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Private secretaries to certain Ministers are alleged to be trying to side-step or defy regulations that they should resign from their posts if they wish to contest in the coming local polls, political sources said yesterday.
Public Administration Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake has proposed that the rule which applies to Public Servants should also apply to private secretaries Ñ they should quit their posts and not use state facilities such as vehicles and telephones for the polls campaign.
But the Minister's proposal has met with strong resistance from some of the private secretaries who were planning to contest the polls. They have made representations through their ministers.
If the private secretaries quit the posts they would be forced to give up the use of telephones, vehicles and other facilities during the campaign and also face the risk of losing their posts in the event of a defeat.
PA General Secretary, D. M. Jayaratne earlier told The Sunday Times stern action would be taken against those using state machinery for election work.
Troops yesterday consolidated positions in areas captured west of Vavuniya after completing the first stage of a major military offensive to secure a route to the north for easy civilian movement.
Military officials said troops were consolidating positions in areas captured without resistance from the LTTE after advancing more than 22 kilometres in Operation Edibala launched on Independence Day.
According to reports from the north, columns of troops advancing from different flanks had reached the Thampanai area, about 18 kilometers west of Vavuniya and troops were close to the Madhu junction. Troops who advanced from Puwarasankulam on the Mannar-Vavuniya road and those who moved from Chettikulam on the Madawachchiya-Mannar road have met at Paraiya Alam Kulam junction.
Military communiques have refrained from commenting on areas where the offensive is in progress except to state that the operation is in the Wanni region.
Advancing troops only met sporadic and mild resistance from the LTTE upto Friday.
The fresh offensive has triggered an exodus of refugees into army-controlled areas in Vavuniya and areas further north controlled by the LTTE.
Some of those fleeing were people who had been displaced in the previous offensives.
International relief agencies working in Vavuniya told The Sunday Times that civilians who were the ones to come towards Vavuniya have given up any such ideas with the current operation and that, they are now seeking refuge elsewhere.
Relief agencies said they were unable to move towards the fleeing civilians or assist them.
Meanwhile, the LTTE which has pulled out from several areas in the face of Edibala has also asked the people to get away, residents said. The LTTE claims that its men were pulled out for strategic reasons and counter offensive would be launched, they said.
The LTTE yesterday for the first time launched an artillery attack on the Vavuniya town killing two Police constables, injuring four others and causing threat to security forces.
The attack launched shortly after midnight on Friday, was directed towards the Police Barracks close to the Air Force units near the Vavuniya-Kandy Road.
Military sources said they believe the artillery guns had been obtained by the LTTE during the attack on Mullativu in July last year.
Soon after the attack began, the Air Force evacuated its choppers and other aircraft to Anuradhapura for safety reasons. Two Police trucks were partially damaged in the attack which lasted about half an hour. In the wake of the attack, security forces yesterday traced a couple of unexploded shells around the police barracks.
The attack was seen as an attempt to put pressure on the security forces who have concluded the first phase of their fresh offensive "Edibala" and are poised for the next phase of the operation.
Meanwhile in the eastern province two children were severely injured when a booby trap exploded in the Kiran area on Friday. The casualties were taken to the Polonnaruwa hospital.
New Democratic United National Lalith Front (NDUNLF) in a letter to the Secretary to the PA., D. M. Jayaratne has affirmed that it will not take part in any political activity at the forthcoming local polls.
The letter, by the Secretary of the NDUNLF in response to the letter dated second February by D. M. Jayaratne further states that there is no reason for the party to change the decision they have taken in not contesting the local polls.
The NDUNLF after many discussions decided not to contest the forthcoming local government elections. This decision was taken by the party as there was no satisfactory response by the People's Alliance government on the election pledged that they are yet to fulfill including the abolishing of the executive presidency and the much-talked political devolution.
NDUNLF MP, Ravi Karunanayake told "The Sunday Times" on Friday that the key factor for the party to take this decision is not merely because of the unsatisfactory number of seats given to them by the PA but also because the PA has failed to give a satisfactory answer to the question of unkept election promises by them.
"They were all contributory factors to the decision made by the Politburo", he said.
However, "The Sunday Times" learns that the party will have no restrictions on their members who will be contesting independently.
Catholic devotees have appealed to the Commissioner of elections to reconsider the decision to hold local elections on March 27 which is Holy Thursday.
They have pointed out that election victory celebrations and sometimes even violent incidents take place on the day after the polls, which would be Good Friday.
Sometimes even a curfew has been declared on the day after polls and such a move this time would prevent thousands of Christians from attending solemn ceremonies on what they consider as the holiest day of the year.
The groups have appealed to the Commissioner to advance or postpone the polls date by two or three days to accommodate the wishes of the Christian Community.
Meanwhile Commissioner for Elections Dayananda Dissanayake, when contacted by The Sunday Times on Friday said that be has not received any letter from any Catholic group.
"Anyway, we still haven't decided on the election day yet, It will be announced on the 12th after nominations close," he said.
The pirating of electricity increased rapidly after the power crisis last year, with more than Rs. 20 million worth of electricity connection being obtained in this manner, the CEB has revealed.
Chairman, Arjun Deraniyagala, said pirating had increased after the power crisis as the public had more access to the electricity wires and are able to tamper with them.
The chairman said fines of Rs 5,000 irrespective of the value of the electricity were being imposed on such persons and the supply disconnected. Otherwise the suspect is arrested and remanded and no bail allowed.
To prevent the dreaded power cuts this year the CEB has decided to provide some 1000 million units -a fifth of the country's energy requirements Ñ through the more expensive thermal power generators, officials said.
They said the generation capacity of the hydro power stations was likely to fall from 4000 million units to 2800 between January and June this year and the shortfall would have to be met by thermal power.
CEB chairman Arjun Deraniyagala said thermal power generation was costly but he was confident it would help avoid power cuts and thus the long term benefits would be greater.
He said the power situation was being closely monitored and regularly reviewed in consultation with engineers and no arbitrary decisions were being taken by anyone.
Stressing that even short duration power cuts would be political and economic setbacks, Mr. Deraniyagala said. Sri Lanka's power generation system was over dependent on rainfall with hydro power plants providing some 85% of the requirement. To make the country less dependent on the whether, the CEB was encouraging private firms to generate their own thermal power and it was hoped some 400 million units would be provided through this.
The Elections Commissioner Dayananda Dissanayake is likely to take a decision by tomorrow regarding the legal dispute over M. S. Sellasamy's position in the Ceylon Workers Congress.
Last week the Commissioner said that as far as he was concerned Mr. Sellasamy was still the Gen. Secretary of the CWC until the court decided on the validity of his expulsion. But CWC Leader S.Thondaman challenged the ruling and the Court of Appeal last Wednesday directed Mr. Dissanayake to reconsider the position.
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