A disabled soldier helping his comrade to quench his thirst Friday at the musical show held by the Seva Vanitha Unit of the Defence Ministry, for the benefit of the disabled soldiers. Pic. by Lakshman Gunathilaka
Troops backed by air and artillery cover were poised to wrest control of Puliyankulam town yesterday after heavy fighting which sent casualty figures on both sides soaring.
At least 60 soldiers were killed and more than 400 wounded by the fourth day of the second phase of Operation 'Jaya Sikurui' (Victory Assured), but troops were inching their way towards the town despite stiff resistance.
Military sources said troops on Friday began their advance from the Puliyankulam Railway station which runs parallel to the Jaffna -Kandy road, but rebels firing small arms backed by mortar fire considerably slowed down the advance.
The sources said the LTTE was well entrenched in the area around the Puliyankulam town and they expected more resistance.
They said troops had been able to draw out hundreds of LTTE cadres from their bunkers, causing heavy casualties among the LTTE. An estimated 450 rebels have been killed and an equal number wounded. Military sources said seven more army personnel, including an officer, and at least 70 rebels were killed in Friday's clashes.
The LTTE's clandestine 'Voice of the Tigers' radio yesterday contradicted the figures given by the military about the rebel casualties, saying only 36 LTTE cadres had been killed. The radio claimed the LTTE had destroyed four main battle tanks.
Earlier the military admitted that three battle tanks had been damaged.
Meanwhile, the LTTE is reported to have moved in hundreds of its cadres from the Mullaitivu region to stall the advance of the security forces.
Seven Army officers facing charges of abduction and murder of students in Embilipitiya have been interdicted for passing on military documents to their defence counsel.
Army sources told The Sunday Times, Commander Rohan Daluwatte had interdicted the officers after the prosecuting state counsel had pointed out that some documents he sought were found in the possession of the defence counsel in this highly-publicised case before the Ratnapura High Court.
The officers interdicted are Military Adjutant Brigadier Parry Liyanage, Major Gwaesh Ginige, Major Vishista Cahamarasinha, Major Jaliya Epa, Captain Dayananda Loku Galap-paththi and two soldiers.
Postal unions are threatening a country-wide general strike if the government goes ahead with proposals to privatise the Postal Department or convert it into a corporation.
N.P Hettiarachchi, president of the powerful Union of Post and Telecommunication Officers (UPTO) said claims that the Postal Department was running at a loss were incorrect or exaggerated. He warned that not only the postal unions, but bank, port and other public service unions also would join in a strike if the status of the department was changed.
He said UPTO also had links with around 124 international unions and they would also prevent air or sea mail from coming in if the government did not heed their call.
"If the proposals are presented in parliament, we will brief MPs on the dangers and urge them to oppose the moves, we will also put pressure on members on local councils," the union leader said.
As part of the campaign, UPTO is also organising more than 200 picket meetings in various places and a massive signature drive. Mr. Hettiarachchi said they had met Post Minister Mangala Samaraweera for discussions but he had only shown interest in the merits of privatization.
The union leader warned with privatisation rural post offices will be closed, causing a massive loss of jobs and inconvenience in village areas, postal rates would be increased, house-to-house deliveries and telegram service stopped.
In the aftermath of the no-quorum fiasco in Parliament last Tuesday, Minister Jeyaraj Fernandopulle has been appointed Acting Chief Government Whip amidst speculation that the Chief Whip Richard Pathirana may be replaced.
Minister Pathirana will be leaving for the United States for medical treatment and political sources say Mr. Fernandopulle might be confirmed as the Chief Whip.
Only 18 of the 106 PA MPs were in parliament last Tuesday when the UNP virtually at full force staged a walkout and raised a no-quorum issue. After ringing the quorum bell for about five minutes, Speaker K. B. Ratnayake adjourned sittings without taking up the day's business. It was believed to be the first time such a fiasco was recorded in Sri Lanka's parliamentary history.
As the crisis over this incident grew, Minister Pathirana was reported to have warned that disciplinary action would be taken against PA MPs who were not present. But later Mr. Pathirana denied he had issued any such warning, with some political commentators saying he had got orders from the top to back down.
Other PA sources also say government leaders are disappointed over the manner in which Mr. Pathirana has played his role as Chief Whip, failing to maintain a quorum in the house on several occasions and not arranging for ministers to be present to answer oral questions.
Ten people were killed and 70 injured when an over-crowded bus ran off the road and plunged down a precipice in Hanguranketa yesterday morning, Transport Board officials said.
The bus carrying nearly 130 passengers from Badulla to Kandy ran off the road at Adhikarigama, Pallemaoya.
The driver, it is alleged, had lost control over the vehicle and the bus had run off the road as it was negotiating a sharp bend.
Most of the critically injured passengers were taken to the Kandy general hospital.
The newly appointed 29-member Select Committee on Media Reforms will begin deliberations on September 10 by taking up UNP proposals seeking to introduce far reaching changes in the country's media.
Speaker K.B. Ratnayake will announce the composition of the Select Committee in parliament on September 9, when parliament is scheduled to meet next. It is expected to discuss the laws concerning criminal defamation, official secrets and parliamentary privileges which are expected to be taken up for discussion at the first sitting itself.
Parties have not decided on their representatives in the Committee except the NDUNLF which has nominated Ravi Karunanayake.
The UNP is expected to nominate ten members including party leader Ranil Wickremesinghe and former Media Minister Tyronne Fernando. The SLFP is expected to field twelve members including Posts, Telecommunications and Media Minister Mangala Samaraweera and Deputy Minister Anura Priyadarshana Yapa.
The motion to appoint the Select Committee was moved by the Leader of the House Ratnasiri Wickra-manayake on Wednesday to review some of the draconian pieces of law that have so far prevented a vibrant media culture in the country.
Meanwhile the Parliamentary Special Powers and Privileges Act amendments are due to be debated on Sept. 8.
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