The Sunday TimesNews/Comment

01st, September 1996




Mirror, Mirror on the wall

Spectators at the India-Sri Lanka cricket match on Wednesday faced a rude shock when Police and Air Force officers forced them to leave their copies of the Midweek Mirror at the gate before entering the Khettarama Stadium.

They were given no forewarning that a newspaper cannot be taken into the grounds nor was such a ban stated on the tickets and no valid reason cited.

Aggravating the problem, security officials adopted double standards by allowing in more than 5,000 complimentary copies of the Midweek Mirror Special match edition before the game started.

Despite the police being informed that printing and distribution of the complimentary edition was done after an agreement reached between the Sponsor Singer Sri Lanka Ltd., and the Midweek Mirror, the obstinate officials refused to allow the paper in after the match began saying it could be burnt inside causing a security threat.

When it was pointed out that score cards and complimentary paper sunshades distributed outside were allowed even after the match started no action was taken to stop such inflammable materials in.

Overstepping their limits some officers threatened to arrest those distributing the paper outside the grounds and one smart Air Force officer even kicked a bundle of newspapers, speaking volumes for the Freedom of the Press enunciated by the People's Alliance government.

Of course this particular August 28th issue of the Midweek Mirror may have irked security officials for it had in its center pages an inside story of torture by police, military and paramilitary groups.

The offending full page article was headlined "Dracula's Diary" and straplined "The Torturers Are Still Among Us."

Asked for an explanation by the media men, the OIC of Maligawatta police said, "I have nothing to talk with you."

One Kumudu Kumar sporting a Singer helper's badge said he was given instructions not to allow the paper in. "We asked him to put us onto those who gave him instructions, but to no avail," said officials of the Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.

No senior security official was available for comment but the match sponsor insisted at the time of the incident that they were not informed about any changes and the complimentary special edition, which had the Singer logo could be distributed outside the grounds as per agreement.

Singer's Marketing Services Manager Asitha Abeysekera who was contacted on his mobile phone while he was at the grounds said he was not informed of changes in security measures and the paper could be distributed.

Protest by Union

The Ceylon Mercantile Industrial and General Workers' Union has protested against Port and Shipping Minister M. H. M. Ashroff for his failure to respond to their inquiries on the move to hand over control of a section of the port to an Australian company and it's associates.

The union has said that it would have to take 'appropriate trade union action' to register its protest against the complete lack of transparency.

Refugees face food crisis

By Arshad M. Hadjirin

The food crisis in Kilinochchi and Vavuniya, where tens of thousands of people are displaced has slightly eased with more than 475 lorries bringing in food during the past three weeks.

But Vavuniya's Government Agent, K. Ganesh said the food sent so far was only one third of the monthly requirement which tops 1,200 lorry loads. The stocks received would not last even for one week and the Government would have to keep on sending.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for ICRC, the only NGO operating in the area, said water and sanitation continued to be the main problem. The ICRC was building temporary toilets, deepening the existing wells trying to make people conserve water. He said it was difficult to cope with the massive influx of refugees and there was a need for other NGOs also to assist the Government in providing basic facilities.

According to the GA, the number of refugees coming into Vavuniya has increased during the past two weeks. As of Friday, 408 families comprising 1,300 people were received, and all of them were placed in one of thirty five school buildings which are fitted with living facilities.

Civilians who arrived at the welfare centers in Vavuniya complained they were asked to surrender their national identity cards, but Mr. Ganesh said some of the refugees seemed to exaggerate their difficulties. He said the ID cards would be returned after scrutiny.

Two surgeons, one chair

Two dental surgeons attend to the needs of patients in the three electorates - Seruwila, Trincomalee and Muttur - with one dental chair in the Trincomalee Hospital's OPD.

One of the two chairs went out of order several months ago. So one surgeon idles when the other attends on a patient.

The dental machine in the dental surgeon's room has also gone out of order and patients who need urgent surgery are forced to go to Kurunegala or Kandy hospital.

Two die, many injured in PA, UNP clashes

Clashes between UNP and PA supporters left two persons dead and several others injured and a special church service at the St. Mary's Church in Negombo, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the UNP was called off following threats to the Parish priest.

The first incident occurred when a group of PA supporters attempted to disrupt the preparations to welcome UNP leader, Ranil Wickremesinghe and several party members, at Kurana Katunayake late Friday night. The gang had tried to attack a UNP politician and his security guard had allegedly opened fire killing one of them.

The UNP leader on Saturday morning had decided against attending the functions in Negombo as he was not well, but that General Secretary of the party, Gamini Athukorale would.

Immediately the group had retaliated killing a UNP supporter, it is alleged.

Another group of PA supporters had entered St. Mary's Church on Main street yesterday afternoon and allegedly threatened the Parish Priest, Rev. Fr. Hugo Palihawadana demanding that the Mass to commemorate the 50 th anniversary called off.

The gang had allegedly damaged the loud speakers, broken up the pandal put up to welcome UNP leaders and pulled down the flags at noon on Saturday Later in the afternoon another masked gang had set fire to tires in front of the church.

The church authorities had closed the doors to prevent any harm to the building.

Despite the commotion hundreds of UNP supporters had gathered within the church premises, but the Police used tear gas to disperse the crowds while the UNP was forced to call off the service.

The UNP had organized a series of religious ceremonies for its 50 th anniversary celebrations in Negombo

A UNP meeting at Matugama earlier this week was also disrupted Police said that at least six persons have been arrested.

Political killings again?

A political gang are alleged to have appeared in two vehicles during nominations for a cooperative election in Piliyandala and killed the brother of one of the nominees, an inquest was told.

The nominee K. Don Karunaratne giving evidence described how an armed gang had appeared during a dispute when he challenged the authenticity of a signature on a nomination handed in for the Gorkapitiya Cooperative Stores.

He said the gang of five carrying pistols and T-56 rifle opened fire during the altercation killing his brother K. Don Chandraratne.

Although Karunaratne and his brothers were not known to be UNP supporters they had been threatened with death by PA supporters, he said later.

Other incidents too have been reported in connection with the nominations to the cooperative stores on August 24, residents said. They alleged that police took no action on complaints made unless it came from certain politicos and said those not involved in party politics should receive adequate protection.

SL calls for Sinhala Buddhist force

By Shyamal Collure

Former SLFP parliamentarian, S.L. Gunasekera on Friday called for the formation of a third force constituted of Sinhala-Buddhists with a view to safeguarding their interests to which the UNP and the PA have turned a blind eye.

Mr. Gunasekera stated that all numerically and seemingly Sinhala-dominated governments that were swept into power since independence had betrayed the Sinhalese by sacrificing their interests for narrow political gains.

"What is the difference between the Sinhalese and Tamils who have been reduced destitute owing to the ongoing terrorist activities? Many of these Tamil victims have either directly or indirectly assisted and supported the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Otherwise the LTTE couldn't have amassed such a hold. By contrast, the Sinhala refugees had at one time fought neck to neck alongside the Sri Lankan army to stamp out terrorism. But what is their sorry plight today?", Mr. Gunasekera queried.

"No voice is raised today of the numerous hardships faced by the Sinhalese. No MP talks about them. When we highlight these injustices, we are branded as racists. But surprisingly the same yard-stick does not apply to the Tamils who are fighting for their so-called rights based on the mythical notion of 'Traditional Homeland'", he added.

Mr. Gunasekera said in Kebethigollewa (situated in 'Raja Rata') alone, about twenty smaller Sinhala villages had been destroyed by the LTTE. "As a result, around 2,500 Sinhalese live in refugee camps that are each a little bigger than a writing-table. There is only one doctor for the entire Kebethigollewa Hospital and unfortunately he too is an Assistant Medical Practitioner. To make matters worse, even he works only till 1.00 p.m. as he leaves for Padaviya thereafter for fear of LTTE attacks", he said.

"Moreover, there were 3,362 Sinhala families in Welioya earlier of which about half had either died or fled the area due to the Tamil guerrilla war. The six government schools in and around the area had only 38 teachers with an acute shortage of trained teachers. The volunteer teachers in such villages are paid only Rs. 1,250; in other words Rs. 40 per day while Minister Thondaman's labourers are paid a daily wage of over Rs. 80", he said.

Folly in a fit of pique, says Ponna

ACTC leader, Kumar Ponnambalam has warned the Government that banning the LTTE would turn a difficult situation into a hopeless one.

In a strongly worded letter to President Kumaratunga, Mr. Ponnambalam said he believed the Government was contemplating an act of folly in a fit of pique after the Mullaitivu massacre.

The letter states:

"There is widespread speculation that your Government proposes to ban the LTTE after the Singer Cricket matches are over. This letter is to point out the folly of doing so.

Forty years ago, in 1956, the Sinhala Only Act created a political watershed in this country that alienated the Tamils to such an extent and ruined the country so much, that successive Governments have been desperately trying to put the clock back.

In 1978 the LTTE was banned by legislation and, having achieved nothing, the Government had to eat humble pie and have that law repealed the following year.

In 1983 the Sixth Amendment was passed to crush Tamil aspirations and stifle the fundamental rights of the Tamils of the freedoms of speech, expression, peaceful assembly and association. It achieved nothing, as Tamils continued to espouse the cause of a separate state. This law has always been a dead letter.

In 1996, in a fit of pique, after the Mullaitivu massacre and the Kilinochchi freeze, your Government is contemplating the ban of the LTTE. The negative consequences will far outweigh the positive consequences, if indeed there are any.

With a universal admission staring in your face, that the LTTE is a sine qua non to any negotiated political solution to the Tamil problem, by banning the LTTE your Government would only be proving that you really never wanted the "peace process" to commence, because even for a meaningful start of the "peace process" the LTTE must be present from day one.

Even the Tamil political parties with whom you are now talking, will not talk with you after the banning of the LTTE, because it has been their public position that not only is the LTTE necessary for a political solution, but also that they will not ask the LTTE to put down their arms as the Tamil parties themselves feel cheated, because they have achieved nothing during the 9 years after having put down their own arms!

Cheap acts of bravado will not bring peace to the country you rule. Please do not make a difficult situation a hopeless one.

Continue to the News/Comment page 2 - Local Govt. polls postponed again, Kandy election list doctored charges officer, DUN(L)F reviews its position, Torture victim dies after 7 years, Farmers protest against Nestle Lanka, Liquor dealers want govt. Surveyor to verify distances, Woman with many names, Woman with mines jailed, Watch out for buffalo meat, Shady land deals, Air Lanka - Late as usual, President's fund foots the bill

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