US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright declared that her Government was very closely reviewing a possible ban on the LTTE and said that an announcement would be made very soon on this issue.
This came in the wake of a 45 minutes round of talks between Albright and Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar in New York on Thursday when Sri Lanka renewed its call for the US to ban the LTTE.
Ms. Albright agreed that such a ban would have disastrous repercussions on LTTE fund raising in the US.
Mr. Kadirgamar had briefed Ms. Albright about the use of children by the LTTE to wage war in Sri Lanka, a matter he later raised during his powerful UN General Assembly speech.
The US Secretary of State welcomed the Sri Lankan initiative and expressed her horror at the use of children in war. She cited what was happening in Liberia where the legitimate Government was resorting to the same activities.
During the discussions Ms. Albright announced the US Governments excellent state of relations with Sri Lanka and said the appointment of a businessman as the new Ambassador to Sri Lanka could be taken as a signal for increased commercial co-operation between the two countries.
Mr. Kadirgamar then raised some outstanding issues between the two countries including the Char Lanka, Evans International and Free Port Me Moron contracts.
Ms. Albright said she was happy that issues had been dealt with or are being looked at. Business circles are usually small and let it not be said that the Sri Lankan Government is not interested in commercial dealings with the US, she said.
Ms. Albright said she was trying to reschedule her visit to the subcontinent to come to Sri Lanka.
Former US Ambassador to Sri Lanka Peter Burleigh who is now the Deputy US Ambassador to the UN and Sri Lankas Ambassador designate to Washington Dr. Warnasena Rasaputram were also present during the talks.
On Friday during his speech to the UN General Assembly Mr. Kadirgamar gave a detailed description of the plight of children who are recruited as combatants in armed conflicts. He brought to the attention of the General Assembly the study on the Impact of Armed Conflict on Children which was presented to the Assembly last year by Graca Machel of Mozambique and her collaborators.
This study contains a comprehensive survey of the effect of war on children. The Minister highlighted, in particular, the conscription of teenage children, boys and girls, many of them merely 10 years old, by the LTTE to fight a separatist war in Sri Lanka. He quoted from various UN reports, including the Machel study and international press reports to show that the LTTE is guilty of the most heinous crimes against Tamil children by using them as suicide bombers, with cyanide capsules round their necks, and hurling them into battle as human bombs.
Foreign Minister Kadirgamar appealed to the international community to take action on the lines suggested in the Machel study to eradicate the use of children under 18 years in armed conflict, to support a worldwide media campaign to expose the practices of forcible conscription of children and to create international pressure against those who do so. He also urged strict adherence to the Convention on the Rights of the Child by all actors in armed conflict. He stressed the need for specific measures to demobilize and reintegrate child soldiers into society. He appealed to all United Nations bodies, non-governmental organizations, religious groups and civil society in general not to remain silent but to speak up against the adoption by the LTTE of the diabolical practice of sending young children to war. In particular he appealed to the affluent countries in which the LTTE has established offices and raises funds to prosecute its infamous war in Sri Lanka not to tolerate their presence and give them shelter when they engage in the commission of dastardly crimes against children - indeed the children of their own community. He rejected the glorification and romanticization of war and pointed out that children are used in war because of the heartless, deliberate and calculated decisions made by ruthless men, regardless of the loss of innocent lives, relentlessly pursuing their megalomaniac ambitions.
The leader of the LTTE while sending to their deaths thousands of young children - the youngest of the young - brings up his own children in comfort and safety, far from the battlefields, far away from the country itself.
Meanwhile, a Reuter report from New York states that Kadirgamar told a press conference that Sri Lanka wants governments to make it a crime for groups to conspire in one country, including raising funds, for the purpose of committing illegal acts abroad.
In answer to questions, the minister said weapons flowing to Sri Lanka came from the Ukraine area, from the Cambodian area and from the Afghanistan area as well as other black market channels, including arms from Zimbabwe hijacked at sea.
I appeal to the affluent countries, in which the LTTE has established offices and raises funds to prosecute its infamous war in Sri Lanka, not to tolerate their presence and give them shelter when they engage in the commission of dastardly crimes against children, he said in an address to the U.N. General Assembly which preceded his press conference.
He referred frequently to a 1996 groundbreaking U.N. study by Graca Macel of Mozambqiue on the impact of armed conflicts on children, which mentioned the LTTE.
Increasingly, adults are deliberately conscripting children as soldiers. Some commanders have noted the desirability of using child soldiers in war because they are more obedient, Mr. Kadirgamar said. They are hurled into battle as human bombs, with cynanide capsules around their necks. The LTTE, he said, had conscripted thousands of teenagers and even 10-year olds to fight its war, while its leadership sent its own children to safety abroad.
It brazenly kidnaps them or lures them to its cause by glorfiying and romanticizing war. They are brainwashed into believing in the cult of martyrdom. They swear fanatical allegiance to the leader, he said.
The UNP charged yesterday that Police spies had bugged the hotel where the party held a three-day meeting to discuss current political trends.
The partys media spokesman Karunasena Kodituwakku alleged that electronic equipment in the hotels conference room had been bugged while two sleuths reportedly from the National Intelligence Bureau were seen in the corridors of the Bentota Hotel.
Dr. Kodituwakku said that after receiving information of the alleged bugging the party shifted the venue to a different section of the hotel and then to another hotel the following morning. He said there was absolutely no justification for such political espionage as the UNP had no hidden agenda. The conference was held on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
Among those present were party leader Ranil Wickremesinghe and several MPs while some journalists from the Sinhala media were also invited. It is reported that some of the journalists were questioned by the sleuths.
The fundamental rights application of Lt. Col. A.S. Amarasekera against Army Commander Rohan Dalu-watte, and the Brigade Commander of the Weli Oya area, Brigade Commander Hiran Halan-goda was withdrawn last week in the Supreme Court when the matter came up for interim relief before Supreme Court Justices Asoka De Z. Gune-wardene and Ananda Coomarasamy.
The application was withdrawn by counsel for the petitioner who informed court his client has been permitted by his superiors to visit the villages in the Weli Oya area, and to get himself treated at the military hospital once a month.
Lt. Col. Amarasekera went before the Supreme Court last month alleging violation of his right to freedom of speech and movement among other rights, when as a demobilised officer he alleged that he had been prevented by the army top brass from travelling to the Weli Oya border villages for humanitarian work. This refusal had been due to his anti-package views, he had alleged.
J.B. Kelegama, a well known economist, has accused Trade Minister Kingsley T. Wickramaratne of plagiarism, but the Minister denied his claim.
Minister Wickramaratne was accused of reproducing two paragraphs from an article by Dr. Kelegamas Tea - the cup that cheers but not inebriates.
This is an obvious case of plagiarism, Dr. Kelegama told The Sunday Times. Trade Minister Kingsley Wickramaratne in response said that he quoted a newspaper article when he made a speech and that the Daily News which published the speech made an error in not using the quotation marks properly.
The Minister added that Dr. Kelegama never requested for an apology from him nor contacted him with regard to this issue.
An unusual wedding took place last Friday morning at the Department of Commissioner General of Rehabilitation when two hardcore LTTE guerillas who surrendered pledged their love in a moving ceremony.
On the frontlines of the northern battle field, hardcore LTTE guerillas Sathsilan 25 and Theresa 21 fell in love and kept their relationship alive secretly amidst all the gunfire and hatred of war. For years they went on defying an LTTE ban on such romances. But when the guerilla girl conceived the young lovers decided to lay down their arms and surrendered - largely for the sake of the unborn child.
The once hardened or strong willed couple make the most difficult decision of their lives. Having never really thought of a life together they decided to give up their military lifestyle and surrender to the Sri Lanka Army.
Theresa was sent to the Gangodawila Detention Centre while Sathsilan was sent for rehabilitation to the Binduru Wave centre. Though the separation was hard both agreed to this as they had no choice because of their hardcore past. However both wanted to be married before the child was born. They made an appeal to the Commissioner of Rehabilitation.
What was going to be a simple ceremony turned out to be a grand event. Theresa who was looking forward to the marriage spent 3000 rupees on her bridal and was all dressed and waiting for her groom who came to Colombo that morning. Theresa from a wealthy family had collected money to spend for the wedding. She had not only bought the wedding saree but also the rings.
However the groom who thought the ceremony would be a simple one came for the wedding in an old shirt and trouser but seeing his bride all dressed up he changed.
The ceremony took place at 11.00 am and the attesting witnesses were Rehabilitation Commissioner General Kumari Navaratne and the matron of the Gangodawila detention centre. The couple was given two hours to be together after the ceremony.
According to Mrs. Navaratne the couple wants to start a new life when the baby is born and to build their own house. The husband cried a lot when he spoke to me about his life. He said it was the child who touched their hearts and they saw a new meaning to life, she said.
Since The Sunday Times carried an article on AirLanka on 14.9.97 where it was proved that AirLanka had made an insurance claim for the loss of bar sales money from a steward, the steward has been interdicted from the Airline.
In a letter alleging misconduct, the Airline has informed the cabin crew member that he has been interdicted from service with no pay.
The steward in question was apparently interdicted for writing to Chairman Harry Jayawardena maintaining he has been publicly embarrassed and humiliated by Mr. Jayawardena who is on record for naming him a crook and accusing him of theft.
The steward has also requested from AirLanka, repayment of his money, US$ 1963.23 which was later claimed by the Airline from the Insurance Corporation of Ceylon for a loss of bar sales money on 31. 3. 97.
This was in addition to having accepted full payment from the steward for the money. The insurance claim was made on July 24,1997. The steward had further sought to clarify a statement made by Mr. Jayawardena to The Sunday Times on 21.9.97 where Mr. Jayawardena states that the steward in question had opted to settle the money, had he not done so disciplinary action would have been initiated against him.
However, again The Sunday Times has discovered a contradiction here as inspite of the fact the steward had opted to settle the money in full, disciplinary action as well, was initiated on September 3 against him. A show cause letter was sent to the cabin crew member saying that should the steward fail to show cause in writing on or before 1200 hrs. on September 19, it will be presumed that he has no cause to show and appropriate action will be taken. The letter further states no travel privileges will be allowed until completion of disciplinary proceedings against him. Meanwhile the newspaper attempted to speak with the steward in question who refused an interview saying he could not comply without permission from AirLanka.
An official from the Insurance Corporation of Sri Lanka said the claim by AirLanka with regard to the said incident would not have been honoured if the facts given were not genuine. He said such claims are justified only when proven there has been a genuine case of loss.
AirLanka too seems to have conceded this fact by now agreeing to reimburse the sum of US$1963.23 to the steward in question. Meanwhile the cabin crew member in writing to Mr. Jayawardena requested permission for him to write to The Sunday Times and clarify an alleged defamatory statement made by Mr. Jayawardena against him. This permission has not been granted, instead the said steward was interdicted.
The steward in question had in Tokyo on 31.3.97 lost all duty free sales money and some personal cash, his passport, crew member certificate and AirLanka identity card.
Mr. Jayawardena, when he spoke with this correspondent last month was confident the steward in question had committed theft and was adamant he was a crook. He said he had questioned members of this particular crew who had lent evidence alleging their colleague had robbed the said cash.
This statement too was later allegedly denied by some members of this particular crew who claim they were never questioned by Mr. Jayawardena.
The Sunday Times reliably learns that the internal investigations conducted by AirLanka had been completed without a proper inquiry being held.
The hastily conducted inquiry had accused the steward concerned for negligence but not theft.
Human Rights activists, academics and media personalities have expressed concern over the safety of Sri Lanka-born journalist D.B.S. Jeyaraj, a known critic of the LTTE, following death threats to him in Toronto, Canada where he presently works.
Mr. Jeyaraj, who also writes to the Sunday Island in Colombo is reported to have been warned by LTTE groups in Canada not to write against its war of separation in Sri Lanka.
In 1993, Mr. Jeyaraj was assaulted by a gang of Tamil youths armed with baseball bats and he suffered grievous injuries as a consequence.
The Law and Trust Society has warned that given the fact that Mr. Jeyarajs past has been fraught with disturbing and often violent encounters, it would be reasonable to assume that the current intimidation including death threats might graduate to a more serious threat to his life.
In Canada Mr. Jeyaraj has edited several Tamil publications. Some of his weekly newsletters such as Senthamarai and Munchari enjoyed a wide circulation amongst the Tamil community in Canada. His articles covered both contemporary developments in Sri Lanka and matters of local interest to the expatriate Tamils in Canada.
After suspending his involvement in the regular weeklies in the wake of repeated threats and assaults, Mr. Jeyaraj embarked on free lance journalism and contributed a weekly column to the Sunday Island. He also writes for Frontline in India and Tamil Times published from London.
Some of the articles and news written by Mr. Jeyaraj question Tamil gang warfare in Toronto and critical of the role of the LTTE and the stranglehold it has on the lives of the Tamils in Sri Lanka. His writings in English catering a larger cross section of readership have considerably magnified the focus of the international community on the issue of human rights violations in Sri Lanka.
Concerned Human Rights groups have recommended that an international public opinion campaign be launched on the issue and that the Canadian government afford protection to Mr. Jeyaraj.
Meanwhile the convenor of Prajathanthra (Foundation for Media Freedom in a Democracy, Sri Lanka) Lucien Rajakarunanayake in a statement sent to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) states:
Between August 29 and September 13, 1997 Mr. Jeyaraj received several abusive and threatening messages over the telephone by male callers, using either cellular or unlisted phone services. Given the past record, it is most likely that Mr. Jeyaraj, is again being targeted for attack, and this time of a more serious nature, which may even lead to his death, given the record of the LTTE in dealing with Tamil journalists critical of it.
In these circumstances we request you to make this position known internationally and also call on the Canadian authorities to give whatever necessary protection that Mr. Jeyaraj may need.
A journalist who had been appointed to a diplomatic post as a media counsellor in a Sri Lankan embassy has been put in a dilemma with his appointment being cancelled even before he took up the post.
The Journalist, Sugeeswara Senadheeras appointment as Information Counsellor at the Sri Lankan embassy in Stockholm was cancelled by the Foreign Ministry after the explanation he gave to the Public Services Commission regarding a controversial book written by him was rejected.
Mr. Senadheera said that after his appointment to the important post in Sweden which had been announced earlier this year he was asked to explain why his appointment should not be cancelled as the contents of a book published by him in 1996 titled Under Siege might have adverse effects on the government.
Mr. Senadheera in his explanation said in his application for the post he had mentioned the book as a qualification and if the Foreign Ministry thought he was unfit for the post it should have rejected his application then.
Members of the selection board too received the book. Why did they select me first and then call for an explanation on the book? he asked.
An explanation was also sought from Mr. Senadheera regarding an erroneous news report broadcast when he was News Director of MTV.
The report had caused panic by saying a curfew had been declared islandwide when it was only a state of emergency the charges said.
Mr. Senadheera said he had not passed that particular report for broadcast but as News Director he took responsibility and apologised. He said the Foreign Ministry and the PSC were fully aware of this incident when they selected him for the Stockholm post and he could not understand why they had to call for an explanation on this matter later.
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