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The United States yesterday virtually turned down an appeal by the LTTE to mediate in Sri LankaÕs ethnic conflict saying it was not the right party to intervene and this was not the right time to do so.
US Embassy Political Affairs Officer, Scott Delisi told The Sunday Times it was unlikely the US would intervene, even if the government and LTTE agree to lay down arms and begin talks.
Responding to allegations by the LTTE that the US had changed its policy and was now openly supporting government forces, the Embassy spokesman said any training provided was relatively of low magnitude and has hardly any bearing on the North-East war.
The LTTE in the latest issue of its official organ "Viduthalai Pulihal" (Liberation Tigers) had appealed to the US Government to get involved as mediators to resolve the ethnic conflict.
The LTTE also claimed that a special US elite force has come to Sri Lanka to train the Lankan forces and that the US was running a campaign to brand the Tamil Tigers as terrorists. The LTTE also alleged that the US had deviated from its position of barring no arms deals with Sri Lanka.
But the US Embassy spokesman said the LTTE claims seem to be based on inaccurate information. He insisted the US was not selling "destructive and dangerous weapon" to Lankan forces nor was it aiding them in fighting the Tigers.
Mr. Delisi said the US had long-standing connections with the Sri Lankan Army, even before the ethnic war broke out, and that from its point of view the training sessions would have hardly any bearing on the war.
The US spokesman flatly denied allegations by the LTTE that the US had joined hands with the Lankan Government in plotting against the LTTE. He said the US had not deviated from its policies on Sri Lanka.
The LTTE organ had said the US had the potential to bring forward constructive solutions to solve the ethnic crisis and that it should not by any means tilt towards the Sri Lankan Government, but be unbiased and help fulfill the aspirations of the Tamils.
The LTTE also allege that recent acts of the US were contrary to its peace policy. It warned that aiding the Lankan forces would only worsen the conflict.
The Vice Chairman of the Vienna based International Press Institute (IPI), Mr. Cushrow Irani and a representative of the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) will be arriving in Sri Lanka shortly to study the criminal defamation trial against the Editor of The Sunday Times, now proceeding before Colombo High Court Judge Upali de Z Gunawardena.
Mr. Irani is the Editor and Managing Director of The Statesman newspaper. He is also a lawyer and one time Chairman of IPI.
The ICJ will also be sending a representative shortly to Colombo to monitor the trial.
The Editor is indicted with criminal defamation charges, under the Penal Code and the Press Council Law by the Attorney-General following a complaint made by Mrs. Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga.
At the last days hearing the Attorney-General made an application to hear the trial on a day-to-day basis. The senior counsel for the defence told the trial judge that in such an event the Editor will be undefended at the trial because lawyers of his choice would be unable to appear for him as they have undertaken work in other Courts and the Editor would have to conduct his own case.
President Chandrika Kumaratunga has told PA organisers to be prepared to face local polls "in the very near future".
President Kumaratunga told party organisers, summoned to a meeting at Kalawewa last Sunday that the local bodies would be dissolved soon and that they could not continue to postpone local elections. PA sources said the President delivered a clear message to the organisers to get ready for these elections.
The President, at the meeting, is reported to have queried whether the organisers were confident in winning the elections. A Puttalam district organiser said he would ensure a PA victory in his area.
Meanwhile Deputy Home Affairs Minister Lakshman Kiriella, commenting on the delay in holding the local polls said that "even the UNP had the local polls two years after it came into office in 1977. Now we are faced with a similar situation,"" he added.
Meanwhile, the PA has decided to call for explanations from 38 party organisers who failed to attend the Kalawewa meeting.
Analysts see the President's announcement of a salary hike for public servants, at a public rally in Ratnapura as a harbinger for an impending election.
Government has denied permission to NGOs and other relief agencies except ICRC to set up relief camps at places close to Kilinochchi where thousands of civilians are arriving everyday following Operation Sathjaya , a spokesman for an NGO said.
It is three weeks since the last food convoys went past the Thandikulam checkpoint. Kilinochchi district has hardly any food or people. "Fleeing civilians have sought refuge at Mallavi, Mankulam and Akkaraiyankulam, and we are denied permission for setting up camps there", a spokesman for FORUT said.
Last week, except for the ICRC, all other NGOs were not allowed to set up camps or deploy their officers to assist the fleeing refugees. Over 160,000 people have been displaced.
Medicines Sans Frontiers (MSF), which gives medical assistance to civilians was not granted permission even after repeated appeals to the government to establish their medical camps site at Mallavi, according to a spokesman for the organisation.
Mr. Peter Meijer, Resident Representative for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) also said that they had to move towards their closest base camp at Madhu when Operation Sathjaya broke out three weeks ago. However he said not a single refugee turned up at Madhu.
A spokesman for Scandinavian NGO said that he had confirmation from the government agents of Vavuniya and Kilinochchi that no food items have entered the Kilinochchi district for the past three weeks and nearly 160 vehicles are parked on both sides of the Thandikulam pass awaiting the greenlight from the Ministry of Defence.
Bjorn Hagen, Resident Representative for Red Barna also said that they are not operating in the Kilinochchi area. Other spokesmen for NGOs said that the government's decision, not to grant permission for NGOs to set up relief camps alongside the Kilinochchi district borders has baffled them.
Amidst cracks within the People's Alliance and threats from Tamil parties to withdraw their support to the government, President Chandrika Kumaratunga has assured to look into the grievances of Tamil parties immediately after she returns from South Korea.
With growing criticism from the DUN(L)F, SLMC and boycotting of voting at the emergency debate by four LSSP MPs, the PA had apparently turned towards the support of the Tamil parties to maintain its stability in Parliament.
"The Sunday Times" learns that on the eve of the emergency debate, Justice Minister G.L. Peiris had appealed to the EPDP which has nine seats in Parliament to vote with the government at the extension of the emergency.
On Friday, Minister Peiris met representatives of five Tamil parties again and asked them what their party grievances were. He told them not to lose faith in the devolution package.
EPDP Leader, Douglas Devananda who has publicly threatened to withdraw his party's support to the government, has been assured by the President that immediate attention will be given to the issue raised.
"The Sunday Times" learns that the PA had wanted two of its Ministers, A.H.M. Fowzie and Srimani Athulathmudali, who were out of the country, to return to attend the emergency debate, but they did not come in time.
Over the week, SLMC Leader M.H.M. Ashraff at the PA Parliamentary group meeting criticised the government, saying there was discontent everywhere.
Three days later, DUN(L)F member Ravi Karunanayake, in another stunning indictment on the PA, called on the government to lift what he called the "Senseless censorship" and warned against self-strangulation of the economy"
Earlier, DUN(L)F Leader, Ms. Athulathmudali herself had criticised the government for its failure to keep to its promises, including the abolition of the Executive Presidency.
In a related development the Communist Party which holds four of the 113 seats in the coalition, in a hard-hitting statement, has criticised the government for failing to implement the workers" charter. In the wake of criticism from PA's constituent parties, moves are underway to offer a cabinet portfolio to Arumugam Thondaman, the grandson of CWC leader and Minister S. Thondaman. The CWC's eight of the nine members in parliament sit with the opposition but vote with the PA.
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