CWC which said it was opposed to the project because it would cause harm to the environment and the people in the area.

CWC Parliamentarian R Yogaraja told The Sunday Times that the party had not changed its stance on the ill-effects the project would have on the environment. "We have insisted that the matter be taken up in parliament so that the merits and the demerits of the project could be known," Mr. Yogaraja said.

LTTE gears for development
By Shelani Perera
With the commencement of the first round of peace talks round the corner, the LTTE has stepped up its activities in the Government controlled area by setting up the first office of the Tamil Rehabilitation Organisation (TRO) in Jaffna on Wednesday.

The TRO is engaged in rehabilitation and development work in populated areas. A few weeks back TRO members received a two week training on demining by a mine advisory group from Norway. The Sunday Times learns that the LTTE is planning to open several TRO offices in the East within the next few weeks. Along with the opening of the Jaffna office the organisation has also opened a office in Vavuniya.

Meanwhile the LTTE last week appealed to the Government to permit 60 LTTE cadres to travel by bus from Sampur to the Wanni. The request was made through the Head of the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission Major General Trond Furuhovde when he met Army area commanders in Kilinochchi.

Deputy Head of Mission Hagrup Hauckland told The Sunday Times that the Government has not turned the request down but has been cautious as it poses a risk. "The cadres may have to be escorted by government troops but whether it will be done is up to the Government", he said.

Rajitha perfects the new formula
Political sketchbook
The politics of the UNF are clinical these days, and this is why various clinicians seem to be enjoying being on the UNF's bandwagon. Rajitha Senaratne has been a clinician who has looked after his teeth - even when he is tearing somebody to pieces, he pauses to smile a very toothy smile.

Rajitha brought the rearguard at the UF's Jana Bala Meheyuma last week. He spoke last, and it is the last lap that the gallery gets its nights jollies from. Rajtha's knack is that he can make the most sombre and serious occasion look like a Sri Lankan carnival.

The UNF now does not believe in the total carnival as the UNP did at the time Jayewaredene began giving the May day its distinct baila flavor. Events are organized in a way by the UNF hierarchy now that it gives the impression that the party is running a food court.

Ask the Page people who introduced the concept of the food-and shopping-outing -a food court is where you can get a little of everything, a little bit of Indonesian Nasi Goreng if you like, a bit of ittly by the side, and a Gyros sandwich if Greek meets Greek.

On the platform these days the UNF offers songs by MP's (there was one from a North Western electorate who sang soon after the speechifying) and a bit of wind and sound and fury from Rajitha. Incidentally, Sajith Premadasa sang two sets of baila with the gypsies, and it was not at a sucharitha after dinner party, it was supposed to be at the rugger ball. Junior Premadasa seems to like doing his politics from top down and this probably comes from watching his father struggle from the bottom up.

One song one dance - around the trees - and one comic act by R. Freddie Silva was the formula for the Sinhala movie. The UNF has found the formula for the ultimate political meeting. Song sessions by MP's, one hardsell talk by the Prime minister, other assorted pitches by the UNF's string of frontline orators, and one item by Rajitha Senaratne.

Senaratne does the balance between substance and style in a manner that an after dinner speaker would have liked if he was speaking to the society of four letter words and smut. Rajitha says that Milinda Moragoda can marry anybody he wants , for instance, provided that height color and everything else fits the bill. In the States where she comes from, the lady would have had his head for sexual harassment by innuendo.

Senaratne has made JVP bashing look so commonplace that even the crows around town hall now must be uttering Wimal Weerawansa's name before they deposit their droppings on lovers around Vihara Maha devi park. Mung apita deshapremaya gena witharak nevei premaya genath kiyanava - he says, "these people are not only hectoring us about patriotism, they are also trying to lecture us about love."

The UNF is in a love affair with itself, and it is a spectacle that the UNF's idle hordes have not had for a long time. Being in power and control can bring in a little jadedness about it. But then, it is not always that state run buses are lined up for the comfort of the hoi polloi. There is no radio in these vehicles - but there is Rajitha to be heard if one opens a window, defining the UNF's new counter political culture of town meeting as food court picnic.

Decisive peace talks commence tomorrow
From Rajpal Abeynayake in Sattahip Pattaya, Thailand
A mammoth five thousand room, forty-two story resort city hotel has been chosen as the venue for the opening ceremony of the first round of talks between the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE.

Holidaymakers in this premium resort city of Pattaya who are staying at the massive Ambassador City Jomtien Hotel seem to be blissfully unaware that crucial talks are about to take place between a Sri Lankan government delegation and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. But, nevertheless talks will kick off tomorrow here - as Milinda Moragoda who did a tour of the economy section of the SriLankan Airlines flight from

Colombo to Bangkok last Saturday - was eager to tell anybody who will listen to him.
Sattahip beach is a part of the Pattaya beach strip and it seems that closer to the Sattahip stretch - it is a haven for transvestites. You could bet that they wouldn't be calling on any of the delegates soliciting business, because the delegates are to be whisked to this location tomorrow morning for the opening ceremony of the talks at the Trad Room, at the Ambassador City Jomtien hotel, from the Sattahip naval base where they are lodged for the night.

It appears that the Trad room has been used today for a convention of schoolchildren - but tomorrow, it will be the venue for what has been dubbed as crucial talks that would decisively alter the future of Sri Lanka. That particular assessment may depend on how you see it, but whether the talks are pivotal to the trajectory of this conflict or not, there does not seem to be a Sri Lankan who is not interested in what is going on in this resort city with regard to the Sri Lankan crisis, even though this is as far as you can possibly get from the Wanni, or the arid Jaffna peninsula - the actual theatre of the confrontation.

The media is here in strength if not in full force - but are finding it difficult to live down the resort ambience of the city and think of more serious things like talks. But this is serious - the Sri Lankan delegation is said to have arrived at the naval base around 11 am this morning, and is settling in at Sattahip, while the media here gets psyched up for the opening ceremony of the talks, which - ask any Thai - - could be like any Rotary Club convention as far as they are concerned. The Trad room has many of those in this roaring resort.

War or peace we will get Jaffna, Batti
The elections are being held at a time when Sri Lanka cannot defeat the Tigers; there is an unstable government and a deteriorating economy. Elections are being held by placing the LTTE as a controversial issue. The controversy is whether the solution will be peaceful or through war. The election is a competition between war and peace. For the first time, leader Prabhakaran has requested the Sinhala people to reject racist forces who have a madness for war. He has also warned that if not, the war will continue and the economy of the country will further deteriorate.

Who are these racist forces? It is Chandrika's PA and powers that support them. Douglas Devananda is also included. We are asking the people not to vote for Douglas Devananda or his EPDP. Prabhakaran has subtly told the Tamil people, just as he requested the Sinhala people to reject forces which are against Tamils.

At the same time we have clear thoughts that this problem cannot be resolved by Parliament. All the laws against Tamils were passed in Parliament. For more than 20 years the emergency regulations are being approved in Parliament, therefore we do not have faith in it.

We have a clear plan to liberate our people. We do not need a Parliament for this purpose. The Parliamentary elections are full of fraud and corruption. We know that earlier while the Indian government was present, Varatharaja Perumal was elected through fraudulent means. Later the Sri Lankan government elected Douglas Devananda.

We will be happy if the Tamil parties which are united support the LTTE's struggle. At the same time they should not change after coming to power. The government is publicising that there is a secret agreement between UNP's leader Ranil Wickremesinghe and us. There is no such agreement between us. It is possible for either Ranil or Chandrika Madam to win at the elections.

Ranil says that if he wins he will speak with the Tigers. That is a good thing. But there is a problem there. Even if Ranil wins, Chandrika will remain as President and his government will be under her. The armed forces will be under President Chandrika. Chandrika can create obstacles for talks. So even if Ranil wins there is no guarantee that there will be peace. There will be utter confusion and chaos.

At the same time, Chandrika can join with the JVP and form a government, then there will be a war. We are ready for that. War is our profession. Fighters are very keen to go to Jaffna.

We have a working plan. According to that we will bring Jaffna and Batticaloa under our control. We will do this either through war or peace. We are telling EPDP pack your bags, you should not be there when we come.

At a time when we were on the verge of advancing towards Jaffna, the Indians intervened on the basis of humanitarian level and contacted us to evacuate the forces and said that there were some civilians also to be evacuated. When we inquired who these civilians were, they said it was the EPDP. We replied by saying that they do not need to be boarded on ships as they have their little boats and they will vanish.

There is some confusion as to whether leader Prabhakaran has given up his call for Tamil Eelam and instead asking for self governance. What the leader says is the people of Tamil Eelam want to live in their own motherland with respect, with their ethnic identity on their own soil where they have historically lived. What should be observed in his statement is that our people want to determine their own political and economic life. What he is stating in a slightly different form is that these are agreements made under Thimpu principles for self determination. We have been saying this for a very long time. We are asking that we be allowed to live independently in our soil. Can you give us total self rule, he asked. He says that this will not affect the Sinhala culture or life. He is bravely saying this because he knows it will not be granted.

I have opened a peace shop in London and chasing away flies. Chandrika Madam has no interest in the business of peace. When we had a ceasefire for four months they ridiculed it. Later when we retaliated by attacking them fatally, they realised that we did not declare ceasefire from a position of weakness but were very powerful. We wanted to allow peace negotiations and to facilitate that, we did not have any land led attacks for this whole year. When Eric Solheim went to America and stated that the Tigers are genuinely interested in peace, Kadirgamar did not like it and sidelined Solheim. Thereafter, peace talks ceased. Even though we compromised, Chandrika's government imposed restrictions.

Now, we understand that they have new bombs - vacuum bomb - but we are not afraid of it.

We are ready for talks. However, we have been saying that the restrictions on us has to be removed and a condition of normalcy has to return. You cannot talk with us after branding us as terrorists. We are not terrorists. We are a liberation movement.

Like blowing and spoiling a conch, a madman called Bin Laden clashed with America and now some countries have included us in their list of terrorists.

All violent political struggles have now been defined as terrorism. The true definition between terrorism and true freedom struggle has been destroyed. By hurrying to define this, all liberation organisations have been affected. When I asked a British MP who came to meet me recently whether stone throwing by Palestine children is terrorism: he said yes, according to our definition it is terrorism. When I asked whether it was not terrorism for Israel Army to shoot these children: he said that since it was done by a government it was not terrorism.

In his speech leader Prabhakaran calls this the violence between the oppressed and the oppressor. Human race is divided into two categories - The ruling category and the ruled category. Those who are oppressed and poor belong to minority groups. He says to the world that violence by the people against such oppression is reasonable.

Violence against Tamils started more than 20 years ago even before war time of the LTTE. Our peaceful struggles were destroyed by State violence. Our armed struggle exploded at a time when we realised that unIess we take up arms and fight we would be destroyed. This was not a blind decision.

Today we have risen up as a national liberation organisation. Tamil people are not standing up with empty hands. We are with tanks and cannons. A majority of the Tamil areas are under our control. When we have risen with such maturity why are these obstacles? We have grown as a peoples' organisation, we are with the people, we cannot be shaken. However the Sri Lankan government is trying to alienate the liberation Tigers from the Tamil people by branding us as terrorists. This is being done by using Kadirgamar who is a Tamil to publicise this from country to country. It is being publicised that Tigers are conducting terrorist attacks and have got children in their forces.

The Chandrika government is very happy that the Canadian government has joined America and Britain and banned the Tigers. They think that they can separate the Tigers from the Tamil people and that the support for the LTTE will be on the decline. But our support keeps on increasing. We cannot be separated from our people, because people are the Tigers, Tigers are the people. We will agree to peace talks, if we are accepted, the ban on us is removed and accepted as the representative of our people.

America and Britain know that we are not terrorists. We do not get involved in blind activities. Sometimes we conduct attacks against government terrorism, attacks with Black Tigers - that is our strength.

America, Britain and Canada are not saying that the Tigers should be destroyed. They will not say that. Those countries are saying that there should be negotiations with the Tigers.

When restrictions are increased, we will insist that we will talk only if they are removed.

We will go for peace talks. At that time, we will tell Britain, America and Canada to remove the ban.

I am telling Ranil and Chandrika that unless you remove the ban, there will not be peace. Instead there would be a situation that will contribute to the rise of Tamil Eelam.

Sri Lanka is a State terrorist country. From time to time, over 70,000 people have been murdered due to State terrorism. It is a famous terrorist government for violation of human rights. Considering this, leader Prabhakaran asked how is it fair to have a coalition of countries in the world which are against terrorism.

By calling armed struggle terrorism, why not have a list for State terrorism. If such a list is prepared, Sri Lanka will be the first in the list.

Countries of the world brand those they dislike as terrorists.

They are saying that if we win in our struggle, then we will call you national leaders and not terrorists. We will not despair by being branded as terrorists. We will win in our struggle.

In his invitation to the Sinhala people, leader Prabhakaran has also given a warning, we will not tolerate it any more, reject racist forces and bring those who desire peace to power. He warns that if racist forces are brought back to power we have no choice but to go separately.

America is in rage. That rage has to subside. Someone has attacked America and is hiding inside the caves. But there will be a change between terrorism and independence struggles. It will become clear who a real terrorist is and who a freedom fighter is. Terrorist States should be punished. There should be a change in international relations.

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