24th August 1997


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Mullaitivu faces threat of disease as wells run dry

By Arshad M. Hadjirin

Thousands of civilians trapped in Mullaitivu in the wake of Operation Jaya Sikurui are facing the threat of disease due to lack of fresh water, an international relief organisation has warned.

ICRC water sanitation engineer, Arnaud Saadi told The Sunday Times they had abandoned plans to install new hand pumps for drinking water in view of an escalation in military operations.

“We are left with limited resources enough only to repair dried up hand pumps,” Mr. Saadi said.

He said the Ministry of Defence had not approved a request by the ICRC for permission to take necessary equipment to the area for the past six months.

The official, explaining the ICRC’s work in the war-ravaged district said the govt. had requested them to install five new hand pumps and repair ten old ones in selected villages of conflict areas.

He said ICRC teams had identified areas of underground waterways, and dug the tube wells manually with primitive tools like crowbars. It took the ICRC nearly three weeks to build one tube well.

Mr. Saadi said the International Committee of the Red Cross was doing its best for the people despite restrictions, dangers and lack of resources.

Trinco awaits nomination

TULF Secretary General R. Sampanthan has not been still sworn in as MP for Trincomalee district filling the vacancy created following the assassination of A. Thangathurai on July 5.

Mr. Thangathurai polled the highest number of preferential votes in August 1994 General Election when he contested on the TULF list. Mr. Sampanthan came second. Mr. Sampanthan is now in London on a private visit. During the first week of this month Mr. Sampanthan attended a three day seminar held in Zurich, Switzerland under the auspices of International Alert. Rank and file of the Trincomalee TULF branch are awaiting his arrival.

Four youths held for forging passports

By H.P.P. Perera

Four youths were arrested by the Alutgama police on Friday in connection with the alleged printing of forged passports, visas and national identity cards to be used to send Tamil and Muslim youths to Foreign countries.

The suspects were apprehended in an office at Beruwala. P.G. Wimalasiri, OIC Alutgama said the Police were able to take into custody a government frank, 80 passports, 30 identity cards and a large consignments of visa permits.

The police said that the raid was conducted after questioning a Tamil youth attached to a division of the State Plantation Corporation who is married to a Tamil in Jaffna.

It was revealed that the suspects had removed the original photographs in the passports and replaced them with those of a young group of Tamil and Muslim males and females who were attempting to go to the Middle East and other countries.

Further inquiries are being conducted by the OIC Alutgama on the instructions of M. Sivaratnam S.S.P. and M.C. Wimalasena A.S.P., Kalutara.

The palace: will she won’t she?

Is it yes or no for the controversial 1500-billion rupees project to build a presidential palace and other state offices at Kotte?

Work on the project had been suspended on the orders of President Kumaratunga last month, after residents of the area fired off protests and filed fundamental rights petitions in the Supreme Court. The President said she would fully review the project before taking a final decision, while Media Minister Mangala Samaraweera insisted the suspension was only temporary.

The Urban Development Authority’s project co-ordinator Winston Rupasinghe said yesterday they were awaiting new directions and the green light from the Presidential Secretariat to go ahead with the project.

Area residents whose houses and properties are to be taken over and demolished, said they feared the govt. would go ahead with the project despite the widespread criticism and charges of extravagance.

Govt. officials say it is necessary to move the President’s house and other important state offices out of Colombo for security reasons and to ease traffic congestion in the city

Kalutara market: a big bull

The sale of illicit beef in Kalutara markets is going on unchecked while officials and politiciains are offering excuses, residents say.

The licensed slaughter house is situated close to the Kalutara Bodhi and residents have been asking that it be shifted, because it is polluting not only the religious environment, but also the nearby lagoon.

Who undercut Navy tender?

An alleged racket in the purchases of uniforms for the Navy is being probed, The Sunday Times learns.

According to reports, an officially awarded tender for the supply of some 50,000 meteres of white synthetic material has been cancelled and allegedly illegal piecemeal purchases are being made at double the price.

The original tender had been awarded to a Singapore firm which agreed to supply at around Rs 160 a meter while the new supplier is getting Rs. 330 a meter.

In addition the legally selected Singapore tenderer has complained of having incurred communication and other expenses to the tune of Rs. 75,000.

Executive committee meets next week

The main Opposition United National Party will hold its Executive Committee sessions on August 30 and 31 at the Getambe Public Esplanade, Kandy.

It is the first time that the party is holding the executive committee sessions of both the party and its youth wing, the National Youth Front.

Novel projects for little home gardens

A novel project for thousands of families to grow their own food is being launched in Trincomalee district.

Under this food security project sponsored by a foreign NGO and co-ordinated by a local service group, more than 6000 selected families will each get 400 gm. of seed and utensils to begin home garden cultivations from next month. The project is estimated to cost around Rs. 12.5 million.

Ravaged NE tanks to flow again

As part of plans to rehabilitate the North East from the ravages of war, some 50 tanks in the cleared areas are to be restored through a Rs. 72 million project funded by the World Bank.

Officials said 18 tanks in Batticaloa district, 11 in Ampara, 7 in Trincomalee and 14 tanks in Vavuniya would be restored.

They said the tanks would later be placed under the management of groups of farmers in the areas.

Dressed to kill

By Annesley Fernando

Well dressed robbers are on the rampage in Moratuwa breaking into homes and threatening women and children.

In one of the latest incidents, a man dressed in trouser and shirt had forced his way into a house at Koralewella, threatened a mother and children at knife point and forced them to open the wardrobe. While he was gathering up the valuables the woman’s sister had come by and started screaming when she saw what was happening. This brought neighours to the scene and the robber fled. But the residents pursued and nabbed him.

Residents said such incidents were rampant in the area largely because of inaction by the Police, but the Police say excessive interference by local politicos is preventing them from carrying out their duties.

Govt. allays fears of food crisis in north

By Imran Vittachi

A state relief official has said there is no danger of a calamity taking place, amid warnings that close to a million displaced people in the north are facing a food crisis.

“There is no change or problems in our supplies,” M.I.M. Rafeek, Additional Commissioner-General of Essential Services, told The Sunday Times on Friday.

“There is no such reduction because all our food vessels are operating as normal.”

He was responding to comments made by Tamil politicians in The Sunday Times last week, warning that CGES dry food stocks were quickly drying up for as many as 300,000 displaced people in the Wanni and nearly 500,000 more in Jaffna.

The CGES official, whose agency is tasked with sending dry food rations beyond the forward defence lines by ship and lorry, was not the only one in government to play down such warnings.

The Ministry of Defence, in a statement made on Thursday, said CGES shipments to army-controlled areas in Jaffna were going through despite Sea Tiger attacks on merchant vessels in the area.

“In spite of the attempts by the LTTE to disrupt the food supplies to the Northern Province, since July 2 this year the CGES has sent 2692 mt. of essential food items” the Ministry said.

According to Defence sources, 8470mt of CGES dry rations had also been sent in July to displaced northerners in LTTE-controlled sectors.

Meanwhile, according to a senior United Nations relief official, only 6,119 tons of food were sent over the course of July to the four districts of the Wanni: Vavuniya, Mannar, Kilinochchi, and Mullaitivu.

“Now 6087 tons (the monthly average of food shipped to the north since May 1996) is sufficient to feed more than 400,000 people as emergency rations.

This is not the full seven-course meal, we’re talking about a minimal 15 kilos per person a month”, he said.

But these 6087 tons for July comprised 3,102 tons of CGES rations and 3,107 tons of food sold through multi-purpose co-operatives - a fifty-fifty ratio.

“Now keep in mind that I’m talking about both free rations and food supplies that you have to purchase yourself,” the UN official noted. “So if you have no purchasing power, then you’re not able to buy food.”

Nevertheless, as his agency had not been officially requested to monitor distribution of food in the war zones it couldn’t know how much food was actually reaching the mouths of those uprooted civilians from the Wanni.

“We can’t tell you exactly how it’s distributed,” he added. “Because of the fighting, people are being displaced many times over.”

UNP urges white paper on education reforms

The UNP has urged government to set out in a white paper the aims of the proposed educational reforms.

It said that the government’s decision to change the existing A/L curriculum has led to confusion among students, teachers and parents.

UNP General Secretary Gamini Atukorale said that there was no response when A.C.S. Hameed requested the Minister of Education to make a full statement on the proposals, whilst the minister’s statement on July 25 in Parliament needs clarification in some important areas.

“Education is the government’s responsibility no doubt, but certainly not its monopoly. It concerns everyone in the country and important changes must be debated and discussed so that the country correctly understands all changes to be effected”, Mr. Athukorale said.

He added that students, teachers and parents have a right to know whether the existing opportunities for university admission would continue and that it is important that the proposals be subjected to serious scrutiny by parliament and all those who are directly involved with education.

Furthermore, he said that the reluctance of the government for a full debate on the proposals gives credibility to various speculations that the proposals are weighted against the rural and less affluent students.

UN team here today for probe

By Kshalini Nonis

Amidst opposition charges of a resurgence in brutal politics, a human rights probe team from the United Nations will arrive today at the invitation of the govt.

The team from the UN Centre for Human Rights during a nine day tour is scheduled to visit the war-torn areas.

A UN official said the tour arranged by Sri Lanka’s Foreign Ministry and the UN office here would only assist by providing reports and background information.

The team in expected to look into allegations of disappearances, extra-judicial killings, rape, torture and other human rights violations.

Its report will be placed before the world’s principal watch-dog body, the United Nations Human Rights Commission in Geneva.

Cooray: check-up in India

Sirisena Cooray, who was released from detention recently on orders of the Supreme Court, left yesterday for India for a medical check-up on the advice of his doctors.

According to a release from the Premadasa Centre, Mr. cooray had developed a fungus in his lungs during his two-month detention.

It may be recalled that he was taken into custody soon after his return from a long stay abroad.

Beliatta killings: IGP sends special team

The key suspect allegedly involved in the shooting of UNP opposition leader of the Beliatta Pradeshiya Sabha, is still at large, reports from the area said on Friday.

The suspect is reported to have consulted a medical practitioner in the area amidst reports that the Inspector General of Police (IGP) had assured a UNP delegation led by Ronnie de Mel that a special team of investigators have been sent to investigate the incident.

Reports from the area said the suspect is alleged to have been involved in another politically motivated killing on the day of the local government elections in March.

Residents in the area said that due to political influence, the police were not conducting an impartial inquiry and many villagers, some of them eye witnesses to both shooting incidents were not coming forward to give evidence.

Mr. de Mel told ‘The Sunday Times’ that he had told the IGP that the Beliatta Police had mounted a special guard around the house and liquor bar of the main suspect and that nothing had been done to investigate either of the two crimes or bring the offenders before courts.He said that the IGP had given an assurance that an impartial inquiry will be held into the case.

Mr. de Mel added: “On a decision taken by the Parliamentary group of the UNP on Tuesday, he led a delegation from the UNP to meet the IGP and discuss the present situation in the country where widespread political violence has resulted in threats to the lives of elected representatives and activists of the UNP in many parts of the country. And the inability of the government to enforce the rule of law and bringing with it as a consequence a certain indifference or reluctance on the part of the police in certain areas to perform their statutory functions to maintain law and order in the land and protect the lives of its citizens.”

He specially ”brought to the notice of the IGP the recent political killings at Beliatta where in broad daylight at 8.30 am 500 yards from the Beliatta Police Station PS Member A. N. K. Gunaratne was gunned down in the presence of scores of eye witnesses.

It had taken an hour and a half for the Police to come to the scene of the crime”, he added.

“The killing took place on August 13 and even one week later not one person had been apprehended.”

He also took up the case of political violence in Rikillagaskada where the house of UNP Parliamentarian Rohan Abeygoonesekera had been attacked by a PA mob on August 15 causing damage to the tune of Rs. 500,000 and also similar incidents in other areas.

The IGP had also agreed to send a special team to investigate the attack on Mr. Abeygoonesekera’s residence, he said. Most of the problems of the police regarding political violence will end if the government accepts the UNP’s proposal to have an independent public service commission and an independent police commission and to follow with a independent elections commission he had told the IGP, said Mr. de Mel.

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