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19th July 1998

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The heavy shower on Friday morning which caused
havoc in the city and suburbs, made many roads impassable.
These school children who were found stranded by the roadside
on their way to school seem to be enjoying the flood waters.
Pic by Gemunu Wellage

The rains reigned but they all came to school

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PC polls: Ranil calls off UNP campaign

Opposition UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe has directed party candidates not to go ahead with the polls campaign for the provincial elections scheduled for August 28 amid increasing reports that the government will postpone the elections.

He is of the view that the conduct of a campaign which will include public rallies will only be a draw on the party's resources. This is in view of the government's declared plans to put off the polls on the ground that the prevailing security situation would not allow it. An official announcement on postponing the polls is yet to be made by the government.

Ministerial sources told The Sunday Times it was unlikely the postponement decision would be announced till after the SAARC summit at the end of this month.

However, the Elections Department is going ahead with all the formalities to conduct the polls in five provinces, Commissioner Dayananda Dissanayake said.

"These formalities are still at the initial stages. The candidates will be classified according to the Sinhala alphabet," he said. The Elections Commission has announced that polls for the Central, Uva, North Central, Western and Sabaragamuwa would be held on August 28. A total of 2,446 candidates have handed in nominations from 12 political parties and 11 independent groups.

The Department of Government Printing has started printing ballot papers with about 60 employees being detailed to prepare proof ballot papers.

The Department will next week put out a gazette notification listing the names of all candidates and their symbols. The breakdown of Council seats is as follows: Western Province 102, Central Province 56, North Central Province 31, Uva 32 and Sabaragamuwa 42. There will be 10 bonus seats, two for each province.

Meanwhile, a rally protesting against the postponement of provincial polls was held in Kandy town yesterday, organized by the UNP Yowun Peramuna. The rally was attended by over thousand people, including several MMCs.

'Mr. Fernando not involved in Rajiv murder'

By Our India Correspondent

The Special Investigating Team (SIT), which probed the assassination of former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, has denied an allegation by the Jain Commission that a Sinhalese gem trader, Nirmala Anura Fernando, was involved in the conspiracy. An investigator told The Sunday Times that nobody other than the 41 named in the charge sheet was involved in the plot to kill Rajiv Gandhi.

Asked specifically about Mr. Fernando, the investigator said some charges about his dealing in forged currency were probed by the Enforcement Directorate of the Indian Finance Ministry, but nothing mala fide was found. The SIT had no reason to investigate him, he said. The Chennai edition of The Indian Express, in a recent scoop on the final report of the Jain Commission, said Mr. Fernando, a dealer in gems and forged currency, was an accomplice of godman Chandraswami, whose role in the conspiracy the commission wanted investigated.

Chandraswami's diary reportedly had an entry to say that Indian Rs. 1 million was paid to Mr. Fernando. It is not clear as to what this had to do with the plot to assassinate Mr. Gandhi. Perhaps the very fact that Mr. Fernando was a Sri Lankan, made him suspect in the eyes of Justice Milap Chand Jain.

The final report was submitted to the Indian government in March. But it is still kept under wraps, as there is time until September to table it in the Indian Parliament.

According to the Express story, Justice Jain had adduced evidence of the tantrik godman's having links with CIA and Mossad, and through them with the LTTE. He was among 21 'suspects' who the SIT had 'failed' to investigate, the panel complained.

Justice Jain, who had reportedly devoted a whole section to Chandraswami, seems convinced that the latter was involved. He quotes intelligence reports and government communications to buttress his case.

The godman was constantly conspiring to overthrow Mr. Gandhi when he was Prime Minister, and had sworn, to "kill" him, the report said. But Justice Jain does point out that there are gaps to be filled and missing links to be found. Hence the need for a fresh probe.

Justice Jain also mentions the "close" relations between Mr. Gandhi's successor, Narasimha Rao, and Chandraswami, and how, Mr. Rao as Premier, had told a minister that he should not insist that government show the panel all documents on Chandraswami.

The Indian Express expose says Justice Jain has linked Chandraswami with the infamous and now defunct Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) in which arms dealer Adnan Kashoggi, several terrorist groups, and intelligence outfits like CIA and Mossad had accounts. The money in it was used for terrorist operations and political assassinations. The report is quoted as saying that $4 million of Mr. Kashoggi's money was transferred to the LTTE's accounts. Justice Jain had said this on the basis of a 130 page document prepared by the US Senator John Kiri.

Justice Jain's interim report had created a political storm in India when it said that the DMK, now the ruling party in Tamil Nadu, was also part of the conspiracy to kill Mr. Gandhi. It also angered all Tamils for its assertion that the assassination would not have taken place if the Tamils of Tamils Nadu had not supported the LTTE.

The Congress party clamoured for action against the DMK, which was then part of the Gujral government in New Delhi. Its insistence led to the fall of the Gujral government and subsequent elections brought a coalition led by the BJP to office.

In the final report, according to The Indian Express, Justice Jain has said only "very few" Tamils in Tamils Nadu had supported the LTTE. But he said that DMK Chief and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi and his Minister Subbulakshmi Jagadeesan, should have been questioned. The latter is listed among 21 additional suspects, who the SIT had failed to investigate.

Among the 21 are top LTTE arms procurer, K. Pathmanathan, (KP), and top leaders Kittu, and Baby Subramaniam.

The SIT source said that over the seven years it functioned, the Jain commission had entertained many such amazing theories and used the confusion thus created, to get its term extended from time to time.

A section of the Congress party cynically used it to topple a government, he added.

Prelates call for unity among Sinhalese

By J.A.L. Jayasinha

Mahanayaka theras and the Buddhist clergy yesterday called for unity among the Sinhala community and the Buddhists to safeguard the interests of the Sinhalese.

The call was made at a ceremony to mark the official release of the final report by the Sinhala Commission which looked into the injustices caused to the Sinhala community. The report was handed over to the Mahanayakas by the Commission President and former Supreme Court Judge, S.W. Walpita at the Asgiriya International Buddhist Centre.

The Mahanayaka of the Asgiriya Chapter, the Ven Palipane Sri Chandananda Thera said settlement of the Indians in the estate sector had seriously affected the Sinhala community. He said the Sinhalese were even deprived of employment in the estate sector. Minister S. Thondaman had been able to retain power as both the main political parties needed his help to govern the country. "He is virtually trading the votes and our politicians are worshipping him for it," he said.

The Mahanayaka of the Amarapura Maha Sangha Sabhawa, the Ven Madihe Pannayaseeha Thera called for unity among the Sinhala community and the Maha Sangha and said they should stand up against the injustices caused to the Sinahala community.

The Ven Aluthgama Dhammananda Thera, speaking for the Malwatta Chapter said that in the past there were threats from foreign elements, but now the Sinhala community faced threats from internal forces. The Ven. Kebellawe Barathi Thera for the Rammanya Nikaya said it was during this period that most injustices to the Sinhala community had been caused.

MP's bodyguard in temple antics

By Chris Kamalendran

A top woman MP has called for the immediate removal of one of her bodyguards after it was alleged that he together with another policeman had robbed a valuable bronze Buddha statue from a temple.

Amara Piyaseeli Ratnayake, a former Deputy Minister and UNP MP for Kurunegala district told The Sunday Times she had written to Police Chief W. B. Rajaguru to remove the bodyguard from her security staff and take prompt action against him. The bodyguard in question is one of two assigned to her from the Ministerial Security Division (MSD).

The alertness of constable Cyril Wickremasinghe of the Puttalam Police led to the arrest of the two PCs and the recovery of the 18-inch long Bronze statue said to be over 75 years old. The bodyguard had allegedly used his police issued T-84 assault rifle for the robbery.

On July 15, the two PCs had allegedly gone to the Weheragala Raja Maha Vihare with three accomplices in a van. After producing their police identity cards, they had claimed they were from the CID and sought permission from the head priest. He allowed them.

The men had claimed they wanted to remove the bronze Buddha statute for an investigation and said it had been stolen from another temple. A forged receipt had been issued to the monk after which they had taken the statue and hurriedly departed.

The Viharadipathi, Ven Rathnajothi Thera, who became suspicious, sought the help of some Electricity Board employees working on power lines. In their vehicle, they drove towards the Colombo-Anuradhapura highway from Ihala Puliyankulam. After they travelled some distance, they had spotted PC Wickremasinghe and related the incident.

Moments earlier, an alert Constable Wickremasinghe, had observed the suspicious movement of a van and noted its number. The constable got into the Electricity Board vehicle and joined the chase. After failing to track the getaway vehicle, having travelled over 20 kilometres, they stopped at the house of the Divisional Secretary R.M.B. Monnekulame, used his telephone and alerted the Puttalam Police. Soon the Police alerted all checkpoints.

At a checkpoint at Ella (in the Maho Police area), the getaway van was apprehended by Police. The men were arrested and the statue recovered. The three accomplices who were not in the vehicle were arrested in Nochchiyagama on the basis of information given by the two PCs.

Puttalam Police crime detection chief W.D.C. Lincoln said organised gangs were known to be robbing statues from temples to be sold at high price to antique dealers.

UNP backs unified command move

The main opposition UNP has welcomed the Government's decision to set up a unified armed services command under a Joint Chief of Staff.

"We welcome this move in the national interest. It will not only ensure resources are utilised to the maximum but also that the war is executed by professionals according to military principles," a spokesman for opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe told The Sunday Times.

He said the conduct of counter terrorism operations by such a joint apparatus would receive "the fullest backing" of the Opposition.

The spokesman said: "The UNP has been demanding a joint services command to fight the war after it became increasingly clear that individual efforts have proved to be nationally disastrous. The Mullaitivu debacle, which took place two years ago, is a clear example."

The Sunday Times reported exclusively last week that the Government would bring the security forces under a unified command for future counter terrorist operations.

It will come under President Chandrika Kumaratunga, who is also Minister of Defence and Commander-in-Chief of the armed services.

Under the previous UNP government whose tenure in office has covered a longer period of the 16-year-old separatist war, a Joint Operations Command (JOC) functioned to co-ordinate inter services activity and counter-terrorist operations. It was headed by a General Officer Commanding (GOC) who had overall authority over the service commanders and the Police Chief.

According to government sources, the new unified command is likely to begin functioning from November, this year.

That is also the latest deadline reportedly fixed by Gen. Ratwatte to end the 14 month old ongoing "Operation Jaya Sikurui" (Victory Assured.)

Rain not going away

As most parts of the country received heavy rain yesterday Colombo's temperature dropped to 25 degrees Celsius (77 F) while more rain and wind have been predicted for today.

Occasional showers or thunder showers will continue to prevail in the Western, Sabaragamuwa, Southern and Central provinces while scattered showers or thunder showers will occur over the other provinces today, the Meteorological Department said.

Galle district received the highest rain fall of 136.7 mm while the Bogawanthalawa area received the second highest rainfall of 105 mm.

A spokesman for the Met Department said that a low level disturbance in the Bay of Bengal continues to persist in the vicinity of Sri Lanka.

State radio reported last night that some 5000 families had been rendered homeless because of floods, with areas such as Kalutara, Beruwala, Matugama and Agalawatte being the worst affected.

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