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13th September 1998

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A soldier standing beside the
mayor's chair examining the blast site.
Pic by Gemunu Wellage
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Presidential election on March 3?

By Our Political Editor

Moves are afoot to hold Presidential elections on March 3, next year almost 20 months ahead of schedule, The Sunday Times learns.

Political as well as astrological factors have been taken into consideration in coming to this decision.

The Sunday Times learnt of this decision from the Bandaranaike family and those with close ties both to President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga and Prime Minister, Sirimavo Bandaranaike.

The decision to hold the Presidential elections early next year would also result in a further postponement of Provincial elections despite a promise by Justice Minister G. L. Peiris that PC elections would be held by January.

These sources, however, warned that dates could change according to circumstances, but pointed out that President Kumaratunga had intensified campaigning both in the Gampaha district and elsewhere.

Since the closing ceremony of the SAARC summit on July 31, President Kumaratunga has visited Kandy, Attanagalla, Veyangoda, Anuradhapura twice, Sapugaskanda, Galle and Kurunegala for public meetings or district conventions.

Provincial elections scheduled for last month were postponed on the basis that Police and Army personnel engaged in Operation Jaya Sikurui could not be pulled out for election duty as the military operation was at a critical stage. But during the whole of August, no major operation was conducted, substantiating opposition claims that the government postponed the elections more for political than for military reasons.

According to some political analysts, government leaders feared they might lose the Central, Uva and North Western provinces with a toss-up in the Western Province, giving negative signals to the country in terms of the PA's prospects for more important presidential or parliamentary elections.

Under the Constitution, the President cannot call a presidential election till she completes four years in office that means till November this year.

In the event of her calling an early election, she foregoes the rest of her first term. If she is re-elected in March, next year, she could continue in office till March, 2005.

President Kumaratunga's decision to hold early Presidential elections is reportedly based on the premise that economic conditions are on a downturn with food prices and unemployment on the rise and the war nowhere near a settlement.

An electoral victory, she believes, could enable her to push the constitutional reforms package and to call for an early Parliamentary election to strengthen her wobbly majority in the house.

President Kumaratunga's campaign will, however, be temporarily halted when she goes for the UN General Assembly sessions in New York, later this month.

Opposition UNP Leader, Ranil Wickremesinghe will also be in the United States around the same time, for party fund-raising dinners in Los Angeles and New York.

Police see major shuffle

New Police Chief Lucky Kodituwakku has made a series of top level changes in the Police.

The senior most appointment after IGP, Senior DIG ranges, will be held by DIG S.G. Randeni.

DIG Indra Silva (currently DIG Jaffna) will take over as Senior DIG Administration whilst DIG Lionel Karunasena (now in Vavuniya) will be DIG (Operations).

DIG H.M.S. Kotakadeniya is to be DIG Crimes and Criminal Intelligence whilst DIG Opatha K. Hemachandra will be the Police Ombudsman.

SP Sarath Jayasundera has been named Personal Assistant to the IGP in addition to his duties as Deputy Director, Headquarters Administration. SP Gamini Karunatilleke will function as Principal Staff Officer (PSO) to the IGP.

Among the other changes are: SSP J. Thangavelu from Police Headquarters to IGP's Command Room, SP Lucky Jayawardena as Director, Organised Crimes Division and Director Security Co-Ordinating Division, SP Mahinda Hettiaratchi as PA to Senior DIG (Range 1), SSP Jayantha Paranathala, Director Buildings, SSP M. Kamaldeen, SSP (JOC) in the Ministry of Defence and SP L.A. Perera as Director Supplies.

Bodhi Liyanage has been named acting DIG, Jaffna while Gaya Pathikirikorale has been named SSP Jaffna

Kongahage's case moved out of judge Mahanama's court

By our Legal Correspondent

The alleged cheating case filed by the state against UNP MP Sarath Kongahage has been transferred out of the Court of High Court judge Mahanama Tillekeratne by the Attorney General, The Sunday Times learns.

Attorney General Sarath Silva has issued a fiat (directive) under powers vested in him under the Judicature Act transferring this case from High Court No. 7 presided over by judge Tillekeratne, to High Court No. 1 presided over by Nimal Dissanayake.

The AG has said it is "appropriate to transfer this case from Mr. Tillekeratne's court to Mr. Dissanayake's court."

Mr. Tillekeratne recently acquitted UNP MP Rajitha Senaratne of a fraud charge filed by the AG and made strictures against the prosecution saying the case had been fabricated.

Leading lawyers, including former state counsel said yesterday the transferring of a case filed by the AG out of a court by the AG in this manner was unprecedented.

The law giving the AG powers to transfer such cases states that such transfers should take place "whenever it appears to the Attorney General that it is expedient" to do so.

Legal sources say transferring of cases is normally done in instances where the security of witnesses is threatened, or if the accused makes a legitimate complaint, a public outcry endangering the outcome of the case, or in some such special circumstances.

Mr. Tillekeratne was arrested by the CID, just three days after the Attorney General had issued the fiat.

Bomb on ceiling for three months

Large crowds were thronging to pay their last respects to Jaffna Mayor P. Sivapalan, Town Commander Susantha Mendis in Kandy and to the other places where the bodies of those who were killed in the bomb blast on Friday were lying in state.

Yesterday Local Government Minister Alavi Mowlana and Northern Commander Lionel Balagalle went to the Vaddukottai residence of the slain Jaffna Mayor to pay their last respects.

Black and white flags flew over Jaffna town as well as at police stations in the peninsula.

On Friday morning at the Jaffna Mayor's office at Nallur Road, Mr. Sivapalan, was at a discussion with top army and police officials about traffic security arrangements in Jaffna., when a claymore mine devastated the entire building killing the Mayor, Major General Mendis and 11 others. The Mayor succumbed to his injuries in hospital.

Another 20 who were injured are out of danger, according to Jaffna hospital sources.

Meanwhile, investigations have revealed that the deadly claymore mines had been planted three months ago when the Mayor's office was renovated.

According to senior military officials, the claymore mine had been activated by using a remote control. These mines were planted in such a manner that even if the building was searched by 100 security officers, they couldn't have detected it. A claymore mine which was recovered from the scene of Friday's blast, was shown to journalists who had been hurriedly taken to Jaffna to see the devastation.

Friday's explosion around 11 a.m. was one of the most serious incidents since the army regained control of Jaffna after Operation Riviresa.

On July 4, 1996, Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva escaped an attempt on his life by a suicide bomber. Jaffna Sector Commander Brigadier A.S. Hamangoda and Lanka Cement Chairman, Ranjith Godamuduna, and 21 others were killed in that attack.

On May 14 this year Vaddamarachchi Commander Larry Wijeratne was killed by a suicide bomber.

On May 17, Jaffna Mayoress Sarojini Yogeswaran was shot dead by an LTTE pistol gang and Mr. Sivapalan had taken over less than three months ago.

The bodies of Major General Mendis and others were brought to Colombo and handed over to their families, early yesterday morning. The Mayor will be cremated in Jaffna tomorrow while Major General Mendis' funeral will take place at Mahaiyawa in Kandy tomorrow at 3. 30 p.m.

Among others killed were Senior Superintendent of Police Chandra Perera, Jaffna Assistant Superintendent of Police Sarath Fernando, ASP Chandra Mohan, Headquarters Inspector Mohandas, Captain Ramanayake, Constable Gerard, Addtional Municipal Commissioner Padmanathan, municipal engineer Eswaran, typist Mallika Rajaratnam and another policeman.

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