The Sunday TimesNews/Comment

5th January 1997




25 soldiers in brush with death in Batticaloa

By Ratnapala Gamage

A bus carrying 25 soldiers narrowly escaped a massive landmine set off by the LTTE at Pilliyaradi, Urani in the Batticaloa district yesterday afternoon, a military spokesman said.

The bus was going towards Eravur, when the explosion took place, a few metres away from the bus. According to military sources in the area, the bus was going along the left side of the road when the mine was set off.

The explosion created an 8 foot crater and due to the impact of the explosion, the bus ran off the road injuring two soldiers.

As the soldiers jumped off the bus, Tigers has fired at the bus, but troops retaliated forcing the LTTE cadres who were hiding in a paddy field to retreat.

A subsequent search revealed that the wire connected to the battery had been drawn some 600 metres away through a paddy field. The mine had been planted more than a metre underground.

A senior military officer said that they believe the mine had been planted two days before the incident.

"Casualties would have been very high if the mine was exploded under the buss," he said.

Meanwhile five Special Task Force commandos were killed 13 injured when terrorists ambushed a group of security personnel north of Kokkuththoduvai, near Welioya, last evening.

The soldiers were returning after an ambush in which they killed three terrorists.

In Batticaloa three more soldiers were killed in two incidents.

Bulegoda bankrupt, says JVP

By Shyamal Collure

JVP General Secretary Tilvin Silva has accused Sri Lanka Progressive Front leader Ariya Bulegoda of carrying out a sinister plot to suppress the Peramuna.

He said Mr. Bulegoda's complaints of JVP death threats to him, were baseless and a sign of the latter's political bankruptcy.

Recently a group led by Mr. Bulegoda held a convention in Matara and formed a new party known as the People's Liberation Solidarity Front. Claiming that a large section of the JVP had joined the new front, they decided that Nihal Galappathi who represents the JVP should be expelled from the party and Parliament.

In an angry reaction Mr. Silva rejected Mr. Bulegoda's claims as nonsense. He said no member of the JVP had joined the new front and Mr. Bulegoda's party had no legal right to seek the expulsion of Mr. Galappathi from Parliament.

Referring to the death-threats alleged to have been made by the JVP on Mr. Bulegoda, Mr. Silva said the JVP, being a democratic political party, would not stoop to such levels.

"Some people seek refuge in charges of this nature to cover up their political bankruptcy. Mr. Bulegoda's statement of death-threats alleged to have been made by our party is part of a sinister plot by our rivals to suppress the JVP," he said.

Mr. Silva also said that the decision to expel Hambantota District MP Nihal Galappathi from the SLPF was completely arbitrary and unwarranted.

Meanwhile, the petition submitted by Mr. Galappathi to the Supreme Court challenging his expulsion, will be supported before a bench of three judges tomorrow.

Somavansa back to the fold rent with division

By Minna Thaheer

Former JVP leader Somavansa Amarasinghe is due to return to Sri Lanka soon but with the party divided it is uncertain what his position would be, political sources said.

Mr. Amarasinghe who left in the aftermath of the reign of terror was first thought to be in India and then in London.

Commenting on reports of Mr. Amarasinghe's return, a JVP official who did not wish to be named said party rank and file would not be keen on having a leader who did not stand and fight with them in a time of crisis. Thus Mr. Amarasinghe's return at this stage would be "Inadvisable and inopportune", he added.

At the recent Wijeweera anniversary meeting, JVP General secretary Telvin Silva is reported have said, "We are functioning well under the present leaders. "

Give land to poor refugees - EPRLF

By S.S. Selvanayagam

Thousands of weak and poor people are suffering horribly in Vavuniya's prisonlike refugee camps and they should be allocated lands to settle down just as the government did for Muslims from Jaffna, a Tamil party has appealed.

EPRLF General Secretary Suresh Premachandran told The Sunday Times that even pregnant mothers and ailing old people were facing inhuman restrictions and rules in the camps.

Mr. Premachandran who recently visited Vavuniya on a fact-finding mission said more than 8,000 people, were being kept in the camps, some of them being forcibly detained.

"It is several months since the Tamils who came from the North were detained in the Vavuniya camps. Many Tamil political leaders have written letters about it. More than 20 MPs have gone there to check on the conditions, but little has been done for them. The situation has only worsened.

"They are exposed to the elements without proper toilets and other facilities. It is not Tigers who are suffering in the camps but the weak and the poor. On the other hand those with money can get out of the camps by paying some agents, Mr. Premachandran charged.

The EPRLF said the Defence Ministry had sent a circular specifying those who are eligible to be released but according to that, 75% of the people could not leave.

Mr. Premachandran pointed out a number of instances where the refugees were undergoing harassment. In one case, there was a family with three children. The mother who was pregnant and the children would be allowed to leave the camp for a month but the husband would be held back.

In another case an old man who came from the camp to Colombo for medical treatment had been in a coma for two weeks.

"There was no one to look after him. His son who was in the camp had tried to go to Colombo with the doctor's certificate but was not allowed to do so. The patient died in hospital and the son was allowed to go to the funeral only after the death certificate was shown", he said.

Land scandal in city

By Kumaradasa Wagista

Sixteen influential people including politicians and rich businessmen are abusing state land in Colombo and have defaulted in lease payments to the tune of a staggering Rs. 380 million, CMC member has revealed.

A full list of the names of these persons, including a former Deputy Minister and a current CMC member has been handed over to Mayor K. Ganeshalingam along with the whereabouts of the land leased to them and the amount due.

Councillor W. Ariyaratne slamming the CMC's delay and indifference in this matter, said of this colossal sum was recovered from the capitalist businessmen and other powerful people, the CMC could reduce the tax burdens on the poor people of the city.

He called on the CMC to take immediate and effective legal action to recover this vast sum of public money.

Talks to settle Coke strike

The Labour Commissioner has invited the Pure Beverages (Coca-Cola) management and Ceylon Mercantile Union officials for talks to settle a three week long strike at the company which has caused a severe shortage of its products.

Pure Beverages Managing Director Ana Punchihewa told The Sunday Times that company officials would be meeting the Labour Commissioner to resolve the issue. He admitted that strike by the workers had crippled production and severe shortages were caused.

CMU officials also confirmed they would be taking part in tomorrow's discussion.

Kumar leaves: posers remain

General Secretary of International Alert, Kumar Rupasinghe left for England on January 1, informed sources said yesterday.

Mr. Rupasinghe was in Sri Lanka reportedly to mediate for a negotiated settlement.

However, in a recent interview with "The Sunday Times" Mr. Rupasinghe said that as long as there is deep misunderstanding negotiations should not be held.

He also denied that his organisation was involved in any mediation process between the government and LTTE.

Meanwhile "The Sunday Times" reliably learns that the LTTE is prepared to have discussions with the government, with someone at a ministerial level negotiating on behalf of the government.

EAP buys the Savoy

The Savoy, one of the most popular cinemas in Colombo has been bought by the EAP group.

An official of the new owners said the cinema will be closed for a month for renovation and top English films would be screened thereafter.

Delhi bar to host Desmond

The Bar Association of India is hosting International Bar Association President Desmond Fernando PC to a reception in his honour tomorrow in New Delhi.

Mr. Fernando will also address members of the Indian Bar today.

Paint war at President's College

By Chamintha Tilakaratna

Students at President's College, Maharagama, one of the largest and important schools in the area, are caught in a cross-fire due to a major dispute among the staff, including the principal.

Classes have been regularly disrupted due to disputes while classes for students above year nine did not resume as scheduled on Thursday fearing further trouble, parents allege.

There has also been complaints of threatening students and teachers abusing them in bad language, insulting the teachers, misleading the parents, framing the teachers, depriving the students from sitting for examinations in school.

Two senior teachers who claimed to be victimised told "The Sunday Times" that they were recently daubed with green paint.

When the two teachers, Ms. U. Yapa and Ms. S. Ranasinghe, were coming out of the office, followed by the teacher in charge of discipline in the school, an unidentified man had thrown green paint on the teachers. The teachers claimed that it was a planned attack.

"In October 95, I received an anonymous letter saying that I don't take care of the science classes properly and requesting the principal to take some action regarding this, for I was then in charge of the A/L science section. I was told then that women are not capable of handling things in a boys" school and someone else was taken for the post," the teacher alleged.

She had written a letter to the Director of Education regarding the replacement since it has to go through the principal when she had presented it to him he had torn it to pieces.

"Then I went to meet Chief Minister Susil Premajayantha and he said that an inquiry will be held, yet we have not received our due positions," she added.

Principal, R.A. Premaratna when contacted by "The Sunday Times" said: "I believe that the teachers put paint on themselves to take pictures, got them published, and complained to the Chief Minister with the sole intention of insulting and giving me a bad reputation, as a way of revenge."

The acting principal and a Director of Education said that everything is fine now, as did the Chief Minister of the Western Province, to whom the teachers complained and asked for a fair inquiry, for according to the teachers no action has been taken since then.

The posts of the two teachers who were harassed, Ms. Yapa and Ms. Ranasingha has not been filled.

The principal said that he was brought in by the Education Department to take care of the problems facing the school and in order to do the job right he had to be a little harsh. He denied that there were any strikes by the students.

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