The Sunday TimesFront Page

31st March 1996




10 Sailors killed, 5 injured

OP-Riviresa phase V on

By Iqbal Athas

Two divisions of the Sri Lanka Army were on the third day of a major military operation to flush out Tiger guerrillas operating within the re-captured Valikamam sector of the Jaffna peninsula.

Described as phase five of 'Operation Riviresa,' it was launched on Friday morning. This offensive will mean there will be no military crackdown against the LTTE in the Vadamaratchchi or Thenmaratchchi sectors in the coming weeks, particularly before the Sinhala and Hindu New Year.

However, in a bid to forestall such an onslaught, Tiger guerrillas yesterday launched attacks on Naval convoys in the eastern seas destroying a fast attack craft and killing ten sailors including two officers. Five more sailors including an officer were wounded.

Intelligence sources told The Sunday Times last night that the LTTE had deployed fleets of sea Tiger boats to intercept movements of supplies from Trincomalee to the main northern port of Kankesanturai. The plan was to prevent the security forces from launching a major military offensive either in Vadamaratchchi or in Thenmaratchchi. In the past week the LTTE has been appealing to civilians in these two sectors to leave their homes and move to the Wanni.

Shortly after noon yesterday, a flotilla of Sea Tiger boats attacked a supply convoy escorted by fast attack craft and a gun ship. Moments later, suicide squads with boats heavily laden with explosives rammed into the fast attack craft forcing it to explode and sink.

The Ministry of Defence claimed last night that 'a minimum of" 25 guerrillas were killed in the two incidents. The Ministry's Operational Headquarters also said that SLAF MI 24 helicopter gunships and Puccara fixed wing bombers went to the assistance of the naval craft.

Yesterday's incident in the east comes exactly after a week in which LTTE cadres ambushed an Army patrol in Vantharamoolai (on the main supply route from Welikande to Batticaloa) killing 40 soldiers. The death toll later rose to 54 with some seriously wounded soldiers succumbing to their injuries.

In the north, authoritative Defence Ministry sources told The Sunday Times last night, a planned offensive in the Vadamaratchchi sector has been put off due to some logistical reasons but declined to give details. Instead the two divisions led by Brigadier P.A. Karunatilleke (GOC 52 Division) and Brigadier Janaka Perera (GOC 53 Division) are involved in the operations that began on Friday.

The SITUATION REPORT column in The Sunday Times last week gave details of how the LTTE had infiltrated the Valikamam sector, re-captured only four month ago following 'Operation Riviresa.'

(See Situation Report)

July strikers are struck again

JPEG of police blocking strikers 24kB

July 1980 strike victimes who have not yet been redressed went in a procession to hand over a petition to the President at Temple Trees on Friday. But armed Police blocked them at Galle Face.

Pic. by Lakshman Gunathilleke.

Generators for private sector all at sea

Many of the power generators ordered by the private sector to overcome the power crisis has not arrived in time due to a delay in the arrivals of ships, private sector businessman said.

The generators imported with the authority of the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) were due to arrive by March 31, but the shipments have been delayed, they said.

The generators were being imported with Bank of Ceylon Letter of Credit facilities valid only until March 31 and the non-arrival of the generators has put the private sector into further difficulty.

The private sector has appealed that the L/C facilities be extended at least until mid-April.

In another move the government has decided to hire a trailer barge power plant at a cost of around 60 million US dollars, but some experts say the outright purchase of the plant would cost less.

Meanwhile the CEB has decided to exempt the Katunayake and Biyagama Free Trade Zones from the power cut. This is expected to lead to an exemption of the power cuts in other areas.

The CEB engineers had earlier pointed out that a phased power cut could have been imposed to prevent a four hour continuous power cut, but the proposal had been ignored

Pioneer woman journalist Rita Sebastian dies

Rita Sebastian, a pioneer woman journalist who broke several male bastions in the profession, died suddenly yesterday - leaving the local media in a state of shock.

Friends said Ms. Sebastian had died of complications arising from pneumonia. She had been hospitalised for about a week.

Ms. Sebastian held several top posts in the former Times of Ceylon Ltd., where she finally rose to be Editor of The Sunday Times. After the closure of that group, Rita worked as correspondent for the prestigious Indian Express, Interpress Service, Kyodo News Agency and several other news agencies. She also wrote regularly for the new Sunday Times and her investigative, indepth and on the spot reports, especially on ethnic issues, were widely read and appreciated.

She was also one of the judges in The Sunday Times "Report Card" on the performance of Cabinet Ministers last year.

Shocked colleagues yesterday spoke of Rita Sebastian's quiet and pleasant qualities which endeared her to many during her more than four decades in journalism. A woman journalist described Rita as a women's rights champion who would never play second fiddle in the face of any male chauvinism.

Meanwhile, the Foreign Media Journalist Organisation yesterday expressed deep sadness over the death of Ms Sebastian who was its founder President. It said she had reached pinnacles in her profession and was respected for the leadership role she played in efforts to raise the status of the profession.

The Foreign Correspondents' Association of Sri Lanka in a message also paid a glowing tribute to Ms Sebastian.

Her body will lie at the A.F. Raymond's parlour from tomorrow till the funeral on Wednesday at 11 a.m. at the Kanatta cemetery.

We are hurt, says TULF

"We are really hurt at President, Chandrika Kumaratunga telling that there is a lot of dishonesty amongst the Tamil leaders," said Vice- President of the TULF Anandasagari.

Mr. Anandasagari when asked by The Sunday Times what his opinion was on the recent interview given by President Chandrika Kumaratunga to 'The Hindu', said that the Tamil leaders are really hurt by what the President had said.

"Not only we are hurt but what have we got to tell to the people about the package," a highly disturbed Mr. Anandasagari told The Sunday Times.

President tells Tamils to reject the LTTE

President Chandrika Kumaratunga yesterday made a strong appeal for Tamil parties and the Tamil people to raise their voice bravely for peace and harmony and reject the LTTE terrorism.

Addressing a large gathering of the Sudu Nelum Movement at the Sugathadasa Indoor Stadium yesterday, the President said Tamils themselves should marginalise the LTTE so that a just and peaceful solution could be found. She referred to some wealthy Tamil businessmen who still referred to the LTTE as 'the boys' and said such attitudes should change. If peace and harmony were to be restored.

She said the Tamil people must make it clear to all that the LTTE does not represent them and that it was only a terrorist movement that should be defeated.

The President said the government's vision was to create a new society where people would see themselves first as Sri Lankans rather than allowing racial barriers to divide the country.

Special Identity Cards, land deeds and interest free housing loans were yesterday given to families affected by the war. Also scholarships worth Rs. 500 were awarded to their children studying in year 6- 11.

SG not yet appointed

Upawansa Yapa has been recommended to be appointed as the new Solicitor General, but the appointment has not been made so far, legal sources said.

Attorney General, Sarath N. Silva, confirmed that Mr. Yapa had been recommended as the Solicitor General with the appointment to be backdated with effect from March 1.

Mr. Yapa is now the Acting Solicitor General.

This week the Presidential Commission probing the killing of Lt. Gen. Denzil Kobbekaduwa revoked a decision taken by the Commission earlier to impound Mr. Yapa's passport. His passport was impounded two weeks ago.

Supreme Court stops "trail by ordeal"

The Supreme Court has ordered the High Court to acquit Ravaya Editor, Victor Ivan of criminal defamation charges and directed the state to pay costs to him.

The order came after lawyers for the Editor petitioned the Supreme Court to stay the proceedings of the High Court against the Editor and to set aside all the proceedings so far held in the High Court.

The Supreme Court went one step further and acquitted the accused Editor.

The Supreme Court bench comprised Justices Tissa Bandaranayake, S. W. B. Wadugodapitiya and Priyantha Perera.

The Editor of the Ravaya had been indicted in the High Court on charges of criminal defamation for the publication of a story about the then Coconut Industries Minister Indradasa Hettiarachchi.

The Supreme Court held "These proceedings are illegal and have occasioned a failure of justice. The accused should not be further vexed by compelling him to face another trial upon the indictment on account of an illegality for which he was not responsible. He has been compelled to take appeal after appeal in search of justice."

"The fault of the Court should not be visited upon an accused by compelling him to stand "judicium dei" - trial by ordeal. The proceedings before the High Court and the Court of Appeal are set aside. The appeal is allowed and the High Court is directed to record a verdict of acquittal of the accused. State to pay costs in all three Courts."

Earlier the Court of Appeal had refused the stay order. Ranjith Abeysuriya P.C. appeared for the Editor of Ravaya with Suranjith Hewawasam.

Upawansa Yapa P.C. appeared for the State with Palitha Fernando.

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