The Sunday TimesNews/Comment

27th April 1997



Ties with India under CBK the best ever

Foreign Minister Laskshman Kadirgamar recently noted that under President Chandrika Kumaratunga, Sri Lanka was enjoying with India a relationship which could not possibly be any better.He made this observation on the occasion of the planting of a Bo-Sapling by President Kumaratunga at the site of the Jayasiri Maha Bodhi at Anuradhapura last Sunday.

Mr. Kadirgamar said:

“My wife and I are merely humble carriers of the priceless gift that was briefly entrusted to us to be conveyed with all respect to the people of Sri Lanka from the people of India. It happened in a most unexpected and unplanned way; strange are the ways in which fate and destiny work.

“When we went to Buddha Gaya to pay our respects - I having been there earlier, two years ago, shortly after I was appointed the Foreign Minister of Sri Lanka, but my wife for the first time we were met by the Venerable Wimalasara Thero who is the Bhikku in-charge of the Buddha Gaya Centre of the Maha Bodhi Society, and very much to our surprise he gave us this Bo-Sapling to be carried to Sri Lanka. He said that it is a symbol of peace and unity in Sri Lanka. It was given with the blessings of the Noble Triple Gem and in the hope that peace will come to our land.

“Today there is no great hope and wish that, I believe, all the people of our country share, than peace. The President as you all know, is doing her best in a difficult situation to unravel the problem that we inherited a long time ago.

“It is important for all of us to realise that at a critical moment like this in our history, there is in truth no division between us. We are all Sri Lankans. We have been and we must believe that we must always be - Sri Lankans. We are citizens of a country with an ancient history. This country is home to many religions.

I am myself born a Christian but for a long time, from the time I was a child, I have been a keen and respectful admirer of the message of the Buddha. That happened quite naturally; nobody asked me to become a keen student of Buddhism. There was nothing artificial or forced about it. It only goes to show that if you open your eyes and open your heart to all the influences around, you realise that we human beings have inherited common treasures from all parts of the world, from all countries, at different periods of history. What the Buddha gave to the world, his teaching, is one of the most invaluable, inestimable, incalculably magnificent gifts that mankind has ever received.

“I see in this ceremony today great meaning, because it brings India and Sri Lanka closer together. We are two countries whose history is one. Our ties are indissoluble. There have been some bad times in our relationship, but since all of us know that the Buddha, the Prince of Peace, was born in India, it will help us to believe that our common heritage must surely bring us closer together always.

“At this point of time under the Presidency of Her Excellency we enjoy with India a relationship which cannot possibly be any better. It is excellent in every respect. I feel that this is an auspicious moment at which to appreciate and celebrate the gift we have received from the Indian people through the Maha Bodhi Society of India. This gift will herald, no doubt, another glorious chapter in the relations between our two countries.”

Iris Moana: three free

By Christopher Kamalendran

A breakthrough in securing the release of the ‘Iris Moana’ crew taken hostage by Tamil Tigers off the Mullativu coast 20 months back, has finally taken place, ICRC officials said yesterday.

They said after weeks of talks with the LTTE to secure the release of the eight member crew the Tigers have released three. Talks to free the others are continuing.

The families of the three crew members who were released were on their way to Trincomalee yesterday for a reunion at the ICRC office there.

Those released are Chief Engineer V. Chanmugam, Deck-Head S. Kumarasingham and Oiler N. Kanagalingam.

They said the LTTE had assured them that the remaining members would be released in due course.

Let LTTE remember Gujral is a man of peace

Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar has said it would be well for the LTTE to remember that the newly elected Prime Minister of India Inder Kumar Gujral is a man of peace.

The Minister said this in response to a question posed to him by an Indian journalist during his recent visit to New Delhi when he went to felicitate Mr. Gujral on his appointment as Prime Minister.

Mr. Kadirgamar was asked, what is your reaction to the LTTE’s letter congratulating Mr. Gujral on his appointment?

“The whole world has acclaimed Mr. Gujral’s govt. I am happy to see the LTTE shares the general satisfaction. But it would be well for the LTTE to remember that Mr. Gujral is a man of peace,” Mr. Kadirgamar said.

Meanwhile, the Minister conveyed to the Indian Prime Minister the warm greetings and congratulations of President Chandrika Kumaratunga, the govt. and people of Sri Lanka. He said Sri Lanka acclaimed Mr. Gujral’s appointment and wished him every success in his high office. Indeed Sri Lanka felt that for the whole South Asian region Mr. Gujral’s appointment as Prime Minister heralded an era of the further strengthening of co-operation and good relations among the neighbours.

Mr. Gujral as Indian External Affairs Minister sought to overcome the acute assymetries in South Asia by having India extend a helping hand to her smaller neighbours without insisting on reciprocity. This strategy has now popularly become known as the Gujral doctrine, Mr. Kadirgamar said.

The Minister briefed the Prime Minister on the follow-up to bilateral matters discussed with him when he visited Colombo last January. He informed Mr. Gujral that during the last few months over 40,000 persons had returned from the Vanni to their homes in Jaffna. Consequently the movement of Sri Lankans across the Palk Straits to India had declined considerably, he said. He noted with satisfaction that as a result of Mr. Gujral’s recent visit to Colombo a delegation of senior Lankan officials had visited both New Delhi and Chennai to discuss with their counterparts the modalities for keeping issues affecting fishermen of both countries under review.

Minister Kadirgamar informed the Prime Minister that the Sri Lanka govt. attached the highest priority to rehabilitating those in Jaffna who had been rendered homeless due to the preceding years of conflict.

Mr. Gujral in response indicated that India would give every possible assistance in this respect and that urgent arrangements will be made for these essential materials to be brought in to Jaffna.

As for Sri Lanka Mr. Gujral emphasised that he was more than ready to meet any request from Sri Lanka that would strengthen bilateral relations.

Mr. Kadirgamar also explained the background and the objective of the recent exchange of letters between the President and the Leader of the Opposition. This was welcomed by the Indian Prime Minister and hoped that the two major parties in Sri Lanka would find further ways of promoting bi-partisan approaches to all other important national issues as well, as is the case in India.

Mr. Gujral reiterated his wholehearted support for the policies pursued by the President for the political resolution of the ethnic problem within the framework of an united Sri Lanka.

MPs move to bring LTTE to peace talks

A group of Government and Opposition MPs have called on the Parliamentary Select Committee on constitutional reforms to make all efforts to draw the LTTE for talks -an indication that the government was under increasing international pressure to resume talks with the rebels.

The parliamentary group consisting of a Deputy Minister and 21 other MPs has written to the Chairman of the Select Committee saying the conclusion of any discussion with the LTTE should converge with the proposed constitutional reforms.

The appeal from the group came after it visited the Philippines on a mission arranged by the International Alert Peace Group (IAPG) to that country’s experience in resolving the ethnic issue there and how its lessons could be applied in Sri Lanka.

The group representing six political parties in parliament, some of them strong critics of the LTTE, has expressed hope that the rebels would respond favourably to the new development of President Chandrika Kumartunga and the UNP Leader, Ranil Wickremesinghe agreeing to a bipartisan approach to resolve the ethnic issue.

The move came amidst reports that with the new development and pressure also building up on the Tamil tigers, LTTE’s top-rungers had met in South Africa recently to discuss the latest situation.

LTTE’s theoretician Dr. Anton Balasingham and the movement’s international secretariat spokesman, Lawrance Thilakar are reported to have taken part in the meeting.

Earlier Mr. Thilakar visited Sri Lanka for talks with the LTTE leadership here on conditions for any future talks with the Govt. and third party mediation.

Meanwhile, the LTTE in its official organ ‘Viduthali Puligal’ (Liberation Tigers) said it was ready to resume talks with the government under a ‘violence-free atmosphere’ adding that their former conditions still remain.

‘The doors are still open for talks’, the newspaper said.

With the bi-partisan agreement reached between the PA and the UNP, both the government and the LTTE are likely come under further pressure to resume talks.

Several countries and international groups have welcomed the bipartisan agreement.

Let’s give it a quality touch

Sri Lanka Institute of Development Administration will conduct a training programme for officers in public service to create a qualitative management approach for the improvement of productivity and quality in public service.

Some 45 public officers will attend the first course.

The link between productivity and quality and the necessity for improvement of quality in public organizations and in various services produced by these institutions will be emphasised at these courses.

Across the miles on a card

Telephone users throughout the island will now be able to make their international calls from any home or office even without having an international dialing facility for which the Sri Lanka telecom has to be paid a deposit in advance.

A spokesman for the company providing this facility said that all a member of the public has to do is purchase what he called an international direct dialing (DID) card, access his company’s switch by dialing 07979 and get any international call through. The cost of the call will be debited for up to the face value of the card which can be purchased at several selling points such as grocery stores in the country, he said.

The Pay Phone Company Ltd. which has introduced this feature in the country’s telecom service makes its launch formally on Tuesday to extend this service already in operation in Matara, Batticaloa, Ampara and Hatton with the cooperation of Sri Lanka Telecom to the Colombo and Greater Colombo areas.

“This service also provides an opportunity for Sri Lnaka Telecom to increase it’s earnings on international traffic on the total advertised rates of SLT without any discount,” the sposkeman for the company said.

Producers in a huff

By Shelani de Silva

Teledrama producers and directors have protested against the ban on cigarette and alcohol scenes in teledramas claiming it as an unreasonable act.

Last week Media Minister Dharmasiri Senanayake called for a discussion with producers and the Sri Lanka Medical Association doctors. No decision was taken regarding the ban. Meanwhile, the doctors and ministry officials were scheduled to meet President Kumaratunga to discuss the ban. Although teledrama producers were also expected to attend the meeting but on Friday afternoon they were informed by ministry officials that the dicussions only involved the doctors and the ministry. This decision did not go down well with the producers, who threatened to stage a protest if a decision were taken unfavourable to them.

Tissa Abeysekera who represented teledrama producers told The Sunday Times that they were shocked at the manner the government was acting on some observations made by doctors. To say that because of these scenes smoking among youth has increased is baseless.

Mr. Abeysekera said that they were disappointed because they could not discuss with the President. Dr. D. Dissanayake who represented the Medical Association said that they were concerned about children being exposed to alcohol. ‘What the SLMA hopes to do is to prevent the promotion of such habits,’ he said.

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