Colombo quiet after violence
By Christopher Kamalendran
Three days of tension and violence in the heart of Colombo came to an end on Friday with relative calm returning to the city.

This followed a high powered discussion which lasted for four hours, between Government officials and Buddhist and Muslim clergy held at the Kettharama Conference hall. The incidents which began over a land dispute ended with damage to people and property, and the death of one person.

The most shocking fact was that with the clashes breaking out civilians armed with swords, knives, bombs and pistols exhibited the power and influence of the underworld.

The police curfew clamped in the area, failed to disperse the violent crowd who were seen freely moving about armed with weapons, while the police helplessly looked on, did little to calm the situation.

More than thirteen persons were injured, and many homes and shops were destroyed.

Buddhist priest of the Maligawatte Bodirajaramaya Vihara Ven. Thanabaddegama Sobitha alleged that the unrest erupted due to the underworld gangs operating in and around Maligawatte.

'I have complained to the police on previous occasions on their activities, but nothing has been done, and finally it blew out of proportion and we all saw the result. The violence erupted on Wednesday when a group of people tried to construct a building for a Sunday School' said the monk.

He said "When we informed the police they came to the construction site with the Colombo Divisional Secretary and Gramasevaka to stop the construction for a certain period, despite the order they continued with the construction, resulting in this clash."
While officials were trying to settle the dispute people armed with swords, iron rods and petrol bombs had assaulted the onlookers.

"I appealed to the police officers to calm the crowd but they failed to do so. The police failed to take action while an unruly mob burnt tyres and shops. They attacked a police sub-inspector and tried to chase the police away," Ven. Sobitha Thero said.
By the time the Army and Navy arrived at the scene which was around 2.00 pm on Wednesday immense damage had been done to shops and vehicles.

Meanwhile Colombo Deputy Mayor Azad Sally claimed that the Divisional Secretary had violated the Court order as she had no right to visit the scene and give an order to stop work.

"The operation of underworld gangs has been in existence for many years with the assistance of the police. These gangs are also involved in drug peddling, taking bribes and operating torture chambers. This makes it obvious that even a small issue can spark off a clash. I blame the police for all this because they act very partially towards the gangs, so when such an incident takes place, the gangs take the upper hand."

On October 25 the Colombo Additional Magistrate Aravinda Perera gave the order in favour of another group. The Buddhist priest who consulted the NHDA stated that it is state property.

Aussie aid gives new life for child soldiers
By Marisa de Silva
As a further step towards conflict resolution the Australian Government has decided to donate funds for re-integrating child soldiers into the community.

A sum of 400,000 Australian dollars will be channeled into this project which would provide counseling services, geared to the needs of each child combatant.

It will be carried out in collaboration with the international program for Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC), the ILO, NGOs and civil society.

National Program Manager IPEC, Ms. Sharma Salgado told The Sunday Times that, these children would not be given any special treatment as that would only make them feel isolated from society. "They will be treated like any other person in the community. While the younger children will be taught according to the usual school curriculum or by specially trained personnel. If necessary they will be diverted to non formal educational programmes. The older children will undergo vocational training in skills that match currently available job opportunities, so that the knowledge gained would be put to practical use," she said .

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