The Sunday TimesFront Page

25th May 1997



A soldier looking out for possible booby traps in a bunker in Omanthai after troops captured the area in Operation Jaya Sikurui.


Get back or get out - strikers warned

University services to be declared essential

by Shyamal A. Collure and Chamintha Thilakaratna

As the crippling strike by university non-academic staff entered its second month, the government was yesterday considering tough action to declare their services as essential and fire any employee who does not return to work by tomorrow.

Higher Education Minister Richard Pathirana told The Sunday Times he had issued an ultimatum for the non-academic staff to return to work by tomorrow and the government was considering action under emergency regulations if the warning was not heeded.

He said the striking union appeared to be split with one group wanting a compromise and the other blocking it.

Deputy Minister Wiswa Warnapala said there were reports that certain elements were trying to destabilize university education by prolonging strikes which has brought all studies and exams to a standstill, seriously affecting more than 30,000 students.

In the face of this threat the government was considering stern action to get the universities working again.

The policy-making central committee of the ruling SLFP also discussed the university crisis at a special meeting on Friday night.

Last Tuesday Minister Pathirana met union leaders and offered them a compromise. He said a minimum allowance of Rs. 1250 a month would be paid to non-academic staff with retrospective effect from 1995 if they returned to work by tomorrow. No penalties would be imposed on them, he assured.

But it a carrot-and-stick solution, Mr. Pathirana also warned of tough action if they did not get back to work by tomorrow.

The non-academic staff struck work on April 24 in support of four demands, the main one being the payment of a special allowance to them as granted to the academic staff of universities.

Troops overcome stiff LTTE resistance

Security forces started on the second phase of operation "Jayasikurui" in the face of heavy resistance from Tigers who have been building up in the area over the past week while troops were consolidating their positions in the captured areas.

Military officials yesterday said that troops after consolidating in the captured areas resumed their advance and met with stiff resistance which they overcame and are continuing their advance.

The military statement said up to date, 75 soldiers had been killed and 126 injured since the operation was launched on May 13.

The military did not comment on the progress of the offensive, but other sources said the security forces backed by air and artillery cover were able to advance two kilometers and in the process lost at least 11 soldiers and 42 others were injured.

The military in a brief statement issued earlier confirmed that troops met with resistance, but claimed that it had overcome the resistance and was continuing its advance.

Military sources said that during the advance two Tigers attempted to blow up a battle tank, but troops in the vicinity had fired killing them. Their bodies were brought to Vavuniya. Reports from Vavuniya said that heavy shelling was heard during the morning hours with the launch of operation. As troops consolidate positions around the Omanthai and Nedunkerni areas Tigers fired artillery into villages around the Welioya camp forcing hundreds of civilians to take shelter in other areas. Meanwhile Army Commander Lt. Gen. Rohan Daluwatte visited the troops in the frontline.

Sharks swallow interest also

Eleven Colombo businessmen who had obtained loans to the tune of Rs. 11 billion from the People's Bank have now stopped paying even the interest due to the bank, let alone paying back the loans the had taken, a senior bank official said.

Interest on loans taken by these business magnates from the People's Bank amounts to Rs. 1.6 billion and has been accumulating since January this ear, he said.

Loans upto 11 billion were given by the People's Bank during the past regime to these businessmen on a pledge that they would repay on time, he said.

What is worse is that they had failed to respond to several reminders. One of them has taken a loan of Rs. 3 billion and interest on this loan amounts to Rs. 400 million, he said. It is learnt that even the President had told these businessmen to repay the loans and interest but this too has had no effect.

It may be recalled that sometime ago the President said that special laws should be framed to bring the defaulters to book but no action has been taken yet.

Lohan in cover-up plot?

No faith motion in House likely.

by Kristopher Kamalendran

The casino killing of Papua New Guinean ruggerite Joel Pera and the slow pace of the investigation or alleged cover-up here have had severe repercussions for Sri Lankans in Papua New Guinea while big question marks are still hanging over the drama.

More than 250 Lankan expatriates employed in PNG, mostly as professions, are reported to be facing physical threats while some have already deported and other are fleeing to neighbouring Australia.

Meanwhile, more than three weeks after the incident, the CID has apparently made no major breakthrough and has yet not even questioned Lohan Ratwatte, son or the Deputy Defence Minister, thought at least eye witness have claimed he was at the scene of the crime. Instead, the CID is continued to grill Pera's friend and rugby colleague Gideon Raka who also was at the Carlton Casino on the fateful May Day dawn.

Friends of Raka said he was dismayed by the manner in which the CID had summoned and grilled him for three successive days last week. Raka who as been give police protection following threats to his life has said the CID kept on asking him the same questions again and again making him feel the were trying to pin him down or confuse him.

As rumours spread over why young Mr. Ratwatte was being kept our of the scene, CID Deputy Director Bandula "Show" Wickramasinghe is still insisting that there is insufficient evidence to question minister's son.

The sleuth who got a media blasting for his apparent political role in the recent TNL case, they had questioned several close associates of Loahn Ratwatte to ascertain his whereabouts at the time of the crime.

"We are studying these case carefully. We are going step by step. We will give the correct picture to courts. We will bring the real suspects to courts," the officer claimed amidst increasing fear and media reports of a possible cover-up with a fall guy and all that.

Meanwhile the media in PNG are continuing to highlight the Pera killing and Sri Lanka's image is getting a beating. repercussions across political scene and a group of UNP MPs are discussing the possibility of moving a motion of no confidence against the government and Minister Anuruddha Ratwatte over the killing.

These MPs say they feel CID officers probing the killing appear to be dragging their feet and not independent.

UNP General Secretary Gamini Athukorale told "The Sunday Times" yesterday that a motion of no-confidence on this matter was possible. He pointed out that the proposed amendment to the Criminal Procedure Code was scheduled to be debated in Parliament on Tuesday and matter in that were related to the casino murder.

The UNP is likely to take a decision on this when its Parliamentary Group meets tomorrow.

Doors closed for Lankan judges

Government has placed a ban on sitting judges serving on international tribunals, The Sunday Times learns.

The ban comes in the wake of a recommendation by Chief Justice G. P. S. De Silva to nominate two Supreme Court Judges, Justice S. W. B. Wadugodapitiya and Justice Asoka de Z Gunawadene, to the International Criminal Tribunal on former Yugoslavia, being turned down.

The Sunday Times learns the government while turning down the Chief Justice's nominees had in turn nominated former Supreme Court Judge Tissa Dias Bandaranaike.

Mr. Bandaranaike, who recently headed the Commissions of Inquiry into the deaths of ex-National Security Minister Lalith Athulathmudali and Lt. Gen. Denzil Kobbekaduwa lost the election and was not elected to sit on the tribunal.

The Government ban on sitting judges serving on international tribunals is also expected to affect Justice Mark Fernando who is on an I.L.O. tribunal which sits in Geneva

(Please see also the Hulftsdorp Hill by Mudliyar)

Tough cop threatens to shoot again

by Sri Lal Priyantha

A senior police officer in Puttalam, boasting he was responsible for more than 200 killings during the 1988/89 reign of terror, has acknowledged he ordered the shooting that killed two demonstrators protesting against the coal power project at Kalpitya recently - and warned he would order such shootings again if anyone demonstrated.

The shocking outburst by the officer virtually broke up a meeting arranged by the Ceylon Electricity Board at the Puttalam Town Hall to find a fair solution to Th. dispute that has risen over the construction o the massive 300-acre power project at Noraicholai in Kalpitiya.

Residents and environmental groups have expressed fears that the project, besides displacing thousands of village people living around the site, would also cause serious environmental pollution.

A demonstration last month led to a police shooting in which two people were killed amidst high tension and a virtual curfew in the area.

In a bid to defuse the tension, the CEB last Tuesday called in the project to hear their voice and find some compromise. Nearly 400 people including the clergy attended the meeting.

Just after a priest spoke and appealed for the voice of the villagers to be heeded, the police officer took the microphone and began his blast. As a stunned audience listened, he said he had ordered the shooting at Kalpitiya recently and would do it again.

Turning to a monk who was seated nearby, the police officer threw various accusations at him in derogatory language. The monk has been leading the protest campaign by the villagers and was taken into custody after the recent demonstration. The police officer's angry outburst against the monk led to a virtual public walk out from the hall and the meeting ended abruptly with some people saying the behaviour of the officer brought back fearful memories of the reign of terror in 1989.

After the meeting ended the police officer said in the presence of officials and journalists that he was in Anuradhapura in 1989 and worked under a notorious brigade which was responsible for more than 200 killings in the area.

Go to the Front Page Archive


Home Page News Business Plus Sports

Please send your comments and suggestions on this web site to or to