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20th July 1997


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Mirror Magazine

"Take calculated risks. That is quite different from being rash," seems to be what the policemen are telling the July '80 strikers and MP Vasudeva Nanayakkara when they tried to go on a protest march in Fort Colombo to mark the 17th anniversary of the 1980 July strike. Pic. By Gemunu Wellage


Sea mines found near naval base

A long drawn plan of the LTTE to blow up the vital Trincomalee harbour and nearby naval installations was uncovered yesterday with the detection of poweful mines weighing more than 150 kilos amidst indications that rebels are going all out to disrupt food supplies to the north.

Military sources said the Navy detected six powerful sea mines at the Clappenburg Point which had been left behind by Sea Tigers some months ago, but could yet have been used to cause devastation.

Military sources believe that the mines had been left behind by a Sea Tiger cadre who had been killed on December 10 when the Navy discharged a 'depth charger, usually used to prevent sea tigers approaching the harbour area. Since then the mines, made of fiber -glass had been around the area and could have been set off at any moment. With the discovery of the mines the Navy was placed on a top alert in the strategic harbour through which all cargo ships carrying food and essential supplies to the north must pass. The sources said this massive attack on the harbour and the Navy complex nearby, besides boosting the LTTE's morale, would have crippled distribution of essential supplies to troops and civilians in the north.

The abortive Trinco attack came amidst continuing uncertainty over supplies to the north after the LTTE during the past month hijacked two foreign cargo vessels and warned shipping agents that all north-bound ships would be attacked as the LTTE felt they were also carrying supplies for the troops and not for the civilians.

The LTTE in a statement issued from its London office said the government was trying to strengthen the military so it could harm and repress the Tamil inhabitants of Jaffna and conduct further callous military operations against the Tamil people in Wanni. A senior police officer from the Jaffna peninsula said the security forces and police were affected to some extent by the disruption of food supplies because of the LTTE's threat to cargo vessels.

Shipping agents in Colombo have said they cannot transport supplies to the north until they get protection from the ICRC, because going under Navy escort only would make them vulnerable to further LTTE attacks.

Meanwhile the ICRC is negotiating with the LTTE for the release of the North Korean vessel, 'Moran Bong', which was hijacked by the LTTE on July 8 along with the 37 member crew. One crew member was shot dead at point blank range during the pre-dawn drama, but the others were released last Saturday.

Y-12 aircraft fired at but escapes

An SLAF Y-12 aircraft came under LTTE fire in Kaluwankerny off Batticaloa yesterday but it suffered only slight damage, a military official said.

The aircraft was flying from Batticaloa to Minneriya when it came under fire.

The official said it was a narrow escape. The pilot and co-pilot escaped unhurt.

In another incident, the LTTE abducted 35 more Muslim fishermen in the Muttur area of the Trincomalee district on Friday night along with 19 of their boats but they were later released.

The LTTE is continuing to detain 32 other Muslims who have been abducted earlier in Erakkandy.

Editor appeals

The Editor of The Sunday Times has appealed against his conviction by the High Court in the Criminal Defamation Case filed on behalf of Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga.

The petition to the Court of Appeal is published in full on page 10 &11. The balance portion of the trial Judge's 328 page order which we have published in full over the past fortnight appears on our special supplement.

Editors demand breathing space

The Editors Guild of Sri Lanka has called on the government and opposition to expedite necessary changes to laws that throttle and bind media freedom and freedom of expression.

The Guild in a statement said it welcomes the bi-partisan approach by the government and the opposition to the appointment of a Parliamentary Select Committee to renew the legislative and regulatory framework to the country's media.

"The Guild will be more than willing to make representation before this Select Committee and be of whatever assistance to its deliberations," it said.

"It is with the greatest concern that the Guild has viewed the indictments in the High Courts against five of its members on charges of criminal defamation", the statement said.

It is the position of the Guild that the laws relating to libel being a criminal offence be either repealed in its entirety, or in the least, amended on the lines of the unanimous recommendations of the R K W Goonasekera Committee report now before government, the Editors Guild said.

"The Guild comprising Editors of all newspapers urged the government and the opposition to speedily effect the necessary changes to the laws that throttle and bind media freedom and freedom of expression that are so vital for the well being of a democratic society."

Ms. B's lunch in political soup

Amidst cross currents of family and political conflicts, Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike is giving her blessings to the ceremonies felicitating her son Anura Bandaranaike on his completion of 20 years in politics.

Ms. Bandaranaike has invited her daughter, President Kumaratunga and ministers for a lunch connected with the ceremonies but political sources say most of the ministers may skip the function while the President is out of the country.

Another problem regarding the BMICH felicitation ceremony has been sorted out after Ms. Bandaranaike intervened. The organisers had wanted a top SLBC announcer to compere the show but he was given permission only after the Prime Minister intervened.

Meanwhile, Mr. Bandaranaike met the chief prelates of the Malwatte and Asgiriya chapters. At the Asgiriya Viharaya, the Ven. Palipane Chandananda Mahanayake Thera told him there was only one shortcoming in Mr. Bandaranaike's life. The prelate was apparently expressing his wish that the bachelor Anura would get married soon. But with a smile, Anura quipped he felt there were enough Bandaranaike's in the country.

SC raps police for banning NSSP rally

By Kishali Pinto Jayawardana

In a powerful judgment that affirmed the supremacy of the constitutional right to freedom of expression over all subordinate laws, the Supreme Court on Thursday reprimanded the police for prohibiting the NSSP May Day procession last year, while permitting other political parties to proceed with their rallies.

Delivering the judgment, Justice A. R. B. Amerasinghe declared that marching, parading, picketing on the streets and holding meetings in parks and other public places constitute methods of expression that are constitutionally protected. As such they can be restricted only by the Constitution itself. In this case, the restrictions imposed were not on legitimate grounds.

"The concern of the police in prohibiting the NSSP procession was in my view, not the furtherance of the government interest in national security or public order, but the suppression of free expression by the petitioner and other members of his political party," declared Justice Amerasinghe

The Bench also comprised. Justice A. S. Wijetunge and Justice Asoka de Z. Gunawardana.

The Supreme Court ruled on the matter following an appeal made by politburo member of the NSSP and General Secretary of the Government United Federation of Labour, Palihenage Don Saranapala, against the refusal of the police to permit the NSSP to hold its traditional May Day procession. Security concerns had been cited by the police as reason for revoking the permission earlier granted. Defying police orders, the NSSP had proceeded to hold the procession resulting in members of the party being beaten up and teargassed.

The petitioner alleged on behalf of his party that his freedom of speech and expression, the freedom of peaceful assembly, equality before the law and his right not to be discriminated on the grounds of political opinion had been violated.

The Supreme Court held with the petitioner on all counts. Ordering Rs. 15,000 to be paid as costs, the Supreme Court reminded the IGP and other senior police officers that though the Police Ordinance gave the police power regards the holding of processions, the Constitution is the Supreme Law and is above the Police Ordinance.

"The Police Ordinance does not empower police officers to 'roam at will' in giving directions prohibiting processions or imposing conditions on processions," Justice Amerasinghe said .

Whatever regulations that are imposed must be constitutional. Quoting American law, the Supreme Court stated that a government regulation could be upheld only if certain conditions are met. Imposing the regulation must be within the constitutional power of the government, it must further an important or substantial governmental interest, the government interest must be unrelated to the suppression of free expression and the restriction must not be too widely drawn.

While the Court conceded that the first two conditions had been met in the instant case, it failed on the third. The NSSP procession had been prohibited to suppress the rights of the members of the party.

If the reason for prohibition had been fear that northern terrorists would strike Colombo, the Supreme Court questioned as to why other political parties such as the LSSP and the People's Alliance had been permitted to hold their processions.

Regulations must be equally applied, warned the Court holding that on this ground, the petitioner's right to equality before the law and nondiscrimination had been violated.

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