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1st February 1998


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With the peace message from the four corners of the country being brought by the youth for the Golden Jubilee celebrations, picture shows the peace message being carried by five youths, applauded by the security personnel at Palaly Airport. The message was originally for Kandy, but now it is brought to Colombo- Pic by Lakshman Gunathilake


Four Mahanayakes reject package

Heads of Sri Lanka’s four main Buddhist sects have after several weeks of discussions rejected the government’s devolution package in its entirety

The Mahanayake Theras in a signed statement gave three main reasons for the rejection of the proposals and are scheduled to come out with a detailed explanation within the coming week.

The three main reasons for the rejection of the proposals, the Mahanayake Theras said were: the country’s unitary status would be affected, the country would be divided on ethnic basis, as the anticipated peace would not be achieved and the implementation of the package would lead to the setting up of the foundation for an ‘Eelam’, - a separate state.

The decision came at a three-hour meeting at the Asgiriya temple presided over by the Mahanayake of the Asgiriya Chapter, the Most Venerable Palipane Sri Chandananda Thera. The other Mahanayakes were represented at the meeting. The rejection of the proposals which came days after the main Opposition UNP rejected the devolution package was seen as a major blow to the proposed constitutional reforms.

The statement was signed by Ven. Rambukwelle Sri Vipassi Thera, Mahanayake of the Asgiriya Chapter, the Ven Palipane Sri Chandananda Thera, the Ven. Madihe Pannaseeha Thera, Mahanayake of the Amarapura Sangha Sabahawa and the Ven Weveldeniye Medhalankara Thera.

The Mahayanakes said they had studied the devolution proposals submitted by the Government and would be giving the detailed explanation to the public and the government.

The National Joint Committee (NJC) which was the first main organisation to reject the government’s devolution proposals was responsible for co-ordinating Friday’s meeting. NJC President Raja Wanasundara, Secretary Piyasena Dissanayaka, executive committee members S.J. Walpita and Gamani Jayasuriya were among those present.

Constitutional Affairs Minister G.L. Peiris had earlier declared that if the main opposition UNP did not respond to government’s proposals by January 31, it would go ahead with its plans. However the PA’s General Secretary, D. M. Jayaratne later said they were willing to give time for the UNP response.

Mid this week the UNP rejecting the government’s devolution proposals submitted its own proposals.

Colombo schools closed

All schools in Colombo and Sri Jayewardenapura Kotte Municipal limits have been closed in view of the Golden Jubilee Independence celebrations.

An education officer said the schools would reopen on Thursday February 5. Schools which have planned their own Independence Day celebrations on Wednesday have been requested to conduct them on Thursday.

Charles coming but no float parade

The government has cancelled the participation of school children at Wednesday’s Golden Jubilee Independence celebrations as part of tough security measures to prevent terrorist attacks.

A procession of floats depicting various achievements during the three year People’s Alliance rule has also been cancelled. Over 50 lorries and trucks were decorated under various themes as the ‘‘political piece de resistance’’ of the celebrations.

These measures, ‘The Sunday Times’ learns, came as government decided to tighten security after doubts that Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, will not attend the celebrations were cleared.

This has also led to closure of schools within Colombo and Sri Jayawardenapura MC limits. Troops and Police brought in for security are being accommodated there.

Buckingham Palace flew to Colombo the head of Prince Charles’ security detail for a fuller assessment of the security situation after last Sunday’s truck bomb explosion at Sri Dalada Maligawa.

Whilst the official announcement that the Prince of Wales would attend the celebrations remained, last Sunday’s incident raised a flurry of diplomatic activity between the Foreign Office in Colombo and the Court of St James.

‘The Sunday Times’ reliably learns that the main reason for shifting the celebration venue from Kandy to Colombo was to facilitate Prince Charles’ visit. All programmes for the Prince of Wales originally scheduled for Kandy including visits to the War graves and the Peradeniya Gardens have been cancelled.

An earlier suggestion that he paye a visit to the damaged Sri Dalada Maligawa has also been ruled out on grounds of security.

Prince Charles and an entourage of 80 will arrive at Bandaranaike International Airport on Tuesday on board an RAF Boeing 757.

All other countries which were sending special envoys have re-confirmed their participation at the golden jubilee celebrations.

Minister of Public Administration, Home Affairs and Plantations Industries Ratnasiri Wickremenayake will receive Prince Charles at the Independence celebrations at 9.25 a.m., minutes after Prime Minister Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike’s arrival.

Foreign Ministers and special envoys from 13 countries will be received by Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar at 9.08 a.m.

President Chandrika Kumaratunga’s arrival will be heralded by the blowing of trumpets by the Sri Lanka Army at 9.29 a.m. She will be received by the Prime Minister and Minister of Home Affairs. After the hoisting of the National flag by the President which will be at 9.32 a.m., the National anthem will be sung by students of Devi Balika, Sirimavo Bandaranaike Balika and Museaus College. This would be followed by Jayamangala Gathas and ‘Devo Vassatu Kalena’ also sung by the same bevy of girls.

Two minutes silence will be observed in honour of all patriots who have laid down their lives to preserve and protect the freedom, unity, sovereignty and the territorial integrity of Sri Lanka at 9.47 a.m.

Address to the Nation by the President is at 10.05 a.m. to be followed by a parade of the Armed forces at 10.50 a.m. The ceremony comes to a close at 12 noon with a 25 gun salute to the Nation by the Sri Lanka Navy.

UNP sells its package to minorities

By J.A.L. Jayasinghe

UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe is meeting minority parties to explain the party’s alternative proposals for greater power-sharing at the centre instead of more devolution to the provinces to solve the ethnic conflict.

In the first of these meetings, Mr. Wickremesinghe met SLMC leader M. H. M. Ashraff to explain the party’s proposals. But Mr. Ashraff’s initial reaction was reserved, party sources said.

They said Mr. Ashraff reiterated the SLMC’s thrust for more devolution of power to the provinces. But he also asked the UNP to provide more details of its alternative proposals so that he could discuss them with the govenment and other parties such as the TULF.

The UNP’s proposals envisage the creation of two vice presidency posts to be filled by members of minority communities while a second chamber like the earlier senate would give a fair share of seats to the minorities and also include the chief ministers of provinces.

Accompanying the UNP and the SLMC leaders at the talks were Ronnie de Mel, A. C. S. Hameed, Rauf Hakeem and Uduman Lebbe.

Grenade attack on UNP office in Kandy

The main Opposition UNP office in Kandy was damaged in a grenade attack before dawn yesterday, sparking further tension in the hill capital in the wake of the Dalada Maligawa bomb attack.

The party office and a nearby pay phone booth were badly damaged, and UNP General Secretary Gamini Atukorale charged that the ruling People’s Alliance supporters were responsible for the attack.Kandy’s UNP Mayor Harindra Dunuwilla along with MPs and other party members visited the office yesterday to assess the damage.

Mr. Atukorale told The Sunday Times that if the men who threw the grenade at the UNP office had thrown it at the LTTE truck taking the bomb to the Maligawa, they would have been doing a service to the nation.

He also said the PA was afraid of the UNP campaign for the resignation of Deputy Defence Minister Anuruddha Ratwatte and the pre-dawn grenade attack was part of a counter campaign.

Meanwhile security measures in and around Dalada Maligawa were tightened and even journalists with special passes were not allowed to enter.

Ratwatte resignation still unresolved

By M. Ismeth

Amidst demonstrations and counter demonstrations, till yesterday evening no one was sure whether Gen. Anuruddha Ratwatte was still the deputy defence minister or not.

Last Wednesday in the aftermath of the Dalada Maligawa bomb attack, Gen. Ratwatte submitted his letter of resignation to the President. For two days the state media in an obviously orchestrated political drama played with words by saying “sources at the Presidential Secretariat indicate that the President is not likely to accept the letter of resignation.”

Things lay in the thin air till Friday when the President wrote to Gen. Ratwatte.

She said, “ I appreciate the humility and sense of responsibility you demonstrate in the decision to tender your resignation from the post of Deputy Minister of Defence, since the recent events at the Dalada Maligawa in Kandy……

“The country and this government require your courage and determination now as before to successfully conclude the people’s campaign against terrorism and for peace.

“I therefore, have decided that I cannot accept your resignation…… and urge you to reconsider your decision.”

In other words, the President was telling him to withdraw his resignation but upto yesterday afternoon, he had not done so.

Meanwhile the main opposition party, the UNP, is slamming the Ratwatte resignation drama as a sham and a farce. UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe said the party would continue to agitate for Gen. Ratwatte’s resignation from al his portfolios.

UNP spokesman Karunasena Kodituwakku charged that Gen. Ratwatte wanted to stage a big show in his home town Kandy to project his claim to be the next prime minister but what happened was the greatest tragedy in the country’s history.

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