The Sunday TimesFront Page

21st July 1996




Hundreds killed as battle of Mullaitivu continues

Fierce clashes continued till late last night in Mullaitivu between government troops and LTTE cadres for the third consecutive day with the death toll on both sides estimated to top one thousand.

Troops air-dropped to reinforce beleaguered soldiers at Mullaitivu Army garrison, encountered stiff resistance from LTTE units and were yet to link up with the base camp. A Defence Ministry communique said at 3.30 last afternoon, further reinforcements to strengthen the troops advancing towards the Mullaitivu base were heli-landed by Sri Lanka Air Force under enemy fire.

The estimated death toll in the army was reported to be as high as nearly 600 but the government officials would confirm only 142 soldiers killed in action while defending the base, an another 37 reinforcing troops killed. Among the 37 were Lt. Col. Fazli Laphir, who was leading the reinforcing units.

The LTTE claimed in a news letter from London that 800 soldiers had been killed but the government dismissed the figure as exaggerated.

The LTTE’s own death figures were put at over 380 by the government. The LTTE admitted 120 killed by last evening.

The International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC) has informed the Sri Lanka Army that they were to hand over 101 bodies but were having transport difficulties. They have also informed the government to be prepared to accept “several hundreds of bodies.”

The Mullaitivu base camp, situated in the north-east coast of the island about 60 kilometres north of Trincomalee in the mainland, was attacked by an estimated 2,000 LTTE fighters around 1.30 on Thursday morning.

The government communique confirmed that the soldiers in the camp were now in two groups, one the main group and another away. It said that 168 soldiers wounded are being treated at the camp “with available facilities.”

Upto last night only the wounded from the reinforcing units could be evacuated for treatment in Colombo.

The government release added: “The LTTE in its transmissions have admitted that 181 of its cadres were killed during the initial assault on the Mullaitivu Military Base. So far, 124 names of the terrorists killed have been released by the LTTE. This includes Mullaitivu military leader Kumaran, Women’s Wing leader Meena Akka, Nalayan Master, a Sea Tiger leader, Madhuvanan, Trincomalee group leader and Milton, a Mullaitivu group leader. The number injured can be estimated to be very high, especially in view of the strong defences including the obstacle belt of the Mullaitivu base and the human wave tactics adopted by the LTTE. However, as a practice, the LTTE has never released details regarding its casualties.”

Outside the Mullaitivu coast, an LTTE Sea Tiger boat rammed a Sri Lankan Navy gun boat, Ranaviru, killing 36 sailors on board. The naval gun boat which found itself surrounded by six Sea tiger craft managed to destroy two of them before perishing. A third craft that rammed the gun boat exploded with the impact.

Security in Colombo and elsewhere were intensified following the Mullaitivu attack. Sources said that troops and police will be on maximum alert next week in connection with LTTE declaring the week “Black July” to commemorate the 1983 riots.

An Information Department release last afternoon said that Ò on receipt of information regarding the Mullaitivu incident, the President has made arrangements for immediate return to Sri Lanka.

Athauda axed from LSSP politburo

The LSSP announced yesterday it was suspending Deputy Minister Athauda Seneviratne from the politbureau of the party and the Executive Committee of the PA for voting with the Government on Wednesday on the extension of the State of Emergency.

LSSP Secretary Batty Weerakoon in a statement said the politbureau had decided on this action against Mr. Seneviratne for going against party policy regarding the Emergency. But Mr. Seneviratne's membership in the party would remain intact.

If Mr. Seneviratne had been expelled from the party, he would have lost his seat in Parliament and his Deputy Ministership, political sources pointed out.

During the past three months, the LSSP has abstained from voting on the motion for the extension of the Emergency, because it feels the islandwide extension is not justified.

TULF wants Tamil cops in all police stations

TULF Parliamentary group leader, Joseph Pararajasingham yesterday called on IGP WP Rajaguru to immediately place Tamil speaking police officers at all police stations in Colombo and its suburbs, in the wake of continued complaints of harassment from outstation Tamils, who are required to register themselves with the police.

Mr. Pararajasingham had been receiving numerous complaints of harassment to Tamils by police officers, who were reported to have continuously turned back Tamils whenever they go for registration. "They are told that they neither have forms nor police officers to attend to them", said Mr. Pararajasingham.

He said that Tamils who come to Colombo genuinely attempt to register their names with the nearest police, in order to avoid any further harassment or arbitrary arrest, mostly during cordon and search operations. Most of them come to Colombo to transact business or visit their relatives he said.

"The treatment given by the police officers only result in the harassment of innocent Tamils who are not conversant in Sinhala. Therefore I would very much appreciate if Tamil speaking officers are appointed at police stations, without any further delay", he said in a letter to the IGP.

SAARC summit postponed

By Shelani de Silva

The ninth SAARC Summit scheduled to be held in the Maldives in December has been postponed for May 1997, a Foreign Ministry official said.

However the Council of Foreign Ministers will meet in Maldives, in December.

Deputy Director of the South Asia and SAARC division, Mrs. G.A. Asirwathan told The Sunday Times that the decision to postpone the ninth Summit was taken as the Maldives needed more time to prepare.

The SAARC Summit had been postponed thrice. The fifth SAARC Summit scheduled to be held in Sri Lanka in 1989 was called-off. Later in 1992 the conference which was to be held in Dhaka was called-off after the demolition of the historic Badri Mosque. And finally the ninth SAARC Summit to be held in the Maldives.

US, Britain warn against Yala visit

The United States Embassy in Colombo has warned all US citizens in Sri Lanka and American tourists, not to visit the Yala National Park for security reasons.

Following this a British High Commission spokesman also told The Sunday Times they also would not list Yala among the safe areas for British tourists.

US embassy Political Officer, Scott Delisi said they issued the warning notice as a preventive measure to avert any incidents.

The British and American warnings were issued despite assurances from the Wildlife Department that tight security was provided at Yala and it was safe for visitors.

Travel sources said the warnings could seriously affect the tourist industry as Yala was a showpiece of Sri Lanka's wildlife.

Workshop to be held after row with UN representative

A two-week training programme by World-Intellectual and Property Organisation (WIPO) will be held in Negombo from July 27 with 50 delegates from 24 countries participating.

Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadiragamar last month warned United Nations Resident Representative Arve Ofstad for advising WIPO that Colombo was unsafe for an international conference.

The issue arose after the WIPO wrote to Sri Lanka's Ambassador in Geneva seeking advice on the feasibility of holding a training conference in Colombo after the UN Resident Representative and Resident Co-Ordinator had informed them that Colombo was unsafe.

This training course was held annually from 1984 without a break jointly by the UNDP and the Sri Lankan Government.

After warning the UN Resident Representative the Foreign Minister expressed his grave displeasure and the President's to the United Nations Resident Representative who had advised the specialised agency of the UN against holding a meeting in Colombo without even extending to the host government the elementary courtesy of consulting it before hand.

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