9th August 1998
Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee slammed Pakistan this week for attempting to raise bi-lateral issues during the SAARC summit in Colombo, and claimed that those attempts were not successful.
"Pakistan wanted to bring up disputes of bilateral nature which give rise to tensions. India told Pakistan firmly that if SAARC has to exist, it has to move according to its charter of promoting the concept of a common market.
This was accepted and all the attention at the summit was focused solely on economic issues," Vajpayee told a combined session of the Lok Sabha (lower house of Parliament) and the Rajya Sabha (upper house) on Monday.
Denouncing Pakistan's moves to raise bilateral issues at multi lateral meetings, Mr. Vajpayee said that he told Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif that instigation and support of terrorism was incompatible with our common desire for friendly and peaceful relations and that these activities must cease immediately.
During Sharif-Vajpayee summit talks in Colombo last week, The Sunday Times learns that the Pakistani Premier had stressed that "political problems" should be discussed, a move rejected by the Indian Premier.
At the Bentota retreat, however, Mr. Sharif reportedly made a tactical diplomatic retreat saying "we are flexible" and was willing to discuss Kashmir and other outstanding issues between India and Pakistan. Mr. Vajpayee had responded saying "we are also flexible."
However, moments prior to the conclusion of the Summit a Pakistani move to include a paragraph into the final Colombo Declaration calling upon SAARC to discuss political problems was discovered by Sri Lankan President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga who had exclaimed that she was "shocked."
President Kumaratunga had immediately spoken to Premier Sharif, who expressed 'shock' himself. Mr. Sharif said the two Heads of Government had agreed to keep out bi-lateral political problems.
Diplomatic circles in Colombo told The Sunday Times that the speculation among SAARC watchers was that the last minute attempt to include the contentious paragraph in the Colombo Declaration was a move by the hardline Pakistani Foreign Minister, Gohar Ayub Khan, and not that of the Pakistani Premier.
These experts rule out the possibility of Sharif-Gohar Ayub's orchestration of events, rather a move behind Sharif's back.
When President Kumaratunga had asked other SAARC leaders such as Bangladesh Premier Sheikh Hassina, whether they had seen the draft of the contentious paragraph, they had replied in the negative. Pakistani officials at SAARC insisted copies with the paragraph had been circulated.
By Our Indian Correspondent
For nine days till last Thursday, Indian and Pakistan were on the threshold of a full scale war of incalculable dimensions, as artillery and mortar duels and two terrorist strikes claimed 175 lives in the disputed territory of Kashmir and the Indian hill state of Himachal Pradesh.
Pakistan's Foreign Office spokesman, Tarqi Altaaf said that any precipitate action by India would be "inconsistent with ground realities in a nuclearised region." By saying so he had held out the grim prospect of a nuclear retaliation.
But the Indians maintained that it was Pakistan which attacked first on July 27, Pakistan, the Indians said followed this up by getting Muslim militants to massacre 18 Hindus in Doda, in the Jammu district of Kashmir, The Indians were convinced that Pakistan's objective was to get India to over-react, so that the on-going campaign to iternationalise the Kashmir issue would get a further lease of life, and a popular upsurge against India in the Muslim majority Indian held Kashmir valley could be triggered.
Pakistan, the Indians said, knew that it would make no headway in getting SAARC to discuss the Kashmir issue, give the lukewarm response its roving envoy, Akram Zaki got on his tour of SAARC capitals ahead of the summit. Hence the move queer the pitchouts two days prior to the commencement of the summit on July 29, the Indians said.
The cross-border firing was stepped up after the summit because Pakistan was stonewalled at Colombo where the SAARC heads of government refused to formally take up the Kashmir and nuclear issues on the grounds that they were bilateral. The meeting between the Indian and Pakistan Foreign Secretaries, in Colombo had also got stuck, because of differences over what was agreed to when they last met in Islamabad on June 23, 1997. But though the governments in India and Pakistan made hawkish statements which queered the pitch, there were several factors, both domestic and international, which worked against a precipitous slide towards a suicidal hot war.
Firstly the army chiefs on both sides, Gen. jehangir Karamat of Pakistan and Gen. V.P. Malik of India, called for restraint in India, the main opposition party, Congress (I) was highly critical of the BJP government's nuclear and Pakistan policies.
In Pakistan, there was a severe foreign exchange crunch, which was relieved only partially by a recent Kuwaiti loan of $250 million with the freezing of foreign currency accounts, Pakistani expatriates had stopped sending their money through normal banking channels. The amount involved was a whopping $1.5 billion annually. Opposition leader, Benazir Bhutto, had begun to demand talks with India without insisting on a solution of the Kashmir issue first. She also wanted a peaceful "non insurgency" approach to the Kashmir question. This put premier Nawaz Sharif on the defensive.
The UK, a key factor in the Kashmir imbroglio and whose support Pakistan had to have played down the flare-up characterising it as normal at this time of the year. The US also condemned Pak-inspired Muslim terrorist attack on Hindu civilians Following the series of meetings between US Dy. Secretary of State, Strobe Talbot, and the Indian envoy, Jsant Singh, the US had begun to display a greater understanding of India and to Pakistan's dismay ruled out a mediatory role vis-a-vis kashmir.
US- India relations had thawed somewhat thanks to the Indian Prime Minister giving an undertaking that India would not be the first to use the nuclear operation and that India was considering signing the CTBT Pakistan had not made any such offers. To the US all that mattered was an undertaking by India and Pakistan that they would sign the CTBT, and that they would not allow further proliferation. Kashmir was secondary, if not unimportant.
Commodore Uday Bhaskar, Dy, Director of the Institute of Defence Studies and Analysis in Delhi, said that Pakistan had failed comprehensively. Even its plan to unleash popular anti-Indian unrest in Kashmir drew a blank .
Deputy Minister Salinda Dissanayake has accused state television Rupavahini of giving a one-sided picture of his controversial slumber at the opening of the South Asian summit in Colombo. The MP admitted he had fallen asleep but said it was because he had broken rest to attend a funeral of a soldier from his electorate Kurunegala the previous night.
He was there till 3 am and had rushed to Colombo early the next morning having rested only for two hours, the MP told The Sunday Times.
He was thus exhausted and naturally fell asleep. Thus he felt it was unfair for Rupavahini to have focused the camera on him as he sat next to Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe.
Mr. Dissanayke also denied that President Chandrika Kumaratunga had castigated him at the Parliamentary group meeting for falling asleep at the summit ceremony.
"She jokingly asked me why I fell asleep. There was no castigation," he said.
By Shelani de Silva
The month long political gambit of calling for nominations and then postponing provincial elections has caused a massive loss in public funds, though officials are still not revealing the full amount.
However political parties such as the UNP and the MEP have attacked the government for setting up "on-off" scenario which caused huge loses in the printing of posters and other campaign material while causing a loss of career to some public servants who resigned their posts to contest elections.
By the time the postponement of elections was officially announced last Wednesday, the Elections Department had completed much of its preparatory work including polling cards, postal votes and registers while ballot boxes for elections in five provinces had been sealed.
Assistant Commissioner A.G. Dharmadasa told The Sunday Times, most of the work for the elections had been completed and final details were being worked out when the postponement was gazetted.
"Work began about a month ago. We were by last Tuesday working out details of the staff who would be on duty. Data was also being collected on the number of vehicles that would be used, but we had not finalised matters," he said.
He said scores of clerical staff had to work overtime and payments for this had not yet been made.
The Sunday Times then contacted the Elections Department Chief Accountant H.A.S. Hapuaarachchi for an estimate of how much had been spent in vain. He would only say the overall estimate was Rs. 250 million but he could not yet say how much had been spent on overtime, purchase of stationery and for printing.
The Accountant revealed that elections work had been done at 13 election offices, which indicated that the total overtime payment might be quite high.
Government Printer Neville Nanayakkara told The Sunday Times that the printing of all election material was completed and distributed three days before the announcement of the postponement.
However he too was unable to give an estimate of the bill saying it might take another two weeks to work it out.
Opposition political parties were more forthcoming and forthright in giving details of losses they have suffered.
MEP leader Dinesh Gunawardena said they had spent money on posters, handouts, travelling and conducting public rallies. He could not give a full estimate but indicated that upto 30% of the election budget had been wasted because of the bogus elections.
He said public service candidates were those who were affected most by the postponement. According to regulations, such candidates are compelled to go on no pay leave, until the elections.
"Now the candidates cannot go to their workplaces. We took up this issue with the Elections Chief. But he has no authority to take a decision and has promised to discuss it with Public Administration Ministry officials," he said.
UNP Chairman and Colombo Mayor Karu Jayasuriya, the party's candidate for the Western Province Chief Minister's post said, the party had suspicion the government did not intend going ahead with the elections and thus did not print posters or leaflets on a large scale.
"The biggest blow was to public servants who resigned their posts to contest elections, depriving themselves of their pensions. They made a big sacrifice. It is an injustice to them.
We also spent a lot of time and energy on the elections. The postponement is an insult to the intelligent people," Mr. Jayasuriya said.
The JVP, known for its extravagant political posters this time, was on a low key because it also suspected the government was only playing a political game after nominations, party spokesman Wimal Weerawansa said.
By Shelani de Silva
Public libraries islandwide are protesting against the government's decision to impose GST on libraries with Colombo's Chief Librarian describing it as a crime against students.
Last week several public libraries received letters directing them to tax all those who come to get membership, for reading or reference purposes.
Colombo Mayor Karu Jayasuriya told The Sunday Times that while protesting over this move, the CMC had urged the government to remove this goods and services tax from public libraries. "It is not we who imposed the tax, the Municipal Councils come under the purview of GST. We are just following the law.
The money does not come to the municipality, it goes to the Inland Revenue. But we are protesting,'' the Mayor said clearing an initial misunderstanding among Colombo library members that CMC had imposed the tax.
The Colombo Public Library's Chief Librarian, M.D.H. Jayawardena, said, GST was charged from last week for membership, and when hiring auditoriums of the library.
"It is a crime to impose a tax on knowledge, especially on students.
The GST imposed on the cremation of the dead is being dropped, the Tax Department has informed the Colombo Municipal Council.
A CMC official said the scrapping of the controversial grave tax had been conveyed to them on the telephone by a tax official. They were awaiting written confirmation before withdrawing the tax which had been described as ludicrous.
A peace group had called upon both the government and the LTTE to start talks without conditions. The largely Norwegian funded National Peace Council (NPC) in a statement said the conditions such as the dropping of the Eelam demand or the withdrawal of the army from Jaffna should not be insisted upon.
The NPC call came in the wake of an interview by President Kumaratunga in which she indicated the government is ready for talks with third party mediation on certain conditions.
The untimely death of Antony Davidrajuh, Editor of the Computer Magazine PC Quest issued with the Midweek Mirror, shocked not only his colleagues but also all those who came in contact with him.
This thirty one-year-old computer genius' zest for life was so much that even the dark clouds hovering in the sky last Sunday afternoon did not stop him from taking a dip in the rough seas off Crow Island in Mattakkuliya.
But the gloomy weather and the cruel hand of fate did not permit him to come ashore alive. Davidrajuh was swimming with a friend around 3.30 p.m. when suddenly he had gone missing. With the help of some others the body was brought ashore and rushed to the National Hospital. But it was too late. Davidrajuh was called a genius not only because he was a computer whiz kid but also much more, a computer journalist, a telecommunications expert, consultant to the German Agency for Technical Co-operation and International Information Desk Manager at the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce.
He was also working on his PhD on computer technology at the Institute of Fundamental Studies, Kandy. But all this wealth of knowledge did not affect him. He was a simple and humble person. It may be because of this that many people hardly knew he was such a qualified man. For them he was a friend, a very good one at that. He knew how to make you comfortable, be it a conversation on computers or any other topic. You had to be introduced just once and thereafter he will become a friend who has known you for life.
The rare quality in this man was that he respected people, irrespective of status, class or religion.
This led him to have many friends. One of his colleagues described him as the best medicine if you are feeling down and depressed.
"He does not have any magic potion but his friendly and caring manner helps you to think of the positive side."
Incidentally this particular bathing place at Mattakkuliya which is frequented by many has in the recent past become very dangerous and many have become victims. No one can bring back this beautiful person but the least we can do is urge the relevant authorities to take necessary action in providing safety measures in the beach area, before it takes another victim, because the price his family and friends paid for the lack of such facilities cannot be expressed.
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