PA proposals for New Delhi
The Indian High Commission in Colombo will next week forward the joint opposition proposal to invite Indian monitors to join the presently exclusive Scandinavian team of the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) for New Delhi's consideration, the mission's political officer Taranjeet Sandhu said yesterday.

Mr. Sandhu said a decision on the matter rested with New Delhi. The joint opposition on Friday criticised the role of the Norwegian-led SLMM, accusing it of bias towards the LTTE and asked that the representation be widened.

A statement issued by the opposition named India as one of the countries that should join the SLMM. The opposition also asked that two other countries be in the monitoring mission, but did not name them.

Former foreign minister Lakshman Kadirgamar who presented the joint opposition statement to the media on Friday confirmed that President Chandrika Kumaratunga had briefed Indian political leaders during her recent visit to New Delhi about the partiality of the Norwegian-led SLMM, especially on the issues relating to the Sea Tigers.

India's High Commissioner Nirupam Sen was summoned to New Delhi last Sunday immediately after The Sunday Times exclusively reported the SLMM working paper calling on the Sri Lankan government to recognise the Sea Tigers.

Recently, the SLMM referred to the existence of a 'third force' at sea near Sri Lanka -- other than the Sri Lanka Navy and the Sea Tigers -- after a Chinese fishing trawler was sunk and sailors on board were killed.

Chandrasekeran holds talks to get LTTE back
By Chris Kamalendran
Minister and Up-Country People's Front leader P Chandrasekeran at a meeting with LTTE Political Wing leader S. P. Thamilselvan on Friday urged the Tigers to get back to the peace talks.

Mr. Chandrasekeran said that during the two-and-half hour meeting he told Mr. Thamilselvan that the people in the South and elsewhere did not want a war and the LTTE leader had said the Tigers also did not want war.

Mr. Chandrasekeran said he had held the talks in his capacity as UPF leader and not as a minister but he would brief Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on the outcome.

Prior to the meeting with LTTE political wing leader Minister Chandrasekeran hosted the LTTE cultural troupe to a dinner at his residence on Tuesday.

The 28-member cultural troupe later left Sri Lanka for a tour of 11 European countries.
The troupe headed by Seraladan head of the LTTE television station Nidarashanam, was accompanied to the airport by officials of Mr. Chandrasekeran's Ministry.

Gearing for possible SARS outbreak
Sri Lanka is having a close watch on the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) epidemic sweeping across South East Asia and is equipping itself for any possible outbreak that may occur in the future.

No cases have been reported in Sri Lanka so far. Nevertheless health officials are on the alert carrying out tests on patients with respiratory symptoms. Health Ministry Epidemiological Unit Director Dr. T.A. Kulatillake said that patients observed for SARS are eventually discharged as they have not developed any additional symptoms to confirm having acquired the disease.

However, surveillance continues as an additional precaution, as the number of SARS patients increased to several thousands in affected countries with death taking a toll. Hong Kong was the worst hit, while other countries were pushing for tougher measures to contain the disease.

In Sri Lanka, a four member sub-committee has been appointed to study means of controlling a possible SARS outbreak. The sub-committee comprises Defence Minister Tilak Marapana, Interior Minister John Amaratunga, Foreign Minister Tyronne Fernando and Tourism Minister Gamini Lokuge. The members of the sub-committee met on Friday evening to discuss modalities of combating the virus in case of an outbreak.

Health officials are gearing themselves with all necessary protective kit such as masks and gloves. At the Bandaranaike International Airport, announcements are made to report to the Quarantine Division if any of the symptoms of SARS is observed.

At least 1000 masks are being used by airport officials, since virus struck the Asian region. Sri Lankans are also being discouraged from visiting SARS-hit countries such as Hong Kong and parts of China, Vietnam and Singapore.

Maldives seeks SAARC action on SARS
The Maldives Health Ministry has proposed an emergency meeting of SAARC Health Ministers on the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) epidemic that has hit more than 40 countries across the world.

Maldive's Health Minister Ahmed Abdullah has sent invitations to his counterparts in other SAARC countries to attend the emergency conference which is convened to collectively take measures to protect the region from a SARS outbreak.

With the virus spreading rapidly in some countries in South East Asia, the meeting of SAARC countries hopes to collectively work and exchange information on ways of addressing the dangers posed by the epidemic.

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