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6th July 1997


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Two members of the Army Motorcycle Squad' patrolling the streets in Jaffna -Pic. by Dexter Cruez


Top TULF MP assassinated

Four others killed, 15 injured in Trinco attack

By Christopher Kamalendran

Senior TULF parliamentarian and Administrative Secretary A. Thangathurai and four others, including two school principals and the MP's bodyguard, were killed in a grenade attack followed by a hail of bullets apparently by the LTTE in a Trincomalee school last night, police said.

The 61-year-old Mr. Thangathurai who has been in national politics for almost three decades and at one-time headed the Tamil youth wing, was returning after a school development committee function at Shanmugananda Vidyalayam in the heart of Trinco town when he was assassinated around 7. 40 p.m.

First reports said that while the MP and others came out soon after darkness fell, the assassin stepped forward and threw the grenade followed by a burst of gunfire as some five hundred panic-stricken school children screamed and fled.

Among those killed were Shanmugananda Principal Rajeshwari Thanabalasingham, Namagal Vidyalayam Principal S. Joseph, a police bodyguard of the MP and school development society member, P.S. Ganeshalingam. At least 15 people, including two students, were injured and rushed to the Trincomalee Hospital where five of them were said to be in a critical condition.

The assassination came amidst a top security islandwide alert for possible LTTE strike to mark 'Black July' , the anniversary of the 1983 racial riots.

Police officers on the scene told The Sunday Times last night that the assassination had the hallmarks of an LTTE attack but further details were not available.

An eyewitness told 'The Sunday Times' in a telephone interview that as soon as the function ended and the MP along with the guest and participants were walking out of the building, a grenade was lobbed. This was followed by several rounds of gun fire.

"There were about 500 people at the function and among them were children from various schools. With the gun fire people started screaming and running. I also ran and unhurt," he said.

The soft spoken and popular Mr. Thangathurai who represents the Trincomalee District, entered active politics at the age of 32 when he contested the Muttur multi-member seat in 1970 as a candidate of the Federal Party, the fore-runner of the TULF. He was elected as the second member.

Political observers said Mr. Thangathurai had for the past few years been actively involved in development work of the vital port city of Trincomalee and that might have been a reason why the LTTE targeted him. Last night, he had just declared open a two-storey building built with funds from the decentralised budget when he was slain. He has also been actively involved in the fight for human rights.

In the first reaction to the killing last night, PLOTE leader D. Siddharthan condemned the brutal killing and said he believed it was the work of the LTTE, proving that Tigers were a Fascist group who had no faith in the democratic process.

TULF President M. Sivasitthamparam, obviously shaken by the news of the tragedy, said he was too shocked to comment last night and would make a statement later.

Mr. Thangathurai at the beginning of his political career headed the Federal party's youth wing, many of whom later broke away from the mainstream to form militant groups such as the LTTE.

He was the second MP to be assassinated this year, some five months after PA member Nalanda Ellawela was shot dead at Kuruwita in the Ratnapura district on the day of nominations for the March 21 local elections.

In July 1989, the LTTE assassinated the then TULF leader Appapillai Amirthalingam and Jaffna parliamentarian V. Yogeswaran in Colombo.

Author throws book at GL

A Sri Lankan political scientist living in the United States is suing Constitutional Affairs Minister G.L. Peiris for allegedly violating copyright laws in using chapters from his book on devolution in the minister's speeches and proposals.

Parakrama Wijesinghe who is claiming Rs. 5 million as damages from Dr. Peiris says his book titled 'Eight States in Sri Lanka' and published in 1983 contains the theoretical and conceptual framework with specific details of the present socioeconomic and political crisis. The book, written after 14 years of research, provides valuable suggestions for practical solutions to the ethnic conflict, social harmony and political freedom. It has been in circulation since 1983 and is registered with the prestigious Library of the US Congress and other libraries, Mr. Wijesinghe states.

Mr. Wijesinghe in a letter of demand alleges that the minister has taken parts from his book without copyright approval for the minister's writings and speeches here or abroad on issues relating to devolution.

Mr. Wijesinghe, now on a short visit to Sri Lanka, emphasises in his letter of demand that he is suing Dr. Peiris for copyright violation in his personal capacity and not officially as a minister.

Police post under IGP not courts

The Police post in the High Courts in Hulftsdorp is administered by the Inspector General of Police and not the courts, senior police officers and a court official admitted yesterday.

Judicial Service Commission Secretary, S. Withanachchi confirmed the Police post did not come under the control of the courts.

The issue whether the Police post in the courts comes under the purview of the judicial administration or the Police Chief surfaced as sections of state media claimed that the Editor of The Sunday Times who was convicted for criminal defamation of President Chandrika Kumaratunga by the High Court was garlanded in the court premises.

Mr. Withanachchi said the assistance of the Police post was sought for court matters, but it did not come under the courts.

Assistant Superintendent of Police, Shanthi Kumar, who was in charge of Supreme Courts complex security until recently said, "Police posts situated in any courts come directly under the Police Department, meaning the Inspector General of Police."

"Therefore the judicial service does not have purview over the activities there. Nobody can say that the Police posts come under the control of the courts," he said.

The state media interviewed various people ranging from lawyers to trishaw drivers to condemn the act of garlanding of the Editor.

CBK Vs The Sunday Times: appeal soon

Colombo High Court Judge Upali De Z Gunawardena on Tuesday July 1 found the Editor of The Sunday Times guilty under the Penal Code and Press Council Law of criminal defamation of President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga on an item in the gossip column published on February 19, 1995.

The Attorney General pleaded for a custodial (jail) sentence. The defence refused to plead in mitigation for a lesser sentence.

The Judge sentenced the Editor to one year and six months and Rs. 7500/- and Rs. 2500/- fine respectively on the two separate counts.

The sentences are suspended for seven years and to run concurrently. The 328 page order is published in this issue of The Sunday Times and in the Plus Section.

The Editor is to appeal against the judgment next week.

FMM: abolish criminal defamation laws

The Free Media Movement has called for the rescinding of criminal defamation laws in the penal code and the Press Council Law in the wake of Tuesday's judgment against The Sunday Times Editor Sinha Ratnatunga.

In a statement, the FMM said: "It is the view of the Free Media Movement that the sentences imposed on Mr. Ratnatunga, could be considered as precedents in any future cases filed against journalists for criminal defamation .

"In these circumstances, the FMM strongly urges the rescinding of the existing law on criminal defamation and the Press Council Law, as recommended by the committee appointed by this government to advice on changes to the laws governing the media in Sri Lanka. It is our view that in the event of any person being allegedly defamed through any media, the remedies available through the civil law in the country are quite sufficient."

Wheat battle pounds CWE

The Co-operative Wholesale Establishment (CWE) has been compelled to suffer a daily loss of US$ 5,000 (over Rs. 290,000) by way of demurrage on the Greek cargo vessel "Athena" now lying in the Trincomalee port with 52,000 tons of wheat.

This is because of a ding dong bureaucratic battle. The Dutch salvage company Wijsmuller, which effected repairs to the vessel after the LTTE bombed it in May, is demanding a bank guarantee of two million Sterling Pounds.

The CWE has sought this guarantee from the Sri Lanka Insurance Corporation (SLIC). The latter had contended that insurance cover for the cargo had been obtained under war risk and did not include terrorist attacks. Hence the SLIC has forwarded the matter to the Ministry of Finance and the tussle goes on.

This is while the CWE is being forced to fork out $5,000 dollars daily by way of demurrage. A CWE official said yesterday "The longer the issue drags on, the higher the amount we will be forced to pay."

With a load of Argentinian wheat for the CWE, "Athena" lay at anchor at Back Bay (outer harbour) when the LTTE exploded a bomb. The explosion pierced the hull, flooded the engine room and cut off the vessel's power supply. The Dutch firm's assistance was sought. Repairs were effected and the vessel was brought alongside the Prima Jetty where it was due to unload.

In the absence of a bank guarantee, the salvage firm last week obtained a court order to arrest the cargo of 52,000 metric tons until a payment of two million pounds sterling was made.

Besides the demurrage, CWE officials now worry that a long delay may contaminate the wheat cargo with weevils thus making it unfit for human consumption. They say in such an event $10 million dollars worth of cargo would go waste.

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