The Sunday TimesFront Page

28th April 1996




Winning hearts & minds of people, JPEG, 18K

Winning hearts and minds of the civilian population in the Jaffna peninsula is part of Operation Riviresa II, claims the government. This picture is a government release

Thonda slams Ratnasiri as estate crisis widens

By Our Plantations Correspondent

CWC Chief and Tourism Minister Saumyamoorthy Thondaman, who has initiated an unprecedented motion of no confidence against a Cabinet colleague, Plantations Minister Ratnasiri Wickramanayake, says he wants the motion taken up for debate as soon as parliament meets.

Mr. Thondaman in a telephone interview with 'The Sunday Times' from Moonpudur in Tamil Nadu said, "We want the government to accept the principle that we cannot be treated differently, we cannot be hood winked with mere words."

A belligerent Minister Thondaman lashed out at Minister Wickramanayake saying, "the Minister has not even understood my demand and there had been no reply to the letter sent on April 19 to the Minister."

Mr. Thondaman describing the week long plantation strike as a success, said, "This is the first time in the history of my trade union struggle that plantations in the entire country have responded to a strike call. Plantations in Galle, Matara, Kalutara and Ratnapura have completely stopped work."

Back in Colombo, CWC's General Secretary and Mr. Thondaman's grandson Arumugam Thondaman who handed over the motion of no-confidence against the Plantations Minister was canvassing for support from the opposition, including the UNP.

'The Sunday Times' learns that the matter had been informally discussed by the UNP leadership and that there had been views the party should back the motion on the basis that the Lanka Jathika Estate Workers Union (LJEWU), a UNP affiliated trade union was involved in the plantation strike.

"We may favour the motion not because we favour Mr. Thondaman, but because we supported the strike," a UNP source said.

UNP seniors Ranil Wickremesinghe, A. C. S. Hameed, Wijepala Mendis, Tyronne Fernando and Anura Bandaranaike discussed the development on Friday.

Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, however, told The Sunday Times the UNP had not taken a firm decision on whether it would support the CWC sponsored motion. The matter would be taken up at the UNP parliamentary group meeting, he said.

The CWC was also seeking the support of other Tamil political parties. The TULF parliament group leader, Joseph Pararajasingham had been contacted in Batticaloa for support. The TULF is yet to decide on the matter.

The no-confidence motion has been described as one of the rare events where a Minister in the Cabinet is spearheading such a move against one of his own colleagues.

Mr. Thondaman has been attending the annual Thirukoshtiyar Temple festival in Moonapudur, South India, his ancestral village and was due to return to the island in time for May Day.

"My demand is that discrimination in the plantations must end. The Cost of Living Allowance given to minor public employees has been denied to the plantation workers. What is the use of citizenship if we are always treated differently,?" he told 'The Sunday Times.'

Meanwhile, Plantation Trade Unions are to decide whether to resume their strike action next week if the government fails to give in to the demands. Mr. Thondaman said they would review the situation.

The main demands have been a Rs. 8 daily wage increase and a minimum of 300 days work.

Plantations Minister Wickramanayake told 'The Sunday Times' he had no comment except to say that five estates have returned to work in Galle and 12 in Sabaragamuwa.

The Secretary General of the PA Sene Seneviratne said, "The token strike ends on the 27th. It would be unfair to extend it further. This is the lifeblood of the country and we cannot afford the losses."

Armumugam Thondaman, the grandson of the Minister had toured all the strike bound Plantation Districts. He was speaking from the CWC.Head Office in Hatton, "The strike is a complete success. When Tamil people in the up country are on strike, we are told that there is LTTE involvement. Now what about the entire low country which is out on strike - will they say there is JVP involvement," he queried.

Map of Killali lagoon, JPEG, 77K

Troops reach watershed in northern battle

Troops began consolidating their position around Kilali lagoon in the North yesterday after making a major breakthrough by taking control over the lagoon on Friday, Military sources said.

The lagoon which was earlier declared as a 'no go zone' but continued to be used by the LTTE and civilians was captured by Friday 2.30 p.m. after security forces overcame rebel resistance, they said.

Over 50 rebels were killed in the Friday's fighting, while troops also destroyed several boats carrying rebels moving across the lagoon. The casualties in the boat attacks were not known immediately.

The government last week warned not to use the Kilali lagoon.

However boats had been crossing the lagoon.

Meanwhile advancing troops also captured three LTTE camps in the Kilali area. So far during operation Riviresa 2, only six soldiers have been killed and 24 wounded, the Defence Ministry said.

Around 250 rebels had been killed and a large number wounded by the onslaught of the forces. These casualty figures do not include the dead and wounded in air and artillery attacks by the troops.

The fleeing rebels had left many buses, lorries, cars, trucks and other military equipment in the Kilali area.

Thousands of displaced people continue to return to Valikamam while troops at present are consolidating in the newly captured area, the Ministry said.

On Friday Naval troops observed three LTTE boats about three miles off Vettilaikerni. One rebel boat was completely destroyed by the Naval attack and the other two boats escaped with heavy damages. Troops also shot one terrorist while he was swimming.

Also on Friday in the Batticaloa area troops killed two terrorists in a confrontation. No casualties were suffered by the forces, the Ministry said.

On Thursday security forces attacked a group of terrorists in the Trincomalee area. Terrorists fled the area carrying their casualties with them and troops recovered some arms and ammunition.

BASL takes up judges issue

A committee was appointed by the Bar Association of Sri Lanka yesterday to look into matters regarding judges and complaints about alleged irregular orders.

The BASL at a council meeting moved a resolution to appoint the committee after a lengthy discussion on matters pertaining to judges including transfers, orders and other matters, a BASL official told The Sunday Times.

The recent transfer of a District Judge from Gampola figured during the meeting, he said.

The main task of the committee would be to look into complaints on alleged irregular orders of judges and report to the Chief Justice or Judges Institute.

The committee comprises BASL President N. R. M. Daluwatte, Secretary Anil Silva, Eardly Perera P.C., Hemantha Warnakulasooriya, Ashraff Munsoor, J. M. Gunatilake, Channa Munasinghe, and three lawyers from the outstations.

Saudis say no to Ashraff

SLMC leader and Ports Minister M. H. M. Ashraff dropped out of an official government delegation for the Haj pilgrimage to Mecca this week, after Saudi Arabian government refused to provide him and eight others official status.

Mr. Ashraff who is supervising Sri Lankan Haj pilgrimage activities was due to visit Saudi Arabia with several of his Muslim Congress members and their wives.

The Saudi snub for Mr. Ashraff was not a personal one nor one for Sri Lanka, an official from the Dept. of Muslim Affairs said yesterday. Saudi government refused these facilities for official delegations from several other countries due to the inability to host such large numbers, he added.

Some 4,500 Sri Lankan Muslims are participating in this year's Haj pilgrimage.

Srimani to boycott PA on May Day

By Shyamal Collure

The rift within the People's Alliance, between the SLFP and the DUNLF has further widened with the latter deciding to boycott PA May Day events.

DUNLF Leader Srimani Athulathmudali told The Sunday Times that her party was compelled to take such a decision as the SLFP failed to honour its promises, mainly with regard to Samurdhi appointments.

"Samurdhi appointments promised to our party supporters have not been given. Almost all the appointments have gone to SLFP members putting us under tremendous pressure by our party members. Therefore as a mark of protest, we have decided not to take part in the May Day celebrations of the PA," she said.

Ms. Athulathmudali also ruled out the possibility of the DUNLF holding a separate May Day rally or a procession.

The Chairman of the PA's May Day committee, Alawi Moulana said he was surprised to hear the decision of the DUNLF, although Kesaralal Gunasekera of the party attended a couple of meetings to discuss the joint May Day rally. "He never indicated such a decision nor have we been officially informed," Mr. Moulana said. The other constituent parties of the PA will participate in the procession with the SLMC sending only speakers to the rally.

SLMC spokesman Rauf Hakeem said his party had never been involved in May Day processions in the past.

Meanwhile, at an executive committee meeting of the PA on Tuesday, the prudence of holding mass rallies in the light of the prevailing situation, was questioned, political sources said.

They said some members even called for a ban on processions.

Mr. Moulana, said though the issue transpired at the meeting it was left open at the end.

"A ban on processions or rallies will depend on the advice of the Security Council. But as it is, we are going ahead with our May Day preparations," Mr. Moulana said.

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