The Sunday TimesFront Page

4th August 1996




Political parties split on ban-LTTE call

By Shelani de Silva
To ban or not to ban the LTTE?

Lankan political parties are in two minds about a possible ban of the LTTE by the government. Some believe a prohibition of the organisation would help curb terrorist activities and others say it would affect a possible peace settlement.

Despite India moving closer to declaring the LTTE an unlawful organisation, Sri Lanka has not yet made up its mind whether it should follow in the footsteps of its neighbour.

The Indian Ministry of Home Affairs in a Gazette notification has asked to show cause in writing as to why it should not be declared an unlawful organisation.

MEP Leader Dinesh Gunawardena said that the government should take a positive stand in banning the LTTE.

"Specially since the G-7 countries along with the USA, have called for an end to terrorism, the government should seriously think about this issue," he said.

Mr. Gunawardena dismissed the theory that once a terrorist group is banned it would not be acceptable at the negotiation table. "This is not correct. Terrorist groups like the PLO and other hard-core groups have come forward for discussions. So saying that if the LTTE is banned it would close the door for peace is not acceptable," he said.

He added that it was pointless for the government to request other countries to stop aid for the LTTE without banning them.

UNP General Secretary Gamini Athukorale said that since the government has not officially made any statement they were not in a position to give their views. "Once it is officially announced we will discuss the matter and then air our views," he said.

Rauf Hakeem of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress said that banning the LTTE is not the solution for the problem. "It's only the symptom of the problem. But the disease will remain. The SLMC strongly feels that the LTTE should be defeated militarily. Banning the LTTE will only mean that they would operate underground, as in the other countries," he said.

The five Tamil political parties, strongly opposed the banning of the LTTE claiming that it was a far too powerful organisation, which has already gained international recognition.

Douglas Devananda of the EPDP said that if the LTTE was functioning as a democratic party abiding by the rule of the law, it would have been a practical move.

"The LTTE is so powerful, the government cannot ban it. The group has expanded widely. Also I personally think that the government has no right to ask the LTTE to lay down arms. We did the same thing, but nothing happened. Ten years ago we laid down our arms and we are still in the same position," he added.

TULF's Joseph Pararajasingham said that the ban would close doors for any discussions and put an end to the peace process.

"The LTTE emerged as a party to represent the oppressed Tamil people and banning them would only prolong the war," he said.

EPRLF Leader Suresh Premachandra said that banning the LTTE would not stop the international help they receive now.

"They have their own offices which are functioning very successfully. The ban would not stop countries like Britain and France from helping them," he said.

TELO spokesman S. Sivajilingam said that the ban would bring a permanent stop to negotiations and it was not be fruitful for the government to take such a move.

"By banning the LTTE foreign help to them would not stop. They will carry on their fund raising campaigns under another name, which they have been doing already."

EROS spokesman S. Sudarkar said that a government ban would be futile as the LTTE is very powerful. "Although India officially called for the ban last week, the LTTE openly campaigned for some parties during the recent elections," he said.

Lanka beefing up laws on mad cow

Special committee may propose ban
By Arshad M. Hadjirin

In the wake of new disclosures about the mad cow disease in Britain local scientists and health officials are preparing a list of British beef products and by-products imported to Sri Lanka to consider a possible ban on them.

Dr. Tissa Vitharana, Advisor to the Minister of Science and Technology told The Sunday Times a committee including top doctors had recently met to examine all beef products imported directly from Britain or through other countries.

Several doctors present at this meeting said a variety of beef products from Britain were coming into Sri Lanka according to Dr. Vitharana, who earlier headed the Medical Research Institute. The committee will hand over a report to the Ministry in a weeks time, detailing the British beef products in Sri Lanka and other products which could carry the disease, which has caused an international scare.

Dr. Vitharana said he was not sure whether there would be a total ban on British beef products, but it all depends on investigations. He said they would watch the situation in Britain where latest disclosures indicate the disease could be passed on from cow to calf and even from infected people to children.

The European Union banned British beef in March this year after Britain acknowledged a potential link between the mad cow disease BSE and a rare but fatal human brain disorder.

A committee told The Sunday Times the possibility of middlemen purchasing British beef which has already depreciated in value and packing it under various other brand names is also being looked into. Britain has said it would destroy more than 100,000 cattle that may be carrying the disease, but the possibility of third parties taking this beef and dumping it in third world countries remains.

It is pointed out that local scientists lack the facilities to conduct a thorough test on all British beef products, but steps are to be taken to provide latest equipment.

"So far we have not recorded a single case of BSE among cows in Sri Lanka, but we have alerted our veterinarians to look out for such cases", Dr. Vitharana said.

Soldier families in desperate search for news

By Shelani de Silva

With the fate of hundreds of soldiers who were at the Mullaitivu camp when the LTTE attacked it, still uncertain, family members are thronging the ICRC headquarters to find out whether any soldiers might still be alive though captured by the LTTE.

The government has still not released the list of soldiers who were killed or missing in action in the Mullaitivu debacle.

The LTTE is maintaining a deafening silence on reports that some soldiers had been taken captive in the daring Mullaitivu attack as the ICRC says inquiries are pouring in from the soldier families.

The ICRC deputy chief Marc Weil said the LTTE had not responded to its letter which queried whether any of the troops from Mullaitivu had been captured.

The ICRC says they received at least 20 complaints a day from family members of the Mullaitivu soldiers.

The possibility of some of the soldiers being taken captive in the Mullaitivu camp attack has not been ruled out by military authorities.

Only around 20 soldiers have returned to other bases or have been rescued so far.

The ICRC also has asked the Army to send a list of soldiers who are 'missing in action', but it is yet to receive a reply.

Mr. Weil said since the ICRC did not have any contacts with the LTTE at present, it is unable to say whether there were any captives.

"It is a very sensitive issue. We have not heard of any captives so far. It is very sad, because we don't have any answer for their families who call over," Mr. Weil said.

Some family members in desperation are visiting the homes of soldiers sent in as reinforcement troops to Mullaitivu. Some even visited the four survivors of the Naval vessel 'Ranaviru' which was sunk off Mullaitivu on July 19.

The ICRC deputy chief also said its office at Kilinochchi had been shifted to Navali.

"We moved out for security reasons. We felt there was no purpose to operate in a place with no civilians," Mr. Weil said.

It is reported that most civilians in the Kilinochchi district have fled the area in view of the current military offensive.

Families of Mullaitivu troops throng ICRC office

'The Sunday Times' learns that the government is preparing to make a statement on the Mullaitivu attack within the next few days.

Opposition parliamentarians have attacked the government for failing to make the actual position about the camp clear even about two weeks after the attack. The last statement made was by the Leader of the House, Ratnasiri Wickramanayake who said that specific details could not be given until the reinforcements reach the camp.

However, it is a known factor that there are no more troops present in Mullaitivu.

Meanwhile the ICRC is yet to get the permission of the defence authorities to resume the transportation of patients by ship from Jaffna to Colombo.

"We did ask the government to permit us to resume the service but there has been no response yet. We are willing to help anytime," an ICRC official said.

The ICRC is planning to open a clinic close to Anuradhapura which would be a permanent place for the civilians. A land for this purpose has been allocated.

Politico bullies booze-busters

by Marcus Joseph

A PA politico walked into the Maharagama Police Station and allegedly sitting on the OIC's chair, abused the police for raiding 'his men'.

A police officer has complained to his senior officers that the threat came when he and a party were at the police station after a raid.

On the instructions of the SP of the Central Vice Squad, a police party led by SI Kavinda Piyasekera and SI Duminda Balasuriya raided a restaurant in the Maharagama area on Friday and are said to have seized 75 bottles of arrack and 23 bottles of beer which were available for sale without a licence. The police also took into custody a person said to be the owner of the restaurant and brought him to the Maharagama Police Station. It is here that the politico walked in surrounded by a gang and allegedly threatened the police party.

SI Piyasekera has made a complaint in the Information Book at the Maharagama Police Station regarding this matter and has brought it to the notice of DIG of the Central Vice Squad.

Diyawadana Nilame to be removed?

By Shane Seneviratne

The Dalada Maligawa's Diyawadana Nilame Niranjan Wijeyaratne said yesterday there were moves to oust him through a parliamentary bill restricting the term of office to five years.

Mr. Wijeyaratne told 'The Sunday Times' he was ready to abide by such a decision if it were taken by Buddhists. But non-Buddhists also would vote on this bill in Parliament and thus he would consider it as a slur on the Dalada Hamuduruwo.

Mr. Wijeyaratne said he was not interested in clinging on to any post. Even if he was removed from the post of Diyawadana Nilame he would continue to serve Buddhists, especially the poor, through the fund he had initiated.

The Diyawadana Nilame also charged that land owned by the Maligawa and four connected Devales had been illegally acquired by some persons. He said the government should appoint a commission to probe this and ensure the land was given back to the temple.

Mr. Wijeyaratne also said there were allegations regarding malpractices in the ownership of elephants of the Devales. It had been the practice to issue permits to keep elephants at the temples, but it had now been discovered that persons outside the temples were owning these elephants.

He said it had been the usual practice to allow the viharayas to take elephants from the orphanage at Pinnawala.

Mr. Wijeyaratne said that in 1977 the Government had taken a decision that elephants from Pinnawala should be given to only temples but now others also had got such elephants. He said this also must be investigated.

SAARC police to check LTTE

Police of all South Asian countries have agreed to support the Lankan Government in its efforts to fight the LTTE, Police Chief W.G. Rajaguru said.

He said SAARC Police Chiefs who met at the BMICH, had agreed on extradition of terrorists or other criminals from each others countries.

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