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28th Junes 1998

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I didn't know, says IGP

AGOTIC episode:

By S.S.Selvanayagam

The Police Chief has promised a top level inquiry on the incident where NIB detectives video filmed and audio taped the proceedings of a public meeting held by the Action Group of Tamils in Colombo.

Tamil Congress leader Kumar Ponnampalam told The Sunday Times that he along with NSSP Central Committee member V. Thirunavukkarasu, took up this matter with Police Chief W. Rajaguru on Thursday. Also present at the meeting were Senior DIG Gamini Gunawardene, Colombo South SSP Lucky Dissanayake, DIG O. K. Hemachandra and DIG T.E. Anandarajah. He said the IGP had told them he was not aware of the video filming and promised to hold an inquiry

Meanwhile, AGOTIC has condemned the police action in both video filming the people who attended and audio taping the proceedings of their public meeting at the New Kathiresan Hall, Bambalapitiya on June 19.

It charged that this act of the police was an insidious attempt at intimidating the Tamil public who attended the meeting and an implied threat to any future participation This was amply proved by the way the police acted in videoing at the entrance even those people who were just walking into the meeting, it added. It also alleged that police had visited the persons in charge of the hall on the pretext of making various inquiries.

Ina's Journey ends abruptly

By Frederica Jansz

The row that erupted over the recent video film 'Ina's Journey Through Sri Lanka' has resulted in the termination of this agreement by the government under the terms and conditions for termination with Manning Selvage & Lee (MSL).

In April this year President Kumaratunga issued a directive to the Attorney General to explore the possibilities of terminating this agreemnt between the Ministry of Tourism and MSL. Unfortunately the termination of the agreement follows after the damage has been done, as the sleazy video filmed in Sri Lanka under this same contract is now being shown in Germany and elsewhere.

Secretary to the Ministry for Tourism W P S Jayawardena said, as far as the video is concerned, the Ceylon Tourist Board has issued a directive to MSL to stop airing the programme on German television and elsewhere in the region. MSL have chosen to ignore the directive and has not responded to either the tourist board or the ministry.

Tourism Minister Dharmasiri Senanayake has appointed a one-man commission, Mr. Senarath Gunasena from the zoological gardens to study this case and report his findings on the matter. The Tourism Ministry meanwhile claims that contrary to speculation the ministry has not spent a cent for the work done by MSL. The Tourism Ministry further maintains that no cancellation fee has been paid to MSL for termination.

The Sunday Times met with the Chairman of the Ceylon Tourist Board, Mr. Samaranayake who was keen to assert that he nor the tourist board are to blame for the shameful video marketing Sri Lanka as a sex destination.

Mr. Samaranayake, Chairman CTB, said that while there maybe certain debatable scenes the film is not all bad except for the scenes portraying the joys of Kama Sutra. He says this film is not going to slow down tourist arrivals to Sri Lanka from Germany, and there has in fact been an increase and additional flights have been included from Germany. "I have only done my job as Chairman of the CTB, to get tourists into this country,' he said.

Shock and horror has been expressed at the contents of the video, though Mr. William Laws, Campaign Director, MSL for the project maintains that the evaluation of the programme has not been objective. Mr. Laws asserts that the programme is targeted at young single tourists, who are looking for fun on their annual holiday. He says that for this age group, forming relationships with members of the opposite sex is an entirely normal and desirable part of their holiday.

Mr. Laws says that these young singles are a legitimate target group for an important segment of Sri Lanka's tourism industry, and that the video film did an excellent job of delivering positive messages to that group.

He says that it is entirely wrong to say that this is a 'false' image of Sri Lanka and that it is a completely accurate report on one particular element of Sri Lanka's image. Nothing, he says was created solely for the purpose of the programme. The entertainment provided by the animators is what this target group of tourists want, which is why they come here and the hotels provide it.

There was a controversy over the issuing of visas to this particular camera crew. The CTB asserts it followed protocol and referred the matter to the Foreign Ministry, while the latter claims that CTB made an eleventh hour request for visas on the February 19, and the group arrived on the 20th. Visas were granted at the airport. Ariya Rubesinghe, Director for Information has informed the CTB Chairman, that this film crew had not adhered to the requirement of getting them accreditation at the Dept of Information through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. William Laws from MSL, maintains that it was the fault of Mahil Gooneratne who failed to obtain the team's visa in time. Laws asserts that Gooneratne had maintained that approval had first to be obtained from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and turned the task back to CTB in Colombo.

Once in Sri Lanka the camera crew was accompanied throughout by Sumith de Alwis, Assistant Director of the Ceylon Tourist Board, (CTB). Mr. de Alwis however told The Sunday Times that he was not present at all times during shooting of the lurid scenes, adding however that as far as tourism is concerned "for young people this is O.K."

Mr. Laws further reiterates that nowhere in the film is it suggested that Sri Lanka is a sex destination for single women, or indeed a sex destination of any kind. The unsuccessful search of a male tourist for a female tourist partner was light hearted joke he says.

The transvestite show on the video, Mr. Laws says, is similar to a typical English family pantomime and only somebody who lives a most sheltered and straight-laced life could find it anything other than roisterous fun.

He says that it is simply not true that the presenter, Ina Werner, appeared scantily and provocatively dressed. He admits that there were one or two scenes where the camera angles at her bosom, but that this is the persona she adopts, which her audience expects and which is totally normal and unsurprising for German TV audiences.

Anura keeps mum on talks with Sai Baba

UNP Parliamentarian, Anura Bandaranaike, much in the news over dramatic political link-ups for upcoming elections, has discussed marriage and local politics with Sathiya Sri Sai Baba, but says he cannot reveal anything about it.

Wearing a heavy gold chain with a picture of the guru he respects as an incarnation of God, Mr. Bandaranaike spoke of a deep and powerful bond he has with Sai Baba - an experience that began 10 years ago when his God-man appeared in a dream and which was interpreted as telling him to come to the ashram in Puttaparthy. Since then Mr. Bandaranaike has faithfully gone twice a year to see Sai Baba. With every visit, the experience and the awe have deepened.

"This heavy chain, just feel it, Swami mainfested it this time by gently swiping his hand on the ground, and this chain I cherish so much together with my earlier ones, chain and two rings.''

"It is an awesome experience each time I see Swami. I have done so for ten years, twice every year. It is really a deep feeling which one has to experience. I feel myself inadquate to describe this very awesome and sacred feeling,'' Mr. Bandaranaike said in the afterglow of a powerful spiritual experience.

How did this devotion begin? "One day in a dream I saw Swami open my bedroom door and beckon to me with both hands. I mentioned this dream to a friend who was a devotee. He was excited and said Swami was calling me to him. Within a week I went to Puttaparthy. As Swami saw me at the darshan time he came to me and said so, 'you have come because I called you'. He told me this straightaway. This really shook me. I now feel there is a special bond I have with this great divine person worshipped today by millions worldwide. The moment he sees me he comes to me."

Asked whether Sai Baba gave special treatment to rich or powerful people, Mr. Bandaranaike said, "Oh no it is mere tosh that Swamy talks only to people with big names. What does a name mean to a divine person? This time when I was there Swami bent, swiped the floor and produced five gold Rolex watches for five poor students who were to be married.

"I have heard how for months he never even looked at a rich film magnate, although he humbled himself at the end by sleeping on the floor.

"Swami loves all people. You want to know what strikes me most? It is the abundance of love and affection he showers on all His devotees. He will bend and let holy ash fall from His divine fingers on the head of a poor child all bundled up in ordinary old cotton clothing.

"Swami loves all people and insists we keep to the rites and worship of our own religion be it Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam or Christanity. I am encouraged by Him to practise my Buddhism with greater enthusiasm. He believes in the essential goodness of all religions.''

Asked about the recent meeting and what they spoke about, Mr. Bandaranaike said, "He did talk to me about marriage but I cannot say what he said. He also talked about local politics for well over an hour.' He wanted it kept confidential and so my lips are sealed according to His wishes.''

Anura also related how Swami miraculously helps his devotees.

''For instance when I visited Egypt in 1984 I broke my leg and I had multiple fractures in three places. I travelled from Aswan to Cairo by plane for two hours without even the help of disprin to kill what could have been excruciating pain. I had no pain at all. Then I travelled in an uncomfortable crowded vehicle again with no pain.

"I had minor surgery for my leg in Egypt and major surgery in Colombo lasting four and a half hours. All this within a week.

But believe me after four and a half hours of surgery I did not have any pain. My doctors marvelled and said it was a miracle. But I must reveal that while in surgery in my unconscious state I saw Swami walking about the theatre dressed not in His customary orange or red robe but in grey, in keeping with the use of light colours in an operating theatre. When I met Swami later with my leg in plaster he did recall that he was in the theatre with me dressed in a grey robe.

"I feel a tremendous bond and closeness with Swami. I have also never seen such manifestation of affection as Swami shows. I have no doubt that Swami is divine. I believe he is an incarnation of God.

"I took my mother two years ago to see Swami. He gave her the rare opportunity of allowing her car to be driven right upto to his ashram on account of her painful feet. He spoke to her for over an hour and took her away to speak privately to her too. Swami stooped and picked up from the ground a huge gold chain with diamonds and rubies and asked her to wear it. She does always.

"Swami loves all religions and in his museum are found religious pictures from all faiths.I have no doubt Sri Sathya Sai with all the good work he does for the poor and the sick with his hospital at Puttaparthy is God incarnate. Today the villagers of Puttaparthy get free specialised treatment from world class specialists, with love from Sai Baba," Anura concluded.

Thonda gives Tigers a divine tale

By Roshan Peiris

Minister and CWC leader, S. Thondaman whose support for the LTTE often stirs controversy, is now saying he believes LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran has divine guidance and even gets divine power for the liberation of the Tamil people. In an interview with The Sunday Times, Mr. Thondaman, while insisting his position is stronger than before, has said talks with the LTTE are essential and described Provincial elections as a joke.


Q: After having been in different Cabinets for the past 20 years, why have you now decided to form a new coalition with some unions and Indian Tamil Organisations?

A: I have made no attempt myself to form any coalition. I did not even talk about such a coalition. It is a number of small Tamil parties which have come to me, seeking guidance and leadership so that the Tamils could fight for their dignity and rights. Such parties as the National Workers Union, Tamil groups in the Communist Party and others who had faith in the UNP and the other Sinhala parties find that they are treated in a cavalier fashion by major Sinhala parties. So they are fed up and angry. They have now realised that they have been mistaken in trusting these parties. My role is to provide the opportunity and the understanding to help them to get together.

Q: Many politicians and people feel you are exploiting the politics of the Sinhalese. They feel you are ungrateful and churlish after having enjoyed Cabinet rank and all that goes with it.

A:Nonsense. It is we who have been exploited through generations, without even the right of citizenship or voting. I have struggled with others to correct these injustices.

Q: What do you feel about the alleged LTTE operation in the plantations? They have been exploding lot of bombs.

A: I don't believe the LTTE is active in the plantation areas, though there may be a few dare devil youngsters who have visited Vavuniya and so on showing some kind of sympathy. The LTTEers are clever politicians and they won't deface their image by throwing bombs. Those throwing bombs are interested parties, may be Sinhala groups who are doing it in view of the possible Provincial Council elections and trying to give the LTTE a bad name.

Q: On the one hand we see the LTTE is not interested in allowing any form of worthwhile civil government in the North and East. But you are talking of their finickines about debasing their image.

A: This civil government is a political gimmick of the TULF which wants to show some democratic colours.

Q: So you still advocate dialogue with the LTTE despite their attacks on the Dalada Maligawa and other places?

A: The TULF failed in having a dialogue and carrying on the Eelam campaign as it promised. So now the LTTE have dedicated itself to achieve Eelam.

In this context, a dialogue with the LTTE is a must. Otherwise tell me what is the alternative? Unlike the TULF, the LTTE has sustained for some twelve years its vision of Eelam for the Tamil people. I think Velupillai Prabhakaran has some sort of divine guidance and some sort of divine power to continue for so long despite the army offensive.

Q: How can you speak of divine guidance when the LTTE is killing innocent people and killing democracy?

A: What democracy are you talking about when the army is merrily going on the offensive no compunction. So the LTTE cannot accept civil democratic government. Even the long ago Bandaranaike-Chelvanayakam Pact was not implemented and there was no LTTE then. If the LTTE does not take a stand the Tamil people will be slaves.

Q: Are you supporting the Government Devolution Package? A state-owned paper reported you are for it.

A: I was misunderstood. What is the use of Provincial Councils and the like when both Prabhakaran and the Tamil people by and large won't accept it. As at present Provincial Councils as a political excise are a joke. No attempt is made to restore the Provincial Council in the North-East.

Q: Going to other matters, have you settled your problems with AirLanka, with the Emirates coming in.

A: No comment. It is now a private matter.

Q: How do you assess your own political future both in the CWC and in National politics? Some say you are losing your power.

A: That is what some politicians and sections of the media would like to think about me. If those who say so had seen the May Day rally at Nawalapitiya, they would have realised I am stronger than ever both in the CWC and in national politics.

I got the UNP government to give the estate workers their rights to citizenship. And now under the PA government I hold the important portfolio as far as I am concerned in being in charge of estate infrastructure. This embraces health, education, living conditions, culture and sports to mention a few.

Q: But many feel you cannot any longer make or break goverments as you did. You have lost the position of being the one before.

A: I don't see any change. I am 86 years old, but still ticking well with energy. If I cannot be useful in politics, I will then give it up.

Unless I have worthwhile influence I won't waste my time in politics.

Take the last eighteen or twenty months. I have organised two strikes successfully. I negotiated for a pay rise of 29 rupees a day. Other strikes in various sectors have been failures and were brought under the Essential Services Act.

Q: But even within the CWC your authority is now being questioned.

A: Mr. Chandrsekeran is now with us. Mr. Sellasamy was set up by D.B. Wijetunge and Sirisena Cooray carried out his plans. Mr. Sellasamy was influenced.

Q: Are you for a Presidential election in November? The President has challenged Ranil Wickremesinghe. She says she is ready for the contest.

A: I am not interested in challenges. As I said earlier I think the PC election is a waste of money. We have 225 members in Parliament to look after the people's welfare.

Q: What are your views on the North-East merger?

A: Once again the government has let down the Tamil people by not merging the North and East and holding Provincial Council elections after that. Then, it would be meaningful.

Ranil makes pilgrims' trek to Mahiyangana

When the Kandyan Kingdom flourished, pilgrimages to Mahiyangana were often through the arduous path of Medawala and Hunnasgiriya. But this poverty stricken backward village has lost all its significance since then.

Pilgrims after miles of trudging through tree lined paths, as a tradition flocked to the Medawala Ambalama to rest awhile, before recommencing their journey.

Today, the picturesque village is being devoured by poverty and is yearning for the basic amenities and some modern facilities.

But last week, the remote village received a visitor as the people eagerly gathered to greet Opposition and UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, the first political leader to visit Medawala, an area never trodden by a political leader before.

The people vibrantly exchanged views with him, the subjects ranging from the escalating cost of living, lack of basic amenities, scrapping of Janasaviya assistance and the two mile journey they daily undertook to reach the nearest school.

The Opposition Leader explained that he wished to empower the pradeshiya sabhas to the maximum, thereby awarding the opportunity to the people to select their priorities and execute plans to develop their own area.

The Opposition Leader during his day's visit to difficult areas in Kandy, visited Hunnasgiriya, Rambukwella, Udisppattuwa, Wavinna, Kundasale etc. Before sharing an informal lunch inclusive of all the traditional rural delicacies with the Dumbaragama villagers who hosted him under a shady kumbuk tree, the visitors plunged into the gushing waters of Sudu Oya, a cascading waterfall nurturing the Mahaweli.

More News/Comment * Thank you for Cheri * Errol did it in style * MPs asked to donate blood,but none came * Jaffna U staff agitate for incentive allowance * FMM against putting off Provincial Council elections * Of commissions, polls and leaders

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