Wrap for the rap
Big talk about action against politicos but is there a cover-up?
By Nilika Kasturisinghe
At least five serious incidents of assault and violence involving ruling UNF MPs have hit the headlines in recent weeks with both the police chief and the party repeated assuring that the law would be allowed to take its course and tough action taken against the MPs if there is substantial evidence.

But now soft-pedalling if not some cover-up seems to be taking shape with the Police Chief talking more in terms of an internal probe against the police officers concerned while the UNP General Secretary is also talking of exaggerated reports and bias against the MPs.

The recent incidents were reported from Nuwara Eliya, Seeduwa, Kahawatte, Galgamuwa and Puttalam. Inspector General T.E. Anandarajah told The Sunday Times that Departmentary lapses were also being studied to ascertain whether the police officers concerned should also face charges. He was referring mainly to the incident where UNP MP Olitha Premathiratne and some supporters are alleged to have stormed the Seeduwa police station and taken away a driver who was being held there in connection with a road accident. The driver was reported to be a party activist.

The IGP said action should have been taken to release the driver since it was only an accident. He said police headquarters was now probing whether departmental action should be taken against any police officers. UNP General Secretary Senerath Kapukotuwa also appeared to be on a similar line though he had earlier vowed that disciplinary action would be taken against any errant MP.

Mr. Kapukotuwa told The Sunday Times it now appeared wrong information had been given about the incident and he was told the suspect had not even been locked up in a cell.

Referring to the latest Nuwara Eliya incident, where two police officers are alleged to have been attacked by an MP while the MP claimed he had been attacked by the police, the IGP said he was awaiting a report from a Special Investigation Unit.
Parliamentarian Lilantha Perera told The Sunday Times he had gone with family and friends for the Nuwara Eliya races and was standing close to a barrier when the rumpus took place.

The MP said he was told by a police officer to move away from the barrier and he had obliged. Mr. Perera said there was a rush then and he was again pushed closed to the barrier when a police officer came there and hit him. The MP said he also retaliated but more than ten police officers had then joined the attack and hit him.

When asked about reports that two police officers had been admitted to hospital after being attacked by him, the MP claimed he had done nothing of that sort and the injuries occurred when the two police officers were attacked by other police officers.
He said that after lunch when they were rushing back to Colombo he had developed a chest pain and was admitted to the Cardiology Unit of the National Hospital. The MP said he had suffered a heart problem earlier also. He denied that he was drunk.

While party secretary Kapukotuwa appeared to support the MP and said interested parties were apparently trying to throw mud at parliamentarians, Police sources and eyewitnesses had a different version of the Nuwara Eliya incidents.

They claimed one of the police officers, SI Priyantha Amarasinghe allegedly attacked by the MP had suffered a serious ear injury and was moved to the main hospital in Kandy for treatment.

One eyewitness, former municipal politician and Gampola businessman L. Samsudeen Bawa claimed that he had seen the MP scolding police officers and hitting at least one of them. In Kahawatte, a police officer allegedly shot at a UNP Pradeshiya Sabha Member who allegedly demanded the release of a suspect held in connection with an attack on a private bus.

Referring to the case, the IGP said he had got a report from the CID. In Galgamuwa last week a group of nine persons comprising staff and supporters of a Deputy Minister of the UNP had allegedly assaulted a businessman and his son.
In this case too, the IGP said he was awaiting a report from the SSP.

In another incident, supporters of a Puttalam district UNP MP allegedly tried to rescue five suspected prostitutes who were being held by the Wennappuwa Police.
However, Mr. Kapukotuwa said no MPs were involved in the incident.

Portraits of monks on five-rupee coins
The portraits of two revered Buddhist monks will adorn the two coins to be issued to commemorate 250 years since the introduction of the Siyam Nikaya to Sri Lanka.
Central Bank's Currency Department official C.M. Ariyaratne said the coins which were of Rs. 5 denomination would bear the portraits of the Ven. Saranankara Thera and the Thai Buddhist priest the Ven. Upali Thera who re-established the Upasamapada in Sri Lanka.

"It is the same Rs. 5 coin that exists in circulation today, but the portraits of the two priests will adorn the two new coins," Ms. Ariyaratne said.

Disciplinary action awaits ‘federal tour’ councillors
The UNP opposition leader of the Southern Province, P.M.B Cyril, is to take disciplinary action against nine UNP councillors who have defied his orders not to go on a federal study tour.

Dr. Cyril said he would first call for explanation from all nine provincial councillors who took wing to India and Thailand. The councillors are to return on Saturday from the two week trip.

Southern Province Chief Minister H.G. Sirisena said earlier that the trip was organized in two batches and Dr. Cyril's name had been included in the second batch which was expected to leave on the federal tour on May 16. Dr Cyril said he had no intention of going on this trip but said he would go overseas on a personal visit. Mr. Sirisena also said he would also skip the tour but undertake another official tour to Australia.

Britain urges LTTE to return to talks
From Neville de Silva in London
The British Government wants the Tamil Tigers to return to the negotiating table and resume the peace process. A Foreign Office spokesman said that the UK government had publicly supported the Sri Lankan peace process and would want it to continue.

The spokesman was responding to a question asked by The Sunday Times at a weekly Foreign Office briefing. The UK government reaction came hard on the heels of the tough remarks made by the United States ambassador to Sri Lanka, Ashly Wills, who urged the LTTE to contemplate on its own transgression of the Ceasefire Agreement.

The UK Government has already announced an additional $8 million to its aid package for 2003. This announcement was made by Clare Short, UK minister for international development assistance after the Oslo meeting on aid donors last November.

Britain is expected to make another pledge at the international donors meeting in Japan in June, if it is not postponed due to LTTE recalcitrance.

Japan wants LTTE in Tokyo
Japan has urged the LTTE to resume peace talks with the Sri Lankan Government and expressed hope that the aid conference in Tokyo will see the participation of both parties to the conflict.

The June Tokyo conference was emphasized as an 'important opportunity to discuss the reconstruction and development of the whole of Sri Lanka, the Japanese embassy said in a statement issued in the wake of concerns raised by several diplomatic missions in Colombo over the LTTE's decision to temporarily pullout from the negotiations process.

"Japan hopes that the Tokyo conference will be held as scheduled with the participation of the LTTE." Calling for the early resumption of talks, Japan said it had supported the peace process and contributed to its promotion from the perspective of 'consolidation of peace' in Sri Lanka.

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