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An LTTE funeral: Tamil Tigers pay their last respects to three of their ‘captains’ killed in an STF ambush at Wellawali in Batticaloa last Tuesday. The cremation took place at Thandiadi. Pic by Lakshman Gunatilleke
Tamil guerrillas will insist on third party mediation for future talks with the government and want two conditions met before negotiations take place to end the ethnic conflict, a senior member of the LTTE’s political wing said.
Shanker Master told The Sunday Times in an exclusive interview in a Tiger stronghold of the Batticaloa district that his movement needed third party mediation as they felt the Tamil people had been betrayed by all successive governments and had no confidence in talking directly to them.
The LTTE has for the first time insisted it wants third party mediation for any future talks with the government.
But, the LTTE representative did not indicate the countries or organisations which would be acceptable as third party mediators.
The government has said the LTTE should lay down arms and a specific time frame should be fixed for any negotiations.
Mr. Shanker’s comments come in the wake of number of recent offers from various governments, organisations and individuals to mediate in the crisis with the latest offer coming last Monday from the visiting Palestinian President, Yasser Arafat.
The LTTE representative said the government would also have to meet two pre-conditions if talks are to take place. He said government troops must withdraw from current positions in the north and return to their former bases held before the ‘Riviresa Operation’ in which the Jaffna peninsula was captured.
He said the second condition was that the government must accept the LTTE as the sole representative of the Tamil people.
“We like to find a lasting solution through a dialogue. If this is not possible we will be compelled to continue our armed struggle,” Mr Shanker said.
“We have not officially been informed about the peace package. We have learnt about it only through reports in the press.
“However, we doubt that the government will carry the package through. There is no doubt that in the event of the LTTE rejecting this package the Tamil people will also totally reject it,” he said.
Civilians in the area also indicated that they were unaware of the government’s devolution package.
DUNLF leader and Transport Minister Srimani Athulathmudali says she prefers to ignore comments made by Industrial Development Minister C.V. Gooneratne regarding her alleged failure to support the government during the local election campaign.
Ms. Athulathmudali told The Sunday Times she was out of the country from March 7 and returned only after elections were over and did not have anything to do with any campaigning.
“I need not run behind the silly things Mr. Gooneratne says. He may be worried about his own popularity,” she said.
The NDUNLF leader was reacting to comments made by Mr. Gooneratne about the elections during a press conference held at his Ministry this week. Mr. Gooneratne accused Ms. Athulathmudali of supporting an independent group which fielded many NDUNLF members and called on the government to take action against her.
Another Antonov 32 was involved in a minor mishap while it was landing at the Ratmalana airport on Friday.
As the aircraft was taxiing into the airport a tyre had burst, but the pilot had been able to avert an accident. The flight was carrying security personnel on leave from Jaffna to Colombo.
Confusion gripped residents of the city and suburbs yesterday, with the supply of water being suspended until today, due to a dye being released into the water from a garment factory in the Biyagama zone.
National Water Supply and Drainage Board Vice Chairman M. T. Wijetilleke said, “We found out that a dye which was being released from one of the BOI factories in the Biyagama zone has caused the blackening of the water.”
Mr. Wijetilleke said following the sudden shower on Friday, one of the drains in the factory which released the dye had automatically opened out, contaminating the Ambatale Tank.
“We have temporarily suspended the water flow until this problem is rectified,” he added. However, he ruled out any possibility of sabotage.
Mulleriyawa chief inspector, S. A. S. Suraweera said yesterday the particular factory had been closed down with immediate effect.
Officials of the BOI and NWSDB will meet today to decide on the action to be taken against the factory and to prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future.
The areas affected are Kolonnawa, Colombo, Dehiwela-Mount Lavinia, Ratmalana, Panadura, Moratuwa, Kotikawatte, Mulleriyawa Battaramulla, Jayawardanagama, Kelaniya, Peliyagoda, Wattala, Biyagama and Ragama.
The supply of water was expected to return to normal by late last night. However Water Board officials did not rule out the possibility of water supplies being delayed until early this morning.
Firebrand LSSP parliamentarian Vasudeva Nana-yakkara has questioned the failure of the People’s Alliance to condemn the alleged rigging and violence at the recently concluded local government polls.
In a letter to LSSP General Secretary Batty Weerakoon, Mr. Nanayak-kara said the PA, as the ruling party should condemn such acts.
He told The Sunday Times that he had received information from several areas, about incidents of polls-related violence, which were also confirmed by two independent monitoring agencies.
“A large number of complaints of rigging, intimidation, preventing election officials from carrying out their duties and even chasing away of election monitors had been made. Such actions should be condemned by all political parties.”
Saying that the elections were held in an unsatisfactory manner, Mr. Nanayakkara added that as a ruling coalition MP, he was highly embarrassed over this and that he wished to distance himself from such activities.
“While condemning these acts, I must stress that in Eheliyagoda, the area I represent, no incidents have been reported. Elections were held in a clean manner. But this does not mean I can ignore violence and other incidents that took place in other areas,” he said.
The People’s Alliance is faced with serious dissension among its members on the appointments to top posts.
It is rumoured that those who polled the most number of preferential votes have been sidelined for the top positions as mayors and council chairmen to give way to selected members who have polled lesser votes.
Three members belonging to the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) who topped the preferential votes lists in Matale, Beruwela and Puttalam were forced to give way for the PA appointees, sources said.
SLMC MP and Deputy Chairman of Committees Rauf Hakeem told The Sunday Times that if their representatives were not appointed as heads in their respective areas, it could lead to a serious violation of the understanding among coalition members.
“We, the SLMC and all the other coalition parties should be considered equilateral within the PA, regardless of our strengths”, he said and warned that this equilibrium should not be disturbed.
The Sunday Times learns that SLMC leader and Shipping Minister M.H.M. Ashraff had called on President Chandrika Kumaratunga to rectify this situation immediately.
In Matale the PA candidate to be appointed as the Mayor was placed fourth on the party’s preferential votes.
A similar situation was reported in many parts of the country, where the PA wanted certain members to be appointed as mayors or chairmen regardless of the amount of votes they polled.
PA General Secretary D.M. Jayaratne commenting on the new controversy told ‘The Sunday Times’ that following this situation, the Central Executive Committee of the PA will hold an urgent meeting to iron out these intricacies.
“I am gathering the views of election organizers, and have already summarized the views of the PA coalition members”, he said.
Mr. Jayaratne said that he will be forwarding his report to the CEC which is to take a final decision on the matter, before the mayors and chairmen are appointed this Friday.
Meanwhile SLFP sources alleged that the SLMC carried out a selfish campaign to promote only their candidates without looking into the interests of the PA in general.
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