The Sunday TimesFront Page

6th October 1996




"Dont worry mother. I am going to serve the country. It is my duty"; a brave police woman tells her mother after undergoing commando training at the Mahiyangana Police Training Camp. Pic. by Sanjeewa Niroshana

LTTE hires boats for refugee coup

Govt. Takes counter measures

The government has moved to prevent the LTTE from souring Indo-Lanka relations over the problem of refugees in the north.

Defence Secretary Chandananda de Silva said the government had taken up the issue of refugees fleeing from the North to Indian shores with the Tamil Nadu authorities and New Delhi.

Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar who met his Indian counterpart, Inder Kumar Gujral, at the United Nations in New York recently explained the situation in Kilinochchi and the refugee situation. Minister said the LTTE was trying to regain Tamil Nadu support by forcing the northern refugees to flee across the Palk Straits.

Police Chief W.B Rajaguru said there were intelligence reports the LTTE was trying to turn the refugee crisis into an international issue and even pumping money into an operation to smuggle refugees across the Palk Straits.

The government has learnt according to diplomatic channels that 2520 refugees have arrived in South India between July 31 and September 23. There is strong evidence the LTTE has forced most of them to go and even paid the boat charges.

Government sources said that while Indian authorities had agreed to look after the refugees already there, they had stressed that steps should be taken to stem the flow.

In a preventive move, naval surveillance has been stepped up by both countries, while the government is intensifying efforts to persuade the refugees from Kilinochchi to move to camps in Vavuniya.

The Defence Secretary said the number of refugees leaving at present was low compared to the influx of 1990 when more than 100,000 people moved to Tamil Nadu.

He said the government continued to maintain facilities which were provided in the Vavuniya town where some 125,000 refugees were expected to arrive. He said they had information that some 66,000 refugees who were heading towards Vavuniya had been prevented from entering the area by the LTTE at Omanthai.

Meanwhile, an international relief agency which did not want to be named said civilians would face severe hardships, if medical and food supplies were not rushed immediately to areas where the refugees live.

He said more than 30,000 people had taken medical treatment at Akkaraiyan last month, and another 20,000 at Mallawi where temporary hospitals were set up after civilians fled the Kilinochchi district in July. Generally, there are nearly 2,000 people warded at these centres.

PER bill: President explains how it works

The Public Enterprise Rehabilitation Bill would apply only to enterprises privatised before the enactment of the Public Enterprise Reform Commission (PERC) Law, President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga said in a statement.

“An amendment to this effect will be moved at the committee stage of the Bill in Parliament,” the statement said.

The law would not apply to private companies, unlike the previous Business Undertakings Acquisition Act of 1971.

“The law does not deal with situations where an enterprise closes down due to strikes and labour unrest,” the statement added.

“It would only apply to enterprises that have failed and have demonstrated to do so, by a cessation or substantial reduction of its operations, followed by loss of employment or non-payment of wages to employees,” the President said.

It is only if both these conditions with the first followed by the second are present that a privatised public enterprise would qualify for vesting in the state, by presidential order.

“The President cannot arbitrarily decide to test a privatized public enterprise,” the statement said.

The law would operate in two stages. In the first stage, the administration and management of a privatised enterprise would be taken over for a period of four months by Presidential Order. During this time a competent authority would be appointed, who will re-commence the business activities of the enterprise, where necessary infusing new capital and re-employ the workers. The government would meet the costs of management and administration during this time.

During this phase there was room for negotiations and a satisfactory settlement with the purchasers.

If there was no settlement the second phase would take effect, and the Presidential Order would be placed before Parliament.

If this is not done within four months, the order will cease to be operative and the management will go back to the Board of Directors of the company, the statement said.

If Parliament approves the order, the shares will vest in the government. During the four months under competent authority the company would be entitled to compensation for loss of profits, if any. If the shares are then re-vested in the government, shareholders would be entitled to compensations decided by a compensation tribunal.

The statement said the closure of the Fertilizer Corporation (Hunupitiya), The Hardware Corporation (Yakkala and Enderamulla), Mattegama Textile Mills (Katugampola), Kahatagaha Mines (Dodangaslanda), Kantale Sugar Factory (Kantale), and the partial closure of the Veyangoda Textile Mills, had resulted from privatisation process of the last government.

The President said the situation had demanded corrective action. “My government is a responsible and honest one. We cannot permit any longer, the irresponsible acts of the last government, to continue to destroy the national economy and affect adversely many thousands of employees,” the statement said. Such intervention by government was not without precedent, the statement pointed out.

ICRC campaign against mines

By Shelani de Silva

Head of the ICRC Mr. Peytirgnent has called on the government and the LTTE to work towards a total ban on the use of anti-personnel mines in any kind of armed conflict.

The call came in the wake of the international conference in Ottawa last week, where the President of the ICRC, Mr. Cornelio Sommaruga spoke on the banning of anti-personnel mines.

Mr, Peytirgnent stressed the importance of all parties to a conflict reaching a consensus or giving up the use of mines for the sake of humanity.

“I hope that with worldwide dissemination of the Ottawa conference objectives and endeavours, governments, guerrilla movements and the public would be made aware of the absolute necessity to move towards a total ban on the use of anti-personnel mines,” he said.

He added that a knowledge of the dreadful effects these deadly devices bring about should lead to a major awareness of the need to ban these mines. “It should be a priority among all decision makers and among the people themselves, who are potential victims as they go about their work in the conflict areas,” he said.

According to ICRC President in Geneva, the ICRC along with the Red Cross and Red Crescent movements has launched for the first time an international media campaign seeking to stigmatise anti-personnel mines and call for their elimination. Global efforts to reach the public on this issue had been very effective. A recent poll of public opinion in 21 countries shows support for a total ban by 60 to 92 percent.

Foreign NGOs bugged

International NGOs believe their telephone lines are being tapped to monitor what information they give out to media, human rights and other organisations.

Representatives of NGOs told The Sunday Times they had become aware that their telephone lines including their private lines were being tapped.

“It is extremely annoying to find that your telephones have been bugged. This should not happen,: said an irate officer of a world renowned NGO.

In July it came to light that telephones of journalists and top opposition politicians were tapped by the National Intelligence Bureau with hi-tech equipment bought from France.

Telephone tapping is regarded as a blatant violation of the right to privacy and democratic freedoms. Though governments often justify this on the basis of national security, it is often done for party political or personal gains.

Policemen from NE

The government has started recruiting policemen from the Northern and the Eastern provinces, Police chief W. B. Rajaguru said on Friday.

He said about 50 policemen had been recruited from Jaffna, Vavuniya and Batticaloa areas recently and more police stations would be opened in the north soon.

Ranil urges action on prisoner swap

Opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe reacting to a letter believed to have been sent to him by security forces personnel in LTTE captivity has called for urgent action on intrinsic humanitarian merits if the letter is genuine.

The letter is purported to have been sent to Mr. Wickremesinghe from Commander A.K. Boyagoda and 21 other service personnel from an LTTE prison camp in Mannar after the rebels had expressed willingness to exchange the 22 prisoners for three of its women cadres in government custody.

Mr. Wickremesinghe in a letter to Deputy Defence Minister Anuruddha Ratwatte said: “I am fully aware of and sensitive to the national security considerations and issues of broader principle that are involved when formulating a policy of prisoner/captive exchanges. In the event that the letter is found to be genuine I would suggest that you decide on this case after factoring in its intrinsic humanitarian merits.”

Deputy Defence Minister Anuruddha Ratwatte, commenting on the LTTE’s exchange offer said the three women LTTE prisoners whom the rebels wanted back had told the ICRC that they did not want to be released.

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