The Sunday TimesFront Page

05th May 1996




All news items and articles related to the on going military operations in the North and the conduct of the military top brass and police have been subjected to censorship


A mother and sister light Vesak laterns beside the tombstone of their loved one, who died in the war. Pic. by Thilak Ratnayake

`Fire Thonda, I won’t deal with him’

By Shyamal Collure and Chandimal Mendis

Plantations Minister, Ratnasiri Wickramanayake yesterday rejected talks with CWC Chief, S. Thondaman and called for disciplinary action against Minister Thondaman for violating Cabinet responsibility.

"The President could expel Mr. Thondaman or call for an explanation from him," Mr. Wickramanayake told 'The Sunday Times' in an interview.

Mr. Wickramanayake in a defiant mood said even if the President directed him to have talks with Mr. Thondaman he would not do so.

President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga is scheduled to meet Mr. Thondaman and CWC representatives tomorrow.

Mr. Wickramanayake commenting on the no-confidence motion to be moved against him by the CWC said, "Mr. Thondaman and I are members of the same Cabinet. He gets his party not only to sponsor a no-confidence motion against me, but also to canvass support from the main opposition party while remaining as a Minister in the government. Isn't this a blatant violation of Cabinet responsibility?"

"If this is permitted to continue, the Cabinet form of government will be a joke. Who will take this government seriously?"

Mr. Thondaman in an interview with 'The Sunday Times' said he saw no conflict of interest or violation of the principle of collective Cabinet responsibility in the no-confidence motion. He insisted that the motion was being moved not by him personally but by the CWC which was not in the government, though he was a Cabinet Minister.

The Democratic United National (Lalith) Front, led by Srimani Athulathmudali in a counter move to Mr. Thondaman's no-confidence motion has warned that if he proceeds with the motion, the party will be presenting a no-confidence motion against Mr. Thondaman.

Ms. Athulathmudali told 'The Sunday Times' that her proposed no-confidence motion would be brought on the grounds that Mr. Thondaman, had put the estate workers against the government and his unethical act in proceeding with a no-confidence motion against a Cabinet Minister.

Ms. Athulathmudali said the DUN(L)F would act when the time came to lobby the support of opposition MPs for the motion against Mr. Thondaman.

Meanwhile TULF leader, S. Sivasithamparam said the CWC had so far not made an official request to the TULF to support the motion. If a formal request was made the TULF policy making body would meet and take a decision.

Earlier the CWC had made an informal request to the TULF to support the motion.

15, pregnant and stranded

A 15-year-old girl has been reported stranded at the AirLanka office in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

The girl who has gone as a housemaid is reported to be pregnant, according to airline sources.

These sources said the girl is unable to give the name or address of her sponsor. They believe she had been dumped at the airline office by her employer after she got pregnant.

'The Sunday Times' of December 10, 1995 published a full page investigation into how underaged girls were being recruited in Sri Lanka and sent to Saudi Arabia with forged passports.

The Saudi law stipulates that no female could be sent to that country for employment if she is below 30 years.

The investigation revealed that such underage girls come past at least four checks i.e. the FEB and Immigration counter at the Colombo Airport, the airline that brings them and the Saudi Immigration desk.

AirLanka sources said the airline may be obliged to bring the pregnant 15-year-old girl back home.

Ashraff in DPL faux pas

The Saudi Arabian envoy in Colombo yesterday received a questionnaire from Ports Minister M.H.M. Ashraff about the Saudi decision not to give him accommodation to perform Haj this year.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Colombo said last night that Mr. Ashraff, letter to the Saudi Ambassador, was unprecedented and not a proper way to deal with a foreign Government.

Mr. Ashraff has asked the Acting Saudi Ambassador Abdullah al Zahrani eight questions framed in parliamentary style.

Among the questions were whether Saudi Arabia took a policy decision not to provide accommodation and transport facilities to the delegates of Sri Lanka and seven other countries and the reason as to why the Foreign Ministry "waited till the last moment" to intimate such a decision.

Mr. Ashraff has also referred to Sri Lanka's Ambassador in Riyadh, Javid Yusuf informing his secretary "after a long silence and at the last moment" about this decision.

A foreign official in Colombo however said that Ambassador Yusuf had been the one who had to ask for names of the Sri Lankan delegation for Haj and the list had been sent to him only on April 06.

The official Haj delegation comprised Mr. Ashraff, Rauf Hakeem and M.M. Zuhair and others. They all dropped out of the delegation when the Saudis refused to provide them accommodation and transport.

Mr. Ashraff when contacted by 'The Sunday Times' confirmed that he had directly sent the query to the Saudi mission here with copies to the President and Foreign Ministry.

Ports Minister M.H.M. Ashraff in an unprecedented move yesterday called for an explanation from the Saudi Ambassador in Colombo as to why the Riyadh Government refused to give him free accommodation and transport to perform Haj earlier this week.

The move was last night deplored by a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry who said that this was not a proper way to a deal with foreign governments and that it is clear that any dealings with foreign missions here should be routed through the Foreign Office.

The spokesman said this was especially so whenever there were complications or misunderstandings. Depending on the gravity of the issue the Colombo based Ambassador could be summoned or a note could be sent to the Foreign Government by the Foreign Ministry in Colombo, he added.

ASP denies allegations

Assistant Superintendent of Police Hemantha Adhikari has ought permission to make submissions before the Commission probing the assassination of Lalith Athulathmudali.

In a letter to the Commission he said he felt he had been transferred to Kayts island following the recent evidence before the Commission.

Recently a witness testifying before the Commission said the Police officer had favoured Soththi Upali who had figured in the Athulathmudali assassination case.

The ASP in a letter to the Commission sent through the IGP strongly denied the allegation that he favoured Soththi Upali.

Meanwhile the Special Presidential Commission probing the Athulathmudali assassination has not so far responded to a letter sent by former Minister Sirisena Cooray seeking permission to make submissions before the Commission.

Mr. Cooray also has sought permission to present himself before the Commission after witness made reference to him when giving evidence.

SLFP goondas clash with medical students

Club wielding SLFP organisers and supporters of Health Minister, A.H.M., Fowzie from the Colombo North area have been identified as those involved in a scuffle with medical students on Thursday night after the students prevented them from pasting anti-GMOA posters near their hostel.

The Sunday Times learns that five persons briefly detained by the medical students had been photographed. A copy of it had been handed over to Presidential Secretary K. Balapatabendi to be passed on to the President for action.

The gang was carrying Identity cards of the SLFP with signatures purported to be of the Health Minister Fowzie. One of the cards carried the designation as Chief Organiser, Bloemendhal Electorate (Colombo North).

The medical students told The Sunday Times that when some students were returning to the hostel close upon midnight they saw groups of people putting up posters condemning the GMOA strike. Inquiries receive harsh replies and we were chased and clobbered with plastic tubes and clubs. The gang chased us into the hostel," one student said.

He said the alarm was raised. Many students came out and caught two people inside the premises while three others were grabbed outside. "We never did any harm to them. Instead we were compelled to check their identity cards. To our surprise we found ID's signed by Mr. Fowzie in their possession."

They explained that they worked on contract given by an unknown leader who had promised each of the persons Rs. 200 for putting up posters.

Apparently the posters said the general public condemned the GMOA strike.

The five persons had been taken to the Cinnamon Gardens Police Station. But 'thugs' had threatened the police not to record a statement. The five persons had been released, the medical students claimed.

The students claimed that they had also been threatened. But they had not gone to any other police stations to lodge a complaint.

Health Minister Fowzie when contacted by The Sunday Times said the GMOA had been poking its finger into so many matters not related to them and caused many inconveniences to the people. "This time it is an utter lie; I learnt that the medical students took this group of people into their hostel and hammered them mercilessly and later tried to hand them over to the police."

The Cinnamon Gardens Police when contacted said no complaint had been lodged with them.

Gold finger on bus seat

The conductor of a Moratuwa - Pettah bus had a rude shock when he found just one finger of a person under a seat.

He had found the finger after all passengers had alighted in Pettah on Friday evening. But what was more mysterious was that there was a gold ring on the finger with the initials 'GJ'.

"Whoever cut off the finger had done it for an ulterior motive otherwise the gold ring wouldn’t have been spared," said a police officer who had come to collect the finger from the bus on a complaint made by the conductor.

Surely no one wants human spares to be seen on buses.

NSSP Charges police of discrimination

The Nava Sama Samaja Party will take legal action against policemen who brutally attacked party supporters at it's May Day procession in Slave Island, party leader Wickramabahu Karunaratne said.

Karunaratne said fundamental rights petitions would be filed in the Supreme Court on grounds of discrimination.

"We were not the only party which held a procession. The LSSP along with other parties also held a procession but the police acted violently against our supporters. We have already consulted our lawyer and hope to file action soon," he said.

Dr. Karunaratne said the NSSP would conduct an islandwide campaign to spotlight this brutalisation of politics and he appealed for support from all democratic parties. He said the NSSP would demand compensation from the government and the police for attacking party supporters including women and children who were baton charged, attacked with other missiles and then teargased.

Dr. Karunaratne said the NSSP was writing to all political parties regarding this atrocity. He added that the PAs May Day committee chief Alavi Moulana had also expressed shock about the incident.

In the letter the NSSP alleges that more than 150 people including women and children were badly beaten by the police. Many were warded and some had to undergo surgery.

Tamil parties want political offices in the North

By Shelani de Silva

A group of five Tamil political parties are seeking approval from the government to set up offices in the liberated areas of Jaffna but the TULF has dismissed this move as meaningless.

EROS leader S. Sudhakar said the leaders of these five parties - the EROS, the EPDP, the EPRLF and the PLOTE - would meet today to further discuss the issue and would seek an appointment with President Kumaratunga soon.

He said the 300,000 people who had reportedly come back to the liberated areas of Jaffna needed support and guidance from their political leaders and the five-party group could fulfill that need.

He said they were familiar with the liberated areas and could easily communicate with those people to identify and meet their various needs. This step was essential to ensure that the people did not again get disgruntled and leave the area, he added.

But the TULF, regarded as the main Tamil political party scoffed at this move. TULF President M. Sivasithamparam told The Sunday Times setting up such offices would be meaningless unless a political solution was found.

He said such political offices would not in any way help the people who were still facing a war and suffering intensely.

Meanwhile The Sunday Times learns the government is seriously considering the setting up of an Interim Council for the North. Some Tamil parties feel this administrative council for the liberated areas should include members of political parties. But the TULF feels the council should be above party politics and comprise senior public servants.

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