17th August 1997

The Jungle Telegraph

By Alia

Ebony couch

The talk in mess halls these days is about an exquisitely crafted luxury ebony couch. They are no doubt expensive and rare for there is a ban on felling ebony trees.

But who can stand in the way when a young boss in an upper village bordering the NCP chooses to offer a gift to his boss.

Parliamentarians who complain of inadequate security will be envious to hear the couch did not come walking all the way. It came with armed escorts.

Distorting facts?

Nearly two and half years into Eelam War Three, 21 aircraft of the Sri Lanka Air force have been lost, most of them unrelated to enemy action.

There have been allegations of corruption and irregularities in procurements. So much so, President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, herself appointed a top level committee to probe.

But the SLAF continued to maintain stony silence on these issues, all of which, without question, are of public interest and importance.

But last week’s reference titled “In the Jaws of Tigers” in these columns drew a note from Group Captain D. Wanigasekera, Air Secretary for the Commander of the Air Force.

He says the “news item” (there were none in the news pages) “depicts a picture where a SLAF Bell 212 landed in an unsecured area...is false.”

He adds: “However, an MI 17 Helicopter landed at a regular helipad at Army Camp, Pulmodai for a technical check-up and got airborne within few minutes.”

Alia is not sure whether he is referring to the same incident or whether there was another.

The one Alia referred to in these columns last week occurred on August 8, 1997, approximately ONE kilometre south of the Army Camp at Pulmodai. The time was around 3 p.m.

Army’s 22 Brigade Headquarters in Trincomalee who heard of it not only acted but sent out an urgent message to Navy’s Eastern Command at the Dockyard. Whilst troops moved to secure the area, two Navy vessels provided sea cover. They withdrew only before dusk. If some SLAF officials in Colombo are unaware, all they have to do is check with the Army or the Navy.

But these are days where it is convenient to hide or distort facts and fault journalists.

Even if some SLAF big brass unleash their own cops to “surveil and harass” The Sunday Times boys, there was one good thing about the SLAF Commander’s Air Secretary.

I quote his own words (sic)....... “this sort of false publications will definitely tarnish reputation of your paper as a National News paper and bound to loose readers’ confidence.”

I do not wish to say more. Nor do I offer million dollar prizes. I leave it to the reader to decide what has gone ‘loose,’ whose reputation is at stake and whose confidence is in question.

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