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18th January 1998


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These prisoners whose freedom are restricted is seen painting the outer walls of the high-security jail at Bogambara in preparation for the forthcoming 50th Independence Day celebrations to be held in Kandy. Pic by Shane Seneviratne


Malwatte prelate to boycott Kandy jubilee show

Protest against Charles’ visit

By Shelani de Silva and Shane Seneviratne

At least one of the Mahanayake Theras has decided to stay away from the main Independence Day celebrations in Kandy as a prominent Buddhist organisation stepped up its campaign to call monks to refrain from attending the celebrations.

The Mahanayake of the Malwatta Chapter, Ven Rambukwelle Sri Vipassi Thera told The Sunday Times he would not attend the main function on the grounds that Prince Charles had been invited as the Chief Guest for the function.

However, the Malwatte Mahanayake Thera will attend the Thevava at the Dalada Maligawa which is due to be attended by the Prince on the eve of Independence Day.

“I have nothing against Prince Charles personally, but whoever invited him should have thought about the relevance of inviting him for this function in the context of plundering and exploitation of our resources by the British rulers,” he said.

President Chandrika Kumaratunga earlier this week called on the Mahanayake Thera, but the Charles issue had not been discussed, The Sunday Times learns.

The Sunday Times learns that the Devolution Package had figured in the discussions with the Mahanayke Thera. The Mahanayake had reiterated his position about his opposition to the Package at the start of the discussions.

Officials of the Federation of Buddhist Organizations which is protesting the visit of Prince Charles for the Independence celebration met the Mahanayake Thera of the Malwatte Chapter in Kandy on Thursday .

FBO Secretary G Punya-wardene told The Sunday Times the purpose of the meeting with the Mahanayake was to discuss the serious challenges to the Sinhalese.

“The Mahanayake Thera told us he cannot be happy with the way things are and he will not participate in the Independence Ceremony,” Mr. Punyawardene said.

‘The FBO has decided to enlighten the Sangha on this. We hope to visit each temple in the Central Province, meet the Sangha to get their support for our boycott call,” he added.

Mr. Punyawardene said the FBO also took up with the Mahanayakes the issue of the British High Commissioner’s involvement in the internal affairs of Sri Lanka—a reference to the envoy’s support for the devolution package campaign, his meetings with Tamil political parties and the financial support for rehabilitation of the North.

Yala detachment comes under attack

By Chris Kamalendran

An Army detachment in the Yala wildlife park came under gunfire last Friday, barely 12 hours after a group of soldiers escaped a landmine explosion.

The latest incident came when gunfire rained on the Varahana detachment located in block one of the strict natural reserve of the park. Earlier, on Friday morning two officers and six soldiers travelling in a tractor escaped when a landmine exploded near Patanangala. A soldier sustained minor injuries when a flying pebble hit below his ear.

The two incidents prompted security authorities in the south to launch a detailed investigation. Though they have not yet identified the persons responsible for the landmine explosion and the subsequent attack at Varahana, senior military officials in Colombo said yesterday that all indications pointed to the LTTE. However, they said a fuller probe was underway to conclusively establish who was responsible.

In the Friday morning landmine explosion, military officials said some 25 metres of cord had been used to detonate the land mine which had been buried in an open area.

In the attack on the Varahana detachment, the camp was fired at for ten minutes with automatics. The whereabouts of the attackers was not known.

Military officials are probing whether the two incidents in Yala were part of a bigger LTTE plan to destabilise the South in view of the forthcoming Northern polls and Golden Jubilee of Independence.

Ranil-Srimani talks on Cooray, devolution package

By Our Political Correspondent

RanilSrimaniUNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, met NDUNLF leader Srimani Athulathmudali this week in what appears to be a bid to downplay an earlier meeting between Mr. Wickremesinghe and one time UNP strongman Sirisena Cooray.

Sources close to both party leaders said that the meeting at Ms. Athulathmudali’s Flower Terrace residence in Colombo was pre scheduled and that the UNP leader’s meeting with Mr. Cooray at the birthday party of late President Ranasinghe Premadasa’s son Sajith was part of the discussion.

The Wickremesinghe-Cooray meeting had been down played as ‘media hype’ by the UNP leader- a position Mr. Cooray also seems to have taken. (See interview on P. 5).

Ms Athulathmudali was exclusively quoted in last week’s Sunday Times stating that she had called for a commission to probe her husband Lalith Athulathmudali’s death because she believed that President Premadasa was the force behind that assassination.

Ms Athulathmudali who joined the PA in the aftermath of her husband’s death only to be sacked from its Cabinet by President Chandrika Kumaratunga told The Sunday Times that she had no reason to disagree with the findings of a Special Presidential Commission report that the former UNP General Secretary (Sirisena Cooray) was behind the murder as well.

The Wickremesinghe-Athulathmudali talks revolved around the devolution package and are seen in political circles as a precursor to NDUNLF support to the UNP. At present the NDUNLF holds several crucial seats in provincial councils throughout the country.

Meanwhile UNP insiders were considering a different aspect of the Wickremesinghe-Cooray meeting. They say that it was not a chance meeting, but a carefully orchestrated one.

Though conceding it to be well meaning by some, these sources said that the party leadership was studying the possibility of intrigue.

Only a month ago The Sunday Times reported exclusively a challenge to the UNP leadership coming from a section of the party during elections to the youth league.

The UNP leader had spoken to several ‘suspected dissidents’ involved in the putsch, and threatened to sack some of them from their organisational role.

Party insiders who believe the Wickremesinghe - Cooray meeting is intrigue argue that it is a move to bring Mr. Cooray into the party without the burdens of office and thereby be a free agent to be a catalyst for this dissident sect.

The UNP leader who was away in Polonnaruwa was not available for comment on this theory. Mr. Cooray meanwhile is on record saying he was not at beck and call of politicians, that the UNP leaders had taken him for granted, expecting him to come when he was called and go when they feel threatened.

Army supplies

Officers in the net

A group of Army officers holding ranks below Lieutenant Colonel and soldiers received cash and other gifts including refrigerators, television sets, fans and cassette recorders for helping a contractor short supply rations, investigations conducted by the Military Police have revealed.

The investigations came on the orders of the Army Commander Lt. Gen. Rohan de S. Daluwatte. He has ordered that disciplinary action be taken against the group of officers and men. The officers involved are said to be those holding ranks of Lieutenant Colonel and below.

Military Police sources said yesterday that discrepancies in supplies have been detected so far in four Army installations - Panagoda, Ganemulla, Mattegoda and Kuruwita.

They said that in the case of two military installations, Ganemulla and Kuruvita, alleged fraud involved over two million rupees. They related to the short supply of firewood.. These sources said in the case of the other two installations the amounts would exceed three million rupees.

Lt. Gen. Daluwatte has ordered checks on supplies made by the contractor to other military installations. The contractor is said to be a long standing supplier of rations to the Army and is known to have a very large fleet of vehicles to transport rations.

Military Police said once their own inquiries are completed, they will hand over the contractor’s case to the Criminal Investigation Department.

Canadian Federal Court turns down appeal

Suresh deportation

A Canadian Federal Court has turned down an appeal regarding a decision by its government to expel the one time leader of the World Tamil Movement (WTM) and a senior member of the LTTE.

The court gave its ruling on the appeal yesterday and accordingly the activist Suresh Manickavasagam will be deported to Sri Lanka tomorrow.

Sri Lankan High Commission officials gave an assurance to courts that on his return to Colombo the activist would not be harassed.

This is the first instance where a foreign government has decided to deport an LTTE activist. A Canadian intelligence agency told courts that the WTM was a front of the LTTE.

Pay rise for State bigwigs

A pay increase for state sector employees drawing a consolidated monthly salary of more than Rs. 7,500 will be granted from July 1, this year, a Finance Ministry official said yesterday.

A salary increase for both Members of Parliament and Cabinet Ministers will also take effect from this date, the official added.

The two measures are in keeping with the announcement Deputy Finance Minister G.L. Peiris made in Parliament in November last year.

The Sunday Times learns that the government has taken a decision on a pay hike for MPs, Ministers and Deputy Ministers. But UNP General Secretary Gamini Atukorale said his party had not been informed of this.

In terms of the government decision, an MP’s monthly salary will be increased from Rs. 13,250 to Rs. 22,100 - an increase of Rs. 8,850. A Minister’s salary would be raised from Rs. 19,500 per month to Rs. 34,000 while a Deputy Minister’s from Rs. 17,000 to Rs. 28,750.

The pay increase will be in addition to other allowances MPs, Ministers and Deputy Ministers are entitled to draw. They include concessionary terms for purchase of vehicles and office equipment among others.

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