18th October 1998
A young Samanera ties a 'pirith noola'
on a wounded soldier. Some 300 monks from the
Jathika Sangha Sabha visited hopsitals to chant
blessings for the speedy recovery of soldiers wounded
in recent combat against the LTTE.
Pic by Alexander Balasuriya
By Our Diplomatic Editor
Sri Lanka is to initiate Government-to-Government consultations with South Africa over the increasing level of LTTE influence and support in that country for its terrorist campaign.
President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga and Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar, who are preparing for the Sri Lankan initiative, had a lengthy meeting in Colombo with South Africa's envoy Jerry Matsila last Tuesday evening at Temple Trees. The meeting had gone on for nearly three hours.
Mr. Matsila, South Africa's High Commissioner resident in New Delhi is concurrently accredited to Sri Lanka and had been sent to Colombo by Pretoria for the meeting on a request by the Sri Lankan Government.
President Kumaratunga raised a number of issues including suspicion in the local intelligence community that the LTTE had acquired military hardware from South Africa. More pointedly, the possibility of LTTE acquiring a helicopter from South Africa, another suspicion in the intelligence community, was also raised.
Mr. Matsila is learnt to have assured that no such support was being provided to the LTTE and offered to conduct prompt investigations into any matter raised by the Sri Lanka Government.
He is also learnt to have sought specific particulars including serial numbers, if any, of the helicopters.
Reports reaching the Sri Lanka Government confirm that the LTTE which established close contacts with the African National Congress (ANC) during the freedom struggle was now using those in high official positions to obtain political and material support.
They have become a formidable lobby which has not only helped the LTTE open offices in South Africa but also plan and execute operations like the seizure of the 32,400 mortar bombs destined from Zimbabwe for the Sri Lanka Army.
The same lobby, according to these reports, was also believed to be behind President Nelson Mandela's call for UN intervention in Sri Lanka.
He made this plea when he addressed the Non-Aligned Nations Summit in Durban in August and the United Nations General Assembly in New York last month.
The Government has learnt through international diplomatic channels that South Africa is formulating a more pragmatic national security and foreign policy.
However, such a move would mean sidelining some old ANC hands or distancing their involvement in the decision-making process.
According to these channels, the question is whether President Mandela will boldly curtail the actions of ANC hard-liners who view guerrilla groups pitted against governments and seeking South African support as brothers of liberation.
They are perceiving terrorism campaigns elsewhere through the common prism they saw the ANC struggle against apartheid.
According to local intelligence sources, links between local guerrilla groups and ANC cadres had existed from 1970s. A closer nexus between the ANC and the LTTE had grown since 1985. Since then, LTTE instructors are known to have provided special training in the use of explosives to a handful of ANC members. Some of them had later served in the car bomb attacks in South Africa.
Some of the ANC members have now obtained powerful positions not only in President Mandela's Government but also in the South African intelligence. During the past three years, the LTTE is learnt to have developed links with the Indian National Congress in South Africa pursuing the 'Liberator' line with the ANC. They are reported to have used Maseru, capital of neighbouring Lesotho also as an operational base.
Another main reason for Government's initiative with South Africa, the Government believes, is moves by the LTTE to shift its operations from London and other capitals in Europe. This is in view of imminent tough anti-terrorism laws in Britain and other European governments' support to combat international terrorism.
By Chamintha Thilakarathna
A highly-sophisticated satellite system valued at some Rs. 225 million is to be installed at the Colombo Port — but security experts have warned that equipment used mainly in military bases could prove disastrous if it gets into the wrong hands.
The cabinet has approved a memorandum submitted by the Ports Minister to buy what is known as a differential global position by satellite (D.G.P.S.) system. This equipment is known to be currently used by US Navy to keep a close eye on all ships and any suspicious activity.
According to the cabinet memorandum the equipment is to be bought from a Swedish firm to modernise lighthouses.
But a Navy expert challenged this. He said there was a traffic separation zone already being enforced by the SLPA and there was no reason to buy such expensive and sophisticated equipment to monitor sea traffic.
He said this kind of equipment is generally used in military bases and if there was a need, it was the Navy and not the SLPA that should have asked for it. The expert warned that if such equipment fell into the hands of an enemy, the consequences could be devastating.
By Our Political Editor
Opposition UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe announced yesterday his party would not participate next week in a private sector led initiative to create an all-party consensus on national issues because Justice Minister G.L. Peiris is to take part in it.
The meeting follows a joint appeal made to the Government and the Opposition to rise above party politics in coming up with a viable solution to the ethnic crisis.
Yesterday several captains of industry including John Keells' Chairman Ken Balendra, Ceylinco Group Chairman Lalith Kotelawala and commerce industry chief Patrick Amarasinghe were busy lobbying the UNP leadership to attend a seminar they hare arranged for next Thursday to discuss these issues.
The PA delegation for this meeting is to be led by Dr. Peiris, but Mr. Wickremesinghe had told the captains of industry that the UNP would not take part because of Dr. Peiris's recent attitude towards the UNP and bipartisan politics.
In Washington last week Dr. Peiris had made a severe attack on the UNP's devolution proposals and suggestions for unconditional talks with the LTTE calling them 'vacuous and irrelevant'.
Dr. Peiris had also rejected the UNP suggestion for an all-party conference on the current ethnic problem and called that a 'political stunt'.
Mr. Wickremesinghe told 'The Sunday Times' last night he had to decide between sending a delegation that would criticise Dr. Peiris or keep away. He had chosen the latter option. "Because I did not want to spoil somebody else's show," he said.
The UNP leader is reported to have told the captains of industry that he felt their exercise would be futile if the Government was planning elections by early next year.
"The UNP is about to launch a major campaign with the masses instead," he said last night.
Mr. Wickremesinghe has however, agreed to meet a delegation from the private sector on October 26 to discuss their initiative, 'The Sunday Times' learns.
Navy Chief Cecil Tissera has commended his men for a string of strikes against the LTTE in the north, Wanni and the north-eastern seas.
The latest incident occurred on Friday when a Navy patrol attacked a flotilla of three LTTE boats, four miles east of Chalai near Mullaitivu. They were moving towards land when the patrol opened fire destroying the boats. At least three guerrillas were reported killed.
During a string of cordon and search operations in the Jaffna peninsula that ended last Thursday, the Navy detected substantial quantities of T 56 weapons, 7.2 ammunition, claymore mines, detonators, explosives, and electronic devices.
On Friday SLNS Walagamba troops deployed off Talaimannar detected a boat carrying refugees to India and handed them over to the police. They included 21 males and 11 children.
Rear Admiral Tissera told his senior staff recently that they should continue to maintain vigilance against terrorist activity.
Colombo High Court judge Mahanama Thilakaratne, at the centre of a major legal controversy, was dropped from the invitation list for a dinner meeting between President Chandrika Kumaratunga and High Court judges on Wednesday.
Legal sources said the judges were kept waiting for an hour before the President arrived for the meeting at which several issues were taken up.
The judges pointed out their work load had doubled because they now had to take up appeal cases also. They said that while originally they used to only hear cases such as rape, murder and attempted murder cases, they now had to hear cases from the Labour Tribunal, Magistrate Court, appeals, etc. Thus they appealed for an extra allowances amounting to about 60 percent of their salaries and other facilities, including foreign scholarships.
The judges also asked that their official vehicles be replaced every five years and that residences of outstation judges be provided with essential furniture and other basic needs.
The President agreed to consider these. Ministers Lakshman Kadirgamar and G. L. Peiris, the Attorney General and their spouses were also present at the dinner.
Judges of the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal had separate dinner meetings with the President.
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